Another look: Austin, Texas

April 5, 2010

Original posts:
The bats are pretty weird, I suppose
Speed bump on the summer road trip
Oppressive heat and childhood alien flashbacks

With the SXSW music festival in Austin making a lot of headlines last month, I thought I’d revisit Austin and unload the rest of my Austin photos that haven’t yet been published.

The Alamo, pictured above, is the best movie theater I’ve ever been to. It’s pretty famous. They have tables in front of all the seating areas and even have servers, so you can order food and drinks while you watch. But most impressively, instead of running generic previews of upcoming films, they make their own pre-show entertainment! We were there to see Star Trek, and they had put together a video montage related to Star Trek. Whoever puts together these packages should be working for the big chain theaters around the country because it was really impressive.

Here’s another shot of some downtown Austin bars.

Here’s a weird story I did not report before: We walked around the University of Texas at night and around 8 pm, we noticed a few cockroaches running around on the sidewalks. Weird, we thought. Then a few more. And a few more. Eventually, there were hundreds of roaches running around. Nobody really seemed to be bothered by them. Apparently, this is an everyday occurrence. When the sun goes down, the roaches come out. How bizarre!

The University of Texas did have some impressive buildings.

Austin also had one of those ducky tours that many major cities have, with a vehicle that drives on roads in rivers. It wasn’t in my budget. They also have these in Portland and Pittsburgh. I’ve been saying forever that I want to do one of these tours, but I haven’t gotten around to it.

The main bridge leading into downtown is named after former governor Ann Richards. It’s amazing that Texas elected a Democratic governor as recently as the ’90s.

This place had some interesting branding going on. Meet the Lemon Detectives, an auto repair shop.

I think they had a few of these guitars around town.

Emo’s is one of the more famous music venues in the city.

Another view inside the capitol building.

Another look: Paris, Texas

November 15, 2009


Original post: I am not as good as a wall

Paris, Texas, located north of Dallas, was one of those small towns that intrigued me as I passed through. I only briefly talked about the town in May, so here’s some more detail.

The main attraction in Paris seemed to be its town square. Around the square were a ton of antiques stores. I counted at least a half dozen. I don’t know how they all stay in business.


Near Paris is this block of real estate, which almost looks like an old-time ghost town. It’s actually just a couple of abandoned markets.


I stopped at Braum’s. The jalapeno jack cheeseburger sounded delightful, but it was out of my price range, given my daily $7 food budget. I did purchase an ice cream cone, though. Ice cream was always my top priority!


Paris was home to the infamous clothing store Stylez-4-U And More, the winner of “Worst Store Name” during my entire trip.


Which President Bush turnpike would you like to take?


I think that pretty much covers the entire town of Paris. Au revoir!


Let’s play guess the state capitals!

October 3, 2009

It feels like I visited a zillion state capitals, but in retrospect it was only about ten. I secured photos of seven of the capitol buildings. Try to guess which one is which! The answers are posted at the bottom.

A Denver, Colorado
B Olympia, Washington
C Salt Lake City, Utah
D Austin, Texas
E Madison, Wisconsin
F Providence, Rhode Island
G Little Rock, Arkansas






saltlake 053










1 B; 2 F; 3 C; 4 A; 5 G; 6 E; 7 D

Day 32: Cacti and emu and open road

May 15, 2009


DAY 32: Llano, Texas
Miles traveled: 4,420
States visited: 15
Weather: 95, scorching

Last night we began the journey toward New Mexico by heading 3 hours northwest out of Austin. We traveled down a highway that offered nothing to look at except cattle ranches and cactuses (sorry – cacti.)


Most of the ranches had cows, a few had horses, a couple had donkey and one actually had emu – another new one to add to the list of animals I’ve seen on this journey.


After 90 minutes we reached the town of Llano. This town had a dam on a small river, which a lot of local kids were playing on. If I lived in Llano, I’d probably spend all my time here too.


