Went out to see College Station. UT is right in downtown Austin. What does A&M look like? It's only a Texas mile away -- a hundred miles -- so I hopped over for the afternoon.
Land grant college, huge open spaces.
There is a little bit of actual town over on the side, you know, the usual buildings and sidewalks, a neighborhood, but only about six blocks square, tiny.
There are three "bookstores" within four blocks on University Avenue, but when you walk in, all they have is Aggie T shirts, racks on racks of white shirts with purple logos, purple shirts with white letters, purple shorts, pennants, no sweats because this is after all Texas and it's ninety degrees outside. Oh, and the occasional notebook. Look closer, and there's a long counter in the back. And behind the counter, shelving. Shelves, with books on them. Aha, it *is* a bookstore! Yes, but the stacks are closed to the public, and they have only the books for this term's courses. There's no other bookstore-like aspect there. Wait, to be fair, one of the stores had two stands of "exam notes," which was more depressing than enlightening. Two of the stores were kind enough to let me browse through the stacks. But the stacks are rather small, about a thousand feet of shelf space -- for forty thousand students. The Coop, if memory serves, is several times larger than that, for one-quarter of the student body, and it has two floors of real bookstore underneath. There is a real bookstore here, a Barnes & Noble out on Texas Avenue. There must be some real indy bookstores in a college town that size, but the few that I saw just didn't make it as bookstores. I didn't get to the University store in the student center; maybe that's better.
I was instructed that I must see the Dixie Chicken. This is a long, dark, western bar, floors and tables of old wood, feet up on the tables or playing dominoes or cards, a dozen pool tables, long bars, pitchers of beer and greaseburgers. Looks like a fun place, if one wants to be rowdy.
The campus itself is about three square miles of land grant architecture, open grassland dotted with square wedding-cake buildings. Seen from ground level, they're brick rectangles with little glass holes in them. The buildings are spread out very widely, more than I can imagine coming from the crowded Northeast. Take the table for a wedding cake and put a couple dozen petit fours on it, and you get the idea. There are four or five hundred buildings, but they're spread over miles and miles of campus.
Given the huge distances on flat ground, I expected to see lots of bicycles. Nope, only a few. But parking lots and four-lane roads through the campus complete with left turn lanes into the parking garages. And people all over the place with backpacks. Driving through the campus is surprisingly slow, though, despite the large roads. I think they got a quantity discount on stop signs.
At the edge of the road on the south side of the football stadium, there is a flood ruler at the curb. You know, a six foot high sign marked every six inches up to the five foot level, so you can decide whether to drive your SUX through the four feet of water. I'm kind of amazed by this. The area is so flat that, if this spot is under five feet of water, so is everything for a mile in every direction. Slight aside: the stadium, Kyle Field, is just your average college stadium that seats eighty thousand.
The town of Bryan, I'm sorry to report, is the heavy industrial neighborhood attached to the nice town. Joe's Auto Body Shop is the cleanest business there. Driving down Texas Ave., which is the main drag, the character of the place changes right at the "Leaving Bryan - Entering College Station" sign.
On the way back on FM50 (farm to market road), I drove through miles of cotton fields. Most of them had been picked recently. Some of the plants still have little white balls on a few of the stalks. Down both sides of the road, the grass was lined with zillions of cotton balls, the debris that got away from automated picking machines, I guess, blown by the wind and cars to get stuck in the grass on the shoulders. Here and there are groups of bales of cotton. These are not "Tow that barge. Lift that bale." type bales. No, you'd have to be a crane to lift one of these bales. They're the size of trailers, as in tractor-trailers, covered with plastic tarps and staked down to the ground, clustered in groups of half a dozen or more every mile.
Why is the town of Caldwell filled with sculpture? There are at least fifteen of them in small groups, along the road on front lawns. Metal sculptures, some sort of representational, some not. Have to go back and find out.
At dusk I'm driving on a country road straight as an arrow. There are red lights off in the distance. Must be the taillights of a car or truck ahead, right? Huh, what? They turn green. It's the red light at the next intersection. Nothing unusual about that, except that it's five miles away. It goes green-yellow-red twice before I get to it. At seventy miles an hour.