As much as we wish we knocked more things off our Austin to-do list, we did see and do a lot. It just seems to be a theme everywhere we go: There’s never enough time….

Back On Two Wheels

Austin B-Cycle Kiosk
$12 gets you a 24 hour unlimited use pass.

As we did in San Antonio, we rented bikes through the city’s B-Cycle bikeshare program to cruise around downtown. It was the best of times and the worst of times: Best because Austin is incredibly bike friendly and it was 75 degrees and sunny; Worst because we weren’t the only ones with this brilliant idea.

Austin’s parks are perfect city escapes featuring large green lawns, shady trees, and all manner of water based activities.

After renting our bikes at one of the kiosks, we made a beeline for the beautiful waterfront parks that are home to miles of walking and biking trails.

Austin city buildings and the riverfront
The view across the river….

Little did we know we were heading into the mental equivalent for me of a wartime battlefield. There’s a dog park next to the trail, and on a pristine Saturday afternoon, there must have been 40 large dogs, all running around the dog park, across the bike path, and jumping into the river to go swimming. These days I have a bit of an issue with big dogs running full speed toward me, so that wasn’t the best way to start.

Stevie Ray Vaughan statue
Stevie Ray Vaughan was a lot less stressed out about the marauding dogs than I was.

And once we got through that obstacle course, we encountered hundreds and hundreds of people walking and biking on the paths. Being a relatively inexperienced bike rider (if not for the fact that “once you learn, you never forget,” I would be completely screwed), it was a challenge, to say the least. With the memory of broken bones still fresh in my mind, the last thing I wanted to do was try navigating a bike through hordes of people and kids and dogs on unfamiliar paths. Once we got away from the crowded waterfront, things were easier, but it wasn’t until we got away from the park entirely and onto the city streets, with their omnipresent dedicated bike lanes, that I really felt comfortable. Oddly enough, I quickly concluded that I’d rather dodge cars than people.

Kevin on his bicycle

Anyway, when not fighting puppy-induced PTSD, we enjoyed the beautiful surroundings and the opportunity to get some exercise. We ended up using the full 24 hour pass, coming back downtown the following morning to ride around some more.

Bats and RV Buddies

We first met Ben & Lanni in Florida when we were having our week of socializing at Grayton Beach. They mentioned that they’d be in Austin at the same time as us, so we planned to get together. First on the itinerary, the “bat bridge.” Austin is home to one of the largest colonies of bats in North America. Every night, hundreds of people congregate on, under, and near the Congress Avenue Bridge at sunset to watch the bats emerge and head out for their night on the town.

People standing on bridge.
Folks waiting on the Congress Avenue Bridge for the bat’s to appear.
People sitting on lawn near the Congress Avenue Bridge.
They also congregate on the lawn below, as well as in boats on the water underneath the bridge.

We stood on the bridge and, right on schedule, watched thousands of them emerge from underneath. Interestingly, we later learned that the number of bats vastly increases toward the end of the summer when all the baby bats who’ve been born during the season are old enough to fly with the adults.  Here’s an article about the bat colony and what to expect when you visit, and here’s a video someone shot that must have been during the latter part of the summer…. While we saw a lot of of them, we definitely didn’t see this many.

 

After the bat brigade, we headed off to dinner at Odd Duck, which is actually the sister restaurant to Barley Swine where Kevin & I later went for my birthday. Odd Duck is all about small plates and sharing dishes, and the four of us did a good job of trying just about every small plate on the menu.

Various dishes at Odd Duck
I would love to tell you more about these dishes, but we were too busy talking for me to pay much attention and actually remember.

We had a great time hanging out and chatting with Ben & Lanni and hope our paths cross again in the not-too-distant future.

Listless Lockhart

Given our affinity for BBQ, we decided to trek out to Lockhart, which is known as the home of Texas Barbecue. The town, which is located about 30 minutes from Austin, is pretty picturesque and definitely felt like the quintessential small Texas town:

It wasnt quite as deserted as it looks here. There just happened to be no cars passing when I snapped the photo.

The photograph at the top of this post is of the Caldwell County courthouse which is located in Lockhart. It was a gorgeous building.

There are four main barbecue restaurants in Lockhart: Smitty’s Market, Kreuz’s Barbecue, Chisholm Trail, and Black’s. Part of what makes them famous is they have rules about how they prepare and how you can eat their barbecue. For example, several of them don’t provide forks, and Kreuz’s provides neither forks nor barbecue sauce, and apparently, if you ask for barbecue sauce, they’ll get mad at you. All of which just seemed silly to us. If someone wants a fork, just give them a freaken fork. Who cares??