Tomorrow we enter New Mexico. It will be my first visit to the Mountain Time Zone. I look forward to this historic moment with great anticipation.

Day 31: The bats are pretty weird, I suppose

May 14, 2009


DAY 31: Austin, Texas
Miles traveled: 4,401
States visited: 15
Weather: 93, hot

All around Austin were signs and merchandise that say “Keep Austin Weird.” Yet, I spent most of my days there wondering, Where are all the weird people? There were a good number of hipsters around town, but not nearly as many as I expected. I think there are just as many in Pittsburgh. That was the most surprising thing about the city.

One weird thing about Austin is the bat colony. Austin has the largest population of urban bats in America, and they all live under this bridge near downtown. Every night around dusk, people gather to watch them come out.


There are even boat cruises that allow you to watch from the river below.


At around 8:30, the bats started flying out from under the bridge. They kept coming for more than 20 minutes. There are supposedly 1.5 million bats there, and I believe it. Getting pictures of them was hard but here’s a small group I managed to capture.


Tuesday was Jason’s birthday, so we went to a few pubs to celebrate, including a couple of cowboy bars, to get a sense of what real Texas bars are like.


Earlier in the day we went to a beach on a lake. It was great to swim around for a while. Someone had left a water noodle there, so we used it as flotation to swim way farther out into the water than we should have.

That’s it for Austin. Despite the weather, much fun was had by all. It was nice spending time with Dan and Andy, my old Pittsburgh friends who live there now. Austin was the last big city I’ll be in for quite some time, so the posts are likely to shift back from urban nightlife tales to stories of nature and animals. Next up: Carlsbad Caverns!

Day 30: Speed bump on the summer road trip

May 13, 2009


DAY 30: Austin, Texas
Miles traveled: 4,175
States visited: 15
Weather: 93, sunny

We had our first vehicle mishap on Monday. While trying to drive to San Antonio for the day, the van lost power and died on the freeway. We called AAA and had it towed back to Austin, where it stayed overnight. We feared a transmission problem, which would’ve required either the purchase of a new van or termination of the trip, but it turned out to be the alternator. Not cheap to fix, but it fit inside the “emergency van repair budget” I had set aside.

Since we were without a vehicle we walked around downtown and took a nap on the lawn of the state capitol.


Then we went to the Alamo, a famous movie theater where they offer food service at your seats. We caught the latest Star Trek movie, which we rate 4 out of 5 stars.

We’re now staying with Christopher, our couchsurfing host who lives near the University of Texas. This is a fun area – it has lots of coffee shops and restaurants, including a place called Slices and Ices, which offers both pizza and ice cream. Score!


We have another full day in Austin before moving on. More to come from here!

Day 29: Oppressive heat and childhood alien flashbacks

May 12, 2009


DAY 29: Austin, Texas
Miles traveled: 4,160
States visited: 15
Weather: 93, sultry

The good times we’ve had in Austin have been tempered by the fact that the heat is absolutely unbearable. It’s been in the 90s everyday and the humidity is oppressive. After walking around downtown for 15 minutes, we were totally beat and exhausted. The locals talk about how great the air conditioning is in every restaurant and store. But who wants to stay inside all day?

We checked out the state capitol building here and the architecture (and air conditioning) were quite impressive.


Jason has arrived from L.A. He’s been taking lots of pictures. Hopefully some of them will make it into the next blog post.


At night my local friends Dan and Andy took us downtown. Sixth Street is a lot like Carson Street in Pittsburgh. The bars are everywhere and they even block off the road to make it pedestrian-only on weekends. But there are no coffee shops or CD stores on the street, so during the day there’s nothing going on here.

The drinks in Austin are cheaper than anywhere I’ve ever been. There is fierce competition – people try to recruit us as we walk down the street – ‘Hey guys, one dollar well drinks, one dollar beers!’ Many of the bars have a patio for smoking and people watching.

