My first time in Texas was a good experience! Like many liberals probably do, I had some misgivings about a ten hour layover anywhere in Texas that isn’t Austin but after walking a good 5-6 miles around the city, I have to say – it felt a lot like Madison or Milwaukee. Christine, who had been to Austin at least a few times, was surprised at how green everything was in comparison. On our (extremely cheap) bus ride from the George Bush Airport (hah) which was only $1.25 and had extremely comfortable, Van Galder style seats, I saw more mega warehouses for mega specific businesses then I’d ever seen. One said “Golf Cart Warehouse and Showroom.” Another strip mall seemed to have twenty stores that specialized in mattresses. And one simply read “DOORS!!!” in 10 foot tall red letters on its roof.

We thought we’d try to get into the aquarium, as it was reviewed well on Google Maps (we hadn’t planned our layover very well), but had to nix that as we were coated in luggage and they didn’t have any storage lockers. Neither did the airport, “since 9/11” drawled the friendly information staff person. So we were lugging the luggage all day.

Lunch was at pad thai, at a restaurant suitably named Padthai (but it wasn’t on the cheap lunch special!?!) Passable, but a little too sweet for either of our tastes. We had to douse quite a bit of the provided hot sauce on the table to make it a little more bet mahk. We thought then that we’d try to see some cool costumes at the local “comic con” but after a mile of walking or two, we sadly just saw a few on the outside – most of the folks had already paid their $25 admission fee and gone into the cavernous George R Brown Conference Center.

Next, we tried to visit a brewpub, only to find that they only did tastings on Saturdays – darn. I did ask the brewer on staff what bars he’d recommend going to in Houston, and he said without hesitation, “Moon Tower Inn a mile down the road.” Time for more walking! It was a very sunny day, but the weather was nice and there was a good breeze – Christine still got a bit burned, though. Moon Tower definitely lived up to the recommendation, with around 30 beers on tap, and a selection of “wild game [hot] dogs” ranging from deer and elk to pheasant and rabbit. Christine even ordered a rabbit dog for us to split and it was quite tasty (I mean, there are plenty of rabbits, right? And we’re not destroying the environment to farm them like we do with cattle? – yeah, and it was delicious). The first beer I had was made by Moon Tower themselves, the “hairy porter” – it had almost a brown mustard flavor to it, which the brewer told me was because he had cooked the yeast up very hot beforehand. Whatever it was, it was unique.

We were chatting with a friendly hipster-looking guy a little older than us when suddenly seven very loud bangs rang out somewhere “within a block or so,” the hipster observed without flinching. “Sounded like a 9 mm, judging from the report. 45 would have more of a reverberation.” He revealed that in the Great State of Texas, there is the equivalent of seven guns registered to every man, woman, and child in the state. And that’s seven handguns. That have been legally registered. The guy confided he had 10 himself and not a single one was registered. I asked him if he thought this neighborhood was safe. He shrugged, grinned, and said “I live here; I like it.”

We tried to take the same $1.25 bus back to the airport, but after waiting fruitlessly for 45 minutes for it to show up (it never did) and several frustrated called to the Houston Metro transit station, we found out that the bus was in the shop. Christine started chatting with a nearby Indian-American woman who also had a lot of luggage, and the three of us agreed to split a taxi to the airport instead, since even if the bus had come right at that moment, we’d be cutting it dangerously close. On the 40 minute long taxi ride (in a concrete-barricaded-off carpool lane no less, something that this Wisconsin country bumpkin had never actually seen before) the two ladies chatted about Kerala and Mumbai – the lady confessed that she’d lived in Houston for 25 years and when going back to visit her family in India, she’d never gone beyond Mumbai.

The flight here was uneventful, and our driver, Victor, had a sign held up and waiting for us outside the gate. He and Christine chatted, and I nodded and interjected “si!” when I understood something (which was about once every couple dozen sentences). We’ll be getting up early tomorrow to begin our long car ride to the north side of Lake Atitlan!