Changing terrain Is exciting. You know you’re going places, to another region. We drove down the scrubby foothills of the West Texas mountains into the green, rolling Hill Country. I didn’t realize our route would take us through Fredericksburg. Fredericksburg has old town charm, German restaurants, beer gardens and weinkellars, lots of tourists, and more vineyards than this Midwesterner has ever seen, all packed in a small town (well, 28,000). Next door is Johnson City, with a lot of old, well-kept buildings that Lyndon Johnson no doubt knew all about, it being his hometown. We are definitely returning.
I love Austin, but on this Sunday it was traffic jams and headaches. Check-in at the Peers Hotel took an hour, even with reservations. The entrance was terrible, but more on this later. It was the end of the day, we needed some grub. Then to add insult to injury, there were asses illegally parked in the handicapped spaces at the couple of places we stopped. No, Austin, this time I ain’t feeling you.
Counterculture was the best part of our stay, and even that… OK, Counterculture serves up what they call vegan comfort food. Handicapped parking was sketchy: one handicapped space surrounded by potholes and no easy path to the entrance. I wanted to blow out of there but it was getting late and we were hungry, so carry-out it was. Mab ordered the jerk seitan sandwich with french onion soup. I got a Reuben with side spinach citrus salad. All good, and the jerk sandwich was the champ. We were tasting flavors that were new to us here, so we were happy – if what you’ve got is a tofu scramble or veggie chili, I can get much better at home, thanks. For us, Counterculture met that standard. For the entire trip, though, the golden cup goes to Viva Vegeria in San Antonio. A thousand miles later, I’m still thinking of those nachos and sauces.
Can’t recommend Peers Hotel in Austin for disabled travelers. (My accessibility review with pictures is here.) They offered nice modern rooms for cheap, especially considering the location, but it’s probably temporary because of ongoing construction. This was the worst entrance I’ve ever seen: In our lowered-floor minivan we bottomed out (scraping chassis on concrete) twice for every time we entered or exited. (6 entrances or exits X 2 = 12 blows to the vehicle. Like the narrow doorways in Terlingua, it limits your comings and goings.) If that were all, I might write it off as a mulligan. After all, it sucks for the proprietor as well as the guests. But this ain’t all, oh no.
These accommodations might work well for some, but if you need any type of special consideration or information, i.e., you are disabled, then gird your loins. After three separate calls with the owner or manager about whether or not the bed was on a platform, we still had no idea what we’d find checking in. Sure enough, check-in took an hour. It turned out that the new weekend desk person, who was genuinely trying, wasn’t even told which was the accessible room. Eventually we needed two men to help the Mab lift the bed up onto our blocks, and checking out the next day it took three to help her take down, complete with sour faces. It was a high bed to transfer onto, and the carpeting made it difficult with the lift – which are everyday kind of problems, but by that point we were in no mood for more obstacles.
On the plus side, the toilet and shower were both wheelchair accessible, as was the sink area with room for an attendant. But were the little things that added up: One washcloth provided for two people. No tissues. In a couple of instances, key card would not open the lock. The entrance ramp was steep. After we checked out, Mab needed both hands to wheel a loaded luggage cart to the manual front door. This owner or manager exited directly in front of her without bothering to hold it. That said it all. Finally, those last two scrapes across the concrete to send us on our way, grinding our teeth. So long, fuckers.
Also, none of the laundry facilities at the last couple of places we stayed were working. Call in advance.
On our homestretch through Caldwell, Texas, we passed a line of unusual metal sculptures along the road. My mantra this trip was to keep moving forward and not stop for every sight, because up ahead would be another one and another one and another one, and this served us well. (Exceptions allowed, of course, because it’s a vacation, for chrissake.) But we were on our way home, and these sculptures were striking enough that Mab behind the wheel deserved to see them, so we circled back. Looking it up later, they are the work of the late Dr. Joe Carlisle Smith, who led an incredible life. They are big pieces, most 5 feet or taller, primarily metal but in other media as well. There are many of them all around what I assume was his house, but they’ve been written up in several publications and there’s even one in front of the local McDonald’s. Interesting pieces I wish could look at more closely.