A&A Return To Hill Country | Travel Review of Austin, Texas
End of Week #75
McKinney Falls State Park, Austin TX > Sea Rim State Park, Sabine Pass TX > Fontainebleau State Park, Mandeville LA > Fred Gannon Rocky Bayou State Park, Niceville FL
Miles traveled since last week's post = 800 miles
Total miles traveled to date = 11,183 with trailer
We continue to make substantial ground in our travels, going almost 1,000 miles in the past week! Today we went through 4 states, leaving Louisiana, crossing through the Mississippi and Alabama panhandles and ending up in Florida for the first time in our adventure. We are just about a week and a half away from beginning training for our Christmas Tree Lot Manager positions in southeast Florida, and I can't believe how fast the time is flying by.
It already feels like forever ago since we were exploring the capital of Texas, but in reality it was just last week! Here is a review of all the things we did and ate while in Austin, Texas, including some of the things we didn't get a chance to do too:
A&A Return to Hill Country
Hill Country will likely always be our most favorite part of the vast country of Texas, spanning from Austin to San Antonio and all the way back north to Fredericksburg. We have already explored a lot of this area, earlier this year when we went to New Braunfels, San Antonio and the elephant Preserve near Fredericksburg, but unfortunately during that visit we were unable to add Austin to the itinerary. Coming in from the north this time around, it was a beautiful drive to return to the area we love so much, and we can see why it's a popular destination throughout Texas.
With rolling green, lush hillside, lakes, rivers, and outdoor activities - what is NOT to love about Hill Country? Sometimes when you're there, it's hard to believe you are in Texas!
Travel Review Of Austin, Texas
Austin is the state capital of Texas, home to the University of Texas flagship campus, and known for its eclectic live music scene - & good eats (Austin takes eating and drinking VERY seriously, and so should you). It's many parks and lakes are popular for all kinds of outdoor activity, and it usually has pretty enjoyable weather year round.
Where did we stay
I've mentioned before how Texas state parks are the real deal for RVers, especially if you have the Texas state park pass for additional discounts during your stay. This was a state park that had been on my list since last winter and can be extremely hard to get into because of its forest beauty located right in the southern side of the city of Austin.
The park had water and electric hookups, spacious sites, campfire rings, and surrounding trees and forest. While having a fire our first night we were even greeted by a guest, a dang armadillo! (We totally thought it was something more ferocious in the forest by the sound it was making.) This state park also has two creeks that run through it, producing a couple of different waterfalls (hence the name), however it appeared the water levels were a bit low during the time of year we visited. There are also a few hiking trails to the falls and throughout the park, making a perfect outdoor experience in the capital of Texas!
I know this is a total touristy thing, but this was super high on my list. I've never been to a "greetings from" city mural before, and I thought this would be the perfect one to start with. This wall sized painting is a popular site for photos, as it depicts a colorful retro postcard from the city.
Mount Bonnell, also known as Covert Park, is a prominent point alongside the Lake Austin part of the Colorado River. Once you make the climb up some steep steps you are rewarded with prominent views of Hill Country. The river is lined with incredible homes and I couldn't help but wonder if one of those homes is where Joe Rogan recently moved to...
The Mayfield Estate, now a historic cottage, park and nature preserve in West Austin, is home to a flock of wild peacocks roaming the beautiful garden. There are also many walking and exploring trails throughout the park, but we were fully caught up in the awe of the peacocks and the pools with fish, pristinely decorated near the Estate cottage.
Lady Bird Lake is a river like reservoir on the Colorado River, created by the city in 1960 as a cooling pond for a new city power plant. Nowadays the lake is primarily used for outdoor recreation and for flood control. This is a beautiful area to hike, bike, and explore - the only thing you need is good weather. :)
What did we eat
Of course I always have my eyes on a good treat, and this donut food truck did not disappoint. They also have a full restaurant on the other side of town but we decided to give the food truck a go. We split a Granny's Pie big fat donut, with cream cheese, caramel, bananas, graham cracker and pecans. It was the biggest donut ever and seriously so delicious! You can't go wrong with anything off their menu here.
Aside from being known for its brisket, you might not know that Austin is just as known for its tacos! (Some would even say this is the more popular choice here.) I read a lot of good things online about the Veracruz taco food trucks, and they specialize in both authentic mexican tacos, juices and smoothies. We only tried their street tacos, and although they were not as good as that one time in Sayulita, Mexico, they were still pretty fabulous. The best part is that Veracruz uses quality ingredients!
