My brother, George, is on a nine-month solo bike trip around the country to raise money for ALS (and live out a supremely badass dream). Follow his travels at gfe.bike!
In August 2017—a mere three days after officiating my marriage to Mark—he rode down our childhood driveway. 100 days later, I met up with him in Austin, TX—a place I’ve wanted to go for some time now.
The city served as a novel background for what wound up being a three-day deep dive into what we’ve each been up to over the past 3.5 months. I made him take me through his day-by-day travel log and answer all my questions, like:
- What do you think about on long, solitary stretches of road? Song lyrics on repeat.
- What’s the worst night you had? Fire ants at my tent site.
- What’s the most unexpected challenge you’re facing? Dogs chasing me.
… And obviously he told me dozens of positive anecdotes too. I’m a super proud big sis.
While we could have easily drank and partied our way through Austin, that just ain’t our style when it’s just the two of us. Think 9+ hours of sleep each night, a steady stream of water and tea, delicious food, nature, biking, and live music. Also, we shared plenty of long, silent periods where we did our own thing—the non-awkward kind that can only be shared between two people who are so close (99.9% genetically similar, in fact) and don’t really give a shit what the other one thinks of him/her 🙂
This Airbnb was in the heart of East Austin—the eclectic, grittier, “hipster” neighborhood, walking distance from downtown. After weeks of camping, I treated my bro to a queen sized bed in a bedroom with a proper door. And as an added olive branch, I picked accommodations with two spare bikes so I could cruise alongside the master.
Everyone I met was super friendly—from the stranger who helped me with suitcase at the airport to the audience at the music festival. We’re not in NYC anymore!
Speaking of “not in NYC,” the temperature was in the 50-70s each day, which is perfection; that said it’s off-putting to see inflatable Santas decorating lawns when you’re sweating. We were also welcomed by large populations of great tailed grackles and bats in addition to our usual pigeon friends.
The city is sprawling with pockets of activity. We got around by foot (clocked a solid 15 miles our first day) and then by bike once we wanted to venture beyond downtown.
There’s no shortage of live music, barbecue, and excuses to drink alcohol.
- Lady Bird Lake – Although we’re pretty sure this is the Colorado River (not a lake), it is beautiful and a perfect path for walkers, runners, and bikers.
- 6th Street – Long strip of bars with opportunities to drink al fresco (and do all the requisite activities like corn hole, ping pong, etc.)
- South Congress Avenue – Main drag with a mix of local boutiques like the Hat Box and three Starbucks options.
- East Cesar Chavez Street – The road that took us from our Airbnb to downtown, lined with diverse homes and dining options.
- Texas Capitol – Everything’s bigger in Texas, but this was pretty much what you’d expect.
- Love & Happiness Band @ Icenhauer’s – 10-piece band featuring three dynamite lead vocalists and a 3-piece horn section, covering everything from Motown to today’s pop songs.
- Zilker Park & Barton Springs – We biked around the trails on our single-gear Airbnb bikes. Thankfully, Texas isn’t known for its hills.
- Peter Pan Mini Golf – Our waitress at lunch on the first day, a born and raised Austinite, recommended we check out this course, so we expected it to be something special. But it turns out the draw was that it was BYOB, not the strange statues present at each hole.
- Saturnalia Music Festival @ Sahara Lounge – The perfect way to spend a Saturday—laying in a field listening to and/or dancing along to diverse, local, live music. We started out with Croy and the Boys (minus his boys), singing country songs about poverty, gentrification, hedonism, and luxury. Then we pivoted to a group of boy men singing “I hate my dad”-esque music. Then we entered a string of rock/electric groups. And then, lo and behold, we ended with Golden Dawn Arkestra. Words and photos don’t do this band—nay, experience—justice, so I won’t try. But our minds were blown—definitely one of the best (and most unique) live shows I’ve ever seen.
Food & Beverage
- Easy Tiger – We split a Texas Hill Country platter with “Pain au Levain, Venison Cheddar Hot Link, Duck Galantine, Wild Boar Rillette, Local Cheese, Seasonal Accoutrement.” Then we burned it off playing ping pong.
- Blue Cat Cafe – We needed a lil’ cat fix. Who doesn’t?
- Cooper’s Old Time Pit BBQ – Cafeteria style BBQ joint. We split brisket, sausage, coleslaw, mac and cheese, and baked potato with all the fixin’s. ‘Twas good, but it didn’t blow NYC BBQ out of the water. The search continues.
- Matt’s El Rancho – I had fajitas at this Tex Mex restaurant. They were good. I know it’s supposed to be more “authentic” down here, but I’m hard-pressed to find a way to mess up rice, beans, cheese, veggies, and meat.
- Ramen Tatsu-Ya – Indulged in some Japanese soul food. Delicious, but again, NYC boasts some pretty incredible ramen, so I give this place a “good.”
- Spun Ice Cream – Ice cream made with liquid nitrogen. Verdict: delicious and creamy, but it was a whole four-minute racket for one scoop. This NYC-er craves efficiency with her dessert. Next.
- La Barbecue – OK, OK—my NYC food snobbery has met its match. This brisket was the stuff of dreams. I can’t even.