The next morning we phoned several exterminators, all of them intrigued by our unique situation (you have bed bugs in your Love Bus? Come again?), and none of them were able/willing to help. We finally found a place that would at least consider it, but they were going to take up to 48 hours to get back to us. Exasperated I asked the poor phone operator on the other end of the line what she thought were our options – could we do this ourselves? No, she said. But no exterminators will help us! I see your point, she said. With her help, we came up with a plan. She was just a phone operator from some big office somewhere else in the country, but they had a local office just around the corner from us. She suggested we just show up in person, with Amelia, and see if they’d be more willing to help us then. So, we put on our best Polite Friendly Canadian faces and headed over to their office to beg them to help us.
And they were so helpful! One of their uniformed exterminators came out to look at the van, and then a curious employee in office clothing joined us and started searching Amelia too. We got a kick out of the latter because he was clearly fascinated with the bugs that repulsed us so much. They searched inside our mattress seams, our carpets, our cupboards, every nook and cranny and they found no sign of whatever had bitten me all over, including in my armpits. They suggested that perhaps, if they were bed bugs, that they were in our suitcases, following us around that way, and told us to go home, throw our suitcases out and wash and dry our clothing in the hottest water and air possible (for two long-limbed people, this meant certain shrinkage to much of our clothing 😦 ). The bugphile suggested that perhaps my bites were from “chiggers,” and a Google search showed me similar bites to mine.
We didn’t really want to take our chances, so we went back to the hotel, searched our luggage inside and out – found nothing – and then threw them out. Then we hauled all of our clothes, the curtains inside the van, the pillows and pillowcases and bedding that we’d brought – everything that could in anyway have been infected with bed bugs – and brought it all to a laundry-mat and spent many dollars worth of quarters to give ourselves peace of mind that no bug could have survived our efforts. Hours later, we emerged and trekked out to a car wash and washed Amelia inside and out, including steam cleaning her carpets and our beds. All of this in the hot Texan sun. We were definitely in need of some of this when we were through:
We headed to a pub downtown on 6th Street (the other happening street in Austin) and Steve, to my surprise and pleasure, ordered a beer sampler – three different beers in mini pints. My beer is the one on the left, although despite appearances and your better judgment, I was not drinking Guinness – it’s a local Austin porter. Despite the crappy day we had, we were actually in good spirits and semi-laughed about our plight. What would we face next, we joked, every day a new challenge presents itself!
We went for a stroll after dinner and ended up here:
Austin’s Museum of the Weird. I’d read about this and really wanted to visit it and was so happy that we stumbled upon it downtown. The front part is a funky gift-shop, where I couldn’t resist buying a few odds and ends (I’m being deliberately vague – the items were not for me). And then we entered the museum and were first met with this:
I was too busy getting my picture taken to hear what he said about my future, but I like to think that he said something like “you will have many moons bug-free and surrounded by a cool flow of air as you travel.”
There were all kinds of crazy things in that museum, like Pancho Villa’s finger, and the Fiji Mermaid…
…two-headed calves and chickens…
…flesh eating toads, and big-foot foot plasters…
….and my favourite, the Jackorabbit…
Once we’d had enough of the freaky and weird, we headed back to Amelia and were planning to head back to the hotel.
But Amelia was not happy at all. Her engine temperature shot straight up, not even a block away from when we started her up, and we pulled over straight away. We ended up in the parking lot of a trendy bar, whose 15 year old parking attendant/valet came over to check us out. He asked if he could help us and told us not to worry, to take all the time we needed in the parking lot. Steve checked the oil, and that was fine, and as we were mulling over possible calamities that could have occurred, the parking attendant came over again and told us how much he loved our bus and that he just got back from a festival where she would have fit right in, and what did we think was wrong with her? Then he and Steve got to talking cars and decided that we should probably check the coolant, which we did, and which seemed to be nonexistent…yikes.
So we called CAA/AAA and they said they’d send us some help. We had a good 30-40 minute wait before he showed up, but don’t worry, we had entertainment to keep us occupied. We saw a man walking down the street with a dog, who was carrying a cat on his back, who was carrying a rat on his back. No really, we really did. Really. A scruffy-looking man next to us exclaimed excitedly, “It’s the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit!”…”Guess which ones the Holy Spirit! … The rat! The rat!” (the rat was white). I swear we were not in any way intoxicated.
And then we saw an eccentrically-dressed young woman walking down the street with her fluffy black cat perched upon her shoulder.
And then there were the young people who seemed to be running around the block over and over again at top speed, not racing each other, just running at top speed. At eleven o’clock at night.
Steve actually figured that last one out when we discovered that our parking attendant was also a valet. The running youth were valet’s, running back to restaurants after parking patrons’ cars.
So there you go, if you’re weird, funky, crazy, or just feel like you don’t fit in – come to Austin, where everyone’s weird, funky, crazy, and they all fit in!
Finally the AAA guy arrived, with his son fast asleep in the cab next to him – awww. He didn’t have any coolant for us but suggested that we could drive by putting water in for the time being and that would get us back to the hotel and to an auto shop the next day. I just keep learning more and more about cars! We filled her up with some water and she didn’t balk. The AAA guy escorted us part-way, like a vehicular bodyguard, just to make sure we were still fine, and he recommended a great auto shop where we could take her the next day.
And then we ended up staying in Austin another day….and then another day after that….and then another…and now we’re still in Austin, and won’t be able to leave until Monday – at the earliest. And we only have the clothes on our backs…oh, and our bathing suits.
How’d we get here?! Is what I asked Steve tonight, as we laughed at how ridiculous it is that we’re still in Austin. We’ve now spent a third of our trip here.
But of all the cities to be stuck in, Austin’s pretty sweet.