Sunday, March 27, 2011

Austin, TX

When my sister said she was coming down to Austin for Spring Break all I could think was SXSW! Even without tickets SXSW is a great time to be in Austin, if you don’t mind the crowds. In addition to all sorts of festivities, our agenda included hitting up a few of Austin’s tamer attractions. The highlight of our trip though was getting to visit a high school friend, who I haven’t seen in 10 years, who has opened a food truck in Austin – and it’s amazing! (Keep reading for more details)

Saturday, we drove down to Austin and headed straight for the Univ of Texas campus. The LBJ library is on the campus and has free parking. We parked our car and walked across campus to the Harry Ransom Center. The museum houses both a Gutenberg Bible and the world’s first photograph (which I think looks more like a piece of banged out metal, but the first photograph is the first photograph.) Both items are right in the lobby – so it’s a quick stop. There are numerous restaurants in the area – we hopped across the street to Crave Thai & Sushi Bar for some sushi and Thai food. After lunch we headed back across the campus to the LBJ Library & museum where we were greeted by some very enthusiastic volunteers. The LBJ museum is not as large as some of the other Presidential Libraries – but they have a moon rock and a lot of other interesting exhibits. On the creepy side – if you head upstairs you’ll find an animatronic LBJ who tells jokes (tripped by a motion sensor). Upstairs also houses my favorite exhibit – the gifts from the American People. LBJ was the lucky recipient of not one, but six painted rocks. Awesome America. Haha.

Next up – night time bat viewing! We were in Austin in June last year, but the bats were breeding and so they weren’t flying. This time we booked a “river cruise” abord Lonestar's little boat - although I use that word lightly because it is actually a barge with white plastic lawn chairs- also it’s BYOB. Capital Cruises runs a double-decker boat that looks more legitimate but we loved the low key nature of the little star. Despite its seeming sketchiness, it’s totally worth it. The guide was knowledgeable about the city and the bats. The tour starts just before sunset with a wonderful view and tour of the city, then, at sunset, you park the boat by the Congress Street bridge for a viewing of the bats! It was not the ‘darkening of the sky’ with bats that I expected – it was cooler – for 30 min there was an endless stream of bats flowing from the concrete expansion gaps built into the bridge. The bats fly along the tree line in groups so that birds don’t eat them. While ‘out on the town,’ the million or so Mexican Free Tail bats in the Austin colony feast on moths and other insects, before returning to the bridge at sunrise. You can see the bats just fine by standing along the bridge at sunset, but the cruise was a fun rest from an already busy day. (I will post a short video in another post shortly - so check back soon.)

After our bat watching, we walked into downtown to eat at the Peached Tortilla. Eric Silverstein, the owner, is a great fellow and the food is outstanding. On this night, the food truck was parked at 5th & Colorado, in the midst of the SXSW concert events. We tried several varieties of the sliders and tacos – all were excellent! There is something for everyone, with fish, meat, vegetarian options. Eric lists the location of the Peached Tortilla truck on his web page and on twitter each week and they have also opened up a 'permanent' trailer location near UT. We left the food truck with full and just in time to catch an amazing fireworks show on the river. (I will post a video of the show in another post shortly.)

On Sunday, we left bustling Austin (quickly becoming one of the largest US cities) for a leisurely return trip to our temporary home base in Fort Worth. Our major stop for the day was at the Fall Creek Vineyard in rural Tow Texas. The vineyard hosts Saturday picnics on its winery property. So when I called to see if they could possibly accommodate our party on a Sunday for a picnic, I expected to be turned down. Instead, the staff was happy to offer a picnic to us on Sunday. We arrived at noon and joined a tour of the vineyard that ended with a tasting ($5 for 6 pours, you keep the glass). Then, we picked a bottle of Chardonnay to enjoy with our boxed lunches in the courtyard. Fall Creek Vineyard has a great location and a superbly friendly staff. You can find out about Fall Creek Vineyard activities on facebook.

We also made a quick detour into the town of Burnet (pronounced like Durn'it), Texas which is home to the worlds smallest public park and the return of the first annual dog house race... oh and a large rock they don't want removed. The main square looks lovely, although on Sunday everything was closed. During the week this would be an ideal place to find a bite to eat or venture into the stores on he square. Regardless, it made a nice stop to get out of the car and walk around before resuming our ride home.

The trip ended with a final stop at what is fast becoming our favorite eatery in Fort Worth, Freebirds. (Jeff recommends getting the BBQ sauce on your burrito -" it sounds strange but it tastes delicious.") It was the perfect end to a spring break weekend.

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