Texas I-287 South, My Feminine Side, 24 Hours in Austin, and Invisible Bats!

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July 1st 2006
Published: July 5th 2006
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Heading South on I-297 toward Austin, we met this cute family of cows. I lied and told them I was vegetarian so they wouldn't worry!
Hey everyone! This blog is long overdue! Ape and I have been home since June 26th! We flew back from Austin, TX. It was a peaceful, 3 1/2 hour smooth flight via Jet Blue (the best airline in the world)!!!

Anyway, where do I begin? Hmm....

Oh my....Texas....Texas....Texas....Texaaaaaaaaaas. Yee-ha-yikes. When you are in Amarillo you don't really feel like you are IN TEXAS. Sure, the drive through the panhandle makes you feel like you should be in farmer jeans chewing wheat, but to actually BE in Amarillo you kinda feel like you are at some no-name city with lots of chain restaurants. No, to TRULY experience Texas you have to be DEEP IN THE HEART of it. Oh yes my friends....oh yes. You have to drive I-287 south toward Austin. You have to drive by small towns called Claude, Clarendon, Childress, Quanah, Wichita Falls and Waco. You have to be THIS close to cows. And if you are a gay man or lesbian, I am sure THIS close to death. Am I exaggerating? Well, I am not sure. All I know is that I pushed my breast up (and out), used my messenger bag like a purse, pushed my

We drove miles & miles of wide open farm land. It was so beautiful.
hair back in a feminine flip, wore lip gloss and pretended to be on the phone with my "husband" talking about "the kids soccer practice" every time I went in a small gas station/convenient store to pee. April thinks I underestimate the average Texan, and maybe I do....if so, I am sorry...but when you walk into a small convenient store in Claude, TX and all you see is a tiny table with three large men, in their mid 50's, dressed in farmer jeans, white T-shirts and John Deere caps and you are ME -- you have to be -- cautious shall I say??? See, April never has to worry. They all think she IS a soccer mom. Me, well -- I seem to confuse people. I have a female shape, but the hair, the style....the nervous twitch......to the proud Texans, I am -- "interesting"????? I am sure my family and friends are going...NOOOOOOOOO, DEEEEEEES, C' MON? But this is how I feel. I HAVE to worry. I have been called way too many names and endured way too many odd looks from guys that I am always on guard. Yes, in the south -- Ape and I are COUSINS. I

I-287 South toward Austin, TX.
will admit however, I did feel better once April pointed out the lady behind the counter. This woman, wearing a wedding band, looked more butch than the buchiest women I had ever seen. She was redneck all right. She was all 1983 Trans Am, beer guzzling, pot smoking, tattooed, Dukes of Hazard watching, lift a cow with one hand -- tough looking. I even gulped. I am happy to be an average lesbian. No extreme here. I am just a girl who likes girls....period.

OK, so I tinkle fast and scurry out only to find three more butch looking women hanging around our car. They are in a beat up Chevy (seriously). Yup -- their beat up 1970's looking Chevy is next to our 2006-whatever the hell it's called-beautiful car (with California license plates no less). All three turned around and looked at me as I stepped closer to the car. One, twice my size, was leaned up against my door practically and I had to do the whole "excuse me" in my soft/Rhode Island accent tone. They looked like they could eat me. One thing for certain is I have a feminine voice. Butch lady # 1 said,

I-287 South toward Austin, TX.
"No problem honey" and moved her sweaty body away from my door so I could scoot in. The other two gave me polite grins and watched me slide in the car. April, of course, was still inside taking her loving time!!!! Out of the corner of my eyes I was watching them, franticly pretending to be calling my HUSBAND on the phone. Were these women gay? I am 99% sure they weren't. I think this is the average look/apparel of the Claude, Texas woman --- so I should've felt like Carmine Electra. After Calude I did let me guard down a little bit and didn't push up my boobs as much at the next tinkle stop.

The drive down I-287 South and I-35 South into Austin was, if nothing else, VERY SCENIC! Many people find the open farm lands, cows, rolling hills, and windmills boring after awhile, but I find them beautiful. It is SO different then anything up North that I cherish this scenery. The Texas sky seemed SO massive to me. I swear I took over 100 pictures of the clouds on the drive down. At one point they were so PUFFY and seemed to be dropping

Clouds starting to grow. I-287 South.
closer to the ground and engulfing us. It was so beautiful, yet surreal. I actually got a stiff neck from looking at them.

