Austin, TX: The Unusual Nature of Austin

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Where I stayed
Sheraton Austin at the Capitol
Read my review - 3/5 stars
What I did
Barton Springs Pool Austin
Read my review - 2/5 stars

Flag of United States  , Texas
Saturday, August 11, 2012

In Fort Worth, TX 3-y.o. Dresden functioned as our alarm clock as he called out to his mom around 5-ish.  I was up two hours later for a nice robust cup of bitter black coffee and quickly texted Binh about the change of plan; he had driven towards Austin in the hope to rendezvous with us for lunch and was within 1.5-hour from the city limit when he made the U turn back to Houston.  Alex had to work for a few hours that Friday morning so this delayed our arrival.  I took the time to read about Austin in a guidebook and found an interesting restaurant called Lambert's Downtown Barbecue on West 2nd Street in the Schneider Brothers Building.  Do NOT eat here!  The place is overpriced for a small serving of meat with bad service; plus, they didn't have Dr. Pepper cake or fried blackberry pie as advertised.  However, I must admit that the coffee-rubbed brisket had an interesting could get this elsewhere like Stubbs and Chuy's.  

As Dresden took his nap at the Sheraton in downtown Austin, Alex and I headed to the Lyndon B. Johnson Library; we didn't see much as it was still under renovation. Nothing about LBJ is small.  By being here at this time in my life, I've finished one of two must visit places since they're directly linked to my current work position.  LBJ signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 which gave my agency its operational jurisdictions and mandate.  The other must visit place will be visited in November 2012.

I wished the Austin tour book was more picturesque; I would have found out about "the bats at the Ann W. Richards Congress Avenue Bridge".  It is the largest urban colony of bats in N. America!  I'd certainly brave the 100+ degrees evening temperature to see 750,000 to 1.5 million bats flying out to feed.  Each evening they consume an estimated 10,000 to 30,000 pound of insects.  I hope the mosquitos are included in this.  God, I hate mosquitos; the Lord created them to annoy all the other species that had ever roamed the dry Earth.  I found out about the bats from my colleague, Charles, who's a native of Austin.  The bat hotline is 512-416-5700 ext. 3636. Charles went to Barton cold springs on Friday.  Alex, Casie, Dresden and I went there the next day.  There must have been 500+ people in that 1,000-ft long natural limestone pool.  I waded in the cold water that very quickly became acceptably warm under a cloudless sky.  I only knew of Charles' visit when I got back to the office the following Monday to recap the adventure; he was there to see his parents and uncles.

The sun had already set when Alex and I decided to do some nighttime photography.  The one place that attracted our attention with its imposing presence was the Texas State Capitol.  It was about 3 short blocks away from the Sheraton so we walked there.  By chance, we discovered the place was still open to the public; we rushed in there with about 20 min. to spare and snapped photos of the dome and an interesting tile floor with a decoration resembling a phallus.  It could be an arrow or a mushroom, but to us it looks like what it is.

The BEST food to eat in Austin is Texas barbecue and the many varieties of Tex-Mex.  We went to Franklin Barbecue; the place open at 11am everyday but Monday.  The line starts at 8am.  We arrived there an hour later with about 30 people ahead of us.  By 10am, there were over a hundred behind us and it's not guarantee that everyone will get served as the restaurant runs out of food regularly.  It's really easy to make friends here while waiting for the best barbecue in the universe.  We met Ryan a software engineer and a mother and son who had been to West Chester, PA.  From them I learned that Austinites have an unusual use of the English language. They call sections of a dam-off river "a lake" when it's actually a reservoir. They don't see thIs body of water as a continuous entity even though it flows for 862 miles southeastward the Gulf of Mexico -- making it the 18th longest river in the States.  So if you mention to them that you live by the river, their reaction will most probably be, "What river?" even though there's only one river running through the city, the Colorado River -- not to be mistaken from the other Colorado River in my Home State that carves out the Grand Canyon and empties into the Gulf of California...if it does any more due to the drought.  I wonder which city came up first with the slogan "Keep (Austin/Portland) Weird"?  Anyway, for about $11 you get two pounds of spice-rubbed meat, briskets to be exact with 2 sides and 2 slices of thick white bread.  I chose the leaner briskets but there are fatty ones.  I also got ribs. Unfortunately, I never got to eat the sides.  I was filled very quickly with the purest most tender meat without ever having to dip it in a sauce.  My jaw got tired from eating at Franklin.  The chef/owner came and spoke with us, revealing the we thought: "1 part salt, 3 parts spices like black pepper and watch the flames."  It's that simple.  The fact that he took the time to sit down and speak with us is incredible from the business perspective.  This is the epitome of Austin's famous laid back lifestyle where everyone supports local or homegrown businesses.  If it's not "local" the Austinites don't want it.  Austin is a city that requires more than one visits.  I'll certainly plan a return trip.

At the Sheraton overlooking the capital city of the Lone Star State
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