When I was a high school freshman in Mrs. Toseland’s biology class–*flashback*–we studied DNA and genes. To better illustrate how DNA and genes work, we were assigned a project that involved us getting “married” to someone in class and having marshmallow babies with them. As everyone paired off into couples, we discovered the class had an uneven girl to guy ratio, so me and my best friend, Monique Moreno, decided we would take the plunge and get married. Although we had just met a couple weeks prior, when you know, you know. I mean, the love was there–and with marshmallow children on the way, it just made sense. Eleven years later, she is still my “wifey,” we still celebrate our anniversary every year, and she is still one of my best friends.
She moved away in our junior year, which was arguably one of the most tragic things that could have ever happened in my high school years. She left, and we were lost without each other. She was not only my wifey and best friend–she was my PIC, my sister, the yin to my yang–pretty much an extension of myself. Me in another body. I loved her like I loved myself. She moved around a bit after that but we always managed to stay in touch and visit and keep our friendship very alive. Something that true and real can never die.
Can you feel the love?
Today, Monique is living in the Houston area of Texas with her lover, Steven. When I told her about this crazy trip Brad & I were planning, it was a no-brainer that she had to be a part of it. I had only had the pleasure of meeting Steven once and she had NEVER MET BRAD (Unacceptable, I know). We agreed on linking up in Austin, TX, a great getaway destination she and Steven loved and a place I’d been wanting to experience for it’s art, music, activity and self-expression. The plans were made–and we definitely found what we were looking for!
Austin is such a happenin’ city. It’s everything you’ve heard it is, and more. Surrounded and infiltrated by green and blue, beautiful nature, and constantly moving and bustling. The Austin community is one of the most active, youthful communities I’ve yet to see. It seemed like everyone was out enjoying the beautiful sunny weather, riding bikes, running, canoeing or paddle boarding–a windstorm of activity. The hills made it fun (& challenging) to bike ride and even walk around, a nice switch up from flat ol’ Florida, and the Colorado River carving out the heart of the city is a mecca for activity, too.
We arrived early morning to a little subsection of Austin and bopped around some funky shops on South Congress Avenue before having brunch at South Congress Cafe. From there we got lost and found searching for all of Austin’s crazy cool murals before heading downtown to check in to our hostel.
Being Cheesy…..(or buttery?)….
Happy family 🙂
We stayed at Austin’s Firehouse Hostel, a great location for just about everything in the city and very affordable. We stayed in the 6-bed bunk room, with 12 people–what can I say, ballin on a budget–and let me just warn you real quick to bring air freshener and ear plugs!!! Awesome hostel though, with a really cool, secret lounge that you enter through a bookcase! Pretty snazzy place.
After freshening up a bit, we headed out to 6th street which was about 20 steps from the front door of the hostel. We discovered it was the weekend of Austin’s semi-annual Pecan Street Festival, boasting vendors of arts, crafts, and food galore. There was even a petting zoo (Bradley got his goat fix) and multiple stages with local artists filling the streets with the sound of live music. I’d say it was probably the best way to experience the creativity and authenticity Austin has to offer. We bought a couple Heineken’s and got lost in the artistic ambiguity of the afternoon.
Brad in his element at the Pecan Street Festival.
Austin is known as the Live Music Capital of the World–and that, it is! Later in the night we roamed the dive bars up and down 6th street and every single bar had local artists moving and grooving to their own authentic rhythms. There was just about every kind of music you could imagine floating through the streets–from rock to pop, ballads and hip hop, DJs and funk and everything in between! I fell in love more than once that night. We hopped from bar to bar, vibe to vibe, and ended with arcade games and over-sized slices of pizza–all the ingredients necessary for a good time.
Monique drinking & driving.
~ Lovas ~
The next day, Brad & I biked around the city and, of course, played tourist. I was very impressed by the modernization of some of the buildings against the classic creations like the capital building and other cultural landmarks. It was a beautiful city and larger than life, and also VERY HOT. Eventually we made our way down to the shade of the Colorado River and explored the Ann & Roy Butler Hike & Bike trail. Of course, put us in a city and we will find our way to the nearest natural parts. We got our exercise & nature fix, and our adventures made for a nice, easy breezy morning in the city.
