Monday, October 31, 2005
Texas Trip Report Continued
Day 3: Monday
Didn’t get to sleep as late this day. E got me out of bed by 8:30. She, of course, was up much earlier. What can I say? I like getting my eight hours in.
Breakfast was a banana and something from the convenience store where we bought ice. We stopped at a car wash to rinse off the bug guts and sand. We didn’t intend to go to Austin via Victoria but E realized she left her dirty clothes bag at the hotel in Victoria. So back to Victoria it was.
We used the GPS to get back and picked the shortest distance route rather than the quickest. This led us on an interesting jaunt through some back roads and to Victoria’s Lake Saxet (Texas spelled backward) park. It ended up being a good thing because we finally found some cactus for E to get a picture of and there were public restrooms. They were scary public restrooms but places to pee just the same.
We checked the hotel in Victoria for the missing dirty clothes bag (no luck) and met Beth for lunch at Mutt’s BBQ. There are definitely different schools of BBQ. Mutt’s was of the ‘sweet sauce and cook your meat in the sauce’ school. I’m more an aficionado of the ‘smoking the meat with spicy sauce on the side’ school. But it wasn’t bad BBQ. Seeing E’s face when she tried fried okra was definitely worth it.
We took our leave of Beth once again and headed to Austin. We used the GPS to get us there and got to see parts of Texas you don’t see when you stick to the main highways. Kinda fun I thought. We hit a lot of small towns, which slows you down but you get to see really nice old buildings and if the town is a county seat their county courthouses are always spectacular.
We arrived in Austin just in time for rush hour traffic. That made finding a hotel fun. Before finding a hotel we hit Book People, a really nifty bookstore in Austin. E found a map and a few gifts there. I bought Christmas cards. We could have spent hours in this store I’m sure but knew we needed to get a hotel room and meet up with online pal number two, Christina.
Thus began the hunt for a hotel during rush hour traffic in Austin. Lots of fun let me tell ya. We found a La Quinta and gave Christina a call. We took the time to rest and dump pictures from the digital camera. Christina was very nice when she got to a La Quinta and knocked on our door only to discover that we’d given her the wrong address. Two more La Quinta’s and she was at our door.
After visiting for a bit, we went to Threadgill’s for dinner. For those of you who don’t know, this restaurant is owned by Renee O’Connor’s (Gabrielle from Xena Warrior Princess) parents. Christina meets here regularly with her Xena Meetup group. Alas, no sign of Renee O’Connor yet.
The food at Threadgill’s was good. I was boring and got a club sandwich. E was daring and got some chicken breast pan fried in crushed pecans thingie. Christina was healthy and got ham and good for you veggies. The only drawback to Threadgill’s was about ten minutes after we sat down, the live band started playing. We were way too close to the live band and conversation had to be shouted.
We escaped the noisy restaurant soon after eating and headed back to the hotel. Christina helped us plot a few comic shop locations on the Austin map and we chatted a bit more. She headed home to her family and E and I were left to rest and upload the day’s photos.
Day Four: Tuesday
E had a lot of trouble with the “hi speed wireless internet” connection at the La Quinta so for our second night in Austin she wanted to move to another motel. We packed up all our crap and headed into the big city and a day of comic book
We didn’t want to mess with stopping for breakfast. Instead we hit an HEB and picked up some fruit and sweet stuff that isn’t good for you. E was fascinated by the HEB because the bakery section had a woman making fresh tortillas. We bought a pack of those as well.
After breakfast at HEB, we headed to our first comic book store, Comics and More. It was a small shop but I did find two of the comics on my list. It looked kind of like a new shop and I wondered how they made it profitable because there’s so much comic shop competition in Austin.
The next store was deep in the heart of University of Texas territory. Funny Papers was located in a mall that doubles as a dormitory. The shop was nice but their back issues were a bit overpriced. I did find two issues from the list and was impressed that the person “manning” the counter was female. It’s rare to see women working comic book stores.
Here’s where my day got really frustrating. E and I got back to the van and I was marking the issues off the list in my geek book when I noticed I picked up an issue that wasn’t on the list. Damn. I thought maybe I had picked it up by mistake and left one I intended to buy. E thought so too and I schlepped into the heat and humidity with my mistaken comic in hand.
I explained my problem to the nice gal in Funny Papers and proceeded to look through the back issues. Sadly, there was no other issue from the list in stock. I found another issue that was a special gold logo edition that I figured the person I was buying these for didn’t have and asked the woman if she’d swap it for the other one. She agreed and I went back to the car.
