Saturday, March 21, 2015

A Little Nature and Lot of Music!

On a clear day we ventured out to see a couple of Austin sights with local friends Ashley and Lila. First stop: Mount Bonnell, a wonderful spot to view the Colorado River and some very fancy homes on the riverfront. At 780 feet, this is one of the highest points in Austin.

Hans, Lisa, Lila and Ashley atop Mount Bonnell.

Next we drove a short distance to Mayfield Park, a lovely little oasis in the city. There are a couple of miles of trails plus the pretty grounds to explore...and peacocks!

Hans looks up to find a couple of peacocks overhead.
We saw about a dozen male peacocks hanging around in the trees and on the rooftops.

The redbuds are providing brilliant color all over town right now.

This little guy was only about 4 inches long.

So bright they look fake!

As I mentioned in a previous post, SXSW seems to explode across the core of the city for 10 days. Thousands of people are walking the city streets and every block offers up dozens of options for music and food. Some are official SXSW events where a very expensive badge is required for access, some are "unofficial" events and are open to the public and free. Depending on the popularity of the musical acts, there may or may not be a line or a crowd.

One fine day we made our way to the E. 7th St. corridor to see some free live music. We'd learned that staying East of interstate 35 usually meant fewer crowds and you might only have to park a few blocks from your venue of choice. We were headed for Hotel Vegas, a popular venue for live music with a large outdoor patio and stage. Arriving early, around 1pm, we got right in, met up with a friend, and enjoyed several hours of music. By the time we left the venue about 5pm, it was packed and had a long line...timing is everything during SXSW!

We're standing right in front of all girl surf band, La Luz, at Hotel Vegas.
What you can't see in this shot is how very crowded the venue had become...

This is how packed Hotel Vegas can get as the afternoon wears on!

Way back in 1980 in Albuquerque, Hans met Ryan through music...flash forward to the present and Ryan lives in Austin and plays bass in a band, the Barebones Orchestra. One evening they played a benefit gig for The Center for Music Therapy, where we enjoyed both Barebones and other musicians related to the Therapy Center, including the very talented Emily Morris.

Barebones Orchestra.

Another day we parked on the East side of interstate 35 and walked over to the crazy West side to attend two free events at the convention center: the Flat Stock show and the Gear Show. Flat Stock consists of band posters and there was some incredible art on display and for sale. This would be a neat place to buy art if we had a home to put it in!

The Gear Show consists of all the latest goodies for musicians. Walking the aisles we were thrilled to see the Center for Music Therapy's booth. We spent a few minutes chatting with the Center's founder and president, Hope Young, about music therapy. Through music, therapists are able to help people of all ages (infant through geriatric) with cognitive, emotional and physical issues. From our two encounters with the Center's staff we could see how much they love their work and we have a new appreciation for the power of music.

Hope Young, Center for Music Therapy.

Hans had fun trying out various guitar effects.

Guitars made out of oil cans!

Figuring out what to see at SXSW can be overwhelming. There are literally hundreds of bands playing at possibly hundreds of venues, all day, every day! Hans, being the music guy in our house, has spent hours researching what we want to attempt to see. He came across a band we knew of from Los Angeles, The Two Tens, who happened to be playing a couple of gigs during SXSW. We caught them at their "unofficial" gig, an afternoon show at the Lost Well, a dive bar on the East side, where parking was easy and we even got a free beer!

The Two Tens rocking the house.

SXSW is an event unlike any we've seen before. It is enormous and really kind of overwhelming! But if you do your research and go with the flow it can be a lot of fun. We're glad we are staying outside of town and have learned the simplest and least congested ways to get to the heart of the city...we can get in and out of the craziness pretty easily and return to our quiet little cocoon on wheels when we've had enough. We've noticed that the sound systems at every venue are set up to be extremely loud so ear plugs are a must.

We are due for some nature and good long hikes...if the rain ever stops. Yes, it's raining again!

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Pristine Waters and BBQ, Quintessential Texas!

I had no idea there were so many springs in Texas. Here's a fun day trip we took from Austin to visit one of those springs...

