Friday, December 16, 2005

Hook 'em Horns...

We are parked at a Wal-Mart in Austin, Texas (map). More properly, I should say it is a former Wal-Mart, as the store itself is empty, which makes it eerily reminiscent of Disaster Relief HQ in Baton Rouge. There is a Sam's Club still operating right next door, so we felt safe and comfortable, but it was quieter and darker here in front of the old store.

Our route plan had us scheduled to stop somewhat east of here, near Giddings, but we pressed on to Austin for two reasons. One is that we want to visit the Red Cross technology maintenance center here this morning. This is the place where all the servers, laptops, switches, phones, and other technology assets are configured, packaged, and deployed to the disaster site. We really wanted to see the facility and meet the folks here, and a bonus is that all the fancy Emergency Communications Response Vehicles are here right now for upgrades.

The second reason, and more of a driver for our evening arrival, is that we wanted to have dinner at the University of Texas Club on the UT campus. Dinner was excellent, and the campus is quite beautiful, although we only saw it after dark. The longhorn motif is everywhere, including on the police cars, and, while we are not fans, it was at least a refreshing change from the omnipresent LSU purple that consumes Baton Rouge.

Our current travel schedule does not permit us more time here, but we will definitely be back for a longer visit.

As we left Beaumont yesterday on US190, we stopped by at the Elks lodge, where we stayed in September, to see how it fared. It was gone -- burned to the ground by an electrical fire that started when power was restored after Rita. They did have the campground up and running, along with a small lodge office in a trailer. The campground is full, mostly with contractors in town for clean-up and repair operations, and is providing a much-needed source of revenue while the lodge gets back on its feet.

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