After leaving the Rothko Chapel, and getting my composure back, Max and I used that trusty AROUND ME app to find a dog park. Then Vanessa the GPS gal guided us right to it. Turned out NOT to be a dog park, but a park that allows dogs on leash. It was a lovely spot, and we put on the retractable lead so Max could roam a little further than 6 feet.
He immediately dropped down and began rolling on the grass, rubbing his face and sliding his body along – pure doggie ecstacy. There was a beautiful, large sculpture in the park, and I took a picture of Max with part of the Houston skyline behind:
Next, we went to Discovery Green by the Houston Convention Center, where I had lunch and Max met a 3-month-old Rottweiler puppy named Mufasa (the Lion King, according to his owner). The park is really nice, with a “lake” and kids’ water play area, a performance stage, spaces for outdoor vendors, and The Lake House restaurant – really just a slightly better quality fast food place for burgers and hot dogs.
There was this interesting sculpture there – no indication of who created it, but it was really cool:
After playing around the sculpture, we got back to the car only to discover that SOMEBODY left the headlights on! Then, that same Somebody got in and proceeded to try and do some online research on the iPhone WITHOUT TURNING OFF THE HEADLIGHTS!
Oh oh… the car won’t start. Wasn’t that stupid! But, not to worry! I have Triple-A! I called the 800-number, did the whole routine, and then the woman said, “I see from your member number that you are from Maine, you’re not there now are you?” “No, I’m in Houston!” She was relieved because she thought maybe I had been connected to the wrong AAA office.
We ended up waiting a little more than an hour for the truck to come, and while we waited I booked our room in Austin for tonight. Max met another dog, several people, and took a little snooze on the grass beside me. When the truck arrived, the guy was really nice. Charged the battery and got me running, then tested it to make sure I didn’t need a new battery.
By the time we were ready to go, Vanessa (the GPS gal) was in one of her snotty moods, and led us a merry twisty chase to get onto 610 North. After a U-turn instead of a turn, then an alert of “Severe Traffic Ahead” and an off-ramp then back on to 610 and off again a couple of times (all due to heavy stalled traffic) I blew my last chance to get onto 610 North and she took us to I-10 West. By now, her prediction for arrival in Austin was almost 5:59 PM.
Traffic out of Houston at 3:30 was horrendous; six lanes in each direction, jam-packed with cars in all lanes, no extra space between any of them, and all traveling 50-60 MPH! I picked the 3rd lane over from the right and stayed put. Would you believe that we drove for almost 18 miles before we were finally on what I’d call the outer edge of sprawl – the place where there’s no more tall building, and there’s some space between businesses – even some empty lots and grassy fields with fences around them (remnants of what used to be).
Gradually, we went from six lanes, to four, then down to two (in each direction, remember?). By the time it was two lanes, we were out in the country again, with rolling fields of grazing cattle, trees, houses, and not much else for miles. Well, lots of side roads coming in, and the occasional business, but few and far between.
And gradually, the sun sank lower in the west. About halfway to Austin, I turned on the radio hoping to catch NPR and there it was! KUT from Austin was coming in loud and clear. For quite some time, there were hardly any other cars on the road. Just as the lanes dwindled from six down to two, so had the volume of cars. I guess that’s why there’s only two lanes, huh?
As we approached Austin, the traffic began to pick up. The sun had set, and it was dark – I hate driving in a strange place after dark. Plus, Vanessa seems at her worst in the dark! Because we had missed 610 North, and gone with I-10 West, we approached from a different direction. We ended up going so many miles on one road, then left, then so many miles on another, then right, etc. etc. until I was convinced that she had NO CLUE about where we were supposed to be. Just about then, we left the neighborhoods behind for the good old hotel row (you know, Hampton Inn, Holiday Inn, Comfort Inn, La Quinta, Red Roof… all cheek by jowl with Burger King, Jolly John, Pizza Ht and what have you!)
I breathed a sigh of relief when we made our last turn and I could see the sign for our Red Roof Inn up ahead on the right.