We stormed into Austin like a spring tornado. Austin was added to the itinerary because my wife has friends residing there during the winter. Diane and Tom are seasoned members of Minnesota’s snowbird contingent that annually skid-addles to warmer climes until spring is sprung again. They join a legion of Minnesotans who were transplanted to Austin years ago when 3M opened a facility there.
It was readily apparent why our friends chose to land in Austin. The city is very similar to the Twin Cities; frankly it’s difficult to believe that Austin is in Texas. Though smaller in size, Austin is ever more brash than its larger Texas cousins. It’s a company town with two distinct industries that tend to feed off of each other: government (bureaucracy) it is the capital of Texas; and higher education because the University of Texas is located here (home to America’s largest college population).
The combination of these two large industries has led to the development of a unique culture; Austin is avant-garde, worldly and a very big party town–just ask them. The Austin vibe emanates from 6th street, a long and winding avenue full of quirky shops, restaurants, bars and historical sites. For many like myself it is the Austin music scene that fires our memories; festivals like the South/Southwest; and the PBS program “Austin City Limits” have solidified Austin’s music reputation. And believe or not Austin is also home to the Willie Nelson. Enough said.
We began our day with breakfast at the Magnolia Cafe a landmark restaurant–it was a epicurean delight! The menu was nearly overwhelming with so many choices–a locavore’s delight. The decision was made to share two entrées — a chocolate/cherry pancake and a smoked turkey/gouda/avocado omelette. I can declare that this was, hands down, the best restaurant breakfast we had experienced on our journey to date.
After breakfast we got the 10-cent tour of 6th Street up to Congress Avenue driving past “Girl Next Door and Mellow Johnny’s” among others. Because of my particular background one unique sight was a Wells Fargo banking store that was located in an a restored mansion:
Our final destination prior to heading to San Antonio was a visit the Driskill Hotel–certainly a jewel in Austin’s crown. Built in the 1870’s the property had eventually fallenl into disrepair and was slated to fall due to urban renewal back in the 1970’s.
Speaking of magic it was during our Driskill visit that a solitary figure caught my eye. I glanced once more and told our group that Dan Rather was walking through the lobby ahead of us. As a typical Minnesotan I will respect the privacy of “celebrities”. To my surprise two of my companions quickly intercepted Mr. Rather for a brief conversation and a photo session:
Bye Austin, on to San Antonio.