Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Wrapping Up Five Weeks of Weird and Wonderful Austin

"Keep Austin Weird", the slogan you hear, and see, time and time again about this city we've just spent five weeks in seems to get to the heart of how Austinites feel about their city. It's big and bold and bustling. In the center of the city, art, progressive thinking and entrepreneurship seems to be the rule of the day. The average age of its population is approximately 34, one of the youngest in the US.

Austin is also one of the fasted growing cities in the US. The infrastructure, such as roads, have not kept up with the growth and the traffic is horrendous. Housing prices are skyrocketing, making the most desirable city neighborhoods unaffordable for many of the creative folks who make this city "weird"; something we've seen in other big cities (like San Diego and Portland, OR), gentrification tends to squeeze out those who gave the place its original flavor.

The surrounding suburbs are typical of most large cities, full of communities of similar houses, chain stores and restaurants...why does growth have to be so generic? A drive through the suburbs of Austin leaves you wondering what's so weird about this place???



One thing we wanted to accomplish during our stay here was to become Texas residents. Oregon was a good choice for us when we left California and started fulltime RVing, but going forward Texas will work better for us due to no state income tax.

We also discovered this week that the health care plan we'd chosen through the Oregon health exchange did not provide the full nationwide coverage that we thought it did, despite lots of research before purchase. Why are healthcare plans so complicated??? As of April 1st we will be on the Blue Cross Blue Shield of Texas exchange plan, with participating doctors all over the US, another reason why switching to Texas was good for us.




We've been busy since our last post...

This past week we had the pleasure of seeing our friends Zsuzsa (Z) and Tom, brand new fulltime RVers. We met them in October in Palm Springs where they were hoping to sell their condo and hit the road.

According to Murphy's Law the condo sold in the middle of winter and they had to travel to the midwest where they became South Dakota residents, purchased their truck, then moved on to Ohio where they took delivery of their brand new Bighorn 5th wheel. All that took a couple of months and these warm weather people withstood some pretty frigid weather in order to realize their dream!

It was so fun to see them enjoying their new home! They are currently making their way back to Palm Springs where they will finish outfitting their RV from their storage unit. They stopped in Austin to spend a few days with us and we went on two hikes together and ate a couple of meals together...we were honored to be their first dinner guests!

Z and Tom and their beautiful new home on wheels!

One of our hikes took us back to McKinney Falls State Park...
what's that we see hanging off the tree along Onion Creek?

A water moccasin!

Several Great Blue Herons were nesting along Onion Creek.

First dinner guests in the shiny new Bighorn!

Lately we've stuck close to town taking care of some business so our daily walks have been of the urban kind. Fortunately Austin has numerous creeks running through town with trails along them so it's easy to make a creek/neighborhood loop. We walked the Shoal Creek Greenbelt again, this time making it a loop through the Pemberton Heights neighborhood; it's full of fancy mansions, some dating back to the late 1800's.

A modern castle in Pemberton Heights.

There were many homes with columns in Pemberton Heights, these two seemed especially Southern flavored.

Another day we made a loop out of the Blunn Creek Greenbelt and the historic Travis Heights neighborhood, another wonderful old neighborhood filled with a mix of historic and new architecture and enormous old oak trees.

Blunn Creek.

Another castle!

We then met up with local friends Ashley and Lila to celebrate Ashley's 60th birthday and meet a few of his numerous siblings.

Happy Birthday Ashley!

Austin considers itself a "music city" and the month of March is jam packed full of musical events. The weekend following SXSW offers up the very unique HONK!TX. HONK is a festival of community street bands and was unlike anything we had seen before. Marching bands converge here from all over the country and perform for free for three days in public spaces.

These are not your typical high school or college marching bands, though many of the musicians may have gotten their start there. This is an eclectic mix of music lovers playing everything from klezmer and balkan to New Orleans style brass and reimagined popular music from the last 50 years.

We managed to catch a small part of the festivities and really enjoyed the lively music and the people watching. Many of the attendees don their most colorful and outrageous combinations of clothing, making this a feast of color and joy for the eyes!

The musicians are as colorful as the backdrop.


March Madness put on a fun, high energy show!



This past week we discovered pretty Slaughter Creek Preserve in South West Austin. This is an easy five mile loop hike through meadows and oak and cedar forest. The elevation gain and loss is minimal, dogs are not allowed, bikes do the trail clockwise while horses and hikers go counter clockwise. Even though you do hear some road noise and neighborhood noise, it still feels peaceful, especially on a weekday morning. If you want to hike here during rainy season check their Facebook page before you go to make sure the trail is open.

