Leaving the fun and frivolity of NOLA behind me, I started the long drive west towards Texas. The summer has proved to be extremely hot, and I was grateful to be driving with the sun behind me. I drove through the swampy terrain of western Louisiana, and as the roads became flatter and the sky appeared larger and larger, I finally entered the country’s second largest state. I passed through Houston at the height of rush hour in a short but intense thunderstorm, and after an hour turned north to make the final push on the backroads of State route 71 towards Austin. Thankfully the rest of the drive was quite beautiful. This part of the state has some beautiful rolling hills and trees and I passed ranch after ranch with long horned steers!
I arrived in Austin a bit after 7:30 and parked in front of my friend Pat’s apartment in a nice gated complex. Not five minutes later he drove up and I tightly hugged yet another one of my University of Iowa colleagues. Pat showed me around his place and introduced me to his handsome sweet cat Henry. After the 7 hour drive I was looking forward to a cold adult beverage, so I stashed my bags and we headed off in search of a decent beer. (Oh, my did I just sound like a beer snob?). Pat pulled up in front of a local pizza and beer place called The Pour House, and we took a seat in the spacious patio area. I was thrilled to see an excellent selection of beer and accepted the server’s recommendation of the pecan stout. We ordered a delicious pizza pie and enjoyed the warm breezy evening as we caught up on each other’s lives.
The next morning Pat headed off for an appointment as I caught up on blogging and listened to some fantastic horn ensemble pieces that Pat had composed. When he returned, we headed out for our day. We picked up his daughters, 14-year old Sophie and 12-year old Elsa. Not only are they beautiful, smart and sociable, they are also brass players (trumpet and french horn, respectively) Their day had started with chores around the house, and then we piled into the car and headed off for short trip to the orthodontist followed by lunch. After that, I was in for a treat. We were headed to Barton Springs Pool, which the girls warned me was lovely but incredibly cold! Barton Springs Pool is a man made recreational swimming pool in Zilker Park, and maintains a year round temperature of about 70 degrees. We got there and I was thrilled to see that it was almost identical to Centennial Beach in Naperville, where I’d spent most of every summer of my childhood. Pat jumped right in the cold clear water as the girls observed. I gingerly walked down the stone stairs into about waist deep water, and despite the 100 degree heat couldn’t take the cold water and retreated to dry land. Pat continued to enjoy the cold water and I finally challenged myself to take the plunge! It’s the coldest water I’ve ever been in! Sophie never did join us, but Elsa made it in to about chest level!
The girls were hankering for some snow cones, which Pat described to me as much better than the snow cones of our childhood. We drove a short distance to a little area of about three food trucks, one of which sported a big snow cone at the top. Perusing the 64 different flavors, I decided on pomegranate, while Pat chose margarita and the girls chose coconut. Served in a big styrofoam cup, this snow cone was NOT like anything I’d ever had…it was fantastic and just filled with flavor and effectively cooled us off.
We headed back to the girls’ house and hung with them for a bit before Pat drove me to the University of Texas campus for a tour of the Butler School of Music. I was tickled to see that musicians everywhere have a sense of humor. (My apologies to any viola players out there)
We were pretty hungry from the day of swimming, so Pat brought me to a nearby local tex mex spot, Torchy’s. I ordered a green chile pork taco and a smoked beef brisket taco. Oh, my they were to DIE for. Some of the best freshest food I’ve ever had.
After eating, we drove off in search of a drink to top off the evening, and found ourselves at Contigo, a fantastic out of the way open air bar and restaurant. We sampled a local dark brew and enjoyed sharing tales of our musical exploits. We recounted one of our favorite stories involving our different approaches to recital preparation. When I gave a recital, I always scheduled it on a weekend. Two days before my recital I’d do my heaviest playing, then the day before I’d do no playing whatsoever, and hole myself up like a hermit to “rest my lip.” Pat and I shared an office at Iowa, and one afternoon in the middle of the week, Pat walked in and grabbed his horn. I was shocked to see him since I knew he had a recital that evening and asked “What are you doing here, you have a recital tonight!” In Pat’s very quiet way, he replied nonchalantly, “Well, I have a quintet rehearsal” to which I replied with horror “OMG, you have a recital tonight and you’re here at school for a rehearsal?!!!!” Pat laughed at me and said “It’s just like any other day.” We laugh about that to this day….but our own individual approaches worked well for both of us!
I thoroughly enjoyed my stay in Austin (except that I never caught a glance of Sandra Bullock) and will offer two observations: it is much larger than I thought it would be, and the traffic is HORRENDOUS!
Next stop: San Antonio and the Alamo!