We were well within our time of arrival, so the dawdling traffic didn’t upset us that much. In fact, the snail’s pace allowed us time to leisurely pan the University of Texas campus with its huge 85,000 seat football stadium and the infamous U.T. tower from which Charles Whitman went on a shooting spree in 1966. Then came the magnificent State Capital, naturally the tallest in the country, and purported to be a couple of inches taller than the nation’s capital. That’s Texas for ya’ – everything’s gotta be bigger. There were several downtown high-rise buildings under construction, adding more profile to an already burgeoning skyline for a city definitely on the upswing (the population had ballooned to almost half a million).
We crossed over the picturesque Colorado River (not to be confused with its namesake in the Mile High State) and exited at Riverside Drive. Ol’ Blue was practically gasping for gas, so I stopped at a petrol station for a fill up. Dodi held true to her commitment to spring for the gas (a $25.00 bill), saying, “Wow, that sure beats the heck out of an $80.00 bus ticket. You’re a real bargain, mister.”
It was only a few blocks to sister Suzi’s apartment complex where I found a space in the parking lot under some shade trees. It was late afternoon and there was still a cool north breeze whipping through. As I was unloading her arsenal, I said, “What a godsend! First, we had a good tailwind to push us along, and now I can enjoy a cool night’s sleep. I bet the temp will be in the low 60s tonight.” I helped Dodi by pulling her roller luggage up a set of steps and then a flight of stairs up to the second floor apartment. Suzi and her boyfriend Rick greeted us, and then we retired to the kitchen table to share our eventful road experiences.
There was still a lot of daylight left, so I excused myself and walked down to the van and unhitched the velocipede for a little pedaling tour of the area. As I biked around the complex, I couldn’t help but notice the ethnic diversity among the kids biking through the parking lots, I mean there were Asians, blacks, Hispanics, and even a couple of white boys. When I got back to the apartment, Suzi had already whipped up a simmering pot of “sghetti and balls” (my abridged version of spaghetti and meatballs).
After a delicious dinner, we relaxed in the living room in front of a 51-inch diagonal TV screen. I exclaimed, “This is the biggest screen I’ve ever seen. You can even watch TV from the kitchen.” Dodi went bonkers playing with the remote control, surfing the cable channels, explaining, “We don’t have this luxury in our remote rural area.” You see, hubby Bill had inherited his father’s 1870s two-story, wood-framed, out-of-plumb house just outside of Vienna, a small town about 20 miles north of Augusta, Maine. Their water supply came from an on-site well, and the heating was provided by a wood-burning cast-iron furnace in the basement, commonly known in the area as an “All Nighter”. Except for the convenience of electricity, they were, relatively speaking, retroactively living in the 19th century.
Rick adjourned to the bedroom to play with his computer, leaving us “girls” to engage ourselves in a friendly repartee. Suzi started things off by mentioning that she had come close to being arrested for hanging “Anti-Iraq War” banners from freeway overpasses. I responded, “Oh yeah, I’m now in the liberal bleeding-hearts society, but I’m behind you all the way.” We then decided to play our favorite game of movie trivia, which we all prided ourselves at being very adept. I initiated things by asking, “What are the only two movies to win Oscars for Best Picture, Best Actor, and Best Actress?” After minutes of consulting with each other, my two learned opponents were both stumped (Dodi made a feeble guess at one with Gone With The Wind). I finally had to say, “Beep! Time’s up. It was It Happened One Night (1934) with Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert, and One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest (1976) with Jack Nicholson and Louise Fletcher.” They simultaneously exclaimed, “Now that was a good one! Hope we can match you.”
We combated for about an hour, with Suzi asking one final question: “Where was the movie Hud filmed?” Dodi and I looked at each with a thumbs up gesture and responded with, “Claude, Texas.” We high-fived each other on getting that easy one. I then asked if I could watch a few last minutes of the Dallas Mavericks playoff game on ESPN, which the sisters tolerated until the merciful final buzzer. As a sort of redemption for having to watch a few minutes of basketball, they decided to watch the movie Meet The Parents. Having already seen the flick, I said, “I’m calling it a night. You’ll enjoy this one. Ben Stiller and Robert De Niro are great, but take notice of Owen Wilson. He has a minor role, but he’s a comer, trust me.” I retired to Ol’ Blue and checked my thermometer to see if my prediction was right on, and sure enough, the mercury was at 62 degrees. Needless to say, I had one beautiful night’s sleep.