Marylu – Austin and El Paso 2-14 to 3-5-2016

From Marylu  Austin and El Paso

We thought Austin might qualify as a possible retirement destination since it met so many features on our wish list – tolerable year round climate, close to a major airport, lots to things to keep us busy, and good economic outlook.

Using a home rental website, we found a suburban neighborhood duplex to call home for our stay.  This is the first time we were seriously disappointed with the property.  The location was good but everything about the place was shabby, maybe not quite a dump.  You decide.

Sheers to small, center bracket missing
Sheers too small, center bracket missing, and broken window
No Thresholds from concrete to tile
No Thresholds from concrete floors to tiled floors
Mirror in bathroom - speckled & broken
Mirror in bathroom – speckled & broken
Kitchen drawer no slide, trim off countertop
Kitchen drawers no slides, trim off countertop
Bad seal at bottom of front door
Bad seal at bottom of front door
Kitchen counter needs repair
Kitchen counter needs repair







Austin Singing Toilet Video
Austin Singing Toilet Video

We learned to avoid flushing during the night!

A few days in Austin reinforced my aversion to driving in large cities, especially after New Orleans and Houston!  Austinites blame it on transplants from California.  We did try the bus one day but learned their transit system needs improvement and expansion. Sound familiar, Minnesotans?

Austin Navigation Challenges
Austin Navigation Challenges

Downtown was a great place to visit after we learned to negotiate the streets and parking.  We found plenty of things to do and see and enjoyed as many as we could tackle.

Austin at Night
Austin at Night  See the “Owl” building?
Austin and Willie


Visiting Stevie Ray Vaughan
Visiting Stevie Ray Vaughan
Austin - Nice Patio
Nice Patio Right Downtown

Alan detailed most of our adventures, so I’m just going to list some of my favorites.  Actually, it’s funny to list them because there was such a range of activities.

Esther’s Follies was like Saturday Night Live, Laugh In, and a magic show all in one.  It was especially fun in this pre-election season – no one was safe from their humor.  Another plus, it was on 6th Street well-known for Austin Weird.

Austin Stage at Esther's Follies
Austin Stage at Esther’s Follies

Supposedly, as the remains of the “Minnesota Iceman” had just been returned to the Museum of the Weird from a study to determine its origins; part of the ice was melted away exposing some of the hair on its finger – whoa!  No photos were allowed, but just type Minnesota Iceman in your browser for lots of interesting stories and photos.  The rest of the museum was small compared to the Ripley Museums we’ve visited.  Our traveler from the Mardi Gras parades, Mardi Claws, did enjoy the diverse company and photo op.

Austin Mardi Gras at Museum of the Weird
Mardi Claws at Museum of the Weird with a Gargoyle and a Rubber Chicken

Timing for our tour of the State Capitol was perfect as the legislature wasn’t in session.  That meant we were able to be on the floor of the House and Senate chambers AND the corridors weren’t full of people.

Austin Capitol
Austin Capitol
Austin Capitol House Floor
Austin Capitol House Floor

A wonderful guide gave us a tour of the Lieutenant Governor’s Reception Room with details about its time as a residence, the dishes, a fire, reconstruction and details such as the needlework on the chairs and how the new carpeting in the House chambers had been hand sewn.

Austin Capitol Lieutenant Governor's Reception
Austin Capitol Lieutenant Governor’s Reception

For me, the all time highlight of our time in Austin was a visit to the LBJ Presidential Library.  Who knew that I would find him to be an inspiration almost 50 years later?  My recollections of the man and the times probably align with those of many others of my generation:  Vietnam War, protests and sit ins, and his crass manners.  How did I fail to recall his accomplishments?  The 1964 Civil Rights Bills, federal aid to education laws, Driver’s Education, Head Start, Work Study, Medicare and Medicaid, and the Voting Rights Act.

