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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
We also enjoyed the art and history museums in downtown El Paso.
Toured the Maggofin House.
And visited 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…