San Marcos, TX, just a half hour South of Austin, is home to Spring Lake. Over 200 springs bubble up from the aquifer here to create the San Marcos River. This water source has attracted humans for over 12,000 years and is home to several threatened and endangered species, some of which are found nowhere else on earth.

Texas State University is the current steward of the property and they offer glass bottom boat tours of the lake, which our local friends Ashley and Lila, treated us to. Our boat captain/tour guide Mark gave a wonderfully informative and fun talk during the half hour long boat ride.

Today the lake and its surroundings have been returned to as much of a natural space as possible and includes a boardwalk over a shallow portion of the lake. Lila, being a Texas native, remembers visiting the park as a child when they used to have an underwater viewing area where you could see "mermaids" and a swimming pig in these pristine waters!

Spring Lake, headwaters of the San Marcos River.
Those white spots in the lake are some of the bubbling springs.

Ashley, Lila and Hans on the wetlands boardwalk.

Oh yes, there were turtles!

We saw lots of other wildlife in the water but the turtles were the most photogenic!

Mark gave a lively and informative glass bottom boat tour.

Lila and Ashley entranced by the view and amused by Mark's commentary.


Lisa and Hans showing this grand old tree some love!

On our drive back to Austin we stopped at Black's BBQ in Lockhart, TX for some tasty smoked meats. Afterwards we took a digestive walk through the cute town.

Open 8 days a week!

Black's BBQ...Yum!

Downtown Lockhart, TX.

Lockhart, TX court house.

A perfect day with good friends!

Monday, March 16, 2015

More Austin!

A long walk on pavement was in order the day after Austin received two inches of rain. Shoal Creek Trail took us through a pretty greenbelt in the middle of the city, and we made the walk into a nine mile loop by adding a stroll through the University of Texas campus and the historic Hyde Park neighborhood.

Though we could hear the nearby city streets, our surroundings were pleasing to the eye...
except for the excessive trash in the creek.
We've noticed a LOT of trash in the waterways in Austin (and San Antonio).
I really hope it's due to winter runoff and there are trash pick up events in the spring.

At one point we had to walk city streets to reach the next section of trail and enjoyed unique homes backing up to the creek.

Dropping back to the creek we entered a gorgeous limestone "canyon".

Shoal Creek.

The University of Texas at Austin is a pretty modern looking campus.

A surprise on our walk was finding the Elisabet Ney Museum in the Hyde Park neighborhood. We were fortunate the museum's curator happened to be standing outside the museum, which was closed on this day, and he offered to show us the exhibits. What a serendipitous meeting!

Inside we learned all about this fascinating woman and her amazing life. Elisabet Ney (born 1833, died 1907) was far ahead of her time; being outspoken on traditional women's roles of the era, wearing pants, keeping her own name in marriage, meanwhile sculpting famous persons all over the world. Her sculptures of Sam Houston and Stephen Austin are on display at the state capitol.

Formosa, the Austin studio of sculptor Elisabet Ney.

Hans climbs the narrow, circular staircase to the tower, a writing retreat for Elisabet's husband,
scientist and philosopher Edmund Montgomery.
Sit at Edmund's typewriter and leave your thoughts for others to ponder...

Continuing on our walk we saw this mosaic wall in Hyde Park.

A beautiful entrance to a private Hyde Park garden.

Another Austin themed mural as we traversed a business district back to our truck.

We played another disc golf course in Austin: Circle C Metro Park at Slaughter Creek. Located in South West Austin, this was a fantastic course! Well laid out along Slaughter Creek, the course meanders through juniper forest and lovely oak shaded grassy areas.

One of the more unique holes, here you throw your disc up a tree lined,
limestone strewn path to the basket at the top of the hill.

Pretty Slaughter Creek near the 18th hole.

South by South West has started. It's a 10 day city-wide extravaganza celebrating all things cutting edge in the interactive, film, and music disciplines. Beyond the official event, the city comes alive with hundreds of free peripheral events taking advantage of the crowds of people attending SXSW.