Food trucks are quite popular in Austin, and it's almost as though you will find at least one on every city block! There are even places like The Picnic, where they have an entire food truck park lined up with all the best options to choose from. Only a few were open the night Adam and I ventured here and we both decided to go with mediterranean plates of rice, veggies and protein. I of course got falafel, and Adam had gyro! Food trucks are seriously the best.
Owned by our old bartender friend Victor from our local watering hole in Woodbury, Downtown Burgers is an Austin classic food truck located both downtown and on the south side of the Colorado river, not too far from Mckinney Falls State Park. Victor moved out to Austin last year and took over the operation of Downtown Burgers. We had the joy of meeting up with him one night, to catch up after all this time, and try his delicious food. (He had chicken sandwiches too!) It's always great to see a familiar face on the road, especially one with good eats.
The dark side of Austin
You're going to need to take everything I'm about to say with a grain of salt, as I have absolutely no idea if it's always been like this or if this is a result of the incredibly trying year 2020 has been - or some other kind of story. But we were both quite surprised to see large concentrations of homeless people in Austin, with full tent camps under overpasses and in large medians between busy streets. I can confidently say I've never seen so many homeless tents in my life, not even in California, and it was quite shocking. There was one particular overpass downtown that had to have had about 50 or more tents set up, and there were piles of "junk" all over the place.
As an outsider looking in, it's hard to distinguish if this is "normal" or not for this area and it also sort of took the lust away from the city. In a lot of ways it was also super concerning as the homeless tent camps often had mass amounts of trash and clothing scattered about, and also thrown into the middle of the street or highway. While driving away from the largest tent camp we almost witnessed an individual get completely smoked by a car while crossing the road, and it was heartbreaking and terrifying. I personally feel the city must step in and do something here, to make a radical change for the better of their people.
In a lot of popular areas of the city there were also huge amounts of graffiti, across business walls and even tourist destinations. I do not know if this is a result of recent protests and riots in 2020, I don't even know if riots or protests happened here, I just know the city was defaced. And it was defaced heavily, and more than expected.
If only things were different ...
The year of covid
It's hard to visit some of these larger cities this year, especially cities that have been high on my list to experience for a long time. There is nothing about any of them this year that is at all like they have been in years past. They aren't full of life, they aren't full of tourists and outside visitors, and they don't have any events or music taking place. Austin is basically the live music capital of THE WORLD, and music is something we didn't get to experience at all here. I have hope that sometime in the future we would be able to come back to this city and give it another go, in a world without covid or event restrictions. There is so much bar life, night life, and music life to experience in Austin and none of it happened this time around.
Some key places I would have loved to check out live music include:
Rainey Street - Where renovated houses have been turned into bungalow bars, this historic district is located downtown and near Lady Bird Lake.
6th Street - A historic street in the entertainment district of Austin, located in the urban core downtown.
Little Longhorn Saloon - A classic honky tonk bar that draws crowds, also known as the best little beer joint in Austin!
The cool front
The weather during our trip to Austin was also quite chilly and rainy, as a cold front had moved through to disrupt their otherwise sunny and 70's kind of weather this time of year. If it had been nicer out, we would have loved to experience the bats from the Congress Avenue Bridge, where each night from spring to fall bats fly out from under the bridge and off into the darkness to begin feeding. This is the largest bat colony in America, estimated at about 1.5 million bats! There is a good chance they may have even already flew south for the winter, as they typically do in November - we honestly never braved the cool temps to find out.
If the weather would have supported it, I would have also loved to check out the Barton Springs Pool, a recreational outdoor swimming pool, filled entirely with water from nearby natural springs. The pool itself is about an acre in size, with an average temperature of 70 degrees. Supposedly the springs are also clothing optional, however it is said that nude sighting are rare!
In terms of the best eats, one thing we didn't even try was the famous Austin brisket! Franklin Barbecue is supposed to be where it's at in the city, but unfortunately their menu was limited, had to be reserved at least a day ahead of time, and had a minimum order requirement of 3 LBS of meats that only Adam would eat... It just ended up not being worth our time this round, but if you get the chance you should definitely give it a try!
Regardless of what was open, what we did do, and what we didn't do - we still made the most of our trip to Austin and had a great time! There are many incredibly beautiful parts to this city and even more amazing things to eat.
Keep Austin weird, ya'll...
We are already at our last week of adventure and travel before settling down in Margate, FL for about 6 weeks to complete our workamping jobs as Christmas Tree Lot Managers. I thought it would be an appropriate post to talk about how we have found our two workamping jobs on the road, and what resources are available out there to look into for workamping options!
*Currently under construction and paused at this time.*
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