Webb Report: Outlaws ask for directions, Willie’s tour drivers say

12:00 a.m. Sunday, Aug. 13, 2017 Austin360
If you’re driving Willie Nelson’s tour bus, and you get lost, best not to mention it to the singer. Suzanne Cordeiro for American-Statesman

When one finds oneself on the road again, it is only natural to ask: What would Willie do? I’m not quite sure how to answer that one, except to say you should see places you may never see again.

But here’s the next best thing.

Willie Nelson’s own tour bus drivers, Gates “Gator” Moore and Tony Sizemore, recently talked to Austin’s Andy Langer for a Popular Mechanics Q&A. Gates and Sizemore gave the skinny on their own cross-country driving strategies. The pair, who have piloted Willie’s tour bus, Honeysuckle Rose, for almost 40 years, have one rule in particular: They don’t always use GPS.

“We’ll go 30 miles out of the way to bypass a city we suspect will have heavy traffic by the time we get there,” Gates told the magazine.

Did you know that north-to-south interstate highways are usually designated with odd numbers that increase as you travel east across the country? Sizemore did. Other tips: Study the street names a little ahead of the route so you know when you’ve overshot the destination, and if you’re lost, “keep it to yourself,” Moore advises. Don’t wanna worry Willie, after all.

The big takeaway from the Red-Headed Stranger’s phone-averse crew is simple. Even outlaws aren’t afraid to ask for directions.

Forbidden waters

But what if you fall off your paddleboard? No, not even then are you legally permitted to swim in Lady Bird Lake. In case you’re not a longtime Austin resident, or in case you are but never knew about this rule, swimming in Lady Bird Lake has been banned since 1964.

KUT took a look into the matter and found that you’re only allowed to swim in the lake if you are “rescuing someone, doing construction authorized by the city or swimming in a permitted event.” Doesn’t sound like you after you fall off your paddleboard, does it? And that’s been the rule for more than 50 years.

Austin’s Parks and Recreation Department provided two reasons for the ban to KUT: a combination of poor water quality and the danger posed by debris leftover from bridges and dams. KUT also found that a series of drowning deaths in the ’50s and ’60s, including two young sisters who waded into a 20-foot pit, led to Austin City Council passing the ordinance.

Swimming in the lake these days can result in a $500 fine. If you’re looking to swim, but also not break the law, explore one of Central Texas’ many swimming holes. And try really, really hard to stay on your paddleboard.

— Amanda O’Donnell, American-Statesman staff

A “T” too far

We can’t secede from the union (and should probably stop pulling that card), but we can slowly remove every other state from dropdown menus via Google Chrome browser extensions.

Maybe that wasn’t the exact line of thinking that led Reddit user Vpicone (labeled “the hero we need”) to design an extension that removes Tennessee from dropdown menus, but considering he did it “for the greater good of Texans,” it’s likely not far off. Browser extensions, in case you were wondering, are add-ons to web browser applications that can serve any number of tasks (some serious, some decidedly not).

If you ever feel like there’s one too many “T” states around here, or could really use an extra half-second, you can download the extension, called “Sorry Tennessee.” There are “more states to come.”

Otherwise, you can do as redditor GeorgePantsMcG suggests and “just tap the letter ‘t’ twice.”

— Amanda O’Donnell, American-Statesman staff

Earle

It’s well-documented that country singer Steve Earle has lots of opinions.

A June 2017 profile of him in the Guardian featured choice quotes like “(Modern country music sung by men is) just doing hip-hop for people who are afraid of black people,” “Donald Trump really is fascist” and a zinger directed at Hayes Carll: “My ex-wife traded me in for a younger, skinnier, less talented singer-songwriter.” (Carll responded at Willie’s Picnic, where they were both playing this year: “I think she left you because you wouldn’t shut your mouth.”)

Now, in a new video for Al Jazeera Plus, Earle is interviewed about his thoughts on some other, more serious topics: the death penalty and the Confederate flag.

“I don’t think you can counter violence with violence, and at some point somebody just has to say no. I grew up in a house that was opposed to the death penalty,” Earle says in the beginning of the video.

Earle goes on to relate his experience of witnessing the execution of Austin resident and convicted murderer Jonathan Wayne Nobles. Earle and Nobles became pen pals for a decade, only to meet mere days before Nobles was to be executed. Nobles said he wanted Earle to be there as a witness.

Later in the video, Earle goes on to explain why he wrote his song “Mississippi, It’s Time,” which urges the state of Mississippi to remove the Confederate battle flag emblem from its state flag.

“I don’t have any African-American friends that aren’t offended by (the Confederate flag), and I think that’s all that counts. I wrote ‘Mississippi’ in kind of a fever pitch.

“I’m always going to be from the South, but I’m just not a Southerner that believes the Civil War was fought over states’ rights; I reckon it was about slavery.”

— Jake Harris, American-Statesman staff

A kind turn

An Austin woman got help spreading lung cancer awareness in her final days of battling the disease thanks to a special shoutout from her favorite celebrity.

Alex Charpentier has loved Rob Lowe since she was a teenager, and as the 48-year-old single mom battled cancer from her hospice bed, her family reached out to the “Parks and Recreation” and “West Wing” star to let him know she was his biggest fan — and he responded.

He sent Charpentier a video, calling her a “fighter” and admiring her strength.

“I’ve got more stuff I’m doing! You have to be around to see that. All my love. I’m thinking about you,” he told her in the video posted on People.com.

Charpentier responded to Lowe’s heartfelt message, thanking him for the video and telling him how she respected him “as an actor and as a parent and as a human being.”

According to KVUE, Charpentier died a few days later, but in her time battling the disease she worked with the Bonnie J. Addario Lung Cancer Foundation.

— Katey Psencik, American-Statesman staff

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