We made Austin our first long-term stop after setting out on our full-time travels. This made sense for a variety of reasons: it’s close to Livingston, TX where we had to stop and set up residence, our good friends Sarah and Brian are there and I wanted to visit them for an extended period, Brandon needed an airport close by for some work travel, it was winter and this was Texas (who knew we were in for crazy winter across the whole country), it’s super dog friendly, and we love Austin as a city. Austin gave us a place to acclimate to RV living. We were able to put away everything inside the RV that we had thrown in during the rush to leave the snow and storms and do some roof maintenance. Although not a scenic resort, we stayed in a place that was in the city and close enough to our friends and downtown to not be a hassle.
We looked forward to visiting with friends and visiting favorite spots along with finding new places to go. As far as food goes, Austin is one of the best places we could be. It’s all about barbecue which makes Brandon happy and is also super vegetarian-friendly which makes me happy. After living in my Austin bubble for a few months, I forgot that not all restaurants have extensive veggie options and was shocked backed into reality. Austin is also known for their tacos, especially the breakfast variety, which makes both of us happy. You can read about our experiences in our taco, barbecue, and pizza round ups.
It was great to hang out with Sarah, Brian, and their girls while we are there. We haven’t lived near each other since we were 18 (even then Sarah was 2 hours away), so it was nice to have all of us in the same area code. Sarah is a great artist (SarahRuhArt.com) and terrific web designer (SarahRuhDesign.com) and Brian just had a new edition of his book Stray Dog of Anime on Mamoru Oshii released. We got to act like the old friends we are just hanging out at their house or our RV talking, playing games, and watching the shows the girls would put on. I even got to see Frozen in 3-D; although after being there for a while with 2 girls, I had already heard most of the songs … multiple times.
From old friends to new, Austin ended up being a great place to meet other people like us out on the road full-time. I was already following the Democratic Travelers online when I saw they were heading to Austin. I wrote them and we met up a little later at a great Austin bar called the Easy Tiger with a large patio, so we both brought our dogs to meet, too. It turns out we lived a neighborhood over from Laura in Dallas. Another couple was starting out from Austin a few weeks after we landed there. We met Eric and Brittany of RV Wanderlust online first, so they came and stayed at our RV park before heading out of Austin. When SXSW started, it brought with it a plethora of NüRVers. We had met Kristin and Jason of the Snowmads online also, so it was great to meet them in person. They helped organize a get together with some of the other RVers including Gone with the Wynns, The Roaming Pint, Living Learning Mobile, and the Democratic Travelers. Meeting all these other people doing the same thing as we were was a great reminder of why we chose to do this. It also helped to show that we were not alone; we had a great new community! They just happen to usually be in different places.
While in Austin, we took advantage of our surroundings. We stopped at the Bluebell headquarters on the drive there, hiked at McKinney Falls State Park, and took day trips to surrounding areas. I took the Modern Homes tour with Sarah and saw some of the best Austin has to offer. We had a quintessential Austin experience when we ate at Tacodeli and then walked across the street with the dogs to walk the trails at Barton Creek Greenbelt. With the ongoing drought in Austin, the creek bed was so dry, you could walk it. Unfortunately, it doesn’t look as if it’s going to get better anytime soon. Another Austin experience is the Alamo Drafthouse. Although it has opened posts in other cities, it is still essentially Austin. Once we went with Sarah and Brian to the 90s sing along and played along with the blow-up guitars that they handed out. Green Day and Kriss Kross were the highlights of our night. Another time I took Sarah with me to see North by Northwest on the big screen, fabulous! Oh, and we did get doughnuts at Gourdough’s.
Brandon took advantage of being in one spot to take some more scuba classes on sidemount and wreck diving in preparation for the Florida Keys. I took the plunge and got certified while I was there, so I could dive with him in the Keys. Lucky me, my check out dives were in the newly reopened The Meadows Center for Water and the Environment at Spring Lake in San Marcos. Brandon had wanted to dive this while in Austin until he found out it was closed. They had just reopened it, but only for classes, so I did Brandon’s dive for him. In the fifties, the place had opened as Aquarena Springs and had mermaids and a swimming pig named Ralph! They were actually removing some of the old stage for the mermaids during the closure, but they left the giant oyster shell that I saw during my dives. They still run glass bottom boats around the lake and Brandon did this to appease his appetite. The lake is spring fed and they told him that once Johnny Weissmuller, the original Tarzan and Olympic swimmer, dove in to take a sip from the spring and was thrown across the lake from the force.
All in all, we had a great time in Austin and felt it was a great place for us to get set up and acclimated. The only bad thing was leaving such a great city, great food, and best friends. And for as long as we stayed, there is a lot we didn’t get to do, so we will be back. We hope to see you there!