Travel Log, Vol. I

HWR Travel Log, Vol. I

Although traveling and exploring Texas has been my life-long pursuit, I begin earnestly to do it in 1973, just after buying my first automobile. Still at UT studying radio-TV-film and living just off campus, I could walk to class, but on weekends drove my car. The Dodge Dart Sport Convertriple was so designated because it was three vehicles in one: a regular five-person sedan with a sunroof like a convertible and a fold-down back seat and openable trunk that made it a cargo carrier. For its blue color, I named it Humphrey Blowdart.

Desiring to keep a record of areas visited, I bought from the Co-op a small spiral-bound notebook, which became the first volume of my travel log. Its price tag testifies to the march of time. Not yet possessing a clever nickname, I was just HWR in those days, so that was the journal’s heading. The subtitle: “consisting of notes, observations, facts, stops, and distances of trips taken between March 8, 1974, and June 18, 1977.” The format was columns headed by Date, Mileage, Place, Route, and Time, with a new entry for each halt or road change. In the beginning, Humphrey showed a mere 8,246 miles on the odometer; the last notation in Volume I was 53,071.

Inside the log’s front cover is taped a list of official national CB 10-codes, a vivid reminder of the “breaker one-nine” fad. On the second leaf is a three-year calendar clipped from an almanac for ‘74 through ‘76. On the back pages and scattered here and there are budgets, calculations, and random scribblings, including the draft of a letter to a judge after I was awarded a speeding ticket.

Lots happened between those trips. I moved from the center city to the southeast part of Austin, finished my first degree, built my first yurt, began working in the Capitol, lived at scenic Rancho Richey (before it was a refuge), attended a Willie Nelson Fourth of July Picnic, began my broadcasting career in Fredericksburg, worked at the UT ID card center, went nuts over CB radio as the “Earth Brother,” bestowed on myself a catchy title, moved to Uvalde to work in commercial radio, moved back to my beloved Austin, took several geography courses, and slacked in scads.

All this information forms the basis of my upcoming memoir/guide to Texas travel. The log and its subsequent three volumes literally tell my life’s journey, just as the Party Pages relate my history as a series of celebrations. Both convey the joy one guy feels while doing what he loves.

How would you write you autobiography?

I’m sitting in the Business Success Center of North Austin with half a dozen other bloggers. This group gets together once a month, and it’s always interesting and helpful. Attendees run the gamut of small business owners, consultants, hobbyists, futurists, and professionals. We spent the last 60 minutes talking about the art and craft of writing and reading posts. Today’s dialogue had to do with popularity in general and finding your own specific audience. For the next hour, we blog. This is what I posted.

This past winter, I had the pleasure of appearing on KLRU‘s show Downtown, a weekly exploration of the district that’s “as Austin as it gets.” My segment dealt with the writer William Sidney Porter, who went on to further fame as O. Henry after he left Austin. His time in our fair city was one of triumph and tragedy: Will Porter moved from a young man-about-town to married father to fugitive and convict.

My favorite source for all things O. Henry is a work of historical fiction, A Twist at the End, by Steven Saylor. Thanks to his meticulous research, Saylor’s story transports the reader to the very streets of Austin in the 1880s. We’re invited into the rooming houses, offices, brothels, and bars where Will lived, worked, and played. We learn, in exquisite detail, about the city’s first serial killing spree, a gruesome case never solved. And like so many of O. Henry’s writings, this full-length novel concludes with a surprise.

My Writers’ Ramble, a literary tour of Austin, includes stops in places meaningful to the life of Will Porter as well as other prominent penmen and women.


My friend and fellow geographer Kevin Anderson delivers noontime lectures on ecological topics every month for the CER. This past Monday was Discovering the Colorado: Environmental History of this Texas River. Kevin also leads occasional tours along Waller Creek, the informal eastern edge of the original Austin city, and never ceases to extol Life on Waller Creek by the late Joseph Jones, a UT English professor who ate lunch along the stream every day during the decades of his career.

I’ve found the book just as irresistible. Dr. Jones throws in many memorable quips about the city, geology, biology, and his employer, like referring to The University’s architecture as “Texas Petroleum Baroque.” The book’s been out of print for a long time, but could soon be republished.

I’ll be sharing other gems from this natural and cultural history tome in later postings.