On to Texas

Day 51
October 6, 2012
We plan on leaving New Orleans with a rental car. At Budget we discover that we can’t pick up the car Christof reserved. He left his German driver’s license at home, thinking that the International license is a replacement for his German license. It isn’t. What now?
It’s Saturday morning and our long discussion at the front desk holds up an ever-growing line of people.
Christof makes some phone calls, and I am allowed to replace him in the online contract. I have both of my licenses with me.
For the first time since we’ve been together – nearly 25 years – I’m allowed to take the wheel while Christof sits in the passenger seat.
We stop at The Oak Alley Plantation, said to be the most spectacular of the plantations nestled along the Mississippi River.

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The lots are long and thin for access to the Mississippi, so the crops could be easily transported downriver to New Orleans.
The plantations here grow sugar; it’s too humid and swampy for cotton. Sugar cane is still being grown today by farmers who rent and cultivate the fields that belong to the plantation.

Sugarcane

Sugarcane

The house – constructed of thick brick walls made of Mississippi mud – protected the inhabitants from the harsh southern heat by wrap-around porches on each level, generating much needed shade. The doors and windows, placed for cross ventilation, were supplemented by ceiling fans in every room.

The slave dwellings

The slave dwellings

This house extended hospitality to guests who came up or down the river, for diversion and entertainment. Initially visitors were greeted with a freshly cut pineapple, a traditional welcome gesture.
If the guests outstayed their welcome, an uncut pineapple laid at the foot of their beds was the unspoken signal for them to move on.
We too need to move on towards Texas before it gets dark.
We stop for the night in Orange at nightfall, which is just across the Texas state line.

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The cold weather shocks us as we exist the car. We are so used to the heat that a drop into the 40’s feels dramatic. We spend the night at an inn on Route 10.

Day 52
October 7, 2012
It is freezing as the result of a cold front that has moved in from Canada bringing along ice-cold weather. I wonder if we have the right clothing in our bags. In the desert it could be like this every day after sundown. In Austin, we need to buy some long underwear and gloves to supplement our clothing.
We drive all day long and stop in Austin at the Barton Creek Mall. It is Sunday afternoon and the mall is crowded with Spanish families on outings. It feels like we’ve crossed the border to a foreign country.
In the Apple store I tell a sales person that I haven’t been able to access my mails with the iPad for the past week, and despite the crowds in the store, a technical assistant appears and focuses on the problem. He simply deletes my mail account and reregisters me. If all problems could be solved so easily, Life would be a piece of cake.
I have become an email junkie. After a day of travel, the first thing we do is to attach ourselves to wifi to see who has written and to catch up on the news. This gives us the cozy feeling of staying in touch with everyone. Being cut off for a whole week makes us restless and uncomfortable.

With Kim and Wade

With Kim and Wade

Kim and Wade Buckner, former neighbors, invited us to visit them in Austin. We sent them a card about our travel plans and are now looking forward to seeing them. Wade, a chip designer, was amongst the first generation of employees sent over from the US to set up the AMD factory in Dresden in the late ’90’s.
We call to get directions to their house, and I hear the warmth in Kim’s voice as she tells us that we are only seven minutes away from where they live.
We are welcomed to their home with champagne and realize that the Buckners moved back to Texas twelve years ago.
When the two boys come in from jumping on the trampoline, I am surprised to see that Carson, who is now seventeen, looks exactly as he did as a small child, in large. Clay, who is now twelve, and was a baby when the family moved, has changed completely.

Clay and Carson

Clay and Carson

We have barbecued steak and catch up with each other.

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Day 53
October 8, 2012
Kim has a breakfast of croissants, muffins and coffee waiting for us when we come downstairs. Wade is at work and Carson is at school. Because Clay has the day off from school, Kim has more time at her disposal than usual. She offers to take us on a tour of Saint Antonio.
We return our rental car and she drives for an hour on a busy highway seamed by strip malls. Austin melts straight into St. Antonio, without any open, non-developed spaces in between.

