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Longhorns and Layovers

Okay, so last time, I had us getting ready to go on our most recent trip to New Mexico -- which, you’ll recall, we were making at least partly to get out of the heat. Insert foreshadowing here. Plus distant ominous rumbling sounds. Sort of like Godzilla after a really bad plate of Diced Tokyo, plus maybe a side of scrambled Manhattan, and a tequila shot afterwards. Nothing worse than nuclear powered dyspepsia. “That’s one spicy meatball.”(1)

Where was I? Oh, yes. So we were getting ready to go to New Mexico. But we’d had such trouble parking at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport (ABIA) that I’d come up with the brilliant idea of using one of the independent parking facilities that circle the ABIA, just as they circle every other airport. As I say, brilliant.

The problem...I feared...would be getting Martha to sign off on it. You see, such services aren’t all that expensive, but they can cost a little more than parking in the airport’s own long term “economy” parking lot.

Martha is...Scottish. She identifies as a Scot, anyway. Her mother was full Scots on both sides. Her father was Quebecois, which is why she looks like a lovely Mediterranean lass, and so causes much confusion in New Mexico, where everyone wants to speak Spanish to her, and in Edinburgh, where people also speak to her in Spanish, but they do it in a really funny accent.

About the photos: Two today. First, and as usual nothing to do with the story, Martha in our backyard in summer of last year. I just liked the shot.

And, well, like many Scots, Martha is ...uh...frugal. That’s a very good thing. Somebody in the family has to have some common sense. God knows it isn’t me. But, sometimes, that leads to some, er, ah, situations. And as I considered my idea of parking in a private lot...I heard in the distance bagpipes wailing, Loch Ness Monsters bellowing, and, worse still, her icy silence.

So I set out to do some research so that I could prove that I had a “good idea” -- which is admittedly a very rare thing. I wouldn’t say that it is as uncommon as discovering a tap-dancing unicorn singing the national anthem of Uruguay (“Himno Nacional de Uruguay”) in Swedish...but, it isn’t that much more common, either.

I got on the web and did a search for parking garages around the airport. I contacted my son and daughter-in-law and asked if they’d ever used any of the lots. And I posted to Reddit, specifically r/Austin, and asked for advice from locals.

What I got back was the general opinion that most of the lots were pretty much the same--in price, convenience, and services. Several Austin residents suggested avoiding parking entirely. “Just take public transportation to the airport,” was a common remark, as was, “Leave your car in your driveway and Uber in.” Except, of course, neither of these was really an option since we don’t live in the city, there aren’t any buses from Georgetown to Austin, and a rideshare all the way from our house to ABIA would be prohibitively expensive.

So that left the choice of a private lot up to me. I went back on line and starting visiting some of the companies’ websites. Again, they all looked attractive and pretty similar....until...until...I got to Fast Park & Relax (3). And there, there, staring me in the face...

Was a longhorn steer.

No kidding. It turned out that Fast Park & Relax has its own farm next to the parking lot. In particular, says the company’s website, “We support local agricultural efforts with an on-site longhorn cattle program ...”

Yes, you can park your car, and while you wait to catch your shuttle, you can watch the cattle...bounding about or doing whatever it is that longhorn cattle do in their off hours. Hey. Give me a break. I’m a city kid.

I gotta confess, I almost signed up for Fast Park & Relax right there and then. I mean, for heaven’s sake. They got car lots and cows? What more could you ask?

But then I decided no. Layovers and Longhorns? Way too much excitement. Best to save that for another day. A day when we feel strong.  

And, second, an AI-generated image I did of a cartoon long-horn in a parking garage. Again, nothing to do with the story. But I thought it was fun. Oh, and also, cows don’t have toes. Just saying.

Okay, I’m joking. The real reason I didn’t go with Fast Park was that, at least as I read their webpage, it looked like they were booked full for at least one of the days that we were going to be gone. So...maybe next time.

Anyway, I ended up picking another service, Park & Zoom, which seemed nice enough and was actually just inside the airport entrance.

After that, I girded myself for my conversation with...Martha, the sensible Scotswoman. I gathered up my evidence. I printed out pages from the private lots’ webpages. I did a spreadsheet showing a cost-benefit analysis. I downloaded reviews from Google and Yelp. And then, screwing my courage to the sticking place, and hearing those fearful bagpipes in the distance, not to mention the Loch Ness Monster...I presented my idea to Martha. “Maybe this time we could use one of those private lots near the airport. They have all these advantages and they don’t cost very much and...”


“I said why don’t we use one of the private lots rather than park at the airport itself.”



“Sure. Sounds great. Anything to cut down on the stress and the strain.”

“You ...don’t ...mind?”

“Not a bit. Why should I?”

“Oh, phooey,” I said, and tossed the spread sheets, the cost-benefit analysis, and the webpage printouts into the recycle bin.

And so it was that forty-eight hours later, we were on the road, headed for Park & Zoom, and the airport, and, eventually, Albuquerque...

Next time, a surprisingly easy flight, and I actually don’t pass out from altitude sickness.

A nice change, all around.



1. This is, of course, the line from the famous Alka-Seltzer commercial, c. 1969. It was a very successful piece of advertising, and got the company in trouble with the Italian-American community. You can see the ad on Youtube here:

2. Actually, it turned out the cost of the private lot was just about the same as that of the airport lot. When last I checked, the airport’s “economy lot” was $12 a day. So, if you discount fees and sales tax, you might park for ten days at a price of $120.

However, the private lot that we ended up using, Park & Zoom, was almost exactly the same. I’m looking at our invoice for the period and we paid $134.08 for “8 Days, 2 Hours, 59 Minutes.” That included fees and taxes.

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