Miles Traveled: 6, Current Location: Austin, TX

It’s been a while since I’ve lived in the South, so I had sort of forgotten about the extreme contrast between the dual climates in the region which can alternate from sweltering heat to bitter cold in a matter of seconds.  That’s because one second you might be standing outside with sweat dripping down your face, half expecting a camel to saunter up alongside you as you trudge through the parking lot of your next destination, braving a temperature that feels appropriate only for the sun.  Seconds later, you enter the grocery store, restaurant, or even through your own front door and suddenly a blast of cold air hits you from every direction, and an arctic freeze takes over every part of your body.  You have just entered the zone known as “overcompensation for our outdoor inferno.”  You have just become a victim of central air.

Because of my lack of preparedness for this phenomenon, I’ve spent as much time being way too cold in Austin as I have being way too hot, never finding the bowl of porridge that’s just right. Nonetheless, I continue to enjoy my time here.  The concert that we attended last night reaffirmed the feeling that I get that Austin is a very family friendly town that advocates for outdoor activities and interests.  The city is filled with trails and fitness centers and takes pride in its efforts towards recycling and making a big push for everyone to “go green.”  After the concert, we took a trip to the Whole Foods headquarters, a Whole Foods store the size of a Walmart supercenter.  Each section has every kind of whatever-it-is-that-someone-might-be-looking-for imaginable.  The beer department even features a walk-in refrigerator that the customer enters to make his or her selections.  Naturally, this section was my personal favorite.

This morning, after a proper Texas french toast breakfast, I went to the LBJ Presidential Library.  American history has always been one of my favorite subjects, especially in relation to post-WWII, so I found the LBJ Presidential Library particularly fascinating, and I recommend visiting it if you ever find yourself in Austin.  They don’t charge an admission fee but instead simply ask for donations.  Since I had paid $5.00 to visit both the UFO International Museum Center and Bedrock City and felt like this experience might be worth just as much, I slipped LBJ a cool Jackson before viewing the exhibits.  I spent three hours touring the three floors and loved seeing the memorabilia from his various campaigns as well as reading about the events that occurred while he was in office. I saw the replica of his oval office, gifts that he and Lady Bird had been given, and even an incredibly creepy life-sized animatronic, joke-telling puppet of the former president… I guess as the saying goes, they “can’t all be winners.”

Besides getting to read a letter that Jacqueline Kennedy had sent to LBJ following JFK’s assassination and seeing the teleprompter print-out from Johnson’s press conference in which he announced that he wouldn’t run for another term as president, my favorite parts of this excursion were touring the museum alongside a woman who had a Nikon camera circa 1987 dangling from her neck and the fact that the LBJ Presidential Library is equipped with an enormous parking lot.  As in many big cities, everything in Los Angeles, whether a museum, the bank, grocery store, or a CVS, has extremely limited parking, if any at all.  Furthermore, nine times out of ten, if parking is available, it will set you back a pretty penny, and as a result, there are places in LA that I avoided altogether out of fear that I’d either never find parking or would have to put up that month’s rent to cover it. Because of these experiences, my instinct is to jump at the first nearby spot available while approaching even the outside vicinity of my destination.  Luckily though, in this case, I held off long enough to see a great big sign that read, “LBJ Library Parking.”  “Ah, that’s right,” I remembered, “I’m in Texas.”

Convenience is the name of the game in Texas, something that is abundantly clear just by driving around the streets of Austin.  Not only is the city equipped with ample parking, but there are trailers offering every kind of food imaginable within these lots, and drive-through liquor stores, like one called Party Barn, that allow a person to stock up for the next gathering without ever having to get out of the car… or more appropriately, without ever having to get out of the truck.

Something that I find incredibly interesting about Texas is the recognition that any vehicle deemed a “truck” receives on its license plate.  These license plates actually have the word, “truck,” written on them.  I can’t quite figure this one out.  Is the word there to serve as a reminder to the driver that he or she is irrationally driving an oversized vehicle?  Is it a bragging point?  Is it a labeling tool used to help promote literacy?  I don’t get it.  But besides not getting it, isn’t it also a bit of a given? “Texas truck.”  Is there another option?  It’s kind of like placing a handicapped placard on a Buick.

Everyone had told me that I would enjoy Austin, but I didn’t really have any idea of what to expect from the city.  After spending some time here though, I can say that it really does seem to be a great community with a lot to offer.  The support of local businesses is evident with a noticeable lack of the chain restaurants and storefronts that typically reign over this region of the country, and the people are laid back and just…nice.  Austin is just a nice place to be.

Tomorrow I follow up my visit to the LBJ Presidential Library by heading to Dallas for the Museum at Dealey Plaza.  The desire to see Dealey Plaza is one of the initial factors that motivated my tour of America, so I am very much looking forward to this stop, and I am also curious to see another part of Texas.  There is much more America ahead, so I hope that you continue to read about my travels as I head to the Midwest, Southeast, and up the East Coast.  Thank you again for following along.  One of my favorite parts of my adventure is being able to share it with all of you!

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