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Austin-Bergstrom International Airport, and other nightmares


Okay, when we left off, I had just learned from Martha that we were headed to New Mexico for ten days to “get away from the heat.” (There will be more about that in future. Also some irony. And some chortling. It’s the chortles that hurt. They get that backspin, you know.)


But, anyway, we next faced the issue of getting to the Austin airport -- a.k.a., the Austin–Bergstrom International Airport, or the ABIA to its friends...not to be confused with Swedish rock groups, c. 1970s-1980s, who bounce around on stages a lot and have many platinum records. And an astonishing amount of blonde hair and white teeth. (My favorite thing about ABBA is that there’s an Australian tribute band of theirs which is named...wait for it… “Björn Again.” No. Really. Could I make that up?)


Anyway, getting to ABIA is harder than you might think. Driving to the airport from Georgetown, where we live, involves going down either I-35, which is a nightmare, or TX-130, which isn’t a whole lot better. The first option, I-35, is way too small to handle the amount of traffic which is now on it All The Time. It’s basically a linear parking lot. The second option, 130, is better in terms of crowding, but Texans tend to drive like the proverbial Chiroptera (bats) out of Dante’s sub-division. And given that 130’s speed limit is 80 miles an hour--something which most drivers here regard as, at best, a rather insulting suggestion--means that things can get interesting indeed.


But the real problem is using ABIA once you get to it. The airport, too, is way too small for the amount of traffic it currently supports. That’s to say nothing against either ABIA or Austin. They are doing their level best to keep up and expand. But the reality is that the city is growing at an ungodly speed, planes are coming and going out with ever increasing frequency, and the airport simply can’t keep up.






About the photos: First, a photo which has to do with the story at hand in that it was actually taken in New Mexico. This is a snap of Martha at Sandiago’s, a terrific restaurant that used to be at the base of the Tramway. Alas, it is gone now. But, we had great times there when it was open. Second, this is a shot of one of the backstreets of Old Town, Albuquerque. If you haven’t been there, go when you get a chance.




For Martha and me, this is particularly complicated by the fact that we have some small mobility issues. So, envision the following: we drive to the airport (through hell and high water), and then find our way through its maze-like sprawl of streets and byways. After missing it four or five times, we finally get into the “blue garage,” which is the cheap, long-term parking there. If...repeat if...we’re lucky, we find an empty parking spot. Then, we desperately try to remember our car’s location (you’ll recall we’ve had a lot of fun not doing that in the past) and unload all our luggage...usually in the steaming heat of a Texas summer.


Then, we begin the Long March from the garage to the airport. It’s not a bad walk if you’re twenty...or thirty...or, hell, even fifty isn’t a problem. But, let’s say you are a teeny bit older than that. And let’s say maybe you’re using a walker...or at least you’re carrying one so that your wife can sit down if she gets overwhelmed by the heat and the crowds.


Okay, now let’s throw in the fact that you’ve got luggage...two check-on items apiece, plus carry-ons...and somehow all of these have been magically filled with lead bricks overnight. Where the aforesaid bricks came from is a mystery (the ballast fairy?) but they are decidedly there.


Finally, after what feels like miles of mountain climbing (sans sherpas) you arrive in the airport proper...and face enormous crowds and the TSA.


Okay, this time, I was determined we weren’t going to go through at least part of that. I had noticed something the last few times we were at the airport. To wit, there are “park and fly” companies all around the airport. That is, these are businesses let you park in their lot and then they provide a nice shuttle to take you directly to your airline check-in. You still have to deal with moving the luggage a ways, and the crowds and the TSA are still there, but you don’t have to navigate the airport’s roadway maze, and you don’t have to make the Long March, and you don’t have to worry about whether or not you’re even going to find a parking lot to start with.


It says something about my stunted little brain that it had never even occurred to me that we could use such a service. I’d seen the lots, of course, on the way in and out of airports whenever I’d traveled--Boston, Albuquerque, Houston, Dallas, and now Austin. But, I’d always thought of them as something that “rich people” used, or executives who were on expense accounts, or even people who just weren’t in a hurry. I guess I had always assumed, for some paranoid reason, that the parking lot shuttles were not to be trusted, and might or might not actually run on time. (In fact, it turns out that the pricing is pretty good, and the shuttles run with an impressive regularity.)


But, the last time we flew in and out of Austin...and we got home, exhausted, sweating, and exasperated...some live synapse down in my otherwise blacked-out cerebellum actually fired...


And I said to myself, “Hey! You know what? We could use one of those airport parking services next time. And that might make our lives a whole lot easier!”


What an insight.


It’s only taken me...what? ... half a century of flying regularly to figure that out? Something like that. Give or take fifteen years.


But, heck, I’m a quick study. Why, come day after tomorrow, I’ll figure out that the sky is blue...except on cloudy days. And at night.


But, anyway...next time, I’ll talk about my actually having to pick a parking lot. And here’s the difficult question that vexed me: did I want a lot with, or without...


Several tons of long horned cattle.


Stay tuned.



Copyright©2024 Michael Jay Tucker





About the photos: First, a photo which has to do with the story at hand in that it was actually taken in New Mexico. This is a snap of Martha at Sandiago’s, a terrific restaurant that used to be at the base of the Tramway. Alas, it is gone now. But, we had great times there when it was open.


Second, this is shot of one of the backstreets of Old Town, Albuquerque. If you haven’t been there, go when you get a chance.





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