My two best friends came and visited me here in Austin last weekend. It was their first time expereincing it, so one of them decided to write about it. (She has also been driving around the entire state for work.) I abolutely loved what she said about Austin, Texas, and what she took from this trip. I thought you all would enjoy it!
Today, I am writing from the corner of a Barnes & Noble café in suburban(ish) Dallas. I am on the later end of a recruiting trip for work and I like to do my work outside of the walls of my hotel room. I guess, it’s nice to be in a place where other people are, makes the solo travel less lonely. My trip has brought me through much of the middle part of this state- Dallas, San Antonio, Austin, and many small towns in between. Sometimes I zoom down the roads and arrive at a location too early, fully aware of the ETA, but the open road seemed too appealing. Other times I take my time, check things out, think.
I had a stigma of Texas coming into this trip. Of course, the stereotypes came to mind, but nonetheless I was still excited to see new places, meet new people, and experience Austin with my best friends. The bulk of my time here has been spent behind the steering wheel of my corny white rental car, racking up over 1,000 miles in one week, but I have also spent a good amount of time in restaurants, cafes, and hotels too. What have been most interesting to me as I have travelled back and forth, to and fro, are the similarities of the scenery of each road. Apart from those backwoods areas, which are actually quite beautiful (unless of course you are travelling them at night, alone, with a pick-up truck riding your tail), I have seen the same signs probably hundreds of times- Starbucks, McDonalds, Valero, Super 8, and Whattaburger, to name a few. It almost makes you feel a bit crazed after a while. Driving through interstates, highways and parkways, at night and in the day starts to feel like a recurring dream. You can pretty much predict what is going to happen within the next 10 miles as soon as you see the first Cinnabon sign. It almost makes you a little bitter, and you begin to get that feeling that people talk about when they say their life lacks luster- you can’t find any new guys to meet, you’ve been stuck behind the same desk for the past 7 years, you want more and you’re trapped. But, on the flip side, there was also a bit of comfort in knowing exactly what signs were going to be lumped together. Isn’t it nice to know the exact menu when you walk into Panera Bread? You may be sick of seeing those same signs but when you’re tired, driving alone, and need a coffee, that green mermaid looks like a shooting star, the kind you can predict, and it makes you feel like a scientist.
In the middle of my venture through Texas I was able to spend a long weekend in Austin with my two best friends. Alex, who is an on-air DJ for Clearchannel Radio has recently moved to Austin and this was my first time seeing the city, and her in the city. After a week of seeing cloned signs on freeways, Austin was like an Oasis. The city is capturing. Any 20-something with a creative bone in their body would want to move there. Everything is locally grown, locally owned, organic, free, and spirited. Being there was the first time since moving to West Palm that I truly thought I could relocate somewhere else. I was pretty much sold within the first 5 minutes of seeing the scene. Additionally, the city is booming. There isn’t a vacant storefront, apartment building, or street corner. The place should honestly be a model for the rest of this country. The people are happy, in shape, and freakin’ strange. One night, I got lost in a block party and my friends found me next to this street performer on the corner. And if I could narrate the Austin vibe this is it, getting dropped off by a bicycle cab into a huge party, grabbing a slice of pizza, getting lost and gravitating to the man on the corner banging on a trashcan with a wooden spoon. The morning of my departure I drove to the top of a hill in the soco district and just enjoyed the cool morning air. I hopped on my car, looked over the city and had that biblical thought, “…and it was good”.
So, here’s what I’m taking away from this venture. I have travelled these Texan roads. I have spent time in the metropolitan areas and the roads that are so green it brings a smile to your face. These roads have become my friends (and I have always been one to collect an eclectic group of friends). All these places I’ve been, the restaurants I’ve dined in, the free Wifi I have gladly used, they all have a little bit of character to them. And maybe they’ve helped me with my character. The signs larger than my apartment screaming at me to stop for a $1 burger and the hole-in-the-wall with the pickle shots, Austin, Dallas, San Antonio, they’re like people too, they have charisma and a word to offer. And I count myself a lucky lady to engage in the great conversation with, in, and in remembrance of the places I’ve gone.
Feel free to share. Sometimes it's nice to see things that you see ever day through the eyes of someone who is seeing it for the first time.