My drive from Galveston to Austin was short and uneventful. I considered stopping in Houston, but not looking for a big city experience, I drove on by. Sometime later, when I met someone who grew up in Houston, who then told me about all that it has to offer, I was wished I had taken the time. But, such is life. I headed to Austin, to stay with friends whom I had met at Kalani, on the Big Island of Hawai'i.
My friends live outside of the city, in a small community amongst the trees and wildlife. It was easy access to downtown Austin where I explored the 'weirdness' of the area...and for me, I fit right in. It was my kind of weirdness - liberal, had diversity, metaphysical options...ahh, a safe haven in a conservative state. After walking the streets and around Lady Bird Lake, I ate at local cafes and funky restaurants to get the feel of the place, despite the budget issues. I ventured to the outer areas, hiking through the terrain and finding caves to explore. I found some wonderful spots for meditation and connecting with the earth's energies.
My trip to Austin was a good respite from traveling alone, having two friends who may have not known me well or for that long, but were like-minded, generous with their home and time, and gave me the freedom to do things independently. They were perfect hosts for me, who prefers to travel solo, and who often gets caught up in what others may want, compromising my own desires. I look back on that friendship and their kindness with gratitude...to Toli and Christine, even after all these years you remain dear to my heart.
From research, a good description of Austin and it's people: Austinites have also adopted the unofficial slogan " Keeping Austin Weird". This interpretation of the classic, "Texas-style" sense of independence refers to: the traditional and proudly eclectic, liberal lifestyles of many Austin residents; a desire to protect small, unique, local businesses from being overrun by large corporations; and, as a reaction to the perceived rise of conservative influences within the community. Austin is known as an oasis of liberal politics in a generally conservative state....thus, being a place I could visit with a breath of fresh air in this conservative state that seemed to be providing me with some ongoing challenges while I interacted with people.
Downtown is filled with the presence of popular live music and nightlife scene, museums, a mix of diverse restaurants, Lady Bird Lake, which is considered one of the city's best recreational spots, and the 2nd Street District, now with several new residential projects, restaurants, coffee shops, stores, upscale boutiques and museums...Austin seems to be ever expanding, despite these economic times, but keeping with it's integrity.
Austin is a great place to visit, and to live, if I wasn't such an ocean lover...way too far from the ocean for me to reside here, but it was well worth the trip with all that it has to offer. And, the bats...incredible...
About the bats: On the Congress Ave bridge, the world's largest urban population of Mexican Free-tailed bats can be seen, emerging at sunset in search of insects..a great way for pest control, I suppose. Starting in March, up to 1.5 million bats take up residence inside the bridge's expansion as well as in long horizontal grooves running the length of the bridge's underside, an environment ideally suited for raising their young. The bats migrate to Mexico each winter. Amazingly beautiful. Copy and paste into Youtube: http://youtu.be/pEmuyZdqw4E
|Free-tailed bats take flight from their roosts under Austin's Congress Avenue… |
(KAREN MARKS / Bat Conservation International)