Alan Enjoying a Visit with LBJ
Alan Enjoying a Visit with LBJ

Visiting the library was like looking into a time capsule from my college years.

Although Alan mentioned going to Ginny’s Little Longhorn Saloon for Chicken Shit Bingo, he didn’t tell you that he was lucky enough to get a ticket.  Aw, the poor chicken….everyone crowded around the pen waiting for nature to take its course and crying out in glee as it wandered near his/her number.  Silly to get so excited but kind of fun.  I think it would go over well in some bars in Nordeast Minneapolis.

We Lost at Chicken Shit Bingo
We Lost at Chicken Shit Bingo

On that note, off we go to El Paso via Fort Stockton.  It was just an overnight stay, but we found a monument and some pretty good, authentic Mexican food.

Roadrunner Monument
Roadrunner – We really don’t have a Bird Theme!

Our living quarters in El Paso were a great improvement over Austin!  The place was situated at the top of a hill overlooking the city.  Great view, I tried multiple times to get a good night shot.

El Paso Night View from our Deck
El Paso Night View from our Deck
El Paso Sunset
El Paso Sunset

I liked El Paso except for the cloud of dust that hovered over the city all of the time.  Getting around was comparatively easy discounting the closed roads under construction.  Even then, it was straightforward until we tried to get GPS support from Fort Bliss back to our condo.  Twice we were on the road to cross over into Juarez, Mexico!  Fortunately, there is a u-turn at the last opportunity before going through the border crossing.

Fields of yellow poppies were in full bloom during our visit; a little early for the season, we were told.

Cheery yellow poppies!
Cheery yellow poppies!

A favorite museum wasn’t even on our radar.  We went to see the botanical gardens at the University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP) and learned there was a museum displaying treasures of all kinds.  It was larger and more varied than most collections we’d seen elsewhere.  Definitely worth stopping if you’re in the area.

El Paso UTEP Museum Fabric Work
UTEP Museum Fabric Work
El Paso UTEP Museum Agate
UTEP Museum Agate

If there’s an opportunity to tour a cathedral, I always put it on the list.  St. Patrick’s Cathedral (built from 1914 to 1916) was open during our stay, so we were able to learn a bit more about El Paso.  Catholic Irish miners were part of the active mining industry at the time the church was being named, naturally, St. Patrick won out as the favorite.  Due to suppression of religious freedom in Mexico, this church became a place for seminarians to study creating historical links between the two countries.

El Paso St. Patrick's Cathedral Exterior
El Paso St. Patrick’s Cathedral Exterior
El Paso St Patrick's Cathedral Interior
El Paso St Patrick’s Cathedral Interior

We also enjoyed the art and history museums in downtown El Paso.

El Paso History Museum Selfie
El Paso History Museum Selfie
el Paso Art Museum
Downtown Art Museum

Toured the Maggofin House.

Magoffin House
Magoffin House

And visited Rosa’s Cantina.

El Paso Rosa's Cantina
El Paso Rosa’s Cantina

While traveling in the off season saves us money on rentals, it also limits the number of open attractions.  Since this is our USA exploratory trip, we’re making notes of opportunities missed.  Sometimes it seems as though we are zooming by so many places and things to see!  Next time around we should stop at Carlsbad Caverns, White Sand National Monument, the observatories in New Mexico, and ….

Next stop Albuquerque…


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We are two recent retirees who decided to sell the house, pull up stakes, and explore North America. We are both being tourists and looking for the right blend of people, place, and geography that makes for the perfect place to retire.

7 thoughts on “Marylu – Austin and El Paso 2-14 to 3-5-2016”

  1. Dump! I vote dump! So sorry you had such a sorry looking place to stay. Good thing you guys are on the road again in no time. So many interesting places to see–wow! This is such fun you guys taking us along for the ride. 🙂


      1. Looking forward to it on Facebook – too bad the accommodations were such a detraction from what seemed to be an otherwise fascinatingly fun time.


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