Very few bars in Austin charge covers. We went to a dance club that stayed open until 3. In L.A. there would’ve been a $25 cover for this place, but here admission was free.


On Friday we ended up at bars that mostly catered to the college crowd, but on Saturday we found some more interesting places. Jackalope had an alternative crowd that felt similar to Dee’s in Pittsburgh. They show B-movies on their TV screens and the one they were showing on this day brought back flashbacks. It was Invaders from Mars, from 1986. I remember seeing this film as a kid and being freaked out by the scene where this kid follows his teacher into a cave and then aliens slither out of her neck and she spots the kid and he has to run away. I was mentally scarred by that movie and completely forgot it existed until seeing it in this bar. Thanks, Jackalope.

Day 28: The title of this blog is a great big lie

May 11, 2009


DAY 28: Austin, Texas
Miles traveled: 4,149
States visited: 15
Weather: 92, sunny

The length of my original proposed trip was approximately 9000 miles but as I’ve been revising and expanding, it will now cover at least 16,000 miles. I’m not going to rename the blog, though. It will just have to remain inaccurate.

I’m in Austin visiting Dan and Andy, friends who used to live in Pittsburgh. My friend Jason has also arrived from L.A. We will be spending the next two weeks together traveling back to his homebase in California.

This second leg of the journey is the one I didn’t plan out at all. We’ll just go wherever we please. And hopefully we won’t run out of water while in the desert. For those following along at home, here’s one possible path we could take, if we opt for a northern route to see the Grand Canyon and Vegas. The southern route is also an option, however. We’ll decided later which to take.


We’ll be in Austin until Wednesday and I’ll probably hold off writing about the city until our time here is done. I can tell you, based on last night, that drinks here are the cheapest I’ve ever seen anywhere, so there will most likely be lots of good spirits during the next couple of days.

Day 26: I am not as good as a wall

May 9, 2009


DAY 26: Waxahachie, Texas
Miles traveled: 3,915
States visited: 15 (just added: Texas)
Weather: 85, sunny

I spent the past couple of days meandering through Oklahoma and Texas. In eastern Oklahoma, I encountered lots of cattle farms. The cows approached my van as I drove past. Sorry fellas, there’s nothing I can do for you.


I also passed a Choctaw casino, where I decided to live on the edge and proceeded to gamble away the rest of the money I had saved for this trip. (Just kidding.)


As a passed through Choctaw territory, the song Indian Outlaw by Tim McGraw came on the radio. I thought that was an incredible coincidence. Or maybe they just play it every hour here.

The town of Paris, Texas is evidently the antiques capital of the world. While walking through the town square, I spotted no fewer than eight antiques stores around the square. This town has lots of banners of the Eiffel Tower (with a cowboy hat on top.) I wonder how bad things got here during the “freedom fries” era.


I started to head in the direction of Dallas, but the traffic jams started 19 miles outside the city, so I stopped in the town of Richardson. This town had a ton of public parks. I saw lots of golf courses and lamented that I didn’t bring my clubs. I saw lots of tennis courts and lamented that I didn’t have an opponent.

And then I spotted a big green board against the fence, which I realized was designed to let individuals play against themselves. I was reminded of the Mitch Hedberg joke:

The thing that’s depressing about tennis is, No matter how good I get, I will never be as good as a wall. I played a wall once, they’re fucking relentless.

So I played the wall. And I lost. But it was a great workout. My exercise on this trip has consisted only of walking and a couple of jogs. Some solo tennis action was just what I needed.


Then it was off to a disc golf course in BB Owen Park in Dallas. The course was challenging and the wind was brutal. This was my view from the first tee.


Three of my first four throws hit trees so I got off to a rough start. But I recovered to make my first birdie ever, and a 20-foot par, my longest shot ever. I finished +20, seven shots better than my score in Charlotte.

Now it’s off to Austin, to meet up with some old Pittsburgh friends Dan and Andy, and to meet up with Jason, who is flying in from L.A. The intital solo leg of the journey is over!