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29 May 2011

The Floating Continues, and the Austin I've Been Waiting For [no pictures!]

Floating downriver does not require much skill at all; in fact, all you do (literally) is just sit there, yet somehow I manage to suck at it!

As I explained in my previous post, I basically killed my camera by soaking it in the river. Real smart, Jason.

After realizing that my camera was dead, I quickly went through the 12 stages of grief right there in the hot Texan sun. I tried to walk back to the tube rental place, but I had docked myself in a private resort, and all the exits to the main road were fenced off. There was one way back, however: jumping in the water to go around the fence. So I was set to throw my camera and beers over the fence and then swim myself and my tube up to meet them, when, like a guardian angel, Ueli appeared right on the other side of the fence. He was wondering why I hadn't floated downriver in over 20 minutes. My flustered and panicked disposition must have given away the fact that I was grieving over my camera. We walked back, about 4 blocks along an abandoned set of railroad tracks, the pavement was so hot that my feet burned with each step. Then I realized that I had my slippers with me in the bag (because I was too smart to realize this earlier). Ueli barefooted it all the way back, over 200-degree gravel. I put my camera in the car, hoping against hope that it would dry out and that at least my memory card would be intact. We switched inner tubes to one without a bottom; there was a girl at the front desk, but she was just as sweet and sympathetic as the one earlier, despite my demandingly assertive tone. It felt reassuring.

We floated downriver again, this time going all the way. It took about an hour and a half, but I rushed us, because we got in the water at 5:30 and I thought that they closed at 6:00. So I urged Ueli and I to paddle ourselves downriver. At the now-infamous "tube shoot," I managed to get stuck swirling around in the same vortex. I had to get out of the tube and walk myself away (Ueli, like clockwork, was all the way downriver waiting for me). There was a second tube shoot which was just a waterfall, but I got stuck there too. Seriously?! Floating downriver does not require much skill at all; in fact, all you do (literally) is just sit there, yet somehow I manage to suck at it!

Feeling as if I had nothing to lose, I started asking everyone that we passed by, "are you the couchsurfing group with Chris?" The responses I got ranged from a simple "no" to "what the hell is couchsurfing?" to a drunken sorority-type girl screaming "yeaaaaaah! Chris is here!!! WHHOOOOO!" Oh man, I can imagine river floatin' being truly good times; unfortunately I was not having much of a good time myself. I struck up a small conversation with a 16-year-old girl named Casey. Believe it or not, she was the first truly native Texan I had met.

We passed a sign saying "next exit, 1 hour" and thought we'd be way too late to make it back in time, so I urged us to paddle even harder. People on the river yelled at us as we hurriedly paddled, "you're working too hard there, boy, for someone on the river; unless there are some girls that you're trying to catch!" Near the end, there was a house with a porch that arched out over the river, and people were taking turns jumping off it. If only I knew that anyone could just do it...

We disembarked and caught the shuttle bus back to our car. The buses ran until 8pm, so we had plenty of time (again, idiotic and needless worry on my part shapes the day!). We then drove back to Austin, stopping for gas and to call Sharon for our dinner plans, and to clean off some gunky oily substance that had dripped onto the car.

We rushed back to the apartment, and we met Sharon and her friend Alex. It was getting late, so we changed right quick and Alex drove us straight to the Salt Lick. This is a famous bbq restaurant several miles outside of Ausin. It's also incredibly popular. It has two separate buildings, and it looks like several hundred cars are parked in the lot, with even more people parked inside. They have an all-you-can eat special. The brisket was really good. The sausage, ok. The rib, ok as well. I brought my old camera and charged the battery there in the restaurant. And guess what! The Salt Lick was also featured on Man vs. Food!

Dinner went well. Afterwards, Alex drove us back, through the now-dark country roads of central Texas and into the city. He was gracious enough to drop off Ueli, Sharon, her friend Lucas Isaiah, and me on 6th Street so that we could at least walk around and soak in some of Austin's famous nightlife on this Friday night.

[thank god for the camera on my phone]

The nightlife truly was legendary. It's all centered on a couple blocks of 6th Street, but those city blocks are truly jam-packed with bars and music venues! They're literally all right next to each other, at least 10 on each block, and each one had a live band playing not down in some basement, but right there by the bar's entrance, and their windows were open, so all the music just fills up the street! It's one big party atmosphere, like Vegas if you'd put all the nightlife on one street, or San Diego if you turned it up 50 decibels and tripled the number of bars. Needless to say I was really impressed. I can hardly imagine how crazy it gets around SXSW! 6th Street is definitely worth experiencing!

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