The Alamo

The Alamo

We visit the Alamo and both Kim and Clay are shocked at our lack of knowledge about Texan history and the tragic events that happened during the Battle of the Alamo in the Spring of 1836.
1,500 Mexicans led by Santa Anna attacked a small group of Texans holed up in the Alamo Mission, the estimates varying between 150-250 men. None of the Texans fighting under the joint leadership of William Travis and James Bowie survived the thirteen-day siege, which has been immortalized in films and songs.

Remember The Alamo:

A hundred and eighty were challenged by Travis to die
By a line that he drew with his sword as the battle drew nigh
A man that crossed over the line was for glory
And he that was left better fly
And over the line crossed a hundred and seventy-nine

Hey Up Santa Anna, they’re killing your soldiers below
So the rest of Texas will know
And remember the Alamo

Jim Bowie lay dying, his blood and his powder were dry
But his knife at the ready to take him a few in reply
Young Davy Crockett lay laughing and dying
The blood and the sweat in his eyes
For Texas and freedom a man was more willing to die

Hey Up Santa Anna, they’re killing your soldiers below
So the rest of Texas will know
And remember the Alamo

A courier came to the battle once bloody and loud
And found only skin and bones where he once left a crowd
Fear not, little darling, of dying
If the world be sovereign and free
For we’ll fight to the last for as long as liberty be

Hey Up Santa Anna, they’re killing your soldiers below
So the rest of Texas will know
And remember the Alamo
And remember the Alamo

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We go on the River Walk, a lovely paved path following the river through the historical center of town, where we have a Mexican meal at an outdoor café. Giant cedars next to the water are already being decorated for Christmas by two men on a crane who are laboriously stringing their majestic heights with masses of colored lights.

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We leave the city ahead of the rush hour traffic, returning to Austin on a less developed route of back roads, stopping for a few minutes to visit Kim’s sister who lives in a gated community along the way. Texas isn’t as flat and boring as we had imagined. It’s hilly and the open spaces covered in sage colored scrub brush.DSCN3279

When Wade comes home from work, the four of us go out to dinner. We want to pick up the check, but he beats us to it.

Day 54
October 9, 2012
We sleep in again, having no pressure to get out onto our bicycles or to be anywhere in particular before nightfall.

Kim

Kim

When Kim returns from doing her school run, we have a relaxed breakfast. Wade took Carson’s truck so that we could use his car. Kim has until
3:00, when she has to pick up the boys, to show us around town.
We want to go to a bicycle shop, and she takes us to the one Lance Armstrong frequented before he opened his own store. Christof wants us to buy click pedals.
No one we meet and talk to about our tour can believe we have ridden this distance barefoot in plastic crocs. Apparently a pair of click pedals would greatly increase our speed, something we would love to do. In addition to the pedals, we each buy a pair of stiff, ugly shoes. Bicycle shoes have metal plates attached to their undersides that easily slide onto the pedals. Now in addition to pushing the pedals down, we will be able to pull them back up using the muscles on both sides of our legs, and doubling our efficiency.
Christof has a pair of pedals and shoes at home, but thought they would be too difficult for me to handle.
I practice using them in the development and discover how easy it is to twist out of them by turning a foot sideways. It’s a similar motion to stepping out of a pair of skis.

A farewell dinner

A farewell dinner

Our last meal with the Buckner’s is on a restaurant patio under trees draped in sparkling white lights. This time we manage to grab the check. After dinner we round off the visit at a lakeside place with coffee and desserts.
Day 55
October 10, 2012
Kim drives us to the Barton Creek Mall, where we pick up our next rental car.
This time we have trouble with Christof’s credit card, which the machine refuses to accept. Kim rescues us by verifying our rental with her credit card. Once it is accepted, the salesman changes the account back to our name and credit card. He accepts Christof’s international license without a problem.
We load up the car and say our goodbyes to Kim. She offers to show us the way out of town, and as we go off in different directions, I’m not sure if she is waving or motioning for us to follow her.

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We travel through immense, wide-open spaces covered by scrubby vegetation and dotted with derricks pumping oil, which is stored in the cheap, randomly placed tanks. The mountaintops are lined with windmills that look like soldiers waiting for marching orders.

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