January 6, 2017
The final chapter of our Lone Star State trek finds us in Austin (aka hipsterville).
On the second to last day of our journey across Texas, we zipped into Austin and made a beeline to Lake Travis Zipline Adventures. O ye of little faith who thought this trip could possibly end without a spot of discomforting outdoorsy adventure for me (teepee motel aside, that is).
It was Davey’s idea that we should try ziplining in Austin, so he made all the arrangements. The little fact that he overlooked however was that the package he booked did not simply involve a one-off dash down a zipline. It was instead a 3 ½ hour excursion that required a van ride, a boat ride and hiking as well as whooshing down not one, not two but FIVE different ziplines from ever increasing heights. It was hot, it was dusty, it was exhausting but, shocker of all shockers, it was also fun (in retrospect, at least).
For years, I had heard about Lake Travis and I could not have asked for a more picturesque introduction to this Austin-based treasure than strapping in, holding on for dear life and whizzing down a series of ziplines each of which offered a bird’s eye view of the Lake and the appeal for which it has become famous. I won’t say that it was not hard work but I will say that the memories were worth the effort.
After recouping a bit and washing off the dust from the Lake Travis excursion, it was off for a bite and some further exploration in the 6th Street entertainment district. Here in this always buzzing neighborhood, Austin’s renown for standing apart from its popular sister cities in Texas came clearly into focus. The patrons of the establishments in this district sport longer hair, tattoos, piercings and eschew convention in dress as much as they do in other aspects of their appearance. It’s more hipster, more new age, more artsy and more urban. In essence, it is clearly and unequivocally less beholden to traditional Texan narratives than the other more populous destinations in the Lone Star State.
Now to be clear, there are various entertainment districts in Austin, each imbued with a character and personality of its own. The 6th Street district, in particular, was my choice because it is chock full of bars and restaurants of every variety along with famous live music venues and historical landmarks like The Driskill hotel, which was built in 1886 and remains one of downtown Austin’s crown jewels even today. With only one night to explore, I felt obligated to make what is widely considered a safe bet on 6th Street but be well advised other entertainment districts like the Warehouse District, Rainey Street and East Austin, tell their own stories and appeal to specific personalities so please don’t allow me to sway your opinion. I say experience them all and decide for yourself.
That said, amid the swirl of 6th Street nightlife there are a wide array of food trucks begging to be sampled, so there’s no need to feel bound to making formal dinner reservations unless you absolutely want to. With so many choices, you can just as easily eat on the run in order to maximize the nightlife experience. Terribly convenient, no? We opted for the slightly off the beaten path Via 313 pizza truck, because why not have Detroit-Style pizza in Texas? (As a matter of fact, who even knew that there was even such a thing as Detroit-style pizza?)
For the final day of our trip, it was back to downtown Austin for a ‘farewell to Texas’ lunch at Wu Chow because there could perhaps be no better place to end this tour through Texas than at an ultra-modern Chinese food restaurant, listed as one of Zagat’s Most Anticipated Restaurants of 2015, right? Because Chinese food is absolutely what we all think of when we think of Texas no? I’m being facetious of course, but not wholly.
Serving elevated farm-fresh dishes representative of all eight styles of Chinese cuisine, Wu Chow shines. While menu items like Hot & Sour Soup and Shanghai Soup Dumplings sound familiar, the Wu Chow spin on them takes them to a new epicurean level. Ditto for less familiar offerings like Wok-Tossed Cumin Lamb and Mapo Dofu with Minced Pork. If as James Beard Award-winning chef, José Andrés has said, “Modernity is a subtle change in a very traditional dish” then there can be little doubt that Wu Chow is the sole of modernity indeed.
And so, with a toss of our chopsticks and tip of our hats, our trek across Texas came to an end, leaving me with just one final thing to say to you dear reader: “Ya’ll come on down to Texas!”.