The closer we got to Austin (the capital of Texas), the more civilized it seemed to be getting. There were Walmarts, Targets, Best Buys, Malls and the usual "stuff". It started to feel more like Florida than Texas. However, I had SUCH high expectations for Austin -- THE LIVE MUSIC CAPITAL OF THE WORLD!!! Woo-Hoo!! I was so excited! I was trying to figure out how much we could squeeze into the one full day we had there. As we past through "weird feeling" Waco April started to not feel so good. It is really kinda personal to get into EXACT, GRAPHIC details -- but lets just say she needed a bathroom -- fast. When I tell you I laughed, I mean I LAUGHED....she had me rolling on Texas soil! OH MY GOD! April is a very "I am fine" type person. She doesn't like to admit when things aren't going/feeling right. Nope. It would take 3 cows (not 1, not 2) landing on her head to say -- there is a problem. When apparently 3

Clouds starting to grow. I-287 South.
cows landed....possibly 4 because she gave me one of these: (In a very serious tone) -- "Des, don't say ANYTHING to me. Don't make me laugh. Just stay quiet. Seriously. I need a bathroom." YEAH, OK -- that's all she had to say and the snickering started.....then the suppressed giggles.....then the laugh out loud belly laughs.....then the laughter that brings tears.....then the laughter that brings nausea and faintness.....OH MY GOD. I was laughing SO @&*#&@^#@^& hard!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! April barely twitched a grin. This made me laugh more. I was awful -- I admit it. But you can't tell me NOT to fraigen laugh. Please. Impossible. Just don't say anything and I will go into my "nurture mode" and take care of you. OK, so April is in crisis mode and finds a gas station. She is still yelling at me in a calm voice to basically SHUT UP. She yells at me to hand her purse to her (which is less than 1/2 an inch from her) and walked faster than I had ever seen her walk in my life. Finally, I was alone in the car...............hyperventalating/crying laughter........wait, what is this I see??????? April is walking back out -- even faster!!!!!!!!!!!

Clouds starting to grow. I-287 South.
OH MY! Now I REALLY felt bad.....but now I would either a.) die from laughing or b.) get thrown out of the car. I came THIS close to A!!!!!! Luckily April saw a BBQ restaurant acrosss the street and jumped a median and two trees I think and was in that parking lot in the blink of an eye. She didn't even bother to say anything to me. She just FLEW inside. About 20 minutes later (no lie).....I had calmed down and out walks April with a big ass cup of Iced Tea and a bottle of BBQ sauce. Most important....a huge smile on her face! :-) I, on the other hand, had laughed so hard I had stirred up issues deep inside from 1990!!!! I mean, I felt that icky!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Luckily we were only 20 minutes away from Austin. I would be fine I thought. I am a pro at stuff like this. Well, of course we have to, oh, I don't know --- GET LOST!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! For the love of !*&!*&@*!& MAPQUEST!!!! We were almost in Mexico I think??????? We pulled over, sweat beginning to pore on my forehead, and Ape calls the Hotel to get exact directions only

Hmm??? Those darn Texas clouds!
to get the stupidest person ever (please forgive me -- but it's true). She called the Hilton 800# and got an operator who didn't know where Austin was, what hotels were there, how to give us directions and ended up giving us an Embassy Suites # instead of the Hampton Inn # we had requested!!! It was SO bad -- really bad. I was not a happy camper. Now it was April's turn to laugh. Ah, sweet revenge. But Ape was also worried because she knew I had to get on a plane for our flight home in one day. She knows that when I get sick I am sometimes out of commisison for a week!!!!! She started to get frantic. Finally we found our hotel. YAAAY!
We go to check in and get this slow woman who looks like the character Barbara Steisand played in the movie Yental, Angieul (or something like that). She was Slooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooow. We were on "reward points" and she asked for the slip. April said she wasn't able to print it. She said, "Well, I can't check you in without it. You can go in the back and print it". I, never one for interrupting

OK, now this is really getting weird???
someone, said in a VERY desperate tone -- IS THERE A BATHROOM HERE??????????????? Now for me to do this, it was BAD!!!!!!!! She pointed to the one behind the corner -- sweet Jesus! I may be like a camel but this was like crossing the Mojave twice!!!! Yeah, we stayed in the rest of the night. Let's leave it at that --- shall we? 😊

