Let me just start by saying that on Monday morning I will be checking myself into the Betty Ford Detox Center for Barbecue Abuse. Grab a cold beer or two and sit back – this was quite a stop on our journey.
We made Austin a destination on our trip for two very good reasons: 1) great friends Brian and Sharon live here, and 2) this is the coolest city in the world, a city that seems very nurturing for the arts.
We camped at Pecan Grove, which if you have ever stayed here you know is an eclectic mix of folks, not unlike the entire makeup of Austin. Clearly this is our favorite private campground in the whole wide weird world. It is located in “Position A” if you want to get out and walk or bike around Austin, which is really the best way to see the city, a city which uniquely merges old with new.
From where we are camped on Barton Springs Road, we are a short walk to any of 100 restaurants, bars or miscellaneous food joints. In fact, next door (about 100 feet away) is Uncle Billy’s Brew & Que. Now you would not catch me in there at 3:05pm sitting on the third bar stool from the left for a Scotch ale while Karen takes a nap, but I have heard people seem to enjoy this place and their craft brews.
We live in a connected world. While in Big Bend NP (Boquillas Canyon to be precise) back in January, we met some other hikers, one of which turned out to be the CEO of a camping company here in Austin called Kammok. Kammok makes hammocks and camping accessories; sold at their store/offices here in Austin, but more generally available to folks online (www.kammok.com) or through partner retail stores such as REI. Check them out – very cool stuff! Anyway, got a chance to re-connect, say hey, and in the process pick up a hammock!
The timing of our visit to Austin coincided with SXSW (South by Southwest), which is a HUGE (some might say YUUUUGE!) multi-faceted event that has activities occurring all over the city. We did not purchase tickets (tickets well north of $1,000 each), but there is so much going on in the city even without tickets.
SXSW has film screenings, music galore, panel discussions, interviews, storytelling, all sorts of meet-ups, and more. Quite frankly, if you review the schedule, it is packed with what looks like some really cool stuff, probably well worth the money if you are going to participate in the event activities.
Let’s take music as an example. In 2016 there were well over 2,000 performers at SXSW. I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if there were not 3,000 performers this year. On any given day during SXSW, there is live music being played literally all over the city, from convenience store parking lots, bars, churches, schools – you name it. Music is in the air.
Many emerging bands use SXSW in order to make their band “known” to agents, media and anyone who can help to promote their exposure. But beyond struggling and emerging bands trying to find their voice, there were also well known bands playing here as well.
One night I heard what sounded like a Prince wannabe band playing. But it sounded pretty good, so I rode my bike down to check them out a little closer. Turns out it was The Revolution – Prince’s band! Now I am in the cheap seats, meaning I am outside the gate and behind the stage, so my sound quality is a little suspect. And of course it was kind of like listening to Queen without Freddy Mercury. But still, pretty damn cool.
Saturday night Garth Brooks put on a concert. While I could safely say I had the closest position to the stage of any fans, I was still outside the gates and lurking in the shadows. But it was a great show, and everyone in the audience knew all the words to his songs. Great show, and even though we slugs were behind the stage and outside the venue, he and the band were really gracious in recognizing us and appreciating our support. Rock on, Garth. Nicely done.
And there is food. I don’t think I have ever seen so many food trucks as I have just walking around this city. And Texas style barbecue. For example, we went to a place called Terry Black’s Barbecue. I’ll say flat out – best brisket I have ever had; anywhere, any time. This place may be worth the trip to Austin on its own. Oh, and everything else they served was fabulous as well.
Based on good counsel, we were recommended to yet another barbecue joint, Brown’s (which is actually a trailer, not a joint), as being even better (hard for me to believe) then Terry Black’s and purportedly very close to legendary Franklin’s. Now I have yet to try Franklin’s (not for lack of interest) but Brown’s brisket was fabulous, and their beef sausages… yah, OK, they were unbelievable! I think my body is yelling at me to go vegan right about now: “A bowl of fresh fruit wouldn’t kill’ya!”
And speaking of Franklin’s, known as legendary for (in particular) its beef brisket, we decided to forego the 5 hour wait in line that is customary (get there at 7am and get served around noon – if there is still food available). Instead, we ordered a vacuum wrapped brisket on-line and will pick it up before we depart Austin – something to bring home and share (grudgingly). No, we will share happily.
This is an extremely bike friendly city and there are miles of trails for biking and walking around the city. The city is also known for being really dog friendly; most stores and many restaurants will allow (and encourage!) dogs.
You will see from the pictures that if the weather is nice you will not be alone if you paddle out on Lady Bird Lake. Lady Bird Lake is actually part of the Colorado River (not the Colorado River in Colorado), and it is a great place to get out and paddle.
We’ll be back here in October for Austin City Limits. Not. But talk about a cool town; Austin is just the balls. Keep Austin weird.