For us, that means free music in the middle of the day! Since Hans keeps tabs on the surf music scene he knew that one of our favorite bands to see live would be in town (Daikaiju), as part of a day of surf music called Surf by Surf East.

What a great day we had! The venue featured dozens of local handmade artists selling their wares, seven great surf bands in seven hours, tasty cold beverages and a delicious Italian food truck on the premises. Daikaiju's music is best enjoyed on CD, their live show is seen for the spectacle!

Daikaiju hamming it up for the crowd.

During the show both drummers moved their drum kits out into the audience
and then one proceeded to light the others cymbals on fire while he played!

This was an over-the-top, crazy interactive show!

The drummer had the crowd hold up part of his kit as well as himself on a chair while he played a song!

So begins SXSW...

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

A Few of the Many Faces of Austin

A week ago we moved just 10 miles to Oak Forest RV Park in East Austin, TX. We're spending a month here, it's somewhat quieter than our previous location but still an easy drive (depending on time of day) into town if we want to visit the city.

Texas is still challenging us with wintery weather, though it's changed from days that can't get out of the 30's to days of wet, wet, wet; be it a slight drizzle all day long or 2" of rain in 48 hours. We're looking forward to several rain-free days this week!

Right across the street from our RV park is Green Gate Farms. It's primarily a CSA, but also has a three-days-a-week (supposedly) farm stand. We walked over one day to check out the farm stand but it wasn't happening and we couldn't get any answers...but we did get some photos. We'll try the farm stand again on a sunny day, perhaps we'll get lucky then!

Barn cat.

Green Gate Farms has a bunch of happy looking Berkshire hogs.
They were very curious about us.

One misty day we needed to get out of the RV no matter how wet we got. We headed over to the Roy G. Guerrero Disc Golf Course near downtown Austin and proceeded to play this terrific course in the damp. We had it all to ourselves on this wet weekday, it's a beautiful course with some very long holes but not too much undergrowth to hide your discs.

I liked the contrast of brilliant green grass, brown trees, gray sky.
Soon all the trees will be leafed out, providing welcome shade from the Texas sun (that we haven't seen much of yet!).

We finally got a sunny day and did some walking downtown and came across the Hope Outdoor Gallery. This public space is open to all muralists, graffiti artists and community groups who want to paint positive messages in a public space.

Visit this space on a regular basis for an ever changing feast for the eyes.

Hans' longtime friends Ashley and Lila have lived in Austin for years. We've gotten together for dinners at our homes a few times already and one cold, sunny day recently Lila was able to join us on a hike at McKinney Falls State Park. We hiked the 2.8 mile Onion Creek Loop, saw lots of birds and checked out the falls, what a great day!

Hans and Lila at the upper falls.

Someone painted this detailed drawing in a hole in the falls!

Obligatory turtle pic!

Deep holes abound in the limestone bed of Onion Creek.

The lower falls.

Austin is a music city, you can find tons of live music any night of the week and with SXSW coming the number of musical events is astounding. Thousands of musicians will perform over the next few weeks at both official and unofficial SXSW venues, day and night. Not being night owls, early shows make us happy so you can be sure we'll catch a few shows over the next couple of weeks. We happened to catch an early evening show at a funky dive bar, the Carousel Lounge, recently.

Circus themed decor makes this dive bar an interesting venue.

With two sunny days in a row we figured some trail hiking was in order; we hoped the trails wouldn't be too muddy at McKinney Roughs Nature Park. We hiked seven of their 18 miles of trails with very little mud, good rolling terrain, lots of pretty forest and a few birds along the Colorado River portion.

Some of the pecan trees have been dated to around 200 years old!

Fossilized oyster shells were abundant along the Yaupan trail.

Good birding along the river.

Walking along the river we could see the high water line had once been head high!
Trees were just beginning to bud, this view will be very different in a few weeks - all green!

We've got a decent site at Oak Forest RV Park, the oak tree next to our rig is just beginning to leaf out and will look completely different by the time we leave. The annual rodeo begins in just a few days and this park is just down the road from the rodeo grounds so it is fully booked for the next couple of weeks.

Pull through site #16.

Stay tuned for more adventures in Austin!