As I approached Austin, except for the constant running of my air conditioner, the scenery could have been from Northern California, not what one pictures as Texas. It was hilly with tall trees and multiple shades of green. Flowers of red, yellow and white adorned the green grasses.
It looked cool outside, but probably was 90 degrees and humid, which I confirmed when I got out of my car at the motel. I stayed on the north side of the city about ten minutes from downtown and the university.
I decided to stay in Austin two nights, not only because it is an interesting city with lots to do, but I found that staying one night only leaves s short part of two days to see the sites of where you stay, and part of that time is taken up by maintenance things like getting gas, buying coffee (I won’t drink cheap motel coffee; I have some standards.) and food for lunches, packing and unpacking; and, in my case, writing. I think for my next long road trip I will alternate staying one night and two nights.
I figured out how to get downtown, where the music was, parked for $8 and walked around until I couldn’t stand the heat anymore (at 7 p.m. in early May). I saw dozens of bars and restaurants, mostly advertising music. You could listen to live music anytime from cocktail hour until the next morning. I stopped in a restaurant that had good reviews on Yelp called Sullivan’s. It was a steakhouse, and I wanted to sample Texas steak. First, I sat at the bar and had a Hendricks martini. Austin was clearly up on premium alcohol. The band came out and set up. As they started to play, I realized that it was just a cover band with a very attractive female lead singer, like most cover bands. You couldn’t hear the lyrics because the instrumental was too loud. Between songs I walked up and told her that they needed more volume on the vocal. She said she would have the leader take care of it, pointing to one of the band members tuning his guitar, but as nearly as I could tell nothing was done about it. Perhaps they didn’t want us to hear her.
Like all steak houses, this one was dark, and I wondered what I would see if they turned the lights on. The filet mignon was expensive and good, but not great. My caesar salad was mediocre.
After dinner I walked around some more, peering in various bars until I heard a male voice singing that sounded good. I went in and was thoroughly entertained for an hour. A young man named Tom Melancon and his band played what I would call thoughtful rock, and they were very good, in my opinion. I would compare his music to Pearl Jam. I bought a CD from a young brunette at a side table who smiled broadly in appreciation of my purchase, something new to listen to on the road.
Later at another bar (of an endless supply) I heard another young man playing guitar and singing solo. This was a Friday night and downtown Austin was really happening, a lively scene of mostly, but definitely not all, young people.
The next day I met my writing buddy Saundra for lunch at Fino near the University, and enjoyed the conversation, a gourmet olive and nut appetizer and delicious nicoise salad. Afterward, I walked around the University of Texas campus, a beautiful, serene setting of trees, benches, buildings dating back to the nineteenth century up to modern times, as well as a mammoth football stadium. It was extremely hot on this early May afternoon, and I stopped often to rest, usually in an air-conditioned building. I had way too many clothes on compared to the students walking around.
After being led in the wrong direction by some well-meaning students, I found the Lyndon Baines Johnson Presidential Library. From my unscientific investigation, I concluded that three out of four University of Texas Students did not know where on their campus the Library of the 36th President of the United States was located. I only spent about a half hour in the library. After having toured the Libraries of Presidents Kennedy and Reagan, LBJ’s seemed very sparse. It had a replica of his oval office, a few photographs and gifts that had been given him by foreign leaders, some filmed events, and that was about all. There was more about the First Lady, Lady Bird, than there was about him. Having said that, I point out that there were half a dozen floors of the library that contained archives that were not open to the public. Also, when he was president from 1963 to 1969, videotape was not extensively used, while it was by the time Ronald Reagan was president. Yet, the John F. Kennedy Library in Boston is much more impressive and has much more in the public areas than Johnson’s, despite the fact that Kennedy was president for less than three years. I was saddened by the fact that President Johnson’s library was not more impressive. Though he was vilified for the Vietnam War (and rightfully so, in my opinion), he probably accomplished more as president than anyone since Franklin Roosevelt.
Since I had decided not to visit New Orleans this trip, I had some good Cajun seafood at Gumbos downtown. The gumbo was delicious. I heard two more bands at the university area bars that night and thoroughly enjoyed the music. Austin is a fantastic, accessible city — different from the rest of Texas with some of the Texas flavor, and I look forward to my next visit.