Luckily the next morning we awoke both feeling much better and ready to TAKE ON AUSTIN! I had my map, my brochures, I was ready baby. And then we saw Austin. Hmm?? OK, so it's not the prettiest city I thought -- no biggy. Where is their famed 6th Street and Congress Ave? Oh.....that's it???? Really??? South Congress Ave (the "hip" area) was smaller than Thayer Street in Providence, RI (a hip college hang out). Nothing beckoned me to go in. We continued on to 6th Ave. A street filled with nightclubs, bars and restaurants. On the way we saw a gay man dressed in woman's lingerie wearing a clown wig (think I am lying? see the pic below)! Ok, Austin IS weird (that is their city slogan....KEEP AUSTIN WEIRD). Maybe this place WAS

Growing storm just east of Dallas, TX. I-287 South.
OK???? Then we hit 6th Ave. I was expecting something like Broadway in Nashville or Beale Street in Memphis. Maybe even Riverwalk in Savannah or Bourbon Street in New Orleans. Nope. It was a drab, boring looking street with bars. Not even fun, inviting bars. Just bars. Maybe a restaurant/pub thrown in here and there. This was it???????????????????? Oh Austin, how you disappointed me and April! 😞 We SO wanted to fall in love with you! We figured maybe because it was Sunday, but C' MON' man....this is the LIVE MUSIC CAPITAL OF THE WORLD and I didn't hear any music!!!! We drove by the famous Waterloo Records and even that looked too commercial. There were tons of empty businesses and just a very drab feeling. Wow, I couldn't believe it! 😞 How unfortunate! We figured we would check it out later that night -- surely it had to be better, right???

After our tour of the downtown area we went for lunch at a restaurant I had been dying to go to -- THE SHADY GROVE. This "white-trash" themed restaurant was featured on Tasty Travels on the Food Network and in several articles I had read in magazines

Growing storm just east of Dallas, TX. I-287 South. I was getting a bit nervous. Those look like WALL CLOUDS to me!!!!
and on the internet. It sounded right up our ally. We had visited the copied/small version in Vegas at The Silverton Casino -- so I had high expectations. The outside of Shady Grove did NOT disappoint. It was adorable. And even though it was 100 & humid the trees did offer shade and a wonderful breeze. It felt 20-30 degrees cooler! They were very busy so we opted to sit inside. There was nobody on stage so we figured we might as well stay cool. The inside was NOTHING like the outside. It looked like a 1970's den -- but even that would've been better. It had no style. It was, once again, DRAB!!!! Surely the food had to be good, right? Wrong! 😞 As many people know April and I hardly write negative reviews. We can find the good in just about anything -- but the sandwich I ordered (turkey) looked like something a 16 year old boy would throw together before he ran out for wrestling practice! The bread was thin, white, plain, American and there was maybe two small pieces of turkey sliced inside with the tinest shaved bits of lettace. They forgot the mayo. My first

Before we knew it we were past the storm clouds and saw this amazing site!
bite was so dry I almost choked. Laughing (of course) I managed to ask for mayo and give the sandwich the benifit of the doubt. It was gone in three bites. It was that small. It didn't come with fries. We had to order those seperate. You could get a 1/2 order or full order. We chose the full order so we would share them. There were maybe 20 small fries in the basket. What would a 1/2 order have looked like???? April got the turkey club wich looked slightly better than mine but VERY small. I mean, small in like too small for even the Olson Twins! Strike 2 for Austin! 😞 No biggy though -- it was just a restaurant. We decided to drive past Lake Austin where there was suppose to be lots of water activities and some cool/funky live music venue/restaurants (Lucy's Backyard and The Hula Hut). The drive to Lake Austin was kinda pretty, I guess? But when we reached Lake Austin it was SOOOOO small!!!!!!!!!!!! I mean there were 3 music venue/restaurants all in ONE area sharing ONE parking lot that could accommodate maybe 100 cars at most????? TINY!!! I was shocked. Yes, the

