February 16 2010 by Jason Fogelson
Today was supposed to be a short day of riding, so I decided to take it a little easy on myself. I set the alarm for a leisurely 8:30 am, instead of my usual 7:30. Of course, I woke up at 7:30 anyway. I was excited about riding.
My first stop, as always, was the Best Western Atrea at Old Town Center lobby for a delicious complimentary hot breakfast. Biscuits, cheddar cheese scrambled eggs and some hot coffee, and I was ready to ride. I checked out, and loaded up the Electra Glide. My first stop was just a few miles away this time, in the next town over, College Station. Home to the campus of Texas A&M University, which also hosts the George H. W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum. I've been to seven presidential libraries so far (Nixon, Reagan, Ford, Eisenhower, Truman, Carter and Kennedy), and I hope to visit them all.
Though the first President Bush was but a one-termer in office, he had a rich and varied life in private and in public. He was a varsity baseball player at Yale; a Navy fighter pilot in World War II; a successful oil man; a US Senator; Ambassador to the United Nations and head of the CIA all before becoming Vice President for two terms under Reagan. His museum is casual, interactive and friendly, and gives a great sense of the man. I spent about an hour strolling through the permanent collection before riding off with a newfound appreciation for our former chief executive.
I planned to ride to a burger joint that I had heard about in Bastrop, which was about an hour's ride away in the direction of Austin. That was the plan, anyway. A quick skip down Texas 21, a nice lunch, and then exploring Austin. Would have been nice, if I had taken 21 West out of Bryan. I took 21 East. I was enjoying the scenery, only slightly puzzled by the few signs I noticed that indicated that I was getting closer to Huntsville. Didn't I just ride through Huntsville yesterday? After reaching Madisonville, I realized my mistake. I had ridden 36 miles in the wrong direction. I pulled over, filled up with gas, and backtracked down Route 21 West. My one-hour ride had just turned into a three-hour ride. I gave up the lunch idea, and decided to push on into Austin.
I arrived at the Best Western Atrium North at about 4:30 pm. As I was checking in, a phalanx of State Trooper vehicles pulled into the parking lot. One by one, uniformed State Troopers filed in to the hotel, taking their places in line behind me at the front desk. Turns out that the State Troopers were holding training in the area, and the Best Western Atrium North was their hotel of choice. Cool. I feel very safe here.
My friend, author and musician Hayden Childs, arrived to ferry me around Austin and to join me for dinner. Hayden's book, Shoot Out the Lights , is part of the 33-1/3 book series, which examines seminal rock albums. Hayden's book explores Richard and Linda Thompson's great album, and I like the book even more than I like the album. Hayden and his wife have lived in Austin for about 10 years, and I knew that he'd be a great tour guide.
First, dinner. We went to the second best BBQ in the area, according to Hayden. The best is the Salt Lick Bar-B-Que , but that's about 20 miles outside of town in Driftwood. We went to the County Line Bar-B-Que , which is much closer to downtown Austin. If it is the second best, I'm not sure I could handle the best. Our waiter talked us into the Cadillac all-you-can-eat platter, which included sausage, chicken, ham, extra moist brisket, extra lean brisket, beef ribs and pork ribs, along with potato salad, cole slaw, beans, homemade bread and ice cream. After two platters full, Hayden and I had to cry "Uncle."
Hayden drove me downtown for a driving tour of the historic district. I saw the famous Capital Building, the infamous Tower, and the lights of 6th Street. I will return tomorrow morning before I ride on to San Antonio -- because Hayden also reminded me that the Lyndon Baines Johnson Presidential Library and Museum is in Austin, on the campus of the University of Texas. I can cross off numbers eight and nine on the same trip! I can't wait.
Tomorrow is the last day of my ride. I've been away from home for a long time, and I'm eager to get back. But I'm a little melancholy, because this has been such a great ride. I'm going to make the most of tomorrow, and pack it full of memories to last until my next trip.
Miles traveled: 194