Have you ever wanted to sell everything you own and just "take off?" Travel the country's back roads, paddle down a meandering stream, experience breath-taking mountain views, walk among 100-year old trees, and just marvel at America's beauty? That is the dream that my partner, Betsy, and I decided to make a reality. This blog describes our adventure. The food we eat, people we meet, sights we see, and the enjoyment we find in traveling.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Austin, Texas


The city of Austin prides itself on being different from other typical Texas towns.  Their mantra is “Keep Austin Weird” and they live that philosophy.  Yes, some of the Austinites wear cowboy boots and hats (and lots of them drive big trucks), but this liberal university and capital town embraces funky music, creative art, artisan foods, flying bats, community gardens, and never-ending nightlife.  Throw in a little Texas history and politics and you have Austin.  The city and surrounding area are full of activities...markets, art fairs, wine festivals, live music concerts, and many more.

During our stay, we could not resist visiting the downtown farmers market.
The market had great prepared foods, vegetables, cheese, meat, flowers and is framed with the Austin skyline. 
Austin gave us the opportunity to get together with Betsy’s friends from college days at The Ohio State University, Bruce and Mary, and meet their daughter Anne.  Bruce and Mary lived in the graduate dorm with Betsy and she has kept in touch with them through Bruce’s Christmas cards for all of these years but has not seen them.  It was such fun to be with them again and be able to meet daughter Anne and tell her all of the funny things her father did when he was in college!  They live in Dallas but drove to Austin to see us and Anne who is in graduate school at University of Texas.  Bruce treated us to brunch and a continuation of his funny thoughts and comments.  Betsy said some things never change!
Finally, I got to meet them after hearing about them all of these years.  Great people!  Hey Bruce, are 
those your shoes hanging from the wire above?!! 
Our first activity as Austin tourists was to brush up on our presidential history with a lesson at the Lyndon B. Johnson Presidential Library on the University of Texas campus.  We were sorely disappointed when we discovered that the library was undergoing extensive renovations and the only exhibit that was open was on Lady Bird Johnson and an orientation movie. We were bummed that the library was closed – especially since Presidential Libraries are on our list of RV things to do.

The Highway Beautification Act that President Johnson passed was done so because of Lady Bird's love of wildflowers, native plants, and scenic landscapes.  President Johnson created more National Parks than any other president.
The First Lady promoted many social issues including Head Start, VISTA, Job Corps, and the War on Poverty.
This was a replica of her office from the White House and was displayed at the LBJ Library.
The library did give us a better appreciation for Lady Bird Johnson’s efforts to preserve Americas’ wildflowers.  A visit to the Texas Hill Country in spring and you will quickly understand why the First Lady thought this subtle gift of nature is a national treasure.  One of Lady Birds’ other crowning achievements was the establishment of a wildflower center.  In 1982, Lady Bird and actress Helen Hayes founded an organization to protect and preserve North America's native plants and natural landscapes which was called the National Wildflower Research Center and later renamed the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.  The Center is a wonderful botanical facility that exists to introduce people to the beauty and diversity of wildflowers and other native plants.  What started as Lady Bird's vision for public gardens has grown into a renowned international plant research unit affiliated with the University of Texas.

Lady Bird wanted people to learn how to use wildflowers in their gardens which are presented at the center.  As much as 30% of the world's native flora is at risk of extinction.
Inside the Visitors Gallery.
One can easily spend an afternoon here...taking in a lecture, utilizing the centers resource materials, hike the meadow trail, and enjoy a sandwich at the cafe.  Don't forget to visit the gift shop.
Crimson Patch butterfly in a patch of  Engelniaan Daisy.

The Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum.
Next on our Austin “to do” list was a visit to the Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum.  We were going to immerse ourselves in all things Texas.  Unfortunately, it was too hot for me to wear boots and pretend to be a real Texan!  This museum is comprehensive Texas history – starting with the Conquistadors then the cowboys, the Buffalo Soldiers, and oil barrons, and many others.  The museum is three floors of exhibits, an IMAX, theater, cafĂ©, and gift shop.  We parked ourselves in a comfy IMAX seat in the cool theater and got ready for the film, when all of a sudden 1,000 school kids arrived in a wave of loud adolescence.  Ugh!  The kids were better behaved than we thought and the sights and sounds of Texas on a 3-story screen entertained us.  By now, we were hungry.  Since the museum tickets were good all day, we decided to go eat at a hamburger dive we previously read about called Huts Hamburgers.  OH YUM!  

Hut's Hamburgers dates back to 1939 and is still a favorite of locals and out-of-towners.
Plenty of accolades.
The two mile round trip was worth it (and the walk alleviated some guilt associated with greasy burgers).
Our final stop in the realm of Texas history was a visit to the capital.  We had a great tour guide who entertained us with Texas political history and antics.

The rotunda - the 2nd highest in the U.S. Louisiana
is the 1st and the Capital in Washington D.C. is 3rd.


The Senate chambers.
The Governor's Reception Room.  It is open to the public and the desk on the lower left is where Governor Rick Perry sits when he signs bills into law.
Interesting door hinges.

  Once again – after touring the Capital – we were hungry.  We had yet another famous greasy burger joint to critique.  This one was called Dirty Martins Kum-bak Place.  So why is the word "dirty" in the name....it was attributed to the restaurants dirt floors.  They put in a concrete floor in 1951 but the name stuck.

It doesn't look like much from the outside but don't let that scare you....come on in.
They have been in business for over 80 years.  When they opened, they drew customers with good hamburgers and thick shakes which is what keeps people coming back today.  Of course, I liked the fried pickles too.
We loved our waiter!
So why are the burgers so good?  For starters, the meat is fresh never frozen (yea, no pink slim), the buns are delivered fresh every day, the onion rings are hand-battered, and the lemonade is hand-squeezed.  My favorite touch was the buttered bun toasted on the flattop - they even butter the top of the bun! We will definitely kum-bak to Dirty Martins for more.



1 comment:

  1. As an encouraging mum, if I can say so myself, I had a nice time recently with my two kids to decorate their room in our new house that we just moved into. There were lots of the children's art work, made at home and school, that we happily put on the wall.
    Then we spent time together sitting in front of the iMac and looked through the big collection of digital images that wahooart.com had for their customers to select from and have printed as canvas prints. The kids together chose this painting for their room, Ivan Horse by Edmund Dulac, http://en.wahooart.com/A55A04/w.nsf/OPRA/BRUE-8LHRV2, that we ordered online to have delivered to our new house.

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