Part 2 of Austin: a guide, reflections and a love story.

We left off at Shady Grove.

My last trip to Austin was mostly spent under the cedar trees here. Sitting at the bar. Drinking Shady Things.  Eating queso. Looking at boys. Enjoying the wonders of daytime drinking.  It was great. When Kelly and I arrived this  trip, it was full (normal) hot (normal) and a great place to people watch. We put our names in, knowing we really just wanted a cocktail and a spot at the outside bar. Buzzer in hand we wandered over and started trying to determine who would be giving up their seats first. Turns out a table of fine looking gay boys noticed our plight and gave up their table. It was nice to know that gay boys still love me! We sat down, Shady Things in hand and just watched and listened and relaxed. The frosty goodness of the Shady Things calmed me down almost to the point of sleep. It was great. We found ourselves at a critical spot in the day….were we going to be drinking the day away (which would’ve been fine) or would we take our vacation to another spot? Once the idea of trashy magazines and slipping our feet in the chilly water of Barton Springs Pool came up…the decision was made.

If I were home, I would have gone home, changed into a bathing suit, brought rubber flip flops to walk in the pool and a towel to lay on/dry off with. However, we were on vacation. So we had magazines, leather shoes, a bottle of water and, in my case, rolled up our jeans to cool off a bit. I am very much in love with the Barton Springs Pool. It exemplifies so much of what I love about Austin. It’s funky and accepting. Hot and cool at the same time. Naturally lovely, but hardscrabble too. You can be as active or as lazy as you want. It’s just amazing.

Once we were sufficiently hot…which didn’t take long….we decided to go into the pool a bit. Warning: buy cheap flip flops to wear into the pool! The sidewalks are bumpy rocks that kill my (admittedly sensitive) feet. Even once in the super cool water (it stays around 68 all year long) they still hurt. So I scampered back to sit on the wall and watch the world. Kelly braved the shallow end of the pool and strolled around on the smoother rocks for awhile. Being there is very meditative. Even though there are all kinds of things happening, you can just get into the zone and check out pretty easily.  Once Kelly had her fill of the water, we found a shady spot under a pecan tree and watched the people use the diving board. We just stared forever. We watched all level of divers. We became fascinated with the group from the Austin School for the Deaf and their animated yet silent communication. Time passed, who knows how much really. But it became clear that once again, we needed to move on or stay where we were forever.

While looking for parking around the pool, Kelly had noticed a little train. Apparently she really has a thing for such trains and threatened to cry if we didn’t go on it. The threat was unnecessary,I was down for it. Tickets in hand we got as close to the back as we could (damn kids!) and melted/waited until the ride began. It doesn’t go fast, but it was still pretty damn awesome. You get a great overview of Zilker Park and you notice how many different types of people take advantage of this lovely oasis, with spectacular views of downtown and Lady Bird Lake. You see Barton Creek and usually get to see some dogs going for a swim. If swimming dogs don’t make you smile….please don’t sit near me! We were the only adults on the Zilker Zephyr that didn’t have kids in tow….AKA, the lucky ones. We didn’t care. A short trip on a little train around a great park should not be wasted on the young!

Once our ride was over, it became imperative that I have a shower. More specifically, another shower. We cooled off in the AC of the cube and made our way back to the hotel. I don’t know about you, but when I am hot, I am not hungry. However, when I cool down, I am hungry. I also know that being outside and then hungry, can make me grumpy. This had to be nipped in the bud! Luckily we had spotted a Taco Cabana on the frontage road near our hotel, so we stopped to get a snack.

I believe Taco Cabana to be what Taco Bell wishes it could be. Simple menu. Tasty food. Real margaritas (not available at the drive thru unfortunately). Great value. For some folks our Cheese Enchilada Dinner and Brisket Taco Combo may sound like a meal, but we hadn’t eaten since brunch and all that fresh air can kill ya! So snacks in hand we went back to the room and chilled out. I took my shower and I was a new person! We knew that the next stop was the bats on Congress Street Bridge, but we weren’t sure what time they would be making their appearance. Luckily Austin has a bat hotline to call. The hotline told us that the largest urban colony of bats in the world (or US?) would be showing up around 8-8:15. This allowed us only a 20 minute nap, but it was a refreshing 20 minutes and we didn’t want to miss the bats.

Turns out….we could’ve slept longer. It was admittedly early in the bat season (which runs March-October, best views in late August) and apparently the females are pregnant, so they aren’t as active as when they aren’t pregnant (can’t blame them) so it wasn’t as crazy a sight as I have seen when I’ve seen them while attending ACL Fest. But those little mosquito eating (thanks for that) mammals did make an appearance, eventually.  They didn’t come in a huge wave, but more like puffs of smoke. You could see their movement before you could see them. Then, the birds with no tails (as they appear) would be flapping overhead. The bats weren’t super impressive, but it was a fun experience. It’s not often you can say you’ve been stood up by 1.5 million flying mammals!

It was after 9 and time to eat again. We pointed the Cube toward Lake Austin (I just can’t get used to Lady Bird Lake) and cocktail and snacks over the water at Hula Hut! Yes…I may be obsessed with all things owned by Chuy’s….sue me. But they take time to have fun food, drinks and ambiance. We were told it would be at least an hour wait to eat, but the valet was unaware of the power of the Cube. We bypassed the main dining room and set our sights on the outdoor Tiki Bar–which is where we wanted to be anyway!  Two stools were available at the bar and we were on our way to a life changing experience. That may sound like an exaggeration, but some life changes are small, yet important and come in cocktail form or wrapped in a fried wonton…as these life changing experiences did.

Come back to get the details of how my life was changed over the waters of Lake Austin!

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