So, I have to say it. Austin, please don’t be offended.
You are just not that weird.
OK, yes, you have a few oddball things going on here and there. You have the bats and the Cathedral of Junk but once those have been visited….the weirdness sort of peters out.
Any city your size would naturally have a few oddballs. Even our smaller hometown of conservative Holland, Michigan had orange goggles man’, the Santa Claus guy, and the ‘lives in his VW van guy’ in addition to things like the junkyard artwork by the Padnos wrecking yard.
And yes, you do have a certain Pacific Northwest vibe going on with your bike-riding, dreaded, tattooed, bearded, hipster-glassed young inhabitants. We did feel like we had wandered onto the set of a Logan’s Run remake, searching in vain for the other middle-aged people in town.
Not to say that we didn’t enjoy our nearly two-weeks in Austin. In addition to the Cathedral of Junk here are our highlights (in no particular order):
- Stevie Ray Vaughn Statue
It may seem odd to really want to visit a statue, but I’ve been a fan of the man’s music for decades. I was lucky enough to see him perform in one of his last concerts in 1990. I brought my then-girlfriend, now wife to a Thursday performance at the Kalamazoo County fairgrounds, being the venue before his final one in Wisconsin. I remember I kept looking for the rhythm guitar player as his trio put out more sound than bands with two more people. I was a died in the wool headbanger but couldn’t ignore his serious guitar skills - and his music turned me onto the blues in a big way.
- Amys Ice Creams
Ever since my first visit to SXSW I’ve been hearing about Amy’s Ice Creams. Now, when people brag up an ice cream shop I always chuckle because I’ve never really yet had “bad” ice cream. People really set the bar high for Amy’s however so when Miranda won an award for one of her stories it was a great excuse to go check them out. And? Meh. It wasn’t “bad” - it just wasn’t awesome. It was a bit like something you’d get at a Cold Stone Creamery and while I finished mine it left me a bit homesick for a treat from our own Captain Sundae.
- Capital Area Food Bank of Texas
Since we were in the Austin area for two weeks it gave me time to research volunteer opportunities. I came across the Capital Area Food Bank of Texas and they were setup to allow volunteers under 18 (a challenge to find) and in 3- hour shifts with little training. Perfect. We went in to the central distribution center and spent an afternoon sorting, cleaning, and packaging up bags of different chips and Ramen noodles destined for different places around the state. The kids did great - in short order we channeled our Henry Ford and had a nice assembly process going. We assembled and packaged up around 80 banana boxes-full!
It’s possibly prophetic that we visited the Austin area Ikea after the Cathedral of Junk. I’ll let you make the connection. We treated ourselves to a meatball dinner, picked up some new cushions for the Ikea chairs in our trailer, and just in general wandered through the store. I think Ikea should partner with the RV industry - they are displaying “houses” with similar square footage and the RV industry could certainly use the Ikea design ethic when it comes to RV interiors.
- People Watching
Between the FunFunFunFest going on and Austin just being Austin we enjoyed people watching - spending an hour at the counter of the Austin City Hall coffee shop doing so.
- Wild About Music Store
We wandered into the Wild About Music store on 6th Street and spent a good deal of time enjoying their blues-based store music soundtrack, music related wares, and art work.
- Food Carts
Austin is big on food carts and I wanted to eat from one. Turns out most of them are lunch-only so our options for supper were limited. We chose one serving Philly style cheesesteak sandwiches and they were pretty average. Maybe we’ve been spoiled by getting a Philly Cheesesteak from a street vendor in Philly?
- Bat Watching
We hurried through dinner so we could make it down for the Austin Bats. We timed it just right, heading under the bridge for the best view of them coming out from their hiding places. We could hear them squeaking, and then the colony started to exit the bridge at the end opposite of where we stood. Slowly the exit point moved until the bats over our heads were streaming out. I wasn’t prepared for the sheer number of them - forming clouds in the sky further down the river.
- Meeting Cameras
I’ve known Carl Camera for a few years through the now defunct Godbit community so it was good to re-connect in person. We were first guests at their house and the conversation flowed so easily and the kids all got along so well that we scheduled another time for them to come out to our trailer at the State Park. We had a night of burgers, campfire and S’Mores - things we don’t always do just on our own. Thanks again guys - had fun!
- Meeting Smiths
While we were out exploring Austin I got an email from Monica and Derek who are in the final-launch stage for their own roadtrip adventure. MsBoyink and I were able to have breakfast with them and talk about what we had experienced so far in our travels. Good luck with your final prep - it’ll all be worth it!
- Library Visits
We visited a couple of the branch libraries - nice for a few hours of time away from the trailer.
- Waterfall swimming
After some viewing and rock-skipping by the falls the kids came back to the trailer to suit up and went back for some waterfall swimming. It’s not everywhere you can do this type of thing any more so I’m glad they took advantage of it.
- Mountain Biking
McKinney falls has about 6 miles of biking trails and we rode all of them. It was great to be back in a park where there were things to do.