Tuesday, 31 July 2012

A Wet Day in Austin - or - How To Take Your Mind Off Giving Your First Conference Talk.

The day following my second experimental delivery of my ‘Got Stories’ conference talk was Thursday, CD-2. We spent it with another set of friends in Austin. They live by Lake Travis, a reservoir of the Colorado River that was formed in 1942.
Lake Travis
The weather was once again hot and sunny (yes, I know the post is titled “A Wet Day” – be patient, we’ll get to that!) and we had the air-con on full blast as we drove along MoPac. Following the instructions our friends had given us, we soon reached their house. I had formed the impression that you could see the lake from where they lived, but when we got there, I found you couldn’t. That very slight disappointment was immediately dispelled by the great welcome we received, both from our friends, and their three dogs.

Once the greetings were over and the dogs had all been fussed and played with, we sat in the yard, shooting the breeze and enjoying ice-cold drinks. The conversation turned to animals, mainly because I was interested to know what kind of wild critters they got in their yard. With a sideways look, I was asked if I liked spiders. Fortunately I do – they fascinate me – and I was delighted when I was led to a portion of the front yard and introduced to the resident tarantula. Well its hole, anyway. Apparently I just missed seeing its legs disappearing down the web-lined tunnel. Disappointing! There was a shed skin lying nearby, though, which showed that the spider in question was pretty sizable. It didn’t make another appearance, much to my annoyance, probably because the dogs were there. Apparently, they enjoyed catching and crunching tarantulas!

At lunchtime, our friends took us to Poodie’s Hilltop Roadhouse. http://poodies.net/ Boy – what a place that is! Willie Nelson used to be a regular visitor, and they still have live music every day of the week. It was pretty quiet when we were there because it was lunchtime, but there was still a wonderful atmosphere. The food was delicious – best hamburger I have ever had!

Ok-now comes the “wet” bit. Our friends own a speedboat that they keep on the Lake and they had offered to take us out on it for the afternoon. I was really looking forward to this, especially as the weather was so hot. We changed into our swimmers, loaded up with cold cans, and drove up to the Lake. I was amazed to find that it was only about half full, because there hadn’t been enough rainfall for a couple of years. Where we parked the car, its roof would have been underwater had the lake been at its normal level. We took the cool box and approached the covered pontoons where the small boats were moored. I saw that they have this really neat system for storing the speedboats out of the water without actually taking them away from their moorings. At each berth, a cradle sits in the water, and the boat sits within the cradle. Big floats are attached to either side of the cradle, with an electric motor to inflate or deflate them. When you want to use the boat, you press a button and the motor extracts the air, allowing the boat to settle into the water. You then drive it out, and go whizzing away down the lake. When you return, you simply do the opposite. Very effective!

Cradle and float system for storing boats

Once the boat was safely in the water, Dave and I got in and our trip began. Lake Travis is huge and our friends gave us a high-speed tour of their end of it. There were some other boats around, and we had fun with the waves they made, bouncing the speedboat high over them. But there were also plenty of quiet places had we wanted to stop and swim. The spray from our progress was very refreshing, so no one minded when we all got wet!

Having fun on Lake Travis.
Having taken in the guided tour, we decided it was definitely time to stop and cool off in the inviting blue water. We found a good place to drop the anchor, and once the engine noise died away, it was beautifully peaceful. Cans were lined up on the back of the boat, and one by one, we slipped into the water. I was last, because although the weather was hot, I knew the water temperature wasn’t. Finally, after suffering the taunts of my delightful husband and our friends, I knew I just had to grit my teeth and jump in. I only wish I’d remembered to take my sunglasses off first!

For the next hour or so we bobbed lazily about in the water. Although we could all swim, we had lifejackets on, because that made it easier to relax in the water and enjoy a cold can. We soon discovered that we had chosen a great spot to anchor because there were zip lines on the shore. One of these came right over the water above our heads, and we had lots of fun watching the various parties of people using them. Some were really enjoying the experience, while others were clearly terrified!  

To round off a lovely day and to say ‘thank you’ to our friends, we bought them a nice supper in a Red Lobster restaurant. We did most of our packing that night too, because the next day we were driving back to Houston to catch our flight to Salt Lake City. The conference was only one more day away!

Sunset over Lake Travis.

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