Two days in Austin

After a few days on the road sleeping in the car it was good to get the tent set up again. Planting the stakes into the ground feels like putting down roots, even if it’s only for one night. McKinney Falls State Park is just on the edge of the Austin city limits and offers a series of small waterfalls as Onion Creek cuts its way to the Colorado River.

We had a nice little hike, stopping to view Old Baldy, a tremendous cypress tree, and a natural shelter etched into the limestone where indigenous people stayed thousands of years ago.

We began to feel like we were truly entering the desert as patches of cacti popped up along the trail. But the main highlight for me was the jasmine flowers releasing their perfume on the breeze. We keep saying one of the first things we do when we settle down will be to plant fruit trees, but I think jasmine has got to go on the list as well.

We drove into Austin proper and walked around downtown to get a feel for the city. Our first stop was REI for headlamps, and then a thriving independent bookstore, both good indicators for a place in my book. As we walked around we saw a lot of street art, taco trucks, and construction. As we found our path blocked by yet another condo complex going up, I put on my best old-timey newsreel voice and said “Austin, city on…the rise.” Kate thought it was funny; marry someone who likes your dumb jokes. Austin is definitely booming, and I hope its authenticity remains after the massive wave of gentrification it looks like it’s undergoing.

We went over budget for the day getting hipster Tex-Mex for lunch (when in Rome) and went looking for free fun. Turned out University of Texas’ Blanton Museum is free on Thursdays, hooray!

We got our daily dose of high art and culture in, dodging the classes of students in the process.

For day two we decided for more Tex-Mex and more art, stick with the classics, you know. We did our research and had tremendous breakfast tacos at Juan in a Million, the place to be. Then we burned off calories mural hunting in East Austin.

Across the river to the south side of town for more exploring and more street art.

Austin lives up to the hype, with airstreams selling $6 donuts, people pushing the limits of modern fashion without losing their southern charm, and so many tacos. Texas flags, lone stars, and Beto signs abound. Also, murals everywhere.

I know I’m on a lot about the street art. Spend a lot of time on the road and you see a lot of billboards. Walk around an American city and every surface seems to be yelling at you to buy something. Many storefronts in Austin have unique signage, but the proliferation of colorful, playful public art really elevates a town. It’s not just a place where people sell products, consume goods, and spend money, it’s a place where people live. When was the last time you stopped to take a picture of a beautiful wall?

To round out the day we climbed to the highest point in Austin to get a little perspective on things. We enjoyed our time in the city, but we are definitely ready to get back to nature.

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