Keep Austin beer-ed
Trip Start Apr 18, 2011
65Trip End Dec 09, 2011
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Where I stayed
Arriving into the city early morning I have several hours to kill before I can check-in. Enquiring at the Amtrak station for local points of interest, I am directed toward Austin's most visited attraction- The Whole Foods Organic Supermarket, sounds exciting.
It's nice, kind of like a Waitrose mixed with a local produce market; big, healthy-looking and overpriced. But I can't see this being the hub of Austin's nightlife. I buy a cup of coffee and people watch
After a brief tour of the infamous 6th street (the hub of the city's nightlife), I head off on my 3 mile trek to the hostel. I soon realise that it apparently gets quite warm in Texas and that maybe the $2 bus ride would have been worth it. Nevertheless, one redened body and several litres of water later I arrive at the hostel.
Over the course of the next few days I discover that this is in fact where all the Brits have been hiding on my journey. I bump into my last English contact who I met on my first day in DC- a girl called Hannah who I swiftly larraped at pool before she checked out. Three Brummies, two guys called Jack and Sam from Hampshire, an unrelated guy and girl combo from Bristol called Oscar and Ruth, a cockney called Brendon, and an honourary Brit called Joe (technically, and legally, from New York state). As you can see, loads of northerners. So not only is my accent ridiculed by foreigners but also by my own countrymen (and women)
Taking advantage of the lakeside scenery and indoor alcohol curfew at the hostel, we predrink in style out on the pontoon and head off into town. As I begin to lose control of motor function I can tell I am definitely back with the Brits.
The extreme heat and humidity bring with it an absolutely epic lightning show and days later the closest I've seen to a hurricane.
After realising that very little of the city has been visited- aside from the bars in a seemingly endless cycle of drinking and then being hungover- we go to visit the Capital building (apparently taller than DC's) and also we see the world's largest urban-dwelling bat colony - around a million bats living under a bridge... mmm guano.
Our honourary Brit, Joe introduced us to the delights of his 1989 Volvo 760 GLE called Old Blue. A Swedish tank, it still works even after being written off by the insurance company (courtesy of Joe's mechanical skills). Admittedly the sunroof and bonnet don't close properly, the wheels look like they might actually fall off and any sort of change of speed brings with it a sense of impending doom
Utilising Old Blue's 176,000 miles worth of experience we travel down to San Marcos for a spot of river tubing. The slow current eventually leads to a man-made dam and some rather dodgy looking rapids. The 'let's do that again' mentality persists until I eventually capsize, bruise my feet, scratch my back and almost lose a sandal. Well worth it though.
Unfortunately I fail to sample all the culinary delights that Austin's BBQ and TexMex heritage can offer (I manage to eat Quesadillas in an Irish bar if that counts) This I regret.
On my last day, I decide to go to local Brazilian restaurant with a few of the remaining Brits. Not only for the food, but also for some sort of fruit in the form of a smoothie; once again I had taken far too much advantage of the $1 beers the night before.
Now Friday the 13th's have never really affected me before, but this was a gud'un. I return from the meal to find my iPod gone (stupidly left charging in my drunken stupor)- checking the CCTV I can only assume it was a girl sat at the computers with us as we left to go out; she conveniently checks out before we return
My onward train journey is delayed 6 hours, comprimising my check-in at the next hostel. And as a particularly lovely cherry to place a top the cake of misfortune- I go to the toilet only to pull out the last two sheets left in the dispenser- my head drops, it's been a great day.
There were aspects of this Friday which would have turned out differently if I'd have acted differently, so I only really have myself to blame for the iPod (and obviously the person that stole it). I begin to wonder how my time could have been different if I hadn't purchased the Amtrak pass, especially considering Old Blue's desires to head north through New Mexico to the Grand Canyon. Not that I've had a bad deal with the pass, but that a road trip would have been something completely different.
Leaving Austin becomes a time of reflection, asking myself a number of questions about things I could or should have done. I realise that fundamentally, the things I've done are the reason I am where I am; which is still in a pretty spectacular position. I'm learning by doing, and learning by not doing. This is a bit of a eureka moment- and I completely understand that travelling motto of 'it's not about where you take the journey, but where the journey takes you' (I'm one month in- so you have to allow me to spout off the occasional epiphany quote)
True to form, the journey ensures I have another travelling companion in the form of Hannah, although the premise of a 38 hour train journey demotivates slightly, so I think I may get off in Arizona as opposed to her end destination of LA.
It's a shame about the iPod as Austin has been one of my favourites; the hostel, the nightlife, and of course the people. I will try to rest in Tucson, but if the journey dictates, it may not be too long before I'm razing Arizona.