Packbat's Journal - Austin, Day 2: Maximum Tourist Mode
Friday, Jul. 16th, 2010
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Austin, Day 2: Maximum Tourist Mode
Stage 1: The H.E.B.

After setting out the sprinkler (conveniently equipped with a timer), we went down the street to the local grocery for certain (in)essential supplies: fruit, salad, bread, milk, yoghurt, ice cream, chocolate milk, soda, Gatorade, &c. For documentary purposes, I took my camera and many pictures.

Stage 2: Inner Space Cavern

When planning something to do in the noon and afternoon, we accidentally found opposite the guide page for the automotive history museum an entry for a cave with a mark next to it. As it was not too far away, Dad and I opted to head out, leaving Grandma at home. The caves were discovered during core sampling for a bridge on I-35, and turned out to be both impressive as a tourist attraction and a magnificent geological and paleontological site. (Several students from various universities were going through the cave as we were heading out from the end of our tour.) Our guide was informative and entertaining (e.g. teaching us the difference between stalactites, which go down from the ceiling, stalagmites, which come up from the floor, and stalagpipes, which are the handrails), and I ended up giving him a tip at the end of the trip. Then buying a shirt, a guidebook, and a map from the gift shop,

Stage 3: The Takeout Chinese Place

Upon our return from the cavern, we tackled the question of "what do we want to eat?" As it was early yet in the trip, we decided the logical thing was to buy takeout from the local Chinese restaurant, which served quite large quantities.

Technically, it's also a sit-down restaurant ... but none of us wanted to eat there. Not shown in the pictures I will eventually upload, for example, is a bucket, catching a drip.

Stage 4: The State Capitol Building

Lunch complete (around 3 p.m.), there was a gap where we watched TV and discussed possibilities. In this gap we came up with three things worth checking out: the state capitol, the Congress Ave. Bridge bats, and BookPeople (my suggestion, having recalled fadethecat's remarks on the place). Some research proved that we could make it to all three places without running into closures, so we headed out around 6:30 for downtown.

I love the architecture of the Texas State Capitol. I like the landscaping, even, but I particularly like the very open, naturally-lit spaces throughout - from the highest points to the lowest. And this open-ness was accomplished without any sacrifice in navigability (unlike certain buildings I could name). I expended an absurd number of pictures swooping through doorways into the open spaces.

Amusingly, all the way off in Maryland, a pizza delivery person was calling for directions to a residence ... calling my dad, here, as his cell phone was the listed one. It became even stranger when Dad's distinctive ringtone sounded and we realized that he'd dropped it, purely thanks to this.

Also amusingly, we spent several minutes wandering these sunlit halls looking for the exit before realizing it was two floors above us. We straightened ourselves out, however, and took a couple pictures of the library/archives building next door before returning to the car.

Stage 5: The Congress Ave. Bridge Bats

From the capitol, we drove straight down Congress Avenue to cross the bridge and turn into the Austin American-Statesman parking lot, where small plastic signs advertised bat parking. Grandma had been foresightful enough to equip us with beach chairs, so we set up comfortably on the lawn and waited.

Unfortunately for me and my camera, the bats have been flocking out from under the bridge quite late in recent days - and though I could see an hour after sunset, the camera could just about pick up the streetlamps and that's all. After Dad caught a few shots which could be argued to show a bat or two, we folded and went back north and west to seek the fabled bookstore.

Stage 6: BookPeople

This is a nice bookstore. A large bookstore, with nicely arranged shelves and tables of discounted and recommended books. It is from the latter that I found volumes to take home: Ayaan Hirsi Ali's Infidel and Michael Lewis's Moneyball.

A pleasant day, in all.

Current Location: Austin, TX
Current Music: "The Story In Your Eyes" - The Moody Blues
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From:nationelectric
Date:2010/07/16 1729 (UTC)
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Excellent!

I hear very good things about this show: http://feastermusical.com/ (disclaimer: I know some of the folks involved.)
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From:nationelectric
Date:2010/07/16 1940 (UTC)
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From:packbat
Date:2010/07/17 0358 (UTC)
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Aww, I'm already booked solid for tomorrow!

Thanks for the tip, anyway.
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From:fadethecat
Date:2010/07/16 1805 (UTC)
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Now that's a full day of Austining! I hope you're planning on hitting the Alamo Drafthouse at least once while you're in town. It's best if you go to one of their special events, but even catching an ordinary movie there is fun.
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From:packbat
Date:2010/07/17 0421 (UTC)
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I'll see if I can fit it in - Saturday and Sunday are scheduled, and I'm leaving on Wednesday.
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From:fitfool
Date:2010/07/20 0541 (UTC)
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Sounds like a full day of exploring Austin. Funny (and lucky) about that phone call letting you know your dad had dropped his cell phone. I would've liked poking around in that cave.
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From:packbat
Date:2010/07/20 1318 (UTC)
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It was! And it was!

The website lists three options: the basic "Adventure Tour" for $17.95 (the one we took), a slightly-longer "Explorer Tour" for $19.95, and then (and I might want to do this if I come back) "Wild Cave Tour" for $100 which is full-out spelunking. It's a really impressive cave - and we ran into a couple geologists doing some research in the cave while we were out there.
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From:fitfool
Date:2010/07/21 0136 (UTC)
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I would very much want to go on the Wild Cave Tour! $100 feels like a lot up front but I'm sure they would take me places I'd be unlikely to explore on my own. I had gone on one such spelunking trip with the Girl Scouts when I was a kid and it was the unquestioned highlight of my scouting years.
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From:packbat
Date:2010/07/21 0353 (UTC)
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I'd love to as well. I'd probably want to get a really good camera with a fisheye lens and aimable flash and practice, so I could capture the cool things I'd see.
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