In any case, not being the type who enjoy being yelled at for asking for sauce (or for anything, really), we decided to just check out Smitty’s and Black’s. Neither really blew us away. In fact, as I’m sitting here writing this post several weeks after our visit, I’m having a hard time remembering what we even had. I guess that tells you something.

Additionally, when we walked into Smitty’s, we walked down a hallway that was painted black, to a back kitchen area. There was an open fire pit connected to the smokers, and the employees who take your order and prepare the meats were working in that enclosed room.

Fire pit
The open fire pit at Smittys

Employees at Smittys

It was hot, smoky, and hard to breath. And this was all in March. I can’t even imagine what it’s like in July. As we got our food and sat down in the other room, I asked Kevin why they would have the smokers inside such a poorly ventilated room like that. He said “I don’t know. I guess it just looks cool.”

It sorda seemed like a gimmick, like refusing to provide forks. In the meantime, all their employees are gonna end up with cancer. Seems kinda dumb.

At the end of the day, our advice would be: just stay in Austin. There’s plenty of great Barbecue joints there, and no one will get mad at you if you ask for a fork.

BBQ Round Up

Speaking of which, we had some great BBQ with zero drama or pretension right in Austin. To start with, there was Rudy’s.  We’d heard that Rudy’s was “located in a gas station,” and assumed it was an old gas station that had been converted to a restaurant. But alas, no, it is actually located in a fully functioning Shell station.

When you approach the counter to order your food, they ask if you’ve been there before.  If you say no, the cashier will give you several samples of their various meats and explain all of your options to help you decide what you want. While you are chowing down at the counter, he’ll notify all the other folks working there and they will all sing and chant to welcome the newbies to the restaurant.

The front counter at Rudy's BBQ
Order here…and get sung to.

We were definitely feeling the love. And the BBQ was excellent. So excellent, in fact, that Rudy’s was one of the few places we made a return trip to.

Patrons at Rudy's BBQ
Always a full house at Rudy’s.
Sign that says "Real people eat meat."
Truth.

The other place we visited twice was actually a food truck that I first heard about on Austin Eater (a great resource for finding restaurants in new cities, by the way). Each time we went, there was an enormous line, and for good reason. The food at Valentina’s is unique, delicious, and cheap.

A line of patrons in front of the food truck
Busy during the day….
Several patrons in front of the food truck
Busy late at night….

I’ve long believed that everything is better when wrapped in a tortilla, and apparently the folks at Valentina’s agree.  All of their smoked meats are offered “Tex style” – served on bread, or “Mex style,” wrapped in a tortilla.

brisket tacos, corn, and queso
Smoked brisket tacos, Mexican style corn, and queso….

More importantly, they offer breakfast tacos… Life changing, mood lifting, happiness creating breakfast tacos….

Breakfast menu board at Valentina's

The Real Deal Holyfield for me, the potato, egg, and cheese for KG.

Breakfast tacos from Valentina's

Everything we sampled was delicious. If you find yourself in Austin, the truck is about 20 minutes south of the City, and well worth the drive.

And speaking of tacos, the last place we visited was Torchy’s Tacos, which has been a mainstay in Austin for many years. It’s now a chain with locations in several parts of the city, but we went to their original spot on South First Street.

The tacos were solid, unique, and clearly impress a lot of people because there was still a long line at 3:00 in the afternoon.

One person who seemed unimpressed was Jason Segel who was sitting at a table about 10 feet from us while we were eating. We watched as I don’t even know how many people went up to him and asked to take a picture. He graciously obliged every one of them, but we just felt bad for him: The poor guy was clearly trying to go unnoticed and eat his food in peace.

Pretty much what poor Jason looked like every time someone would ask him to take a picture with them. (Credit: vagueonthehow on Flickr.)

We considered asking for a photo, but really? He’s just the guy who co-starred with Neil Patrick Harris…. If he was ACTUALLY Neil Patrick Harris, I would have stalked him until there was a restraining order in place, but I couldn’t justify ending up with a probation officer over Jason Segel. Anyway, since the person who takes pictures of every damn thing she sees actually didn’t take a picture of this, you’re just gonna have to trust me when I tell you we were within the spitting distance of Marshall.

