Monday, 20 October 2008

Home safe and sound

I arrived back this morning into Terminal 5 at Heathrow. Despite having this lovely new, modern terminal, they still park the incoming planes away from the stand so it takes ages to get people off the plane and onto buses to take them to the terminal. However, that meant that my bag arrived on the carousel at the same time as I arrived, at least they hadn't lost it ;-)
I only came back this morning so as to save Geotrace money, the flight was three times as expensive if I was to come back on Friday, so I stayed for the weekend, and Geotrace will have to pick up my extra expenses. Houston's not the most exciting place to stay for the weekend, and I had a hire car, so I drove to Austin on Friday evening, two hours away. Olga and I visited it briefly during our 2005 Tour of the USA and so as not to give Olga the impression I was away enjoying myself too much without her and Lara, I stayed at the same motel we stayed at, and went to the same bar. It helped that the motel is walking distance from the entertainment district, so I didn't need to bother with a taxi - something else that Austin has over Houston!
There was a big college American Football game on in Austin too - they take their intra-university sports very seriously. The University of Texas in Austin has a football stadium that holds around 90,000, and it was full on Saturday night for the visit of Missouri State University, and the game was shown live on ESPN, the big American sports channel. Earlier on Saturday I'd gone to a shopping mall for a wander around and everyone - ok, well maybe 95% of everyone - was wearing something that represented the UT "Longhorns" football team, so I felt that if I was going to watch the game in a bar that night, I ought to wear the right thing. "When in Rome" and all that. There was a shop in this mall dedicated to Longhorns merchandise, so I bought a t-shirt for me and 2 outfits for Lara, one tracksuit for when she's crawling around and one adorable cheerleader's dress. You could buy the strangest things - team branded pushchairs, glof bag covers, pool balls, watches, mats to put your dog bowls on (I nearly bought that!). I could go on, but really if you can think of it, I bet they sell a Longhorns version of it! In fact, take a look at their website and you'll see what I mean:
The Longhorns were expected to win, they're currently the number one team in their league, and they trounced Missouri 56-31. Given that there were 90,000 in the stadium and lots more Longhorn fans in bars, there was no trouble at all, it seems there there never is. 3 disappointed Missouri fans wandered into the bar I was in ("Stubb's") just after 11pm, looking for somewhere to eat, but they were very politely told the kitchen had closed at 11, and the staff helpfully directed them to a place down the road that was open until 2am. I'm not sure visiting fans would get the same treatment in a pub in England.
On Sunday I checked out of the motel and made the three hour drive to Houston's international airport, stopping en route in the car park of a McDonalds to use their WiFi (sadly not free! It is at Burger King, I found out later!) to check in for my flight - you've got to love technology!

Here's the motel - if anyone's seen No Country For Old Men it's soooooooo much like the motel at the end of that film, it's uncanny! I do recommend it though, it's the Super8 on 12th Street & I-35, in case anyone will be passing through Austin :-)

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