The Nexus of Texas (and Lexus)

26 09 2009

The freeway system in Texas is horrible.  Actually, that’s not true.  There’s clearly no system in place at all, and there are often highways adjoining highways that lead to the same place and have the same names.  Would you like to take 360?  Sure!  Just take it, or the frontage road next to it (no, not the road named Frontage Road, which is a completely real name of a real road in Texas) and you will wind up at your destination, which happens to be an address ON THE FREEWAY.  I mean, I don’t know too many people who live at 1319 I-5, Los Angeles, CA, but apparently this is a normal thing in Texas because they have roads called freeways/highways (the distinction really means nothing down there, for all intents and purposes) that actually look exactly like the roads on those navigation system commercials that show people driving their convertibles high above the clogged freeway.  Except these roads are about 30 feet from the unclogged freeway, and are often impossible to get off of.  But you can always find a Whataburger.  Apparently they have good tacos, or so the locals told me.  Just what I was wondering.

Critters.  They have grasshoppers as big as your fist.  They have other things that I don’t know what they are except for all I know is they are huge and kind of cool until you see a parking lot littered with their crushed bodies, covered by a mist of the live ones hovering, ready to disembowel their brother and sister locusts.  Of course, this is the least of your problems when you have coyotes wandering around a mile from your hotel on the side of the highway.  (Granted, I’ve seen coyotes in Los Osos too, but you just don’t expect it in a “big city” area like Dallas.  Or Irving, technically.)  Also it was “bring your dog to the ballpark” day at Arlington, but we (thanks to Amy) got seats that weren’t quite as “interesting” as I’m sure the upper deck area was.  It was nice and warm that day too, which must have augmented the aura quite beautifully.  Incidentally, anyone who owned a Lexus got free valet parking at the Ballpark.  Of course, is it really free when you have to stand in line for thirty minutes to tip the valet who has to pick your car out among the horde of other silver Lexuses (Lexi?).

Demeanor.  I’ve taken four trips to Texas in the past ten years, and I’ve always been warmed by the affable and kindly manner in which I am approached.  Everyone from the cook at the barbecue buffet who told me to get a clean plate to the salty gentleman walking up to the stadium with us was as polite and easygoing as you could imagine.  It’s simply a given over there that you are neighbors with those around you.  Although I encountered some exceptions (we call them “jerks” here) at times, it was a pretty hard and fast rule that you will be treated with both familiarity and respect in most any situation.  Culturally, it’s one of the more attractive things about the area.

Weather.  While it was actually ok for most of our stay, (“ok” being high 80s, no rain, decent humidity) the potential for ice storms and triple digits at any given time is a little bit of a discouragement for those looking to emigrate.  Certainly, the lightning storms are cool to watch, but not when you’re wondering if you might have been just an inch too tall to be alive in ten minutes.  And the humidity, really.  I mean, John and I jogged our way to Cowboys Stadium just in time to see kickoff, but our clothes were absolutely soaked before we even sat down.  We’re talking actual liquid dripping noticeably from our shorts as we’re standing up during the national anthem.  I think sweat would work better as a coolant if it didn’t constantly remind you of just how hot you were in the first place.

Food.  I’m surprised people can actually buy life insurance in this state, since Taco Bell is probably the healthiest thing there.  Meat is a given at every part of every meal, and often the only part.  (Fogo de Chao being an obvious instance of the latter)  Their food comes swimming in barbecue sauce, fried, battered, buttered, glazed, and ready to be refilled as soon as your plate looks half-empty.  In case it isn’t obvious, this is a huge point in Texas’s favor.  I mean, shouldn’t all food be more like the Double Western Bacon Cheeseburger?  Lots of potato salad, coleslaw, and Dr Pepper.  Dr Pepper.  Amy embarrassed us at one place by actually asking them if they served Dr Pepper there.  I assume she was also planning on asking if they served oxygen, but the subsequent wail of despair from the kitchen drowned it out.

Those are just some “high-lights” of the trip, but actually experiences will be put to paper (e.g. not paper) in the future.  I could see myself living there, though.  If not for Los Osos, that is.

Delayed Response

22 09 2009

I’d like to sort of apologize to the anonymous glob of “readers” out there whom I’ve kept waiting while I’ve been in Texas these past few days.

I’d like to, but I don’t really think I’m going to.  That’s the thing about velleity, you see.



Traversing and Conversing

2 09 2008


I finally did something over Labor Day weekend that enabled me to answer related inquires to a much more satisfactory degree. 


Specifically, I went on another backpacking trip and climbed another mountain. 


Photo taken from 11,000 feet.

Photo taken from 11,000 feet.


I’ll be honest: I didn’t exactly shine. At 13,891 feet, Mount Agassiz doesn’t exactly welcome you to its summit. The weekend also greeted us with winds that various travelers described in the 40-50 mph range. Combine that with the cold front and the elevation, and you have yourself a veritably miserable experience. My throat still faintly cringes when I breathe deeply, reminding the rest of my aching body how hard I pushed it over the weekend. As I was trailing everyone on the way down the mountain, my ragged breathing pained my pride as much as it did my heart. (my real heart, not my <B heart. Is that even an accepted emoticon?) I had done a bit of extra work to prepare myself for the weekend, but I realized even before I made it to the top just how inadequate my conditioning was for long hikes over 2.5 miles above the sea. 

I felt better after Daniel threw up, though. Even more so after Thatcher dry-heaved during the night. That was after I pleaded with him not to leave the tent in the middle of the night because I was convinced that an animal was waiting for him outside. The wind was bad.

Pictures are somewhere, sometime. Stories are many. For instance, we spent much of Saturday (after waking up at 3 a.m.) walking around Lone Pine while Thatcher’s oil pan got patched. Mount Tyndall (or Williamson or something else) really didn’t want us to come. So, we instead got to camp (free of charge) at a nice site near the trailhead to Bishop Pass while the nearby families welcomed us to their yearly gathering with loads of food and conversation before we settled in for the night. Until I got woken up by the aforementioned wind wrapping the side of the tent completely around my sleeping bag. 

I’ll give each traveler a sentence of praise, for posterity’s sake.

Kerry, who withstood the weekend with more fortitude and grace than perhaps any of us, drove the car home after Thatcher, Daniel and I all pled weakness and fatigue

Laura, who was on her third serious hike in as many weeks, happily cooked dinner for all of us Sunday night, as Daniel and Thatcher could do nothing but lie down while I stumbled around (literally) in a haze of dehydrated sickness.

Daniel’s encouragement and sympathy, despite our mutual incapacitation, helped me get down the mountain despite ailing lungs and weakening will, while his example inspired me to do likewise and get a huge ice cream cone on the way home. 

Thatcher led us all where we needed to go and kept a surprisingly cheerful temperament in spite of his sickness that inspired all of us to get a lot farther than we ever would have gotten ourselves.

Robert didn’t really sleep at all for three nights in a row, but successfully annoyed Daniel during the trip home by covertly swatting his head with the sun visor for over half an hour. 

Dulce Domum indeed.


8 07 2008

I’ll have actual pictures at some point, but here is some random guy’s shot of Pyramid Peak, which we did this weekend, among other things.

Hiking them up

2 07 2008

Ho hum, I’m not too busy this weekend; I guess I’ll go here: