Today I left New Orleans and spent the entire day driving to Austin. It was the longest drive of the trip and the most annoying, tiresome drive I’ve taken in my life.
The day started out well. I got a Facebook message from a friend in Brooklyn about Willie Mae’s Scotch House, a restaurant that boasted the best fried chicken in the nation. Rather than being 5 miles outside the city like the best Po’ Boy, it was right around the corner from my room, and the timing was perfect. I’d get there at 11, and leave at 11:30 for my 10-hour drive to Austin.
I selected “America’s Best Fried Chicken” from the menu, which was probably named so tourists didn’t have to ask. The order came with three pieces of fried chicken, mashed potatoes, mac and cheese, peas on the side, and cornbread. They also talked me into a piece of strawberry cheesecake. I will have to admit, it was possibly the best fried chicken I’ve ever had (but I gotta say my mom’s fried chicken is still a close second). During the meal I had a conversation with the server about how the Saints took the quarterback Drew Brees and running back Darren Spores from the Chargers (my hometown team), and now the Saints are kicking ass because of it. He agreed, but it didn’t make me feel any better about it.
I headed out and was making good time. I hit the Louisiana/Texas border and made my way towards Houston. It was a beautiful day. The cloud formations were huge and billowy, and shifting constantly as I drove under them. I’m really starting to enjoy driving on the highway between big cities. It’s peaceful and serene watching the landscape go by and seeing how it changes as you pass through different regions of the country. From the bayou and swampland to the arid climate of Texas, I watched as the water and green trees disappeared and the rough, flat terrain of Texas appeared in their place.
The part of this trip I hate the most is driving in and out of big cities. Through a stroke of bad luck or bad timing, I was stuck in possibly the worst traffic jam of my life in Houston, Texas. I cursed and swore loudly the entire way.
My hands gripped the wheel for dear life for two and a half hours as I edged through terrible drivers who screeched on their brakes in front of me, and cut me off every chance they got. After today’s experience, I have decided that my version of hell is a never-ending traffic jam. When I noticed that we were speeding up, I felt like I had passed a kidney stone. A huge, beautiful sun was slowly setting over the horizon as I drove out of Houston, like a big bright sign saying, “Follow me out of purgatory”.
I realized I would be driving through pitch blackness the rest of the way to Austin, and it would take another three hours to get there. I’d had three or four red bulls by then and was still falling asleep at the wheel. I found an oversized convenience store and pulled over to try to wake myself up. I slapped myself in the face a couple times and walked around, stretched my aching back, and went into the store. I felt like a walking zombie.
Cashier at oversized convenience store
I didn’t know what I was looking for, I just wandered around poking at things. I was in Texas, so all the touristy schwag they sold was based on stereotypes that defined Texans as hardcore gun-toting maniacs. Statements like, “I’d rather have a gun in my hand than a cop on the phone” along with the standard “Don’t Mess With Texas”. They had a great selection of snacks and I collected a pile of Oreos, beef jerky, Starburst, Funyuns, a Mars Bar, and three more Red Bulls. The cashier looked at me funny, and I tried to grunt, “Hello” as I fumbled for the crumpled dollar bills in my pockets. I walked out and sat on a bench and stared into space for five minutes, then downed another Red Bull.
I got a second wind that carried me on to the motel. I managed another grunt at the motel clerk, got my key, and crashed on the bed with my clothes on.