It rained pretty hard that first night, a fitting test for the new tent, which we found held up quite well to the downpour. Gaining a secure environment with a new tent requires a bit of patience as you make minor adjustments to the set up and pitch. It would take us a couple more outings and rainstorms to fine-tune our home away from home, but we were confident we’d be successful.
Blue skies and warm temperatures greeted us the next morning and after a leisurely breakfast in camp we hopped on our bikes to navigate the various walking/riding trails of the park. These pretty much circle the entire site with stops at some of the scenic attractions and thus we spent an hour or more riding on roughly paved paths surrounded by native flora. A quick stop at the falls at Onion Creek netted some nice photos, as we watched a number of people enjoying the swimming opportunities there.
Once done with the park’s paths, we headed out onto the street and rode out the few miles it took to get back to the interstate, turning around and returning to camp with just about twenty miles ridden in total. We cleaned up at the park’s showers, had a small bite to eat and after securing the camp site, drove into Austin to meet up with Roberta and Mark at the Austin Flying Saucer, kin to our other home away from home in Charlotte.
They had arrived before us along with Roberta’s daughter and son-in-law so we quickly ordered and over the course of the next hour became acquainted with the group and enjoyed a couple of good draft beers while splitting a Hungry Farmer combo plate of cheeses and artisanal meats. We finished up our stay at the Saucer and walked a few storefronts down the complex to Maudie’s Tex Mex for dinner.
Throughout the meal we’d find the service to be uneven, knocking down our estimation of the place, which is a shame as the food was quite good and very reasonably priced. I ordered a Chicken Chili Relleno with rice and beans at $10.50 and was very happy with the portion size and flavors. Dinner took a bit longer than normal given the wait for some of our items, but was enjoyable none-the-less and we departed later, bidding farewell to Roberta’s daughter and husband.
Mark had secured a reserved table for us at the Saxon Pub, a well known music establishment on South Lamar, about two miles below the heart of Austin, near the area known as South Congress that we would visit later in the week. We were there to see Lonelyland, a band featuring Austin based artist Bob Schneider who released a CD in 2001 with the same name. It was a very good show, combining acoustic based songs with excellent electric guitar elements and a funny introduction of the band, examples of which can be found on YouTube.
We finished up late and before driving back to the campground, made plans to meet with Roberta and Mark for dinner and more music the next day. That night a terrific windstorm blew through camp accompanied by loud crashing noises. Upon awaking the next morning we found the remains of a sizable tree limb spread across the campground table. Fortunately nothing was damaged but the incident did make us take a second look at some of the trees situated close to our tent, wondering if any of them looked a little less stable than the day before.
With plans to meet Roberta and Mark at 5pm somewhere in Central Austin, Joanna and I drove into town and found street parking on 5th Street around the block from the visitor’s center on 4th. Street parking in downtown Austin would turn out to be plentiful and affordable as long as you remembered to go feed the meter every two hours.
To orient ourselves we hiked west on 5th Street to Nueces and turned left for two blocks to visit the Mellow Johnny’s Bike Shop. Owned by Lance Armstrong, the shop’s name is derived from a nickname of his derived from the Tour term “maillot jaune“, which is French for “yellow jersey”. It’s a large bike shop with lots of product and many of the walls are decorated with bikes that Lance rode during his various tour campaigns and signed yellow jersey’s he was awarded for leading the tour.
While there we connected with Mark and agreed to meet he and Roberta back at the shop around 5pm and then go to dinner. We left without buying anything, knowing we’d return later, and walked back towards the car. It was around lunchtime and feeling a bit hungry we stopped in at an intriguing looking place, Gourdough’s whose downtown location specializes in all things donut. This means that every item on the menu uses a donut as part of the serving.
Skeptical at first, we ordered an iced tea, Brooklyn Lager (they did have a good selection of draft beers) and decided to split a Breast Lift, blackened chicken breast with bacon, cilantro, Swiss cheese, red onion, sliced tomato and a creole remoulade with a donut for a bun and a side of fried Yukon chips. It was beyond a shadow of a doubt one of the best chicken sandwiches I’ve tasted, all of the ingredients melding together, complementing each other so that no one taste dominated. The donut wasn’t exactly something you’d order from Krispy Kreme, not specifically a desert type donut, and more a donut without much sugar. The chips were good as well, house made, crispy with just the right amount of salt.
After our satisfying lunch we walked up North Congress Avenue using our AAA tour book as a guide to the Texas Capitol building, home to the state’s branches of government. We’d shown up just in time to take one of the free thirty minute tours which gave us an inside look at this impressive building, with a dome taller than the United States Capitol building.
We finished up with our tour and with a bit of time to fill, stopped in at a Expression Lavazza just south of the capital building for a refreshing latte, sweet enough to count as a desert, and then walked back to the car down Sixth Street, home to Austin’s music scene and our eventual destination for the evening, although we didn’t know it at the time.
It has been two good days in Austin; dinner and more music were on tap for the evening and after our very positive experience of the night before, we were eager to see what would result. We climbed in the car and began our short drive over to Mellow Johnny’s to meet Roberta and Mark with a blank slate before us. It was a good start.
McKinney Falls State Park: http://tpwd.texas.gov/state-parks/mckinney-falls
Flying Saucer Austin: http://www.beerknurd.com/stores/austin/
Maudie’s Tex Mex: http://www.maudies.com/
Saxon Pub: http://thesaxonpub.com/
Lonelyland/Bob Schneider: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bob_Schneider
Lonelyland Introductions: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nrVb-z2QIGI
Mellow Johnny’s Bike Shop: http://mellowjohnnys.com/
Texas State Capitol: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Texas_State_Capitol
Expression Lavazza: http://www.yelp.com/biz/espression-lavazza-austin