I’ve been commuting to Marble Falls from south Austin every workday since early June of last year. It’s approximately 50 miles one way. It’s a nice drive because I don’t contend with much traffic and I travel through the Texas hill country. Sometimes I dread the drive, but most often it’s a chance for me to wake up, unwind, practice my air guitar, talk on the phone, do crossword puzzles, take a nap, trim my toenails and work on my fictional memoire that focuses on the socioeconomical uprising of Uganda and the impact it has on foreign exchange in northern Europe and the cost of Yu-Gi-Oh trading cards in rural (population being 3,125 voters or less) convenience stores in the contigious United States.
I’ve seen a lot of changes along Hwy 71. I’ve felt a lot as well. I’ve been through a Summer, Fall, Winter and now Spring. I’ve driven home with the A/C cranked under the bright Texas sun in a black truck with gray vinyl seats. I’ve left work at five o’clock as the sun was going down during the winter and shivered for the first 15 minutes of my commute home as the engine became warm and gradually lended its heat to the blowing heater. I’ve seen deer dart across the highway. I’ve seen more deer carcasses (among other animals) than I’ve seen growing up in the country and in all of my days hunting. I’ve hit a deer on the way home. I’ve seen the aftermath of three head-on collisions. I’ve seen a jackknifed 18-wheeler that had constricted a Ford pickup truck in a freak accident. I’ve driven past much death. Everyday I drive by two roadside flower memorials for two motorcycle cops that died recently on the road.
My wife doesn’t like my commute. I do. It gives me the opportunity to think. And to pass wind before I get to the office. That’s hard to do during the ferocious Texas Winter month because you don’t feel much like rolling down the window.
I pass real estate billboards. “Landrush!!! Hurry and buy now before they’re all gone!” I don’t think a lot has been sold in the ten months that I’ve been driving by. I’ve been watching the construction of the new Galleria that’s being built on 71 in Bee Caves. I’ve been stalled at 71 and 620 because of Willy Nelson, Los Lonely Boys and Norah Jones concerts at The Backyard. Although a normally listless commute, there is activity.
I’ve seen business grow and fail. One by the name of Buddy’s Burgers stands out in my mind. I watched Buddy’s Burgers grow from the ground up. One day I drove by and there were bulldozers plowing down trees. Then the backhoes digging. Then the bulldozers cleared a gravel driveway. Then the foundation. Then the brick. Plumbing, electricity, gas, etc. etc.
To sound like I know what I’m talking about, I’m going to say that there are three R’s that apply to “location location location”: Real estate, Retail and Restaurants. I’m sure you could also include hairy moles and your place in line for William Hung concert tickets when it comes to location, but that’s not what I’m getting at.
Buddy decided to build Buddy’s Burgers in the middle of nowhere. The spot he chose is just a little north of the hopping town of Spicewood (population 348 and no Yu-Gi-Oh trading cards). He built a limestone shack from which to sell, what I would assume, would be Buddy Burgers. I never stopped by for a Buddy Burger because 1) the speed limit is 70 mph in front of his shop and 2) I think this was a cash and carry establishment. I don’t crave a Buddy Burger at 8 a.m. or 6 p.m., I don’t carry cash and I’m leary about buying a food from a shack the size of an apartment bathroom in the middle of nowhere that has one truck (I’m sure it was Buddy’s) in the parking lot.
Around Christmas time ol’ Buddy had a big, hand painted ‘NOW OPEN’ sign painted on a large piece of particle board that was propped against a saw horse and had lined it with white Christmas lights. I didn’t stop for a Buddy Burger. I don’t think anyone else did either.
Now that Spring has sprung, the Bluebonnets and Indian Paintbrushes have canvased the roadsides and the grass and trees are lush with greens and pinks, there are no patrons of Buddy’s Burgers. Buddy’s truck is no longer in the gravel parking lot. The ‘NOW OPEN’ sign has been long since been blown over. Now there is a shell of ill-conceived little business meant to serve greasy-spooned comfort.
I wish I would have screeched to a halt and slid into the gravel lot to try a Buddy Burger. Buddy was probably one of those guys who would have told me “Don’t worry about it, you can bring me cash tomorrow.”
Cash tomorrow = location location location. And Yu-Gi-Oh cards, of course.