Monday, October 17, 2011

The Many Wonders of Austin Pt. 2

What a great city Austin is! I mean, are you kidding me? This place exists on a plane that no place should be allowed to exist on. Every single person is chilled out and there are tacos for breakfast. Throw in the added bonus of a constant supply of terrific local beers and a vibrant music scene and you have a winner. If you need more than that I suggest you kill yourself, because you will never, ever be happy.

On my ride across the desolate, and beautiful, wastes of west Texas I though about what Austin really means to me. I came up with no answer of consequence. At the time it was just a compulsory stop in a string of places that I have always wanted to see. I have always believed that if one travels through the US that they would be stupid to skip Austin. This is a belief that has no concrete logical basis. Austin holds no meaning to me; even after visiting, the history and culture remain a relative mystery to me. If you ask me 25 years from now why Austin holds a special place in my heart I will look to the horizon, drift off into a thousand yard stare, and forget to answer your question. It is just neat for the sake of being neat and that is enough for me.

shaved ice - you're going to need it in this heat.
My host in Austin was a man named Pete. Pete is a kind person from another place who found himself here after college and has been here for over 15 years. If you look around town you will see this "I'm from somewhere else" as a recurring theme. Maybe the reason I like Austin so much springs from my distaste of hearing "I was born and raised here" uttered as a point of pride. People who come from elsewhere are what this country is built on; I challenge you to examine the best cities in the America, chances are they are loaded with people from somewhere else. From the food to the attitude, people from outside are the thing that make us who we are. As an added bonus outsiders have recently caused the development of thumbs in the people of Tennessee (adapted or stolen from Bill Hicks - RIP). So, next time you find yourself slipping into the tired anti-immigration rant, do a 180 and thank them instead. They are the only thing that will save you from a life of eating hamburger helper and eventually relying on family members as breeding partners.

I called Pete from right next to that shaved ice box. I was directed across town to the building that houses The Yellow Bike project. Check it out. Make a donation. When I arrived what I saw was enlightening. A room full of new and veteran cycling enthusiasts working to make sure no frame goes to waste. The yellow bike project is a non profit organization that helps you learn to build or fix your own bike. They provide the tools and support - you provide the desire and willingness to learn. The idea is to remove cars from the city and make bikes the default rather than the exception. As someone who burns gas in order to gain smiles I hope they let me keep my motorcycle.

I'm sure they will. I hung around the bike shop for awhile examining the culture. The crowd of industrious bike enthusiasts made me want to start a motorcycle shop with the same goals. After seeing this place it seems so feasible. Eventually I mentioned to Pete that I was in need of a good meal. I had far too little food today, and far too much coffee. I was shot. East Side Pies had the solution. I ordered a Bacon (the great enhancement), mushroom, gorganzola, and spinach pizza. It is drastically overpriced but terrific. Pizza is supposed to be poor people food; $21 is not poor people pricing. I wish that the rest of the country (i.e. not the east coast) would figure out that making an outstanding pizza does not mean you can over charge. I can't say enough how great this pizza was. I guess that's the point.

Next step - Eat Pizza and drink beers. Pete and I hung out for quite a few hours on the porch of his tower. That's right, he has a tower! I failed to take pictures of this overt display of prowess; I guess I was too taken by the audacity of a man with the courage to finally build himself a tower so that he may watch over his people.

 I pee on my bike as often as I am able. This is an animal demonstration of power over an object. It makes a concrete statement. It means "I control you and mark you as my own". i feel like it might keep wildlife from approaching my bike. I park my bike next to my tent to dissuade wildlife from coming too near. It doesn't work I guess. This cat is rubbing against the spot that is most urinated upon. Maybe it smells a fundamental defect in the works? On Tuesday I dedicated myself to contacting breweries and doing maintenance on my bike. After my shock replacement my gas mileage improved but I knew, after 10,000 miles my air filter must be coated in muck. The air filter is located under the fuel tank.
nasty air filter!

This necessitates a complete removal of the front plastics of my bike. It is not a very difficult process if you don't panic. It is quite peaceful actually. I had some breakfast tacos and did some laundry while completing this job. I also sent off some emails and made some phone calls. I basically did everything but pay close attention. This is something that will always result in slipshod motorcycle maintenance work. You must maintain a strict focus on your work if you want to do something right. I have always been told this in one way or another. I continue to disobey the suggestions passed down to me, thinking I might be able to do it my own way. I hold out hope that this approach might eventually work. It didn't this time though. In an effort to keep the insidious Austin dust out of my air intake while my cleaned and re-oiled air filter was out I packed rags in the air intakes. I then took a jaunt over to Barton Springs with Pete. Barton Springs is a natural pool within the city limits. It is a definitive, must see spot on any visit to Austin. The pool is fed by a spring which keeps the water at about 68 degrees year round. This spot, in addition to being a top optional place for female bathers, is also the habitat of an endangered salamander species. I declined to swim due to recently developed aversion to slimy, weed filled swimming areas. Instead I chose to read a book on the shores of the pool while Pete did some swimming. When we returned to Pete's tower I decided to finish my bike work. I forgot about the rags in my air intakes as I put the bike back together. This caused some trouble the next day, but no damage. Good for me.

The night before, over beers, Pete alerted me to the fact that he had a nightly raccoon visitor. I was pretty excited to see if he showed up with a stranger in town. He did. Tuesday night I actually had my camera to capture the adolescent raccoon. He showed up around 10pm as we were having a conversation about whatever it was we discussed. I was at the ready with my camera. I probably took an excessive amount of pictures given the situation. This raccoon is socialized for better or worse. He lives in a city, making him very familiar with people. He continually walked up to our feet for a sniff. It made for some neat pictures.

Some strange faces, a foot sniff/gnawing. Additional shoe inspection elicits terror and a rapid retreat.
I am well aware of the dangers to myself, and the animal of contact like this. We at no time initiated the contact. We also did not make an attempt to threaten this animal. This is a raccoon living in an urban environment. While it is a wild animal, it is also conditioned to understand that humans are here. I am comfortable with the level of interaction we had throughout this experience. Any contact that happened was at the animals leisure. Every attempt was made to dissuade him without harming him (abrupt movements etc...). If this is offensive to anyone I am sorry.

After the raccoon lost interest in us and wandered off to his next stop for the night Pete and I talked and drank for a few hours. After a couple of hours it was time to sleep in preparation for the day to come. A day where I would realize that my motorcycle maintenance skills could use some work.

The next couple days in Austin offered a dizzying array of BBQ, tacos, and beers. As Pete showed me his city I found out that I love Austin. It is a world class city. There will be a Formula 1 race there next year (and hopefully for years to come). There will also be a MotoGP race there in 2013. There will always be music in Austin as long as Humans inhabit it. If you have money to travel I suggest Austin. It will be a rewarding experience for someone with the proper mind set. Don't feed the wildlife.

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