I’m up early. Very early. I’ve arranged a wakeup call for 5 AM. I’m too early for breakfast, which kicks off at six.
I hope the shuttle bus company got my booking OK. I haven’t had a confirmation. Not booking until yesterday was a bit stupid of me. I knew I’d be taking it weeks ago. Still, I’m sure everything will be fine.
I stand outside with my bags 15 minutes early, at quarter to six. It’s pretty quiet, though there are a couple of people smoking.
I start getting worried at 6:05. By 6:15 I’m shitting bricks. Looks like I may have to take a taxi. Why didn’t I book the stupid shuttle earlier? It’s quite a distance to Charlotte so a taxi will be expensive. But I have to get to Charlotte on time. If I miss my flight, there isn't another to Houston until tomorrow.
At 6:30 I admit that the bus isn’t coming. And go back inside to arrange a taxi. The woman behind the hotel desk rings around the local taxi firms. None can do the 120-mile ride in the morning. If they could, it would cost $280.
Excrement Alley, propelling instrument-free is where I am. Then the woman on the desk says, "Wait 15 minutes and I'll take you." What a relief. My kecks were only a few minutes away from a good browning. (Not such a disaster, as I had a supply of trollies and kecks, just no more transport possibilities.)
Now I do have time for a quick brekkie. Though my stomach is churning so much I’ve zero appetite.
At the end of her night shift, she’ll spend four hours driving a total stranger to the airport and then back home. I'm not sure I'd do it.
We drive through some very rural – and scenic – bits of North Carolina. But I can’t really pay the scenery much attention. I’m still worried about making it to the airport on time. Luckily, the traffic is light – it is Saturday morning, after all.
Of course, I give the kind lady petrol money and a good wadge of dosh, but she hadn't asked for anything. She’s really saved me. As my flight back to Amsterdam is tomorrow, I could quite easily have missed that if I’d missed my plane here.
Restores your faith in humanity.
Checking in, I’m surprised to see that I’ve got two free checkin bags. I’m flying Southwest, which is a cheapo carrier. They don’t even have assigned seats. I’m not complaining. Saves me carrying all my junk around the airport.
I’ve time for a couple of drinks airside. I have a few Knob Creeks. Purely to settle my nerves, you understand. I’m still feeling a bit shaky from all the worry.
On the ground in Houston, it’s a long bouncy ride past endless sand-coloured strip malls to my hotel. I’m in the Magnolia again. A really nice hotel and right in the centre of town. Plus there’s the Flying Saucer just around the corner.
Which is where I head after dumping my bags and doing a little light shopping. It’s quite full, but I find a spot at the bar. Miniskirted waitresses dance around the room, ferrying glasses of delight to all corners.
It’s only 14:45, but I’m knacked. Up at five then a stack of stress. I order a beer from one of the serving lasses.
Martin House Cellarman’s IPA
Not much of a cellarman, I think, as it’s murky as hell. Not hugely aromatic, but pretty bitter. Not sure the murk is helping the flavour.
Next I try:
Saint Arnold Icon Blue
This is a better-looking beer: dark amber, pretty clear, nice fluffy head. Classic grapefruit-driven IPA. Really nice and aromatic, lots of citrus all the way through. Quite nice.
Bearded men and tattooed ladies. At least you can shave off a beard when it goes out of fashion. Here it’s not arm but leg tattoos. Weird and incredibly unsexy. I need more beer.
(512) Pecan Porter
How more southern can you get? I suppose it could have a shotgun in it, too. Pretty black. Totally opaque. Not much head. Roasted malt aroma. Liquorice. Like liquid ink. Hang on, ink is liquid. At least until it dries. Like ink, but tastier. Like old school Porter/Stout – loads of black malt (or something similar).
I’ve hit a wall again. Not literally, obviously. I order some food – a pork stew. When it comes, it doesn’t look like I expected. It’s in a shallow frying pan and covered in melted cheese. It comes with flour tortillas. Pretty nice. I needed more food. A light breakfast is all I’ve eaten today.
A final beer before I return to my hotel for a lie down.
Martin House Mind on my Money 9.2% ABV
Another murky one. Seems a them with Martin House. Grapefruit and caramel. Actually some malt in this one.
After a couple of hours rest I venture out again for food. A hamburger, accompanied by Pine Drop IPA, in some random bar and grill. Then it’s time for bed.
The Flying Saucer
705 Main St
Houston, TX 77002
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