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Heading north to the South

January 11, 2010

Some time after nightfall we arrived in San Antonio and with limited accommodation close to downtown settled on a Travelodge. After putting our bags in the smoke-scented room we descended on the Riverwalk for dinner. Whether it was close to Christmas or just all year round, fairy lights decked tree branches that hung over the canal as barges full of gawping tourists putted along. The air was warm and sticky, and I cruised around comfortably in a t-shirt.

We ate at a Mexican joint called The Original, unsure what the originality referred to. Tuesday night is not the most happening of nights in San Antonio and so with little other option we went to a Coyote Ugly. Inside was loud, too loud, run by women who whooped and yelled and stomped on the bar for no defined purpose, and asked if I was giving them the evil eye when all I wanted was some service and a beer. Rusty broke a glass and so we hightailed it out of there, hoping the next day would be better.

In the morning we set out for the Alamo, which was crowded but provided some history on  Mexico and Texas that I was not exactly knowledgeable of. A copper disc in the cobblestones offered the best vantage point for a photo opportunity so we snapped away before heading into the church. Feeling somewhat more informed on the history of the Republic of Texas and Mexico-Texas wars we walked for a while to El Mercado, a tourist wank with a bunch of souvenir shops in a shopping centre of sorts selling ponchos, leather goods and ceramics at Mexican labour prices.

Determined to have a better night than the predecessor we avoided the Riverwalk and settled on a place called O’Reilly’s, an Irish bar whose specialty drink was the hurricane, a lethal concoction of four shots of 151 and various cherry and strawberry flavourings. Above us the sky opened up and thunder crashed as the rain streamed down, causing us to flee the beer garden for the safety of the karaoke bar out the back. There we found no relief as a bride-to-be butchered Hotel California so we went upstairs to the club that was loud and full of terrible music. We gritted our teeth and went back to the karaoke bar, but could only tolerate the singing for so long before heading home.

Christmas Eve saw San Antonio shut down, so we wandered the empty streets aimlessly before returning to the motel and watching a gloriously nostalgic VH1 special on the 100 greatest songs of the 90s. We left at 62 to get dinner, returned to see the top 30 and then it was Christmas. We went to bed with the road trip officially over and 2700 miles behind us.

In the morning we left for the airport where signs demanded all guns in take-on baggage be unloaded. We boarded the kind of small plane that Rusty hates and a guy called Bill who sat next to me asked me if I surfed after finding out I was Australian. After a stopover and a BBQ sandwich in Memphis we arrived in Nashville, Tennessee. The bus took us downtown and we stepped into the cold night. Having spent much of the day sitting we walked the 10 miles to the hostel where we were greeted with the promise of pie for a late dinner. We got a lift with a woman named Hope who drove us to a service station to buy beer, and cases acquired we returned and drank a few. A group who had gone to see an NFL returned frozen, so we ate pie and drank into the night.

Our first day in Nashville began with a walk downtown along Broadway where music club after music club lined the street and music filtered out into the early afternoon sun. Interspersing the clubs were western attire stores, so we browsed cowboy boots before concluding the sizing system made no sense and gave up. That night we attempted to rally the troops for an outing but only recruited two: Ian from the UK and Tom from Melbourne. We found a place that didn’t have a queue or country and western emanating from it and after being IDed by Jack Sparrow we headed on upstairs. The band was a duo that played acoustic covers; one guy on guitar and the other hand drumming. They took requests so we challenged them to play something Australian and were rewarded with Down Under.

The Buds kept flowing and so did the music. The guitarist took any request and attempted those he didn’t know, often successfully. After the second set the drummer came over and spoke to me about this or that and I somehow acquired their EP of originals. All of a sudden it was 2am and so we burst forth into the cold night to find a White Castle. The cashier was speaking jive or I was just drunk and so after some difficulty with communication we ordered. Our food arrived and for one reason or another Ian and I began constructing towers out of the burger boxes. Time jumped to 3am and so we walked home as Ian and I talked about life the universe and everything while Rusty and Tom got to know each other.

The next day was a slow one as we lounged around the common room with the others before heading off to a Southern kitchen for lunch. We scored a table and the food bowls started arriving: broccoli, green beans, corn pudding, pot roast, fried chicken, shredded pork…it just kept coming. We finished with banana pudding and left completely satisfied; it was the best food we’d had since Fred’s in San Diego.

Making good on promises the night before, everyone decided to head out that night so we caught cabs downtown and began the night at a place called Paradise, where $6 jugs were bought in sets of two and three and glasses constantly topped up. After some pool we kicked on to Robert’s where we sampled amazing cheeseburgers. Two of the girls in the group, Mirthe and Linsey, starting hitting each others’ bottles of beer to fizz them up, resulting in Linsey breaking three bottles so we made a hasty exit, losing Tom and Rusty in the process. The line for Tootsie’s was just us and after standing in the cold for 10 minutes we gave up and went to another place where a band played Bryan Adams.

We returned to Tootsie’s and went in the back. A country and western band was playing songs everyone knew but me, except when they did Ring of Fire and Sweet Home Alabama. One of the guys in our group, Drew, got up on stage and to my surprise played a few songs with the band. Linsey and Mirthe got up on the stage and started dancing before Linsey knocked her drink on to some poor guy below. We left shortly after and returned to Drew’s apartment at the back of the hostel for more beer before I retired to bed.

The next morning was spent recovering for some, but I got itchy feet and so set out to see Centennial Park, which boasts a replica Parthenon. I wandered Elliston Place and passed a wicked vintage store called Flashback, which was inexplicably closed on a Monday. I got back just as plans were being made to go out for lunch so we headed up to Cafe Coco for paninis. With a 4.30 start in the morning, Rusty and I starting packing and making last minute arrangements for the trip to New York. We said our goodbyes and went to bed at 9.30.

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