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27 May 2011

Welcome to Austin

Day 6: Thursday, May 26, 2011

Breakfast in San Antonio consisted of a donut. We left around 10am, heading to Austin. It was an hour and a half drive through varying levels of suburbia. Along the freeway, I saw a Whataburger and knew that I had tro try it, so I spontaneously pulled over. The cashier/manager there was very friendly and the burger (which I ordered on Texas toast) was buttery.

I found it odd that every freeway has a collector road on which there are stores and restaurants. You're speeding down these roads at 50 miles per hour and then pulling straight into driveways.

We arrived in Austin, and I drove us straight to our host Sharon's apartment. We said hi, then left to explore the city. It was still really hot. We went to the state capitol, then to the LBJ presidential library, and then walked around the University of Texas Austin. At the capitol, we sampled a bit of the walking tour and learned more about Texan history. I, for one, learned that I find Texan history uninteresting. And the tour of the state capitol was just like the tour of the California state capitol.

I rushed back to the car, fearing that the meter had expired. But it had 10 minutes left on it. So I just felt bad for making Ueli run. Exhausted and sweaty, yuck.

Our next stop was the Lyndon Baines Johnson Presidential Library. It was only a short drive away, but it was so hot that my hands burned every time I touched the steering wheel. I couldn't drive properly and made several wrong turns. Thankfully there were few pedestrians so I had fewer potential hazards on the road.

The LBJ presidential library was nice in that it was air conditioned. But I found it uninteresting. It was sparsely organized, and I already knew all the information and history there. I had already visited two other presidential libraries: JFK's and Nixon's. And each of them highlight the story of their presidential career. So I have the presidents of the '60s all covered. As a result, LBJ's museum seemed pretty boring to me.

Next, we reluctantly headed back out into the heat and walked around the university campus. We saw the big stadium that holds all of the Texas football games, and we saw many campus buildings. It's a good sized campus, and what really struck me was how many roads there were going through campus. There are parking garages everywhere, and it seems like they really accommodate everyone's automobiles. The buildings were bland, all made with the same uninspiring orange-brown brick. We trekked back about 2 miles in the heat to get back to the car, and drove back to our host's, passing through downtown's famous 6th street. There were bars and clubs around, much like the Gaslamp district in San Diego or 4th Ave in Tucson.

My first impression of Austin was thus one of disappointment. Maybe I just had expected too much, especially since everybody was telling me "you gotta see Austin", and that it's the "live music capital of the world." I just can't see how living in such torrid conditions can facilitate musical creativity and performance. But to its credit, the city is more of an urban center than I expected, with a vibe not too different from Portland, Oregon (except so much hotter).

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