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Trip Report: Washington to Austin

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You didn't think you got rid of me, did you? Ho ho! No sir. I'm right back in this baby, at least for tonight.

Yes, the 26 hour drive took me 46, but when your alternator's done... she's done. Will and Mike will be bringing you the football updates tomorrow while I get moved into the new pad in Austin, but this was a road trip to remember. Let's make it official.

Day 1: Washington, D.C. to Nashville, TN

The Summary

With all the work I had to finish at the job I was leaving in D.C., in conjunction with the energy and substance abuse required to say good-bye to all my District bretheren, there was little time to ensure the minutiae of the trip itself were properly planned for. This lack of planning resulted in two critical consequences:

1) The car was not inspected prior to departure. Given its recent starter problems, this was not ideal. Nevertheless, the time to get it into the shop was limited, if it existed at all.

2) Cramming the clothes and living items I was surviving on were not calucated into the original car stuff. The second point is the important point for Day 1, as the time it took me to completely pack the car meant my leaving at 11:00 a.m. on Saturday. Similarly, the multiple nights out to properly celebrate my departure with my beloved DC friends meant that I needed good sleep. Bottom line: there was no crack of dawn start on Day 1.

The Highlight

Had proper planning been implemented, I would have arrived in Nashville to -attend- the Titans-Saints preseason game. Instead, it was a race to make it into Titans regional TV zoning. I made it just into the first quarter, kept driving through Billy Volek's time under center, then nabbed a hotel just in time to catch all of Vince Young's first professional action at quarterback.

There were good moments, and mediocre moments, but it was a thrill, and the highlight of my day. Bar none.

Music MVP

The Gourds: Bolsa de Agua... Special thanks to: Robert Earl Keen, 2Pac, Tribe Called Quest, DJ Heather, Nirvana, Alice in Chains

A long road trip requires an abundance of music, but when you're driving by yourself, you don't just need variety, you need an album or two per day that give you a huge shot of adrenaline. Bolsa set the tone on Day 1.

For those unfamiliar with The Gourds, it's time to get acquainted. Intimately. If you're looking at a remote introduction and your first taste must come via the discography, there's no better place to start than Bolsa. From the opening track, in which we get my favoite Gourds sing-along line of all time, "Retarded gurrrl.... She slurs!", to some of their signature songs later in the album, Bolsa de Agua is a keeper.

An interesting note: good friend and loyal reader Will Ferguson, whose talent with the written word I've praised on this site before, notes that while Gourds album quality is on the decline, live show quality is on the upswing. I agree, and look forward to meeting hordes of you at Gourds live shows this fall.

Worst Moment:

Hitting the Virginia border. You know, I'll be the first to outline the downsides of the Washington/VA/MD capitol metroplex - and there are many - but I can honestly say that moving there was perhaps the best decision I ever made.

I won't eulogize and memorialize my wonderful three years there, but let me just offer this, to whomever may be reading: if you're young, not sure what to do, but full of intellectual vigor, there's no place better in this country that you can go to seek engaging, rewarding work. For young people, it's simply the mecca of opportunity.

Between high turnover (nobody's from D.C., everyone just comes to work for a bit), the myriad employment opportunities (no fewer than five major research colleges, hundreds of public policy institutes, lobbies galore, and the federal government), and the benefits that come with a very cultural and diverse city - I can suggest nowhere better than to take your first job and get a chance to do something that makes you think.

If you're not sure what you wanna do... take a look at Washingon. There's something for everyone. Even if for just a year.

Day 2: Nashville, TN to Memphis, TN

The Summary

Among the top five worst days of my life. Read on....

The Highlight

My day peaked at 6:15 a.m.

No joke. The morning coffee and free Holiday Inn Express breakfast bar, were historic. I got up early, as planned, and got the breakfast and coffee for the road. A+

Music MVP

Morcheeba: Various... Special thanks to: 2BeLo, Danny Tenaglia

Up with the sun. Breakfast on the fly. Hot coffee and a full tank of gas. The crisp morning air and that feeling that you only get on a road trip... the one where you check out and even the attendant is surprised to see you... the morning air is damp, cool, crisp, promising... the car windows haven't been shattered... your life is still packed to the roof of the car...

Only a fool would mess up that perfect first hour or two of the second day of a road trip, playing the wrong music. I was no exception, and that meant that calming but exhilarating Morcheeba.

Oh, sweet Morcheeba. For those unaware, the voice and soul of Morcheeba is was Skye, a goddess of a woman who carries a voice that's like a ceiling fan set at just the right speed so that you can follow around an individual blade but you're still mesmerized by the circular illusion of the full rotation of the fan's blades. Words simply don't do her voice justice.

The amazing thing about Morcheeba, and Skye, is not just her perfect voice, but that the songs seem to be written only for her voice. And while Skye has left Morcheeba and they may never be what they were, what they were is something to behold.

The perfect start to the day, a sublime blend of smooth/downkey and intense/uplifting.

Worst Moment

To choose one worst moment would be an injustice to the tsunami of misfortune that defined my day.

After the first cup of coffee was drained, I decided to pull over for reinforcements. Sadly, upon leaving the McDonalds, the car refused to start. It gave a few chugs, but wouldn't turn. Devastated, I walked to the nearest gas station.

It?s at this point that the big problem hits me: it?s Sunday. You won?t find many mechanics in the shop on Sunday in America, but you can bet your last dollar that you won?t find a single one in the Bible Belt.

I got a jump from a friendly passerby, drove to the Centersville, TN AutoZone and hoped against hope that it was my battery, and not my alternator.

I put a new battery in my car, closed the hood, drove for 40 miles, and watched the car die as I crossed the river leaving Memphis.

Stranded in little Marion, Arkansas, I was forced to stay the night at the Hallmarc Inn, while waiting for a mechanic to fix the car Monday morning.

Day 3: Marion, AR to Austin, TX

The Highlight

Too many amazing things yesterday to choose one. Was it the friendly mechanic that got me on the road by eleven? That ecstatic moment when I crossed the Texas border? The second I first saw the Austin skyline?

All you need to know is that I stopped only three times for fuel, food, and beverage, put the pedal to the metal, and got in to town last night at 8:45. And here we are?

Music MVP

Danny Howells: GU-Miami. Special thanks to: Thomas Sahs, South Austin Jug Band, Phish

Only one word can describe this album: relentless. Howells, a very slick house DJ that?s brought me great pleasure in the past, blew me away with this Miami CD. Yesterday was my first listening of it, and it made what could have been an impossibly long day completely manageable.

The two disc album manages to be both cerebral and driving, which I?ve found to be an extraordinarily rare combination in electronic music production. I?ve heard many cerebral mixes, and many, many driving sets, but it?s so difficult to achieve both, and Howells does with ease.

Howells' other CDs are more driving thumpers; the Miami set challenges the listener with carefully produced, perfectly timed soundscapes, moments that made me physically smile with surprise. When I expected Howells? set to zig, it would zag. And most amazingly, every time I thought the set my drift into something esoteric and dreamy, the driving, whoomping bass would come rousing me from my seat once more.

House music ain?t for everyone; but if it?s something you can listen to and enjoy, this is a must own.

The Worst Moment

Can?t say there were any. The only slight negative in my life right now is that I?m back in the middle of another move. I?ll get the heavy lifting done tonight, and we?ll get the UT news and analysis back in full swing tomorrow morning. Maybe even later tonight.

Thanks for your patience while I get settled everyone. Opening kickoff for the Horns is just 18 days away now. And I?m finally in the right town?

See y?all soon.

--PB--