Saturday, September 10, 2011

Tex Ecks: Destination Austin, Texas!

With the promise of diminishing temperatures and the three day weekend celebrating Labor Day, we loaded up the mini-van and set on our first Texan road trip. Destination, Austin.

By the map we traveled south down the 75, worked our way west a tad on the 35E South, and then due south on the 35. And then just kept on going.

By the journey, we traveled from the suburbs, through the truly striking architecture of a newer down town Dallas,  through the industrial brick and mortar and rail lines of the city's history. Turning south our eyes were taken on a tour of rolling hills, roadside beef jerky and woodcarving stands, and the first cattle we've seen since the move.

We drove through Italy and Waco. Somewhere between them the the landscape making the transition from the flat green and soft browns of the mid-west, to a sparse, thirsty terrain lined with barbed wire and prickly cactus plants of the American southwest as though in an attempt to keep the determined wilderness from overtaking the modernity of concrete streaking through the land. And then we rolled into Austin, toward the Trinity River. The sight of the blue water, speckled with kayakers and canoes, was a welcome sight for these landlocked north-westerners.

Once arrived, we didn't have much of a plan. The heat decided to stick around over the weekend, so we put on our sunscreen, shades and sandals and went for a walk; escaping into watering holes along the way.

We ate pulled pork tacos at a place called Stubbs (pictured) that set the bar for food all weekend. We visited the Museum of the Weird where I found some old school horror movie postcards. Sixth street was still sleeping off the party from the night before, so no music yet.

As we were walking toward Congress Street, melting quickly in the afternoon sun, Tex declared that he had somewhere he wanted to show me.

We round the corner and first he points out the beautiful capital building several blocks to the north, embraced by businesses and buildings representing Austin's past and present. Then he guides my gaze to a marquee across the street and states, "That's it. The theatre you played."

In a past-life, post college and pre-teaching, I spent a season traveling with the Montana Repertory Theatre in one of their tours of To Kill A Mockingbird. We played three cities in Texas: College Station at A&M University, Galveston's Grand Theatre, and the Paramount in Austin. Of the approximately seventy theatres in which we performed, a handful continue to stand-out in my memory. The Paramount is one of them. Originally an old vaudeville theatre, it has a wall near the dressing rooms that has been signed by performers for nearly a century. I remember looking at all of the names: Harry Houdini, Red Skelton, Lilly Tomlin, and so many others, and being very appreciative of where I was and what I was doing.

What I didn't remember was how beautiful a theatre it is. I borrowed this picture of the inside from because it was too dark when were in it to take a good photo.

As we approached the theatre to see if we could get in, we noticed the marquee was advertising a film festival. They were showing Giant later that day and Gone With the Wind on Sunday! We bought tickets and spent the afternoon escaping from the heat watching Giant with Texans on the big screen in a theatre where I had performed almost fifteen years ago. It was a totally awesome experience.

Following the movie, we were hungry for some serious meat. We decided to check out a place Tex had heard of from a variety of folks called the County Line on the Hill. It's about twenty minutes outside of downtown Austin and the views were breath taking. We watched the sun, enormous and the color of the hot end of a cattle-brand, set behind the hills. The food was disappointing, but if you've had Tex's ribs then you know we eat awesome BBQ all the time.

Sunday we wandered around a little more, still limited by the last hundred-plus degree weekend of the summer long streak. We listened to some music, took some pictures of the decorative steer that peppered the sidewalks, watched Gone with the Wind in a full theatre, and ate seafood for dinner at McCormick and Schmick's; the conversation winding from plans for future Texas road trips and travels to a return  home where sunsets happen every day as they light up snow-capped mountains.   

The morning on Monday greeted us with the long awaited cooler air. We pointed ourselves North, toward Dallas and toward home. 


  1. Looks like quite an adventure! What is your plan for the fall?

  2. Hi Rinaroo! I'm trying to get on sub lists and volunteer but it's been an obstacle course. There are a lot of interesting programs down here and I'm also trying to get in and do some observations. It's a process :) It was hard to have school start and not be a part of it this year.