The drive to Austin was really nice. Once we got out of the crowded Houston area, Texas started looking a lot more like I expected it to! The were a lot of ranches and livestock. We saw long horned cows and horses and rams. It took about three hours to get to Austin.
When we were most of the way there, we stopped at a Buc-ees. We had heard that Buc-ees were a thing in Texas, but we didn’t really know what kind of thing. It turns out it’s a gas station/convenience store, but it’s enormous. The sell their own jerky, trail mix, candy, and buc-ee beaver merchandise, and there’s a fudge counter, lunch counter, jerky counter, bakery counter. It was nuts!
We decided to visit Austin because it was basically on the way between Houston, and Big Bend National Park on the west side of Texas. We weren’t really looking for another city visit after New Orleans and Houston, but we have heard such good things about Austin that we couldn’t pass up a short stay. I booked 4 nights at Pecan Grove RV Park, which is in the city, across the river from downtown and the University of Texas campus. The RV park is similar to the one we stayed at in Houston, with small spots and lots of permanent residents. We got a nice pull-through spot, though. Some of the permanent trailers have a lot of lawn decoration and we saw 11 other Airstreams here. Staying in this park definitely added to our experience here, it was so nice to be able to walk places. We didn’t move the truck for the first couple of days! We also have some interesting birds for neighbors. Brian looked it up and he thinks they are great-tailed grackle, they make the weirdest screechy noises.
We’ve heard that Austin is an interesting, quirky city with fun things to see and do, and I definitely agree! We visited the Alamo Drafthouse, which is basically a chain of movie theaters, but you can order food and drinks during the movies, and there are tables in the theater to eat on. They also have fun events, like singalongs, and play offbeat movies sometimes. When we went they were showing some of the Oscar nominated movies, and we saw the Oscar nominated animated shorts. It was really cool to see them all at once, but a little jarring too, because they were so different from each other. The animation styles were very different, and about half were cute/funny, and the other half were really sad!
We took a long walk through downtown and saw the capitol building. I forget that Austin is the capital of Texas. The building is impressive. It’s made of red granite, and is one of the biggest and tallest capitol buildings. The grounds are nice too, with a tree-lined walk leading to the building, and statues and monuments scattered throughout it. We noticed the Confederate Soldiers Monument.
On our long walk we also visited the Hope Outdoor Gallery, which is a graffiti gallery. It’s really interesting how there are so many walls going all different ways. We climbed to the top to see it from different angles. There’s a lot of graffiti there, and most of it is beautiful! The thing that took away from the beauty for us was a the litter. Seems like people just toss their empty paint cans wherever.
Austin has some great restaurants! We had a fancy dinner at Odd Duck our first night in Austin.
Afterward, we swore off fancy dinners for awhile. However… the next day we found ourselves hungry during happy hour, and Parkside on 6th Street has a great happy hour. Beer, cocktails, and everything on the bar menu were half off! So, we couldn’t pass that up. This is why we should avoid visiting too many cities, especially the ones with great food!
6th Street has a lot of bars and restaurants, and I hear it gets crazy on weekends, but we were there on a Wednesday, so it was pretty tame.
There are a lot of food trucks in Austin, with all kinds of food. Some of them are in random places, but it seems like most of them are clustered in little food truck parks. Some of them were Airstreams! We ate at the La Barbeque food truck. We didn’t want to wait for hours at Franklin’s for barbeque, and we heard La Barbeque is really good too. We went on a Thursday after lunch time and the wait was around 35 minutes. It was great! We got a beef rib, a few pork ribs, and a brisket sandwich, and free beer! Afterward we needed a nap (meat coma).
We also ate Barbeque at Rudy’s, at our friend Tom’s recommendation. He said “yes, it’s a gas station… but don’t underestimate it”. And he was very right! It’s a lot more than a gas station. The employees were really nice here!
The weather was really beautiful while we were in Austin! It was in the 70s during the days, and got down into the 50s at night. We still felt hot when we were walking around, but we are northerners. The Texans were cold. It rained and rained while we (well, Brian) hitched up to leave town.
One of our favorite things to do was to walk around and see the sights and pop into stores. We liked the South Congress Street area. There are a lot of murals and street art. Austin is a cool city, and they know it. They seem to like that the city’s identity is ‘weird’. Rather than weird, it just seemed to ooze creativity. I was inspired! I spent some time in a bead shop buying some fun supplies. I know nothing about jewelry making, but I feel like making something now!
I tried pretty hard to convince Brian to buy a cowboy hat, with no luck. He looks good in one!
While we were walking around, we veered a couple blocks off the main drag to find a moonlight tower. These are old-timey street lights, and Austin is the only city where they are still in use. Austin bought them used from Detroit in 1894. There are 17 of them left.
We were also passed by at least a hundred bicyclists, out for a ride.
We also explored the University of Texas campus a little at night. Tom told us it’s a nightmare to park on campus, and it’s pretty bad to even drive there! It looks like a nice campus.
We really enjoyed Austin! 4 days wasn’t enough, but we are excited to get to the western side of Texas!
Day 156 | Mile 15,455