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9 April 2012 / M

June trip: Austin

Last June I went to the US for a bit more than two weeks. The main purpose of the trip was to attend a family reunion in Oklahoma. To make the trip more interesting, I also visited Minneapolis/St. Paul, Minnesota and Austin, Texas. I posted about Minnesota and Oklahoma earlier. Now to return to the middle part of the trip: Austin. The full set of photos are here.

Visiting Austin marked my first time to Texas. I was a bit intimidated about being a liberal Oregonian/resident of Europe entering Lone Star Bush country, but Austin doesn’t quite fit into that mentality. It’s like Portland but with less rain, really. It’s full of hipsters and funky shops and loads of food carts. But despite the similarities, it had a definite Texan feel that distinguished it from Portland. B and I had a great time there, it was a total summer vacation of sitting outside, going swimming, or getting ice cream late at night; cooling off in watering holes; and enjoying BBQ and lemonade. Some photos of where we hung out…

Austin Motel sign

We stayed at the Austin Motel, a city institution. I thoroughly recommend the place. The rooms are simple and cozy, but it’s on Congress Ave which is full of interesting places to check out, and the motel’s got a great pool to cool off in.

 

Portland postcard from 1911Up Congress from the motel is an antiques/oddities shop called Uncommon Objects. We browsed it for awhile (while cooling off in their air conditioning), taking in everything from old advertisments to more-than-a-century-old shoes to a lot of taxidermied animals. Flipping through a box of old postcards, we found this one from Portland that had been mailed in 1911.

 

Before going to the US, I’d read about a weekly chicken shit bingo that took place in a little bar called Ginny’s Little Longhorn Saloon. In case you haven’t heard of shicken shit bingo, it involves a chicken wandering around a cage marked with numbers until it shits on one of the numbered squares. The person with that number wins the money pool. It sounded really cheesy, but it also sounded like something that B and I couldn’t pass up going to see given the chance. I wasn’t quite sure what sort of crowd would show up and how we’d fit in, but there were plenty of people there our age or younger, and plenty of them who were also tourists. I wondered if the staff kind of rolled their eyes at all of the tourists, but the women behind the bar were awesome and one in particular made us feel quite at home. It was actually a great intro to being in Texas: sitting in a little, sweaty bar, drinking Lone Star Beer, and listening to live country music.

Front of the saloon

 

The woman herselfGinny, the saloon owner. Her shirt says “I like to start my week off shitty”. Taken by the barmaid who was really cool to us. She saw me struggling to take a photo of Ginny from the other end of the bar, so she commandeered my camera and got this shot for me. I thank her for it.

 

Waiting for the chicken to do its thingThe crowd waiting and watching for where the chicken will do its business.

 

Hamilton PoolHamilton Pool, a natural pool a few miles outside of Austin. It’s a beautiful setting with clear water and one side ringed by rocks and a cliff overhanging the water. It’s also very hard to get good photos of, especially on a sunny day that screws with exposure. This photo doesn’t do justice to what it’s really like being there.

 

A little video of Hamilton Pool.

 

Various boats on the river waiting for the evening's bat flight from the Congress Ave BridgePeople waiting on the river to watch the nightly bat flight from under the Congress Ave bridge. Over a million bats live under the bridge and at dusk they start heading out to catch insects during the night. People come to watch the bats from the water, the park beneath the bridge, or on the bridge itself.

 

Stream of flying batsThe stream of bats flying from under the bridge.

 

Video of the bats flowing out from the bridge. It was staggering, the numbers of them. Yes, the video is sideways. Yes, I am stupid for not realizing that when I shot it.

 

Gourdough's Airstream trailerOne of the food carts we went to. Gourdough’s makes a very different doughnut than Voodoo. Instead of twists on the usual cake doughnut, Gourdough’s doughnuts are massive, deep-fried, sugar bombs served with a knife and fork. B’s was filled with cake batter. I had one that was an ode to Nilla wafer banana pudding, stuffed with vanilla pudding and covered in cream cheese frosting, bananas, and Nilla wafers. Utter decadence served out of a trailer in a parking lot.

 

I know someone in Austin who is a beekeeper and who saves bees from being destroyed when they make their homes in places people don’t want them, like under eaves or in trees near their house. He offered to take us to a couple of the hives he has where he’s put some of the bees he’s moved from unwanted places.

BeehivesThe hives were on a property outside of Austin, under this amazingly gnarled tree.

 

Checking out the honeycombChecking how the combs and colonies are doing. It’s been worrisome lately due to the droughts in Texas, but the colonies seemed to be rather healthy.

 

HoneycombThe honeycomb up close. We got to chew on a piece cut fresh off the hive.

 

We stopped for lunch once at a Mexican supermarket which also had a lunch counter. We had some delicious tacos there. I particularly remember the chile relleno taco I had. But did I take photos of this great food? No. Oh well, it will live on in my memory. After eating, we toured the store and wished we could take it back to the Netherlands with us. Some unusual things we saw around the store:

Mexican pastriesThey had cases full of pastries I’d never seen before. They all looked very tasty.

 

Pickled pork skinsNot as tasty looking: a 13 pound jar of pickled pork skins.

 

Gorilla snot hair gelA brand of hair gel calling itself gorilla snot. The kids must love it.

 

B at Barton SpringsB at Barton Springs, another beloved Austin location. It’s in a park just on the edge of downtown and it is a constant cool temperature, so it draws a lot of people escaping the heat. We showed up one evening not long before it was closing. The sun may not have been out anymore, but it was still plenty warm enough out to enjoy a wade in the cool water.

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