Mt. Bonnell

The last big thing we checked off our Austin to-do list was “hike” Mt. Bonnell. It is one of the highest points in Austin and offers great views, but I put “hike” in quotations because it’s not really a hike. You have to walk up a bunch of stairs and then there you are!  Pretty views of Austin and some impressive waterfront real estate….

Collage of photos from Mt. Bonnell
The view of and from the top of Mount Bonnell

It was cool, and a worthwhile jaunt. Just realize: it’s not a proper hike.

And that concludes our Austin roundup. Noticeably absent, we did not make it out to Fredericksburg or Luckenbach or any of the other small surrounding towns that everyone and their mother told us were awesome, nor did we make it to any of the great music clubs downtown. Our time in Austin coincided with the time we were finishing up the redesign of this site and we just plain ran out of time. Whenever we make it back, it will likely be for a month or more. There is so much to see and do in Austin, two weeks was not nearly enough.

In real time, we’ve made it to Memphis for a quick stop on our way to a slightly lengthier stay in Nashville, then it’s on to Lexington and Louisville!

Where we stayed: McKinney Falls State Park

22 COMMENTS

  1. Lol, I remember trying to ride a bike in Nantucket after not being on one for 25+ years AND having two cosmos right before 😊 Great dress again! 😉

    • I think a couple cosmos would have been a gigantic help to me given the situation. Pedal pedal pedal, GULP, pedal pedal pedal GULP…. Good plan! I will keep that in mind for next time. 🙂 And yes, LOVE the dresses!!! 🙂

  2. Okay I’m pretty sure this post just made it so I will never visit Austin… I CANNOT be around that many bats and know I’m around that many bats. You’re afraid of spiders, for me it’s bats. Oh well one less place to see 😳 So glad you guys are having fun!

      • I agree, Andrea… but as someone who would seriously consider burning my home to the ground if I found out there was a spider colony living in it, I cannot judge folks for being irrationally fearful of other creatures. Logic has no place in decision making when it comes to phobias!!! 🙂

    • Yeah, I can’t lie – if you’re not a fan of bats, you definitely do not want to be anywhere near that bridge at sunset. But the rest of the city really is great! Maybe you could just do a reverse-vampire kinda thing… only go out when it’s light out??? 😉

    • There is no shortage of great food in Austin. You could spend months sampling all the great stuff. Then you’d have to spend many more months at the gym, trying to undo all the damage…. But it could be done if you wanted to!

    • The bats are definitely a crazy thing to watch, though it would be best at the end of the summer. Either way, it’s quite the thing to do when in Austin!

  3. I thought you are on frick’n retired/vacationing?! You should not run out of time to see anything. No more excuses. Plan better. Many are learning about the US from your blogs and you can’t let everyone down. Lol. I am impressed you didn’t hide in a fetal position behind a tree when encountering all the dogs while biking. Your PTSD psychologist would be proud of that accomplishment. 🙂

    • I’m telling you, you’d be amazed at how time consuming screwing off can be. I really don’t know where the hours go, but somehow, we seem to run out of time everywhere we visit. Eventually we’ll figure this whole thing out…. Maybe. And yeah, I too was pretty impressed that I managed to not have a major meltdown. It would have been super awkward if I just stopped and started crying in the middle of the trail. 😉

  4. What can I say, you’ve outdone yourself in selling Austin to us. Your BBQ photos and stories are making me droll. I will definitely review your great post when the time comes for us to visit Texas again.
    By now you may have already figured out that weekends are the best times to stay home and away from the crowd.

    • Yes, we are quickly learning that weekends are the time to get our other stuff done. And I have a feeling we’re gonna have to exercise a lot of patience once summer rolls around. It’s been fun having most places to ourselves. I guess we have to learn to share again. Ah well, I guess there are worse things. 🙂

  5. We saw a zillion bats in Austin in late spring a couple of years ago—but no way were we able to photograph the mass exodus! Thanks for the candid review on Lockhart—good to know there’s a place we can cross off our list (not sure it was on there, but still….). Rudy’s is now on our list, though. You’ve already heard this, but Fredericksburg and Luckenbach really are worth visiting. I’d happily spend a month in Austin, too.

    • We absolutely want to get back to Austin, and we’d seriously consider booking a couple of weeks out near Fredericksburg. I can’t tell you how many different people have told us that we need to go there. It’s crazy because I’d never even heard of the town before, but among RVers, it seems like THE place to go. We’ll get there eventually!!

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