Rock n Roller 16: Austin and My Michele

It has been almost a week and I have missed my traveling partner and coaster buddy, Michele. We parted ways over a thousand miles ago when I dropped her off at the airport in Chicago and I headed south. Along the way I visited family in Kentucky, ate BBQ in Memphis, rode roller coasters in Texas and stayed in a couple flea-bag hotels. Michele on the other hand, was back home in Alaska. She had to work for a week at her “real” job and pick up Ragnosh, a service dog we have been training and that we will be delivering here in Texas at a theme park, no less. She also almost died by bee stings… Yep, while I was galavanting across the southern United States it was her job to do the hive checks on our six bee hives, not a chore she was too happy about to say the least. I think I told a portion of this story on the post: Michele Leaves and Holiday World 

I drove south early in the morning from Ft. Worth and headed towards, Texas’ capital city, Austin. I have been told that Austin as a way different ‘vibe’ than the rest of Texas. It is sort of like Boulder in Colorado– hippy user-liberal bastion of free love, self expression and the massive University of Texas campus and the burnt orange and white of Longhorns football.

I drove around the campus of UT looking for a cool place for lunch and found it at the Spider House Cafe. This place was too rad. It definitely had that hippy vibe with live music at 11 am and an awesome patio where I listened to a Janis wannabe and soaked it all in.

After lunch I drove up a long windy road to do a hike in the blazing Texas heat. It was Mount Bonnell  which has history back to the Civil War and Texas’ war for independence.

Rising 775 feet above sea level, this limestone height was named for George W. Bonnell, who came to Texas with others to fight for Texas independence, 1836. Was commissioner of Indian affairs in Republic of Texas under President Sam Houston. Moved in 1839 to Austin; there published the “Texas Sentinel”, 1840. Member Texan-Santa Fe expedition, 1841. Was captured but released in time to join Mier expedition, 1842. Was killed in camp on Rio Grande, Dec, 26, 1842. Frontiersman W.A.A. “Bigfoot” Wallace killed an Indian he met face to face while crossing a narrow ledge 50 feet above river, 1839. He also took refuge in a Mount Bonnell cave to recover from “flux”, but was missing so long his sweetheart eloped. In the mid-1800s Mormons built a mill on the Colorado river at foot of Mount Bonnell. Mill was destroyed by flood and the Mormons moved on west. Mount Bonnell was site of picnics and outings in 1850s and 1860s. As it is today. Legend has it that an excursion to the place in the 1850s inspired the popular song “Wait for the Wagon and We’ll All Take a Ride”. As a stunt in 1898, Miss Hazel Keyes slid down a cable stretched from the top of Mount Bonnell to south bank of then Lake McDonald below.

After the hike I headed to the grocery store for a cool drink.


After a day of hiking around Austin and wasting time until Michele got here I got an urgent call on my voicemail from my handler Vanessa. She just left the message, “Robert, please call right away.” I called back as soon as I could and she broke the news that one of our sled dogs, Scarlett had passed away. How could that be?! Michele had just fed the dogs the night before and Scarlett greeted her as always. Nothing seemed wrong. Michele left early this morning to fly back and Vanessa was the first one to see her. She said there didnt seem to be any sort of trauma, just passed away. This little dog holds a special place in all of our hearts. She was one of the smallest in the kennel and had a lot of spunk. She arrived as part of the ‘Kasilof Crew’ with nine of her other friends and she ran on several races with me. She will be missed terribly. I sat in the truck and cried as Vanessa broke the news to me. Here I was 3000 miles from home and tragedy erupts. Unfortunaltey, Michele didnt hear about Scarlett until she landed in Texas. Losing dogs is hard. Even with all these years as a dog musher, it still tears me up every time.

Run free, little girl.

I arrived at the airport in Austin with about an hour to wait before Michele was to land. I was still pretty torn up by the phone call but I knew there was not much I could do. Michele arrived on time and we had to pick up Rags from downstairs near the baggage claim. It was a long flight for him all the way from Alaska and he was hot. We loaded him up in the truck and turned the air conditioning on full blast. He rode in style in the back seat all the way to San Antonio, some 80 miles to the south.

We stayed in a Motel 6 and had a great dinner at a local sports bar that was crazy to get to from the airport. Did I mention I hate Texas? It’s too dang hot, the traffic is nuts and people are flying down the freeway at close to 100 miles per hour. Their highways just seem to be a massive array of U-Turns. How can you possibly get lost when you see where you are going from your hotel room? Tomorrow would be a big day for Rags. He will get to see his owner/handler Mark for the first time in months and he will take his final test to become a service dog at a theme park!

Tomorrow: Six Flags Fiesta Texas and Service Dogs 

Coasters to date on the tour: 76

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