Colorado River from the Ann & Roy Butler Hike & Bike Trail.
Later, we linked up with Monique & Steven and drove 45 minutes to Dripping Springs on the outskirts of Austin. I had long wanted to visit the Hamilton Pool Preserve that was there, a place I had only seen in breathtaking pictures, as had Monique but she had never been. We made the short hike down to the pool and when we stumbled upon the pool, it literally did take our breath away. It was just as magical as we imagined, maybe more.
Hamilton Pool Preserve ~ a.k.a. Heaven
Formed over thousands of years of corrosion, the Hamilton Pool is a collapsed pool and grotto with a 50-foot plunging waterfall and little mini waterfalls trickling slowly all along the limestone cliffs. The water was a vibrant sea-foam green, luminescent blue water churned and seeded with tiny limestone pieces, and absolutely freezing–but also absolute ~paradise~ in the dead, dry heat of the Texan afternoon. Swimming under the little dripping waterfalls was the coolest part of the experience, I thought. Floating buoyant under the falling drops of water in a place I only ever dreamed of visiting–I was a happy girl. The grotto was pretty cool too, filled with big limestone rocks that were fun to climb up and over and all around on. I’m not sure which was cooler, viewing the grotto from the sunny pool or the sunny pool from the grotto.
Heaven is a place in Dripping Springs, TX.
On our way back in to town, Monique & Steven introduced Brad & I to Torchy’s Tacos
. Weird–it was as if they already knew Brad and exactly what makes him happy. This place perfectly topped off the awesome day we spent together. Overwhelmed by the plethora of delicious choices, we asked the cashier what his favorite tacos were–at which point he proceeded to pull out a “secret menu” and show us all his faves. I was speechless. Who thought up all of these wild combinations of Tacos?!?!!?! Needless to say, we ordered almost exclusively off that menu. My favorite was the fried avocado taco–a tasty, delicately crunchy shell with warm ooey, gooey avocado filling–and Brad’s was the spicy fajita taco with jerk chicken. We left that food truck lot hurting a bit–but in a very, very satisfied way.
One happy boy!
Alas, the time came to say our goodbyes and go our separate ways. First time my wifey and I have done so without crying!! I was surprised, but also proud. After they headed home, Brad & I rode our bikes down to the South Congress Bridge to watch the bats fly at sunset. When I first heard of this phenomenon, I thought it was going to be like a sudden type of development–that all the bats just spontaneously and simultaneously fled the bridge into the night, lasting only a few minutes or so. This was not the case.It started with one single bat, followed by another, followed by just one more. A couple minutes passed and then maybe two bats flew–then a couple more, followed by yet a few more. This process slowly escalated and after about thirty minutes of wondering what the craze was all about, it had graduated to a flood of little black bats fleeing the bridge. Before long, it was a steady river of blackness, flickering and fluttering about, streaming from directly under the bridge and outpouring haphazardly in every direction. Like……what??? Where the heck were all these bats coming from? How were they all nestled under this not-so-large of a bridge all day long? How was this possible? I was baffled. Amazed, and baffled. We almost gave up a couple times while waiting for it to begin, wondering if it was ever really going to happen. But as the sunset glow faded and the stars illuminated, more and more bats flew. Magic, I tell you. I still don’t understand–not sure if I ever will. Some people don’t believe something until they see it–but as for me and the bats, I just still cannot believe it. Way cool site to see. Glad we stuck around.
Waiting patiently for the bats to fly ~
…then we got bored…
Enjoyed a nice sunset.
Couldn’t quite capture the show, but this painting in our hostel does it quite nicely. 🙂
By the end of our stay in Austin, we had consumed too much food and alcohol, played competitive games of beer pong and corn hole, soaked up the natural landscapes, partied on rooftops, and both somehow managed to lose our ID’s……Just like old times!!! We skipped town the next day, leaving this funky artsy place of craft and culture for the long, grueling trek across the Texan desert —> to The Guadalupe Mountains of New Mexico–our next destination, and home to another dripping, dribbling cavern where still, more magic exists.
Stay tuned tent peeps!!
xoxo, Tent Girl