84. The Texas Alternative

Trip Start Apr 19, 2011
1
84
90
Trip End May 25, 2013


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Where I stayed
McKinney Falls State Park

Flag of United States  , Texas
Sunday, May 5, 2013

The driving incidents over the past few days have left me in a bit of state. So much so that I now break out into a sweat any time my hands touch the steering wheel. It doesn't help that the speed limit in Texas is 75mph (about 120km) and nobody sticks to it. To keep the air flowing around my armpits, Iīve taken to driving with my elbows out at 90 degrees. I just donīt have enough t-shirts to keep changing all the time. So it is in this position, with air-con on full blast, that I take Jersey on the road towards Austin.

Luckily, the drive is only 80 miles. A piece of cake. We take it slow, spending a bit of time at an outlet mall, and searching high and low for a new fridge to replace the one I broke. Our search takes us to Cabelas, which can only be described as Blairīs all-time favourite store. Greater, Blair declares, than the Museum of Natural History in New York, combined with your classic New Zealand Hunting and Fishing shop. Only five times the size. There are stuffed bison, and goats, and wolves, and coyotes, and hares, and giant brown bears, and rattlesnakes, and white-tailed deer, a polar bear for crying out loud, and beavers, and foxes, and … all arranged around an in-store mountain, and surrounded by guns. Lots and lots of guns. And kayaks, and tents, with all the camping equipment imaginable. Food dehydrators, and braziers, and juice makers. Thereīs an aquarium, laser target shooting, everything. Everything except a bloody 12-volt fridge. Oh well. Ice will have to do for now.

We arrive late, to secure the very last spot in the popular McKinney Falls State Park. Waking up the next morning, I remember with some ounce of dread that it is my 27th birthday. After a slow start and a lovely birthday massage (thanks Blair), we head into the city and the feast to drown my sorrows begins.

Starting in SoCo (meaning SOuth of COngress), Blair lets me spend as much time looking at the shops as I want without complaining once!! The shops are pretty funky. Lots of quirky independent start-ups with unique designs, paired with vintage antique shops, and lots and lots of cowboy boots. Blair falls in love with a pair of boots himself and briefly considers buying a horse so people at home will accept him wearing them. We play with rescue puppies, and eat S’mores fry bread from one of the many food caravans. We chow down on sandwiches while watching an awesome rock band, with harmonica and double bass, get people dancing in the streets, and we try most of the flavours of saltwater taffy on offer at the old-fashioned candy store.

Further downtown, we walk along Ladybird Lake (a dammed part of the river). There is a town hike and bike trail here and everyone seems to be out exercising with their dogs. There is paddle boarding, pedal boating, and party boats. Given that my birthday falls on the Mexican holiday, Cinco de Mayo, there’s supposed to be a street party going on in town. So we cross the river and walk down along Willie Nelson boulevard, another street full of lovely shops and restaurants, and down to the party. But everyone just appears to be standing around drinking margaritas, and we’re feeling kind of hungry. Having heard that Austin is home to the original Whole Foods Market, we set out in search of it.

Up to the Capitol building, which crowns the top of Congress Ave, we pass a number of strange watering holes advertising such events as turtle racing, and then… we find it. Inside, Blair can’t believe he’s found his other all-time favourite store. It is quite possibly the world’s GREATEST supermarket. I love supermarkets! And this one has everything. Delicious organic sustainably sourced things. Austin has been the first place in the States that we’ve found somewhere adequate to recycle our hugeeee bag of plastic and paper so it makes sense that this is the birthplace of the greatest supermarket on earth. One review on google about this place states …The original Whole Foods is the best Whole Foods in the whole world. Some day I will live in Austin, and I will go to this Whole Foods every single day…That pretty much sums it up. Cue nearly two hours of getting overly excited by all the produce on display. Exercising much restraint we only spent about $40 on stuff for dinner and carried it down to the South Congress Ave bridge for sunset.

About ten minutes after the sun sets, there is a flurry of activity under the bridge, as 1.5 million bats take flight and head off in the search of their nightly feed. Although the bats are still small and grey this time of year, it was quite the spectacle to behold, as they wove a trail of black across the darkening sky. You could hear their wings beating and little squeaks. The only thing to distract from the show was some man riding not one, but two, horses across the bridge, and all the camera flashes as people tried to capture the spectacle on film.

Sun set, we made the walk back to Jersey, who was parked safely in SoCo. Just as we pulled into the campground, a bobcat slunk across the road in front of the van. Very rare to see so we can count ourselves lucky! All in all a very nice birthday, even if the numbers are starting to get a little high for me now.

In the morning though, we have to leave, wishing we had another week to spend in Texas. But we’re not done with our favourite state just yet. Not far west of Austin is a lovely natural wonder, the Hamilton Pool. Unfortunately, it’s closed for swimming due to high bacteria levels, but we have a picnic lunch and take a few photos of the overhanging rocks. We meet an older couple from Houston out examining the fossils, who tell us about dinosaur tracks at Glenrose. But we don’t have time.

We do, however, make the time to drive to Luckenbach. Luckenbach with a population of three. A little hamlet with nothing more than a general store, saloon with daily live music, and a dance hall. Covered in licence plates from the country over, Luckenbach is touted as one of the most lovely small towns (if you can call it that) in the States. We are glad we made the detour and enjoy a beer under the trees before we have to get back on the road, vowing to come back and give Texas a better look next time.

Trip anthem: Glass Shatters by Disturbed… it’s the Stone Cold Steve Austin theme song … Blair’s idea.
Wildlife sightings: A hummingbird, 1.5 million bats, and a bobcat
Rating out of 10: 9
In a word/phrase: Refreshing
Something interesting: Luckenbach’s town motto … Everybody’s somebody in Luckenbach.
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Comments

Keren on

Sounds and looks like a great area to visit!

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