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.
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.