And this cloud which looked just like a duck!
area was cute. Lucy's & The Hula Hut looked adorable and the water inviting -- but nothing like what I pictured in my mind. But so far the area around The Shady Grove and Lake Austin were better than downtown Austin. We hung out around here and a couple of hours passed and my stomach was truly growling. I had barely eaten anything at Shady Grove so we decided to give another Austin restaurant a try -- Threadgood's. This is another place popular for it's music, however, once again -- nothing. In Nashville, Memphis, New Orleans and even Key West music starts at 10am and ends at 4am every day of the week! I expected that from "The Music Capital Of The World"! 😞 Nope! Ugh! I SOOOO wanted to hear a live Austin act. Instead I ordered a turkey dinner special and April got some sampler of sides. Oh my gosh. The food was AWFUL!!!!!!!!!!!!! I mean unedible! I don't want to bore you with more food details -- but it was bad. Once again I left a restaurant hungry. April left confused about what she just ate. Austin was breaking my heart!!!!! We decided to go back to

What a Texas image THIS is? A chevy, farm land, a handsome cowboy driving. I am sure he was listening to George Strait.
the room and work a bit before heading out for what I hoped to be the highlight of the day --- the bats at Congress Street Bridge.

Austin is home to the world's largest colony of Urban bats. Each night in the spring/summer, at dusk, 1.5 million bats fly from underneath the bridge to feed. This is a HUGE Austin attraction and earns the city $8+ million dollars each year! (Just a heads up....bats aren't blind, they won't get stuck in your hair and they are actually quite helpful to the enviroment)....I figured it had to be cool to see, right? WRONG! The bats are the size of my palm and are barely noticable to the eye (especially if you forgot your glasses...a'hem). I waited 1 1/2 hours to see them and when they came out I was like....WHAT? WHERE? WHEN? Everyone around me seemed confused -- and pissed. All the tourists, equipped with their cameras, looked at the sky in a dumbfounded way as if to say....WHAT THE HELL????? I tried 50+ times to capture one picture of these bats and had no luck! I swallowed god knows what kind of miniscule insects during the 1 1/ 2

Look how lush everything looks! This was a beautiful field of wildflowers.
hours and didn't get ONE (clear) picture of those damn bats! LOL! The poor Japanese tourists next to us looked like they were going to cry....heck, I think they were crying. No pictures???? Dear Lord!!!!! April's ass was numb from sitting on the stone wall and like I said, I was feeling very icky having digested some weird Austin insects (April insists that I am crazy...but I know....my mouth was open A LOT-- whether for talking, laughing or YAWNING!!! LOL!!). Strike 3 for Austin. There were 1.5 million bats flying over head and I couldn't even tell?????? OK, ONE MORE TRY.....let's drive downtown, at night, to see if we could hear any music or see any clubs that lured us in. Nope. The few really cool looking ones were closed. Which I could understand since it was Sunday, but all the other "music cities" I have visited felt like FRIDAYS even on SUNDAYS. The only club "hopping" was Coyote Ugly -- umm....no.

I TRULY wanted to LOOOOOOVE Austin. But we just didn't. We felt one day was MORE than enough. Now, could this have been one big misunderstanding between us and Austin? Sure! Would I give it a second

Gorgeous wildflowers. I-287 South.
shot? YES, especially if I was heading toward San Antonio or the Texas Hill Country (or Mexico). I would go on a Friday & Saturday night ONLY to see if the "vibe" is better, which I am sure it is. I would eat BBQ and plan my visit around some Austin acts such as Reckless Kelly or Bob Schneider. The verdict isn't 100% out on Austin just yet. Deep down I want to love Austin. The people were AMAZING and cool. I think it has a lot to do with us being there on a SUNDAY and only having the one day. Austin would be a nice addition to cities such as Nashville, Memphis and Key West -- all which have kicking music scenes. I know there is a 100% more to Austin. I am just being descriptive on how "our" day was. I still have high hopes for this artsy city. I still have a crush on it.

Anyway, we flew home Monday via Jet Blue. In 3 1/2 hours we were back in little Rhode Island.

We don't know what is up in July/August?? Maybe Provincetown? Martha's Vineyard? Montreal? Quebec City? I think we want to

The cutest little kids promoting a BBQ fundraiser. It was a pure Texas moment. I loved it!
stay in the New England/Eastern Canada area.

Until next time...

Happy Travels and Happy 4th of July!!!

- Des

Additional photos below
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How cool is this picture? This was taken the Sunday morning (the start of our full day in Austin). The airport was right next to our hotel.

I am sure this was taken at a pee stop! LOL!

Shady Grove - Austin, TX.

Our first stop in Austin, and probaly our best stop, was The Shady Grove restaurant. The outside was so cute.

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