Highs, Lows, and Weird in ATX

There is so much about Austin, Texas, that maybe once was weird but now is American cliche. Young people with long, groomed beards and handlebar mustaches. Statement eyeglass frames, cowboy boots with 70s-style jumpsuits. Putting your toddler in a t-shirt with a portrait of Ruth Badger Ginsberg on it.

As I say anytime I start getting snarky about locals, I’m just as bad.

What do we do when we visit a new town? Go to a craft brewery.

Because there are more than 25 individual breweries in Austin (plus satellite locations), we thought it’d be easy pickings to hit up maybe two per day. Turns out that’s what everyone in Austin does—weeknights, week days, weekend days—all the time.

No matter how you time it, you can’t find a parking spot. You can’t find a table. The guy at the food truck puts up a “Be Back in a Minute” sign and explains that he’s super stressed right now but will be feeling better soon. I hear you, man.

ATX Weird

We did find an exceptional brewery and an exceptional band.

Jester King is a large farm brewery organized for the huge Austin crowds. Each building on the farm is labeled as a different bar with different kegs on tap, plus food barns and trucks all integrated. As in, you start a tab in one location, and you can add a new beer or food item to it from anywhere on the 150 acres. Spend money easily!

Plus, they are still trying for the weird. Doom metal goat yoga. Bathrooms in an Airstream.

The small, local band playing in one of the barns claims to play Western country and swing (I did hear a lot of Bob Wills), but they throw in good deal of jazz, as well. The Pendulum Hearts’ fiddler is good friends with Billy Strings’ new fiddler. Small world? Large world?

They played Django Reinhardt, Duke Ellington. Monty Python. A song from the Jungle Book movie. And not a single one had a tattoo. Now that’s weird.

Highs and Lows

Less Junk More Journey is the social media name of a fulltime RVing family we used to watch on YouTube back when we were just dreaming of living on the road. Then, they lived in an Airstream and had one little kid, and they’d tell you about the gorgeous places they’d go but also the problems they’d encounter, so you’d feel like you were getting a realistic view.

They’re still on the road for the most part, with two kids now and a variety of RVs under their belts. I check in with them occasionally, and this week they‘d posted a video with the tagline, “When you live in an RV, your highs are HIGH and your lows are LOW.” And this is coming from a couple who laugh off mistakes and then make money from telling you about them.

Your highs are indeed high. A new, gorgeous place to visit anytime you choose. National parks, hidden gems. For me it’s the wildlife sightings that make my day, and I’ll take any. A coyote sauntered onto the trail yesterday morning in front of Banjo and me and looked at us, so shocked that we were interrupting its morning activity. I’ve seen a million coyotes by now and I’m still thrilled to see even one.

The lows Less Junk posted about relate to their attempt to spend this past winter in Baja, Mexico (people keep asking us why we don’t go there). After trying for weeks to camp on the beach and then inland, they gave up and drove away in tears. Too much wind. Too crowded. Too much of a language and cultural shift. If we were to go, we’d have our own hurdles (aka Banjo not at all being cool with so many stray dogs).

For us lately it’s been mood. We’re in a stage when everything is breaking, and that’s frustrating Tracy. He’s constantly trying to fix something or trying to find someone to fix it or putting it on a list for us to pay Airstream a million bucks to try to fix when we’re there this spring. And these are not cosmetic problems. The power inverter has been acting weird for almost year, a Starlink cable is wired wrong, my bike is shot, we’ll be lucky if the new tent is shipped to Iowa when we’re there; if not, we’ll be SOL amid the mosquitos of Alaska.

For me it’s been the onset of peri-menopause, which I didn’t even know was a thing until this past fall. Now I know, believe me.

The body I’ve been used to for the past 20 years has been replaced by a fiery, moody, bucking broncho with one mean headache. Don’t get me started on insomnia. Or how hard it is to get doctors and pharmacies to get the right meds where I think I’m going to be. That is, if I’m lucky to even get a prescription without an in-person appointment.

I sometimes wonder if living in a sticks and bricks would make it easier to manage this wild horse. I’d have a doctor I could see anytime! A washing machine in my home! A real bedside table with a glass of water on it. Sigh.

The thing is, no matter where you are, you’re still you. A glass of water on my bedside table isn’t going to change how I tackle the fundamental struggles of this life.

Like Austin, I guess, I started out weird, and now I’m a menopausal lady with purple eyeglasses, glad just to find a parking space.

Actually, Tracy’s the one who finds most of the places we go, and he keeps us going from one beautiful location to another. I keep with the snarky comments about Americans. And Banjo keeps the coyotes in check. We have a system, and it’s ours no matter where we are.

6 thoughts to “Highs, Lows, and Weird in ATX”

  1. I read an article about Austin’s transformation from weird to corporate not long ago. Kind of parallels what happened in Portland, another mecca that once prided itself on weirdness.

    There are highs and lows to any lifestyle you choose, and really, “No matter where you are, you’re still you” pretty much sums it up.

    1. I think there’s a fundamental law that as soon as I discover a weird place, it’s way too late. The only exception may be Missoula, MT which of course has grown, but it’s not yet too big for its britches.

      1. Madison, WI has some of the same problems. Lots of local landmarks disappearing under a tsunami of “luxury” apartment for tech workers in their 20s. I still love it here, but it’s not the same town as it was 25 years ago when I moved here.

  2. Hi Shelly,
    It’s always nice to read about your adventures. In truth, I’m always grateful to know that you and Tracy are doing okay and are safe. I suppose that in order to truly understand the “thrill of the road” one must experience it😁
    This menopausal thing will soon pass, but there are meds (both prescribed and over the counter) that can help!!! It’s just such a blessing to be done with it!
    Have a safe journey to Alaska. I did a cruise there a few years ago. The glaciers were my favorite thing…They are breathtaking ❤️
    Love from Virginia!

    1. Hi Cyndy – it’s great to hear from you! I like to think of you watching over us. I’m now taking HRT which seems to be slowly helping, but I always appreciate hearing from people who survived this craziness. Totally looking forward to those glaciers. Enjoy that Virginia spring!