We were glad to have cloud cover the day we hiked, Austin has been warming up quickly!



Austin has been a busy and exciting stopover but now we're ready to slow things down a little. Tomorrow we move on to Fredericksburg where we are looking forward to small town Texas vibe as well as a little more nature in our lives.



23 comments:

  1. Sounds like you really got the most our of your time in Austin. The Honk Festival looks like a blast! Unfortunately, that suburban sprawl disease is evident all over the country. It can be really disheartening to travel around and see so much of the same everywhere. I don't know what the answer is, but I can't help thinking there's got to be a better way. Have fun in Fredericksburg!

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    1. Indeed. I love my Trader Joes and Costco as much as the next person but I can't help but mourn the loss of the unique stores and homes that give a place its character.

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  2. you are coming to where we are leaving but we will be just down the road in Blanco...

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  3. We were in Fredericksburg yesterday, but only passing through. We checked out Wildseed Farm. So far bluebonnets are the only thing blooming. Looks like it needs a week or two more before the rest of the flowers bloom. Red poppies are just starting.

    See you Sunday

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    1. I was wondering if Fredericksburg was a little behind Austin...the bluebonnets and paintbrush are going pretty well here.

      Looking forward to Sunday! (Hopefully the weather cooperates!)

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  4. Another near miss.. we're currently in Johnson City, about to move into Austin tomorrow. Glad you enjoyed your stay in Austin, there's never a shortage of things to do there.

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    1. We've done this a few times now haven't we?!?!?!

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  5. I'd say you chose the best city in TX to do your business as you were able to do a lot of fun and diverse activities. Plus in five weeks I'd get to see the best of Austin without driving Betsy over there !
    And now am looking forward to see swaths of bluebonnets on the hillsides!

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    1. Fingers crossed the flowers get going in earnest over the next two weeks!

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  6. I had no idea you'd been in Austin that long but I really have enjoyed your posts from there. Staying in one place really gives the feel of actually knowing it which I really like. I'm sorry to see Austin, like our hometown, is becoming too expensive for the natives. It really does look like such an interesting city with amazingly great urban hikes something I have rarely heard about in other places. Love you riding that steer!

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    1. We've managed several one month stays per year in our travels and we love the in depth perspective it gives us of a place.

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  7. You definitely got the full Austin experience! I think you will enjoy the quieter Frederickburg. We found LBJ's ranch to be quite an interesting tour. Have fun!

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    1. I've got my eye on LBJ park...it certainly will be a reprieve from the big city!

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  8. That insurance you have now is the same as ours. It is great!

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    1. Yes indeed, we feel better about this new plan already!

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  9. Thanks for all the wonderful posts on Austin. Our timing with the weather has had us moving out of Texas thus Austin has eluded us so far. Just outside of Fredericksburg, you'll want to do the Garrison Brothers Distillery tour.... great humor. We loved the LBJ tour. Hope the flowers are in full swing for you.

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  10. One thing about a longer stay like you had in Austin is that you can really get to know the area...like your captures of the musical festivities with all the color and becoming apart of the community for a few weeks.

    I love the green in your hikes...
    Safe travels.....

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  11. We love our in-depth month-long (or longer!) stays, as well. It really does give us the opportunity to feel like "temporary locals." Looks like you've had a great time in Austin and found all the best of it. Like you, I've often despaired the gentrification that pushes out those creative souls who made a place desirable. I think you'll enjoy Fredericksburg -- try to get out to Wildseed Farm and also LBJ ranch and Sauer-Beckman historical site. If you're in the mood for a special lunch or dinner, Vaudeville in Fredericksburg is fantastic.

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  12. I know what you mean about cool cities giving up the very thing that made them cool. Tucson has done that to a large extent. The modern castle is very cool, especially with the vines growing all over it. Good job on escaping state income tax.

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  13. Austin is definitely a unique place. I've loved seeing it through your eyes. I'm glad you were there for SXSW but glad you took time to show us all the other features. I'm surprised at how many times you hike by water. The water moccasin gave me the creeps!! Those homes are amazing! I would have loved to see the "marching bands!" How cool!! Nice that you meet up with some friends while there:) Safe travels!

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  14. First time I went to Santa Fe and saw the huge Walmart I wanted to cry! I guess it's considered progress for some.....I find it sad. Love snakes, not so much water moccasins though! You really timed your stay to enjoy a large variety of music and entertainment - it all looks like so much fun :-))))) Just met a guy this morning who was telling us about a friend who moved to Fredericksburg - small world.
    I love the final shot with the flowers growing in the thorns. Well played :-)

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  15. I had no doubts you two would enjoy Austin!:)

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