US Road Trip Travelog: 11th March 2005

Gulf of Mexico Riviera
Gulf of Mexico Riviera. With a flock of admirers.

From Galveston I follow the coast down a bit to Freeport then head up north to Highway 71 to Austin (basically I'm trying to avoid the madness of the Houston roads). When looking at my Rand McNally road atlas the previous night this seemed a relatively short drive but Rand McNally use different scale maps for each state and, even though they split Texas in half, it's still a lot further than it looks. What I should've done is to have had a look at my Michelin Southeastern USA before setting off, which is much more useful for this sort of thing. A lesson learnt there.

It's a hot day and the six hours driving aren't the most fun in the world, though the scenery gets more hilly and wooded and interesting as I approach Austin. There are a lot of roadworks along the way. The worst of these are nearer Austin, where there's no place to pull over the car if it starts to overheat. Being a longtime owner of Reliant Scimitar's, and having had an old Lotus that also suffered, my biggest fear when driving is being in an old car on a hot day and stuck in traffic. The Riviera, however, seems better at keeping its cool than I am. I may well regret tempting fate like that but it really is quite impressive.

Austin is gearing-up for the huge South By Southwest film and music festival, which starts next week. This is probably the worst time to be visiting the city, as it's in the calm before the storm, but that can't be helped. I don't think that I'd really enjoy the festival itself anyway as it sounds as if it'll be a bit too intense and overcrowded. As I've said before about other music cities, I tend to prefer them outside of weekends and major events as I think you can get a better feel for the place that way.

Being a weekend and just as SXSW is getting going, motel rooms are expensive and impossible to find near the city centre. The only place I could find was a Drury Hotel to the north of the city. From there into the downtown area means getting a cab, which is what I do to see what Austin has to offer.

Skyscraper in Austin
Skyscraper in Austin. I have no idea why I can take a photo like this at night and it'll be in focus, give or take, but my indoor ones won't.

The bars along 6th Street are busy but, as expected, there's not a lot of live music. Having said that it's a damn site better than most places I stayed in Mississippi, and I'd be fool to complain. At Friends bar I hear good covers of the Allman Brother Band's 'Statesboro Blues' and Dr Feelgood's (though I think it's an older song than that) 'Riot In Cell Block No. 9', along with plenty of Stevie Ray Vaughan. The latter is a bit of a hero in Austin, and apparently there's even a statue of him somewhere around.

Funky Old Soul
Funky Old Soul at Maggie Mae's.

Further along 6th Street and the only other live band I can find is Funky Old Soul. Not the best music in the world but they're more a party band, covering songs like Stevie Wonder's 'Superstition' and Rose Royce's 'Carwash'. All good fun, and they get a lot of the crowd up dancing before too long. There are probably other bands around later but I'm done for the day and find a cab to take me back to the motel.

US Road Trip Travelog: 12th March 2005 >