Now here’s where it gets good. I crossed the intersection and was almost to the van when I noticed the bag on the comic book had been put on backwards. The price sticker, which was previously nowhere to be found on the front of the bag, was on the back near the bottom. It read $20. I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t do what most people would do and be pleased I’d gotten a great deal. I’m just not wired that way. I told E the problem and we decided to see if we could find parking a little closer to the Dobie Mall. I was really hot and sweaty by this time and damn tired of making the trek to Funny Papers.
E drove around the mall and I hopped out of the van at an intersection behind the mall. I went in a different entrance this time, figuring it would take me to the same area. I was wrong. I ended up not seeing any stairs and got on the elevator. The elevator which went to more than two floors. People kept getting on the elevator and they looked an awful lot like students. Not being too stupid I asked one of the kids if this was a dorm. Yep, it was. Dobie Mall is attached to a dormitory for UT students. I’d gone in the wrong entrance and would have to go back outside and walk around to the entrance I’d gone in before.
I wasn’t very happy by this time. I felt frustrated and stupid and wasn’t very happy that I was wasting so much time at this one comic shop that had only yielded one comic from the list. I tried to call E while I walked around the building, huffing and puffing and sweating all the way. No answer. Finally I came within site of our old parking space and there was the van once again. No parking to be found other than that and E crossed the street to see what was wrong. Turned out she’d been talking on the phone and that’s why she didn’t answer her phone. Also turned out she’d already been back into Funny Papers to see if I’d made it in there.
Both of us went back upstairs and I, sweating profusely now, told the kindly comic store gal my problem. She proceeded to look at the price sticker and told me that was a price from the previous owner and the new owner thought he overpriced a lot of books so as far as she was concerned it was an okay trade. Sheesh! At least I did the right thing.
Enough time had passed that we no longer had time to hit another shop because we were supposed to meet Christina at the Texas State Capitol. I’d burned all of our time at Funny Papers and wasn’t very happy with myself. Plus I was really hot. E was hot too and that’s never a good thing. We decided to call Christina and meet her at the Capitol.
We found what I thought was a good spot near the Capitol building. After we got out and started walking toward the building I realized this wasn’t the right side. The big entrance to the Capitol building was on the other side. Yet another thing to be frustrated about. Being unseasonably hot for the time of year, we were both sweating and I was feeling pretty bad. Christina had called by this time and I told her I’d meet her at the front gates. I left E sitting in the shade and I walked around the building to the front gates. I was able to cool down a bit in the shade but I wasn’t feeling much like touring the State Capitol.
Christina showed up and I called E, telling her to walk around to the front of the building. We all made it in one, sweaty piece and took some shots of Angela in front of the building. The inside was blissfully air-conditioned and we wandered for a good hour and a half by ourselves. There are frequent tour guides who will tell you all sorts of nifty things about the Capitol building but we didn’t want to be there that long. E took a lot of pictures, I was subdued and not very happy. Not one of the best times of the trip for sure.
We spent a little money in the gift shop. I bought a yo yo and a pin. I’d been here a few years back and the stock hadn’t changed much. Christina drove us to our car and we followed her to a local BBQ joint, The Green Mesquite. By this time, we were way past the lunch hour. Poor Christina had suffered in silence because she’d only had time for a granola bar when she got up at 6. She was hungry by the time she met up with us I’m sure.
The Green Mesquite had some really good BBQ. They smoked the meat and their sauce wasn’t too sweet. I told E she should get the smoked turkey since she really wasn’t in the mood for more beef. I was just happy to be seated with a drink in front of me and opted for a baked potato with a smoked turkey and cheese topping. Christina, being a very hungry puppy by this time, splurged on a nice plate of sliced beef and smoked turkey.
By the time I’d downed two huge glasses of tea I was feeling a lot better. E and I split a piece of homemade pecan pie. It was kind of weird. They seasoned it with cinnamon. A first for me.
Lunch was over and it was time for a few more comic shops. Christina was a trooper and followed us to shop three for the day…Austin Comics. This was the place we were told about in Waco. The place that had a lot of back issues. In fact, the woman at Funny Papers told us Austin Books would probably have what we were looking for. Let me tell ya. They weren’t kidding.
