Tuesday, July 15, 2008


For the last 15 years, I've held Austin out as Mecca for when I'm feeling stunted in Kansas City. I feel like I'm stuck here but in reality, I'm the one who moved back here. I'm the one who made the bad decisions that led to me moving back here and technically, I'm only as stuck as I tell myself I am. So this year, my vacation spot of choice was Austin. Partly because I couldn't afford to go anywhere else, partly because Sage wanted to see this fabled city of gold and partly because I was ready to see if Austin was still as I remembered it, or if it had lost its luster since I left and since I'm in the over 40 crowd now.

Armed with stacks of CDs, we got in the car for the long road trip to the promised land.
I was pretty worried when the 11th hour of driving led us to the outskirts of Austin and there, in all its glory, was an exact replica of what I hate about Kansas City, strip malls for miles. The truth is, Austin's grown. Its spilling out over its jeans like a teenage girl with muffin top. Austin has managed to creep all the way north 30 miles or so to Georgetown leaving little evidence that the cities were once seperate. Sage looked around and said, "THIS is Austin?? It looks like Kansas." She was clearly disappointed that her aching butt was not going to be worth it. Feeling a lot less enthusiastic than I sounded, I said, "Oh, just wait til we get off the highway. Highways always look the same." As it turns out, my positivity paid off, and downtown Austin was pretty much how I remembered it.

We were lucky enough to have snagged a room in downtown Austin right on the lake near the Congress Avenue bridge that links South Austin with Central Austin. After settling in our hotel room we had a great first night in watching the 1 million bats emerge from that very bridge. The bats have made Austin their home in ever increasing number and Austin has embraced the newcomers and made them part of the city as they do with almost all newcomers. Austin is just that accommodating and full of southern hospitality. The bats are one of the top attraction for tourists and city dwellers alike.

It was under the bridge where I discovered that "Art is Dead." (I hadn't gotten the memo.)

For dinner went out to an Austin institution, Chuy's which was still there and exactly as I remember it complete with the neon sign and Elvis shrine inside.

This kitschy Tex Mex restaurant's main decor is Elvis memorabilia and colorful car parts from the 50's. The margaritas are strong and the salsa will sear your taste buds. What's not to love? While Chuy's may not be the best Tex Mex in town but it sure wins for me in the Austin ambiance department.

Austin is an oasis in the middle of what is otherwise a fairly conservative southern mentality. Austin is a pocket of hip and cool in a desert of Texas swagger. Yes, its the capital of Texas but its so much more than that. Perhaps due to the University of Texas being primary to the city, its got an eclectic, artsy, hippie feel all its own. Where else can you see cowboy hats mingling with dreadlocks, sometimes even on the same person. Where else can you slide down a sawdust dance floor to the sounds of Willy Nelson one minute and then jam to a reggae beat the next?

I'm glad to see the uniqueness is still there and I'm glad to see that not only is it still there, but part of what's grown in Austin is this too, not just cookie-cutter strip malls with obligatory chain restaurants. Austin has a campaign all its own to preserve the originality even. Everywhere you go, you see the slogan "Keep Austin Weird." I like this. I like that people are actually paying attention to what growth can do to the overall ambiance of a town. Austin is dotted with original and quirky shops and restuaruants all over town. The food is incredible and a huge variety abounds. We sampled the fare at many fine places.

Perched on the edge of the Hill Country, Austin has much to offer in the way of panoramic views, lakes, rivers and just pure nature like the view of Lake Travis to the left here.

It also has a spring fed pool right in the center of town that maintains a nice 66 degree water despite temps that often soar above 100. Within an hour away is the Guadalupe river which is also spring fed where you can rent tubes or canoes for a leisurely float down the river. Austin gets hot, so these are important diversions from the heat.

Along with the growth comes higher prices. I guess its inevitible. I used to live in Hyde Park which is a Central Austin neighborhood full of older Arts and Crafts style bungalows and just funky cool houses. Sage and I drove around and picked up Sale flyers only to find a 2 bedroom costs along the lines of oh...300-400K. Hmm, so if I move back, I may be able to afford this shinly silver lil beauty complete with pool in the front yard. I dunno, its got that Austin charm I've been missing. Looks cozy.

We drove around Austin alot, imagining what our life would be like if we lived there. We took day trips out into the hill country and the lakes. We even went all the way to San Antonio to Sea World. We were there for 6 fantastic days and we were so disappointed to have to leave despite the oppressive heat. We hadn't done everything I'd wanted to do. Sage cried the day before we were to leave because she knew it was her last day. I was proud to see she loved it as much as I did and that she really "got" the feel of the place and why I've always talked about it so wistfully and longingly. She wants to move there but for different reasons. She liked the cute boys there. For me, while boys aren't my main focus anymore I can understand the allure. For me its something else...I just can't shake the feel of the place. It feels like....home.

1 comment:

Magpie said...

I think I would love Austin too... :) Can't wait to go there with you sometime!