We left New Orleans behind and continued our trek westward towards Austin, Texas. There was an overnight stay at Hidden Lake Campground in Beaumont, TX but we had severe thunderstorms upon arrival and got soaked while setting up camp. This little RV park was very well maintained and the restroom/shower facilities were the cleanest we had ever seen. Bonnie woke up at 3 am because her phone alerted us about tornado warnings in the area. High winds with gusts of 50-60 Mph were hitting our trailer, rocking us, and my lovely wife stayed up to monitor the situation. I slept thru the whole thing (must have been tired) because Bonnie decided she didn’t want to wake me unless a tornado funnel was heading towards us or the winds picked up more. Needless to say, she didn’t get much sleep that night and we didn’t suffer any wind damage from high winds.

The next day, we arrived at Pecan Grove RV Park on Barton Springs Road in Austin, TX. Bonnie had booked us for a week stay over New Years and this RV park’s location was fantastic. The campground itself was very old and dated but staff was very friendly and projects were underway to upgrade the restroom/shower/laundry facilities there. We were surrounded by several restaurants and could easily walk to nearby Zilker Park and into the city. Austin was built along the banks of the Colorado River and Zilker Park is a huge green space that residents enjoyed all year long. We saw lots of people jogging, kayaking, paddling, and bicycling along this awesome riverfront greenway. The city also has miles of connected walking and cycling paths that circle the city and Lady Bird Lake which is along the Colorado River. We took full advantage of the greenways with lots of walking and cycling when the weather permitted. Here are some photos of the greenways and the city views along them:

City view from Zilker Park. Beautiful day for kayaking and SUP boarding.

On our second day at Pecan Grove several other RVs pulled in from Big Bend National Park. The park had been officially closed due to the government shut down and its very remote location in south Texas. We were scheduled to visit and camp in Big Bend NP for 10 days after our time in Austin. We spoke to Tino, the manager at Pecan Grove, about our situation and he quickly worked out an extension to our stay with minimal site relocations. We greatly appreciated his help, as did many of the others showing up at the park with little notice due to the shut down.

Bonnie and I did a lot of walking while we ate and drank our way across the city of Austin. Food options were amazing with delicious tacos, smoked ribs, BBQ, burgers, and sausages galore (thought I had died and gone to heaven). Pecan brown ale at nearby Uncle Billy’s Brewery & Smokehouse was the best I ever tasted and all I had to do was walk about 100 feet from our trailer to get some !!! The culinary delights in Austin more than made up for the lack of good, affordable food choices that we experienced in New Orleans. This city was not only the capital of Texas but was also full of foodies like us who loved to eat and drink. There are many healthy and vegetarian options in Austin which Bonnie interjected visits to during our time there as well (Pulling me back to earth from my meat and beer heaven, probably necessary). The people of Austin were friendly and actually yielded right of way to pedestrians and cyclists like us as we crossed major roadway intersections. This was much different from our past experience in Charlotte where some idiots would practically run over you in a crosswalk or bike path. Back to the best part, check out this delicious plate of beef brisket, smoked turkey, and sides that we enjoyed at Rudy’s Country Store restaurant…

Smoked BBQ treats at Rudy’s

Besides great food, there was an abundance of street art and murals painted all over the city which represented a thriving arts community. The city itself was very clean and modern with several buildings that showcased unique architecture and contributed to a great skyline. One beautiful building is the newly commissioned library which is several stories tall and offers a roof top reading lounge area. Bonnie took a couple of nice pics from the library’s roof top when we explored that building. Congress Street was one of the major thriving business districts full of specialty shops, restaurants, bars, and hotels that visitors could enjoy. We stopped at a neat little hotel bar on Congress Street and enjoyed some unique mescal shots with fresh fruit along the way. Here are some great pics of the art, library, and of course mescal shots…

Austin has become widely known as the “Live Music Capital of the World” in part due to the production of a public television music program called Austin City Limits (ACL). This show has been recorded live in Austin by Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) member television station KLRU since 1976 and is broadcast on many PBS stations around the United States. Famous musicians and bands such as Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, Los Lobos, Ms. Lauryn Hall, Zac Brown Band, Sam Smith, and many, many others have appeared over the years. We visited the ACL studio and took an hour long tour of the concert stage, digital mixer room, production control room, and lounge rooms. This building also offered galleries of photographs from performances and advertising artwork used to promote each ACL concert. It is a history of American music. Unfortunately, we missed out on any scheduled music performances and tapings due to the time of year but we highly recommend that you check out a performance or taping at this music venue when visiting the city. Here are some pics from our tour…

We took an afternoon and visited nearby McKinney Falls State Park. This park was recommended to us by Mary Foley who is a sharp, witty lady we met in Charlotte along with her husband Eric through some mutual friends. Mary’s nephew, Tom Cude, is superintendent of the park and a very nice guy who met us at the gatehouse for introductions. This State Park sits along a stretch of Onion Creek that runs through a huge expanse of unbroken limestone which resembles a lunar landscape. It is very popular with the locals from Austin who like to swim in the cool waters of the creek during the summer. The park was very well maintained with nice campsites and several trails to explore. Check out these photos of limestone rock along the creek that looks like something from another planet along with two fantastic water falls and swimming holes… 

As you may have guessed, Bonnie and I really enjoyed our visit to the city of Austin and we have decided to return for another visit sometime in the future. Next stop is Las Cruces, New Mexico as we continue our trip out west…