Coming To America

Three months in Sydney had passed and I was ready to get back to my Canadian life. Life in Sydney wasn’t terrible though. Getting to hang with family and fiends again was the major upside to being back. Discovering my old work were in need of some help and me being in need of money, things worked out swell there, too. In fact, I was pretty much offered a job on my own terms; full time, part time, sales or customer service, whatever I wanted. Work was simple, fun and offered on a silver platter. Life was good, but I still missed the North.

So I packed my bags… er… bag… and got ready to move back to Canada, this time in Toronto. If there’s one thing I’ve learned about travel, it’s there’s an inverse law of packing: The longer you go, the lighter you need to pack. You’ll inevitably buy a bunch of junk along the way, so the more you initially bring, the more useless dead weight you’ll be lugging by the end.

Through a stroke of luck I managed to score an upgrade to business class, quite handy when you’re about to jump on one of the longest flight routes in the world, Sydney to Dallas. Seats that recline almost completely flat were great, but it was the service that aided in the longest, most comfortable sleep I’ve ever had on a flight. As I boarded, glass of champagne; as the plane levelled out after take off, a wine; at meal time, another glass; 10 minutes into meal, another top up. It never seemed to end, and the ensuing slumber was incredible. I felt like royalty.

I landed somewhat refreshed and had to get down to Austin somehow. $300 for car hire or $60 for a Greyhound. Of course, the Greyhound it is, and as usual it’s the same old problem of missing one and waiting forever for the next. I don’t think I ever will stick to that ‘never travelling by bus again’ promise I keep making to myself.

As much as I love Austin, the main reason for going was to catch up with Dave. It was the first I’d seen him since Paris, and probably the last I’d see him for a while more. Beers and bitching sessions were had, it was pretty much just good times hanging out together and enjoying the unemployed nomad lifestyle. On our first night we went down to Congress Bridge to watch the bats, an apparent must-see when in Austin and something I had not done in my two previous visits so I was psyched. The spectacle lasts at least a half hour and is pretty full on to see the sky go from calm to chaos in quite literaly a matter of seconds. Trying to capture the moment was a futile effort, that grey blur in the photo below is as best as I could get of them.

Thankfully Dave has a car, and so on one of our days hanging out he took me down to San Antonio. We checked out most of the river walk, which surprisingly enough is a walk along the river running through downtown. Who would have thought! It had a chilled out vibe about it, and the trees all along provided much needed shade from the harsh sun, so I actually liked it quite a lot down there. We moved on over to get a dose of history and checked out the Alamo. My knowledge prior to this excursion was little more than King of the Hill references and I was really hoping to find some of Hank Hill’s beloved Alamo Beer. We did.

The experience at The Alamo was both educational and a little confusing. To keep the story short, when Texas was still part of Mexico, the Texians pretty much wanted to take the land as their own. The Mexicans were, understandably, not stoked. The Mexican army surrounded and outnumbered the  Texians, who rather than surrender, decided to go down fighting. So Texas maintains this site as a memorial with a strong sense of pride for a fight they didn’t win, for land that wasn’t theirs to begin with. So there’s that.

The Alamo

On the way back from San Antonio Dave was carrying on about this hunting shop that we just had to go see. I’m not one for hunting so I didn’t quite get why this would be a must-see store, but Dave assured me it would be worth it.

One blog I just stumbled upon put it perfectly when they stated the following:

As soon as I entered and I saw a “Check your guns at the door” sign I knew I was not man enough to be in that store.  I have never seen so many pick-up trucks in the parking lot.  I am a nerd, my heart races at Best Buy, not at Cabela’s.  I have never seen any one place that valued violence, power, and conquest than at this store.  I felt as out of place as a ballerina at a Pro-Wrestleing show.

This place is just insane. The first thing you see as you walk in is a towering rock face, around and upon which you will find all manner of stuffed animals, from wolves to – no shit – polar bears. To the right you’ll find an innocuous assortment of clothing, shoes and camping gear. To the left you have entire departments dedicated to camouflage (even dog clothing!), feeders to attract animals, and of course guns and knives. The gun counter and rack behind it were at least 30 metres long, filled to the brim with more guns than one can fathom, even pink guns for the discerning woman who wants to retain that sense of femininity whilst exercising her right to bear arms. Venture a little further through the store and you will happen upon a ‘museum’ of stuffed animals.

Click picture to enlarge.

Soon after we caught up with Jess, my Austin-via-Virginia friend I met a year earlier. A few beers and some salsa later, it was time to say bye to my buddies and head back north to Dallas, where I would be seeing Soundgarden and heading further East to Fest 10. I headed for the rental place, and my mid-size car was somehow upgraded to an SUV, ridiculously excessive for myself and my lone carry-on sized bag. Three hours and a small nation’s supply of gas later, I made it to Dallas.

…and drove past the book repository and grassy knoll.

Written on February 24, 2012