Austin Books was every comic book geeks wet dream. Row after row of back issues, ample supplies of current titles, bookshelves full of every graphic novel and trade paperback imaginable. And they had toys…lots and lots of toys. I ended up finding quite a bit here and could have spent a long time going through their back issue stock if I’d had my Big Book o’ Comics I Need. We still ended up spending a good long time there and by the time I was ready to go it was close to the time Christina needed to get home. We parted ways at Austin Books and E and I went on the search for a motel with free “hi speed wireless internet.”
We ended up at a Days Inn. It wasn’t in the greatest location and it looked kinda run down but we were sick of looking and after quizzing the desk guy E was satisfied that their wireless internet might not frustrate the hell out of her. We unloaded, rested a bit. E tested the internet connection by uploading photos. It was nice to be out of the car and the heat and just relaxing. I read a few comics and got in a much better frame of mind.
It was close to dinner time and we decided to pick up a pizza and visit a few more comic shops along the way. Shop #4 was called Dragon’s Lair. It was a nice shop but more suited to the gamer geek. They did have comics but no back issues. I ended up buying a trade paperback I’d been looking for there. No luck on the list though.
Comic shop #5 was First Federal Comics. Small but nicely organized and clean comic store. I did find a Nightwing issue I’d been looking for here. Two women were working here and I think one of them was also the new owner of Funny Papers. Stop in, if you’re ever in Austin.
While driving to these places we spotted a Papa John’s Pizza. We figured that was as good a place as any to get food. That quickly changed on the way back to the Domino’s when I spotted a Conan’s Pizza. How could I resist that name? Plus…you have to keep up with the tradition of eating at restaurants they don’t have in your neck of the woods. We placed an order for pizza and salads and wasted some time at a toy store near the pizza joint called Terra Toys. It was a really cool place. E ended up buying a lot there. I would have bought more but she snagged the items I was going to buy for Mike and the kids so she could give them trip gifts. I bought a sheep pez, sushi magnets and tiny fruit and veggie magnets for my mom. I definitely got off cheaper.
We finally dragged ourselves out of there, picked up our pizza and went back to the hotel. It had been a long day. Our nightly ritual of resting and uploading pics ended close to midnight.
Day Five: Wednesday
E let me sleep late today. We didn’t have anything planned except driving home. We didn’t want to bother with stopping for breakfast but I needed ice for the cooler. We found a Fiesta grocery store figuring we could find some good hot sauces for E’s boss and co-worker. The Fiesta was huge. They also had the coolest international foods section. We spent far too much time taking pictures there. I bought some pocky and some British candy. I was very disappointed that the Yorkie candy bar (“Not for Girls!”) was nothing but milk chocolate. Bah.
As we were leaving the Fiesta, E took a few pics from the front of the store to get an idea of the size. She was hassled by a manager who informed her it was illegal to take pictures inside stores in the state of Texas. She wanted E to erase the pictures right there. E ignored her and told her she’d get right on it when she got to the car. Yes, yet another instance of America in the era of Homeland Security and Terrorism Alert levels.
We hauled ass to Waco and stopped for lunch at a little joint in a small town nearby. E picked the place…the Up In Smoke BBQ. Their meat wasn’t as good as the Green Mesquite but their sides were much better. The green beans I got tasted just like the kind of grandma used to can. I liked their sauce too.
Then it was on to Fort Worth. E drove the whole time because she knew she was going to miss going 80 to 90 on the highway. She took full advantage of those flat roads too. We crossed the Red River and made a pit stop at the Oklahoma Welcome Center. E picked up a bunch of pamphlets and a map. We peed. The bathrooms were really nice…lots and lots of stainless steel.
E asked one of the helpful Oklahoma tourist info ladies where she could find a place with lots of tourist t-shirts. She told us to go to a Love’s off the highway. We stopped there but didn’t find much. Oh, we did see a really huge rose rock.
Once we hit Norman, I had E stop at a Cracker Barrel because I knew their gift shops sometimes had region specific t-shirts. We lucked out and they actually had a cute kids tee with an Oklahoma theme. It was even on sale.
We drove on into OKC and were greeted by the sight of some truly spectacular rain clouds. This made E very happy. Finally we made it safely to the Hodge Lodge’s abode. I was too pooped to cook so once Mike got home all of us and mom went to Souper Salad for dinner.
After dinner E and I took a side trip to Walgreen’s and Target. Then we came home and were very, very tired. E, of course, had to spend time uploading more pictures. Finally E got some rain in Oklahoma. A brief thunderstorm lit up the sky and our temps dropped considerably. Finally! And that was our groundbreaking trip to Texas.
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