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NAHBS 2011, Part 1: Starship Subaru, warp speed to Austin

(The laptop went into a coma before I left for Austin, no sign of life save a little orange light… thus the lapse of coverage. Strangely, it came back to life a this afternoon. As I was turning into the computer repair shop parking lot, my pannier broke loose and sent the bag and encased laptop bouncing across the street. I picked it up and took it inside, considerably less optimistic about my chances of affording a repair. As I removed it from its case, I joked to the guy that since it just bounced across the street it would probably start right up. He opened it up, pressed the button, and it started right up. “Can’t buy that kind of repair,” he said as he checked some stuff and handed it back. “I’d back up your hard drive as soon as you get home.” Whew.)

Now that I’m back online, here’s the the first of three parts, journal style, of the whole exciting NAHBS adventure.)

Monday, Feb 21

I loaded up my ’84 Subaru with 2 bikes and camping supplies and picked up friend Justin. We talked excitedly about the trip to come as I drove back to my house to pick up the cooler and stargazer lily (car freshener) I’d left, forgotten, on the kitchen table. Then after chatting right past the I-84 EAST on ramp and driving west 4 miles to turn around, we were officially Austin bound. The plan was to drive straight through, about ten hours, to an idyllic sounding hot spring in southern Idaho for a evening soak and then camp. The drive took longer than we expected, and we arrived late, around 10pm at the turn-off to the springs. The directions in the hot springs guide were vague. We canvassed the area, bumping around in low-range 4wd on high clearance farm roads for a couple hours before resolving to give up the hunt and camp in a pasture under the stars. Late night, gorgeous sky, rare and complete, precious silence.

1st night's camp, long exposure from the hood. Photo by Justin Brown.

Tuesday, Feb 22

We quickly packed up and headed out, managing to get everything into the car before fingers seized in the cold morning air. Bumping our way back toward the highway, we spotted a turn that had been missed the night before and investigated, still curious about the hot spring we’d never found. This farm road was well worn, but in good condition compared to the ones we’d been using. We followed it excitedly to its end, in a parking area on top of a cliff above a slow-moving river. This perfectly matched the description in our book, so we parked and hiked down to the base of the cliff- only to find the spring overgrown with thickets and algae; completely unusable. We enjoyed the view and a quick exploratory walk up and down stream “just to make sure”, then back to the reality of a long day’s drive. So it goes with hot springs; our quiet starry night was the main attraction here after all. We got back on the road south, bound for Nevada on a back road highway route through the Sierra Nevadas. My poor little Subaru struggled into the mountains, screaming in third gear and gasping for air as she crept up steep climbs and over 7000 foot passes. We drove through the day and found camp late evening in Arizona, down a gravel road and along a desert wash. Again the starry silence surrounding our camp was breathtaking, I wrote in the journal for a while and drifted to sleep.

Wed, Feb 23

Not much to tell. A whole lot of driving. A whole lot of Texas. A three hour break and a nap shortly after the Texas border, more driving….

Thurs, Feb 24

Still driving… We pushed through the night to arrive in Austin in the late morning. Went to Justin’s friend Liz’s house in a quiet, mostly Hispanic neighborhood on the east side of town. I reveled in a short but hot shower, took a much needed snooze on the couch and had tacos from up the street, then went to the convention center to set up the bikes. The setup scene was exciting. I talked with several of the other Oregon builders that I’ve gotten to know over the past year and checked out their work, all of it gorgeous. The place was abuzz with the setup of backdrops, furniture, and display stands. The eager anticipation of the coming weekend was palpable as builders and helpers scurried about,  each builder intently focused on constructing a visual feeling; an embodiment of his brand. Being a new builder I had only to place a black sheet and the bike on the provided table. It took about 15 minutes. Witnessing the busy hands, the wrinkled brows and scratching chins all around me as I meandered through the hive, I was thankful for the simplicity of my “new builder” status. No fuss, no muss. Next year I can get creative…

With my display set up I drove back to Liz’s house on the east side of town and relaxed, enjoying beers and conversation on her front porch. Friends and neighbors stopped by, drifting in and out throughout the evening with a casual ease, as if friends all over Austin were housemates on a grander scale, and Liz’s front porch was another town living room.

Next: NAHBS, Austin, and the casual emergence of Liz’s front porch anti-scene.