If you’ve read my post ’19 Pictures that make me think of Portland’, you’ll be noticing a theme… Edit: It’s now Nov 18th, 2015. I started this post Dec 29th, 2013. So that theme you’ll be noticing, it’s that I take a bloody long time to write posts!
Let’s start again.
Back on Feb 21st, 2013, I updated my statue on Facebook to:
“Live in Flagler Beach, FL. Visited Portland, OR. Now in Austin, TX. Maybe ‘House Hunters’ should go to Boulder, CO?!”
At the time, IVF and my daughter weren’t even a thought. Nappies, poo, crying and sleepless nights – Possibly personal problems, but certainly not the 3rd party imposition of a baby. No, life revolved around finding somewhere to live. Somewhere ‘nice and liberal’ that we could call home after 5-years in the Florida sun.
Austin was city ‘2’ to get the ‘House Hunters’ treatment. Though how we decided on it is forgotten, much like anything that wasn’t ‘tweeted’ or ‘facebooked’ about, but most likely it was a Yahoo article or a Google search for hip non-GOP places to live. I vaguely recall something about Austin being the place to be back then. And all the cool kids were doing it, so why not us?
The love affair with Austin got quite serious. There were two trips: one in Feb and another in April. A realtor was engaged. Popular sites were visited and admired. Beer was drunk, music was listened to, Mexican food eaten, and a decision made that the dawdling must be replaced by action. It wasn’t though, much to my shame and regret. We got back to Flagler Beach and life reverted back to worrying about the same old minutia (namely a dispute with VW over damage to newly purchased TDI Jetta). Dawdling turned to a full stop, then reverse, and before too long relocation seemed as distant as the gaze of 16 year old girl working in a shoe shop.
Now all that’s left of Austin are the photos from my iPhone (and some buried social media updates). Here are a selection of my favourite pics. Looking at them now is bittersweet; I’m reminded of how easily I could now be in the big smoke, living at ‘Circle C Ranch’ in a 4000sq/ft home, but then again, I’ve got a 14-mth old toddler instead. She’s pretty awesome.
'Greetings from Austin' Mural
At the corner of S. 1st and W. Annie, this vintage postcard mural covers the side of 'Roadhouse Relics' art studio. Put there in 1998 by the owner Todd Sanders and friend Rory Skagen, it's become Austin landmark. So much so, that in 2013 they were able to raise $10,000 to have the faded mural restored. This is as it was, unrestored.
Looking east from the Austin Hilton
The congestion in the distance is on I-35. This was our route into Austin from Houston. Certainly not as pretty as the west side of town along MoPac, there were some serious concerns about Austin before we got to look around. But every place has its rougher areas. The places that take a little longer for the economic boom to hit. At our visit, west and north were already becoming too expensive. By now, the east may well already be getting a 'dust and touch up.'
Austin Capitol Building and Grounds
You can't visit Austin without going to the Capitol Building. It was dusk when this photo was taken. The light was getting low, and because of that it was an all too quick visit. It was a shame. The gardens were immaculate, and there were many interesting bronze sculptures to look at, but we had to hurry along if we wanted to see the inside before things closed at 5pm.
The Capitol Dome: up from inside.
America loves their domes. Living in Australia, I can't say I saw a single dome. Not one. Living in America, I've seen several. Just off the top of my head, at least 3 up close: Jesse Hall at Mizzou, the Capitol Building in D.C., and now the Texas Capitol. Not exactly my style, but makes a good picture.
Onion Creek Trail, McKinney Falls State Park
McKinney Falls State Park is located south-east of Austin on land once owned and occupied by 19th century businessman Thomas F. McKinney. Within is the Onion Creek Trail - an easy going 2.8 mile loop, flanked by mesquite, juniper, and live oak.
Prickly pear cacti along the Onion Creek Trail
I read somewhere that these were Texas Prickly Pear (Opuntia engelmannii var. lindheimeri), though the lack of flowers means I've no idea if it's true. It doesn't really matter. They caught my eye because they are Opuntia cacti, a genus that was once a environmental pest in Australia. You can't study environmental science back home without learning of Prickly Pear and the Cactoblastis moth. Our single greatest example of biological control.
Volcanic rock just off the Picnic Trail
More McKinney Falls State Park. This plateau is the result of long ago molten lava from Pilot Knob volcano.
Lower McKinney Falls
Still, hot, but no one swimming? Could be the snakes I saw in the water.
Blanchard's Cricket Frog, Lower McKinney Falls
Frogs aren't really my expertise, but I am pretty certain this little critter is a Blanchard's Cricket Frog (Acris blanchardi). (He's well camouflaged, so you might have to look closely).
Built between 1850 and 1852, the homestead was occupied until it burnt down in the 1940s. Looks like it was a fine place to grow up.
Texas bluebonnets (Lupinus texensis)
I admit it, I like pretty flowers. Also in McKinney Falls, these Texas bluebonnets covered an area the size of a football field. And I seem to recall a scottie dog wandering through while we were there. That would have been a better picture. Dogs make even the best things better.
Band posters on the south end of Congress
Although this pic is from Congress, it's advertising the goings on downtown. And the downtown is great for live music. Our first visit we stayed at the downtown Hilton on 4th St, and that afforded us to have a few beers on the famous 6th St without having to drive. There was easily something for every musical taste.
Main Building, University of Texas at Austin
Main Building is a attractive looking building, but it's made notorious by Charles Whitman. It's from the viewing platform at the top that in 1966 he shot 48, killing 16. It's a eerie story made creepier by finding out later that he was buried in West Palm Beach, the place we lived for 5 years before moving to Flagler Beach.
Corner of Guadalupe and W 24th, from the University of Texas at Austin
Modern and colourful today, this was the scene of several of Charles Whitman's victims back in Aug of 1966. I'm sorry if this is a bit macabre, but the story fascinates me. I think because it's another example of how foreign the U.S. can be to me at times. The idea of a mass shooting on campus at my home uni is beyond my imagination.
City Skyline from Lou Neff Point
Zilker is a fine park. There are some great views of the city and Colorado River. Here, from Lou Neff Point, is one of them.
Ann and Roy Butler Hike and Bike Trail
The MoPac Expressway crosses the Colorado River, and beneath it is a section of the Butler Hike and Bike Trail. It's beautiful with great views; just so easy to forget the 4 lanes of traffic above you.
West along the Colorado from under MoPac
This piece of the Colorado is damned off from the rest, as you can see by its different colour. I haven't looked into the reasoning, but no doubt flood control played a role.
Tightrope walker under MoPac
Seeing the weird and wonderful is what Austin is all about. So when you come across tightrope walkers, well, it's just 'normal.'
Market Gardens by Veteran's Drive
Another bit of wonderful in Austin: Market Gardens. As we walked the Butler Hike and Bike Trail under MoPac, these were on the north side of the Colorado River. I don't know why it's there, and Google hasn't given me the answer. Leave me a message if you know.
Colorado River from Mount Bonnell
There's not a lot to Mount Bonnell. There's a short trail and loads of other visitors, but a view is a great view. If nothing else, you can look at the expensive houses and dream.