Austin is one of those cities that everyone tells you that you will like before you get there and they’re probably not wrong. I say probably because it seems like everyone would love a city with a college town vibe, tons of live music, great beers, friendly people, clean rivers, low-ish prices. The only down side is that it’s in the middle of Texas!
Pecan Grove RV Park – This is an ‘old school’ RV park, there is no clubhouse or pool. There’s just the spot for the RV and hookups for sewer, electric, and cable. And they only take cash or check, no credit cards. But in the 3 weeks that we’ve been on the road I’ve learned to apprecite places like this! They’re only $40 per night, which is pretty low overall and it’s a great value considering their proximity to Zilker Park and they’re a bike ride away from Downtown and 6th Street. The manager/owner is a really nice guy, we arrived pretty late on Tuesday night and he came out an helped direct us to our site, which was a pull through, but it was a litle tight in the bigger RV. Their wifi was run by Tengo internet, which is a subscription based service, but they give you a week free at this park. The speed wasn’t consistent, but it was enough for me to get work done. Another weird thing is that our RV was constantly getting hit with pecans dropping from trees, it didn’t do any damage, but it did give us a few scares.
Zilker Park – A nice park along side the river close to downtown. I really liked walking and biking around the river is really beautiful and filled with people kayaking and paddleboarding. There seemed to be constant events going on there, but it’s never seemed busy.
Barton Springs Pool – This is a ‘natural’ pool built in the 1920s and filled by a freshwater spring. It’s a really neat place, I don’t know if i’ve seen anything like it anywhere. I guess the water is a constant temperature all year long, but in the middle of the summer it’s ‘take your breath away’ cold. The pool must be 100 yards long, it ranges from wading height to probably 20 feet deep below the diving board. Which is pretty cool since they still have a springboard! I showed off some of my old diving skills to the crowd, lets say they were impressed. This would be a big draw if we were thinking about moving here.
Uncle Billy’s Brew and Cue – They were doing renovations so they didn’t have all of their beer offerings, but the ones I had were good and they have a great patio that they allowed us to bring our dog. and it’s a 2 minute walk from the RV park.
Chuy’s – I know this is a chain, but somehow Austin made it special. The food was top notch and the ‘eccentric diner’ decorations really made for a good night.
Moonshine Bar and Grill – This might be the best food I had in the entire trip. Or… I might just say that in every city. But just everything went great in our dinner. We sat on the patio cooled by fans, it wasn’t too hot. I got the rainbow trout and a side of grits. The fish was perfect, topped with maple glaze and I could have had the grits as a meal by themselves. They were the best, I’m drooling a little bit just thinking about them. It’s a little expensive, but you’re not going to have to take out a second mortgage or anything. It’s a must visit if you’re in the area.
6th Street – I was excited to go out because I’ve heard that it’s the place to bar hop in Austin. It could be because we just came from New Orleans, or that Laurel was under the weather for two days, but it was just kind of underwhelming. It also could be that we’re old now and the place doesn’t get started until after 10:30. But I’ll have to say that the music was better than we found in NOLA, there were multiple places that drew us in with live bands playing. Including one that did a mealdy of John Williams movie themes played hard rock style.
Esther’s Follies – We decided that we had to do this because it’s an Austin tradition. I’m really glad we did! It’s kind of like a mini SNL with more of a Texas slant. All the performances were good, the guy who played (Texas Governor) Rick Perry was fantastic and accurate. If you’re from outside Texas you may want to read up on some recent Texas politics before the show becuase you might get lost when they start lampooning former Texas governors and congressmen. It’s adult without being crass, so I think you could bring your teenagers if you wanted.
Congress Ave Bridge Bats – Austin is a stop on the migration of thousands of bats every year. It’s another one of those things you just have to do when you’re in Austin. And its’ free! We showed up a little early to try and get something to eat before we saw THE BATS. But all the food places near the bridge have moved or gone out of business, probably from too much guano in the food. So we looked up a place, Joe’s crab shack, seemed close… had a patio. So we biked down there, on the way we realized that we weren’t going to get to see the bridge from that patio. but we were really hungry, so we kept going. As soon as we sat down at our table it started pouring rain outside, so that worked out perfectly! We ate an appetizer, then the sky’s cleared and we were able to get back on the bikes and ride back to the bridge to see the bats. We couldn’t have ‘planned’ that better.
We waited around for about 10 minutes with the other bat fans, then a trickle of bats started streaming out from under the bridge. I thought, oh that’s kind of a lot of bats! But it kept getting bigger and bigger until 1000’s of bats were flying out from under the bridge every second. Some were heading straight out into the night, some were swirling around in airborne eddies of nocturnal rodents. They were like giant flocks of starlings, it was amazing that they didn’t run into each other. What was also amazing is the guano smell they emit when they all take off like that. It was quite a pungent aroma. Stings the nostrils.
Keep Austin Weird – The weirdest thing to happen in Austin could have been Esther’s Follies, could have been the Bats, could have been the space themed van with fish painted on it. But I personally think it was when we were unlocking the bikes getting ready to ride home from 6th street and I stood on a mound of fire ants. I didn’t notice until both my feet were crawling in ants… I got some weird bites on my feet. Where else but Austin?
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