Marfa to Comstock, and onto Austin, Texas
Goose Snow Cone
Most song lyrics we can work out a meaning to, whether it is the actual meaning the writer intended or something we read into it. Aimee Mann has a track called Goose Snow Cone and I couldn’t fathom what it was about. I looked it up once and it turns out Aimee wrote this song while on tour, miles away from home, looking on Facebook at pictures of her friend’s cat called Goose Snow Cone. Homesick.
Sitting by the pool at the Line hotel in Austin, the sun shining, drinking one of the best coffees I’ve had since leaving London, everything should have been good. On my cup is the name of the coffee shop, ‘Alfred’, the name of our dog. It’s his birthday and we’re not there.
Since we got on the plane at Heathrow the most common things I’ve heard are:
“I miss Alfie”.
“Do you think he’s OK?” (He being Alfred).
“What do you think Alfie’s doing?”.
And my favourite “who am I?” Accompanied by a facial expression with a sticking out lower lip or a head tilt.
We’re not homesick, just missing the dog. Being in Austin (a city), feels a little like we have taken a two night break in Birmingham (the West Midlands, not Alabama) after spending so much time in the desert. A six, going on seven-week holiday, the expectation is you’ll never want it to end. Until now that’s how I’ve felt, but today I know I’ll be ready to go when this adventure ends.
Anyway, back to cars and road tripping…
Marfa to Comstock on US-90
Yesterday we drove here from Marfa in the hot box 911. We got off to a well prepared start. Some years back I’d spent time living in the Middle East with an old VW Beetle (no air conditioning), becoming a master at finding what was known by everyone from Kuwait to Oman as a ‘shady park’. Strategically parking the car in anticipation of the last position of shade the next morning meant it stayed cool, and as we headed out east from Marfa we were fine, cruising along enjoying the sunshine. Or at least we were until we reached Marathon and stopped for coffee at the V6 Coffee Bar, leaving it in the sun while we drank. A short 30 minute stop in south west Texas is all it takes to turn the dashboard into a radiator.
We’d selected the US-90 having read reports of if being remote and advocating it as a road to make good progress. A segment of highway in great condition, light of traffic, almost totally straight with sight lines several miles ahead. Interestingly the nearest Texas Highway Patrol Substations are so far away from this road it would cost a patrol car half a tank of fuel to reach it.
Caught by the fuzz
Unfortunately, we were on the gas a little too early and were stopped by an oncoming patrol just outside of Marathon. Fortunately, after a few minutes talking about the car and our adventure across this great nation we were let off with a warning.
The reality of the US-90 wasn’t all that exciting. Yes, it is an easy road to beat the clock but also uneventful. It did not feel as remote as promised, however I suspect this is because we are simply getting used to being in remote areas – look either side of the asphalt and it’s a barren wilderness.
We did manage to hit some tumbleweed, and see the Rio Grande and plenty of abandoned buildings like old gas stations.
The air conditioning gave a nice surprise, driving up an incline we discovered a new feature, an ice cold foot bath. I hadn’t realised this was an option on the Porsche 993. Once the excitement of the the initial shock was over, these random soakings of our flip-flopped feet were welcomed as we drove gradients or sharp turns. As we reach the latter stages of the trip I’m starting to compile a list of things to fix when the car returns home – this is at the top.
Driving through Austin is easy enough, compared to Los Angeles or London it is a quiet town. Liverpool is harder to navigate through. That said, the car was mostly in the hotel parking lot while we were here.
Pulling up at the Line, hot and tired after driving several hours from Marfa, we were greeted by the valet who I told wouldn’t be driving the car, that I’d park it myself (in their lot) after we’d unloaded our luggage. This old Porsche 993 is right hand drive, manual, temperamental, and hard to balance on the clutch. I’d also witnessed the front of another car bottom out it was driven in up the steep kerb. On a road trip such as this, with an old car, you treat it like you would invaluable equipment on an expedition, understanding breakdowns and accidents could end an adventure. Getting out of the car less than a minute later, another valet came over and handed me a receipt and asked for the keys. I told him, as I had the first guy, “you’re not driving this”. Confused he told me he was driving it. One of my own gaskets blew, I wanted a margarita and a feed, not a debate. The valet wanted to do his job, not deal with some short-tempered Englishman. Anyway, I ended up parking it, in the hotel’s special area reserved for oversized stuff and super cars. It sat alone so there can’t be many super cars that visit Austin.
Recommended not once, but twice by some cool kids we got talking to in the trendy Line Hotel. I love when you get a bit of local knowledge from the locals. Superb barbecue food. Ribs, brisket, beers. Quality feeding and loud live music. Perfect. Austin at its best (and it needed to be as I was questioning why we’d bothered). One of the sides had okra in it, and in this dimly lit eatery I went in for another, placing the hole thing in my mouth, at first thinking the vinegar was a little strong. then it hit me. Holy Mother of God, it was a chili. A hotter than I’ve ever had chili. I’ve eaten curry in India – nothing like this. I’ve even been to Nando’s and had Peri Peri sauce on a chicken burger – not even close. It was bad, so bad I had to leave, stand on the street doing a dance and eating a napkin. Waiter came to my rescue with a glass of milk. I could feel that chili burning my stomach hours later.
Be nice to people. And tip the valets.
Don’t mess with Texas
Unbeknown to me, or my Californian partner for that matter, Austin has a handful In-N-Out Burgers. I’d been led to believe this West Coast institution was California only, but it appears they are now here too.
The Economist I picked up in the British Airways Lounge had an article titled ‘Texafornia’ discussing how companies and people are fleeing California, the primary reason being the Texas approach to governing and the State’s low taxation. The flip side of this is Texan’s don’t want their State becoming like California as in many ways they are ideologically poles apart. Maybe In-N-Out is the beacon of hope. Who can say no to a cheeseburger and animal fries?