Austin, Days 1 and 2

Finally!  We’ve landed in Austin, visited a bike shop (not just any bike shop, but Mellow Johnny’s), and had our first BBQ experience.  Yep, it’s been a good couple of days.

We hit the road early on Monday morning, as the drive to Austin would be more than 300 miles.  That doesn’t sound like much to many of you who are used to driving long distances, but for us, that’s a full day on the road.  The weather was cloudy and listless, with rain showers all along the way.  West Texas is deadly dull.  There is nothing out here.20150309_085731After 200 miles, we finally hit Fredericksburg, and pull up alongside the Brewery for a quick lunch.  My pepperwurst was pretty good, and John enjoyed his stew.  That sausage looks enormous, I know, but it’s not sitting on a dinner plate, but a smaller salad plate.20150309_130443Back on the two-lane highway, we are happy to be out of the cuteness of this town.  I’ve turned into a person who has no appetite for shopping anymore.  Get me outta here!  We briefly discuss going to the World War II (Pacific Theater) Museum, but nix that idea in the interest of getting to Austin.  But, as we’re zooming down the road, the LBJ Ranch comes into view.  20150309_135658Of course we have to swing in for a quick tour.

This site is part State Park, and part National Park.  Although the tour of the Western White House didn’t have much appeal, we did enjoy the movie in the Visitor Center, which was actually a broadcast of LBJ showing the ranch to reporter Bob Schieffer.  It was great – LBJ and Schieffer zooming around the ranch in a big ol’ Lincoln convertible.  LBJ really came across as a very human kind of guy, and one with a deep connection to the ranch that had been in his family for years.  It was well worth the time spent.

My favorite part, though, were some of the letters sent to LBJ.  Hope they make you smile as much as they did me – I doubt if Obama gets such ‘human’ mail.  20150309_14003520150309_14005420150309_14012120150309_14021320150309_140224Before leaving, we did decide to take the quick driving tour around the Ranch.  It’s still a working ranch, so we had to wait for goats and steers to move off the road in spots.  20150309_14415120150309_144438Finally!  We roll into McKinney Falls State Park, in the southeast corner of Austin.  We’ve only been able to get a two-night reservation, and it’s already 5pm of Day 1.The rain we encountered on the road was a deluge in Austin – a record-breaking 2″.  The Park is soaked – the initial site they assigned us to was unacceptable.  The fire pit was surrounded by a moat at least a foot and a half wide.  We would have to have waded to the picnic table.  We drove round and round, finally picking a site that had an elevated picnic table.  It’s pretty choice, and we’re happy.  The best news came on Day 2 – our request for two more nights became a reality, because of a cancellation.  So, we’ve got time to explore.

Jezzy has spent lots of time in the truck this past week, so we decide to explore the Falls around the park with her before leaving for the afternoon.  In terms of waterfalls, they’re not much, but the riverbed is an old lava field.20150310_095908 All of the little craters in the surface were water-filled.  It’s REALLY wet around here!20150310_095946Finally, we pump tires, and plot out a route into downtown Austin.  Should be about a 45 minute ride, in this bicycle-friendly town.  Most of the route is on roads with bike lanes, and the rest is on bike paths.  Well, mostly……

We’re navigating a tricky section where the bicycle lane suddenly vanishes, leaving us to fend for ourselves on a four-lane highway passing beneath the expressway.  There’s a beatup pickup truck stalled, and one guy is trying to push it.  “We should help”, I said to John, so we leaned our bikes on a bridge support, and moved in to provide a little muscle.

Let me set the scene for you a bit.  John and I are wearing our bike shoes (and our geeky helmets).  We are joined in our pushing effort by the frail-looking guy selling newspapers on the corner.  This is not the most prosperous side of town.  “WE RUN OUTTA GAS!!!!  JUS’ NEED TO PUSH ‘ER AROUND THE CORNER TO THE SERVICE STATION!!”, shouts the guy who was Pusher #1.  I’m on the side of the truck behind the driver, and he looks like he’s having the time of his life.  Laughing and smiling encouragement to me in the rearview mirror.  John and I sound like Budweiser Clydesdales in our bike shoes.  KLOP!  KLOP!!  Must have looked ridiculous.  Things are going okay until we have to go around a corner, and it’s ever so slightly uphill.  The newspaper guy, Pusher #2 is wheezing and panting – I’m not sure if he’s going to make the last 100 yards into the gas station.  We finally get the truck up into the lot, and the driver coasts up to a pump.  Pusher #2 is bent over, hands on knees, trying not to throw up.  We wave, and go off to retrieve our bikes.  Good deed for the day is done.

On we go.  Rolling down a smooth street with a nice wide bike lane, we pass a bus stop.  A crazy-looking guy wearing three hats, clutching a bottle in a brown bag leaps off the curb in front of John and hollers, “LANCE ARMSTRONG CAN KISS MY ASS!”  Well……ok.  We’re off to a fine start here in Austin, TX.

The rest of the ride was mostly uneventful, not counting the flat tire on John’s bike.  Repair went quickly, and we resumed our journey, ironically, to Mellow Johnny’s Bike Shop.  20150310_142252Lance Armstrong was a partner in this shop at one time, and it’s full of bikes that he and other teammates rode.  The first Livestrong bike is there, many signed yellow jerseys, and other stuff.  20150310_143856It makes me sad and angry to think of what a jerk he bacame.  End of editorial.  But, it’s a pretty cool bike shop.

Time to begin our Brisket Quest.  John has picked La Barbecue as Stop #1.  Once again, we are so happy to be on bikes.  This joint is a gravel parking lot with a few tent-covered picnic tables.  Two huge smokers are in trailers, an another smaller trailer is used for the food service window.20150310_15091420150310_150653We’re there late for lunch (around 2pm), and most items are sold out.  We do get a chopped brisket and a pulled pork sandwich, and a side of pinto beans to share.  Beans great, brisket great, pork fair.  That’s my review.  John goes crazy and decides that he wants to get ribs to take back to the Fireball for dinner.  Sold out.  The only thing available is (the last) beef rib.  At $20/pound, this little treat comes to $38!!  Want to see what $38 worth of takeout beef rib looks like?ribToo bad we didn’t photograph it on its greasy butcher paper.  It was stellar.  Crusty and chewy, the meat inside still moist and tender.  La Barbecue knows what they’re doing.

This is an interesting neighborhood.  Apparently, this guy has a fascination with wheeled stuff, which he displays in his yard.  20150310_152958He’s also a bird lover, and buys big boxes of donuts which he puts on a big spindle on the vacant lot across the street (this we learned from his sister, who was in the car behind John).  She invited us to come back with a big truck and take all the crap we wanted out of the yard.  Wonder what his neighbors think?

Just down the street was another interesting sight.  20150310_15324420150310_153410Seems like anything goes in Austin!

We’re getting back on the bikes this afternoon, heading back into the city for more treats and eye candy.  Sure wish the sun would come out for a bit.