It is Texas!! A total nearly of 3000 deaths in 2010 per the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). See this article. I got to experience the reason first hand on our recent trip to Texas. We got an evening flight out of Philly. Leaving on a vacation can be stressful when you have to finish a myriad of tasks before the departure. We had to go straight to the airport garage for parking after finishing the list. Our initial plan was to use one of the off-site parking lots. My planning ahead for a spot reservation went for a six. Last time we wanted to park before a trip we couldn’t find a space on a Friday evening in the enormous space that is Smartpark – a facility about mile and a half from the airport. This time I went ahead and reserved a spot only to have to forego it later on. Anyway, with about an hour before departure, the TSA Pre-check stamp on our boarding passes did wonders to get us through to the gate. It all took FIVE minutes to get out of security check.
After a nearly 4 and half hour flight, we landed in Austin around 8 PM. We had gained an hour due to the time zone difference. I had got a really inexpensive weekend deal for the Hertz rental – at about $55 for two days including all taxes. The car was a Toyota Yaris. I came to not relish this hatchback of a car. I had thought a small car would be okay, but the car drives like a import from a third world manufacturer. I could never figure out how to adjust the driver side mirror until about 24 hours later. All I had to do was to open the window and press on the mirror at the edges. And there I was looking for some sort of tab/knob or electrical control that I am so used to. With no support for the hands on either side, I was to find out that my hands would get tired. A two bucks per day upgrade would have gotten me a better car. Phew!
The ninety mile drive from Austin to San Antonio was the most stressful drive I have had in recent time. It was the closest to the drives in Los Angeles. The roads were very busy though they were usually a three or four lane road on either side. The biggest problem was there is so much of development/urbanity on either side of the road, you had these constant streams of lights from the malls picking at your eyes all the way through. I was expecting a weekend drive to be much calmer. Since it was a new place to drive, I am usually more careful than normal and my speeds were lower. This didn’t work well with the 75 mph limit. Another reason why the death rates by road accidents are the highest in the US in my opinion. And if you look at the stats in the article, you will see DUI incidences are third from the top for Texas. So much traffic, so much distraction and easy access to alcohol (?) and maybe a lack of civility in caring for other drivers – all add to the bad stats. Fortunately, it wasn’t raining that evening. I hate driving when it is raining at night. With poorly marked lanes as in the Philly suburbs, it is a nightmare to just get along when the rain is lashing onto the windscreen in the midst of your drive.
We reached San Antonio city limits on time thanks to the higher speed limit though. But an accident had blocked Rt. 410 and we had to get to the hotel first instead. The hotel was in downtown San Antonio. And you know driving in a new downtown with the sudden turns can add to the stress. We overshot the hotel only to go around the block and be back on the side to find the valet parking space. Despite checking in with a not so eager front desk girl for a Friday evening, I found the hotel to my liking being just about 1/2 a mile for the famed Riverwalk. Late in the evening and the car in the valet’s lot, we didn’t want to drive out of the city again for food. Found a decent Italian restaurant that made up for dinner. Elsewhere in the Northeast and North, I have had health pizzas with thin crust and easy-on-cheese options. This wasn’t the case to be and I had no mood to ask for something else as the restaurant was near closing.
As we stepped out of the restaurants, I could see couples and families still walking on the streets after their visit to the restaurants on the River Walk presumably. There were younger merry maker who were visibly high on alcohol discussing nothing in particular loud enough to attract attention of those in company or close by. But they weren’t bothering and we walked on. A long day, long flight, stressful driving, poor check-in and missed good food wasn’t going to keep me from sleeping well though.