Friday, May 20, 2011

Rising to the Occassion Texas Style

This past month, I had the opportunity to visit Texas.  With the exception of passing through to change planes, I had not been there since I was a kid.  So visiting Austin, Texas was quite an experience.

First off, Austin is not what one thinks of when you say Texas.  Very few cowboy hats.  But there were boots.  Lots of boots, but more on the boots later.
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The first day, I had flown all day from Tallahassee to Austin.  That means going through Atlanta airport.  The longest, never change planes on the same concourse, ever, airport in the U.S.  Ride the train, wait to get off, ride the escalator, ride the elevator.  The only thing they didn't make you ride was a horse (that could at least be fun).  Then off to the skies to Austin.

After sitting endlessly through the "cattle car" section, I arrived at the Austin airport.  It was a genuine Texas welcome, with a towering guitar.  Showing my ignorance, I asked about the guitar.  Who knew that Austin was famous for music?  Okay, who in Tallahassee knew Austin was famous for music?  The guitars are everywhere.  Huge colorful guitars for varying corners with much appreciated color and meaning.  Also, a very convenient way of navigating the city.  This is particularly true for the direction challenged.


My traveling companion wanted to head to the hotel, so after checking in, I went walking to discover the lay of the land.  It was fairly straight forward and grid like, so all I needed to remember was Congress Avenue, and the numbered streets.  All the other streets are named after rivers.  That single piece of information made the walking pleasant. Once I had oriented, it was back to the hotel to make the plan for sight seeing after attending training at the huge civic center across from our hotel.

The second evening, it was a walker's paradise.  We strolled west along fourth, made it over the bridge, then turned and went toward the park.  We had heard about the bat colony: http://www.austin360.com/search/content/events/special/bats.html  It is alleged to be the biggest in urban America, but you will have to do your own research.. Though we made it to the Lamar Street Bridge and crossed over to watch.  No bats emerged where we could see, so we went back down to hike Lady Bird Lake Trail.  It was filled with people walking, jogging, running and showing their pets the outdoors.  It was lovely and laced with Texas Flowers: the bluebonnet http://www.50states.com/flower/texas.htm


They are some kind of blue and very spicey to look at.  They decorate the hillside where the lake is and make the landscape a vast canvas of color.  We continued the hike, but came to the detour site, that said the roads were closed and so was Congress Ave.  An art show was in progress of dismantling.  We missed the show, but it must have been fabulous because the streets were packed with semi trucks and porta potty vehicles.  We had to climb the hill and slip through a fence to avoid another long walk.  I personally would have kept going, but my sidekick was starting to fade on me.  She kept muttering about a coldbeer.  Coldbeer is one word for her.  And apparently, not just her.

We emerged at congress and started the long hike back.  We decided to stop at Frank's for a coldbeer and a ginger beer.  http://hotdogscoldbeer.com/  Frank's is a pretty cool place, that looks like a grocery store, but inside is a bar, restaurant, coffee shop and music hall.  We had the privelege of listening to Ava.  The photos almost can let you hear her soft melodious voice belting out crooner music.  Check her out! http://www.avaarenella.com/#!music



After that we strolled back tot he hotel.  A bit refreshed (where my sidekick decided a pizza was in order).

The next day we had time to slip out for lunch at the Driskill.  If you have never been, it is quite lovely with a story behind every pillar and room.  It was breathtaking and truly awesome when you see it  for the first time.  I can see why LBJ took Ladybird there for dates.  Quite impressive.  http://www.driskillhotel.com/
Lunch was divine and all of us had our fill.  They have the most incredible burger that you have ever had.  Amazing.  Bacon, egg, cheese, hashbrown, burgehttp://www.austinducks.com/r, bun, just oozing with caloric goodness.  It is huge too.  What a fabulous walk back to the convention center after such a lunch!

No tour would be complete without a tour with the "Ducks".  Ausitn Ducks tour http://www.austinducks.com/  took us on the river, by the capital and past the UT campus.  It was great weather and lots of fun.  Our guide was a part time tour leader who full times as a firefighter.  Handsome, fun and brave in one package!



I will visit Ausitn again, with better walking shoes (did I mention walking with my broken foot boot on?).  I really appreciate the sights, the friendly residents and the lovely atmosphere.  I wish my daughter had been in Stubbs barbeque and I wish that my sons could have heard the music.  Maybe I can put Austin on their to do lists for the future.

BTW I am not sure why, but Austin just makes you feel more beautiful and alive.