My Trip to Hippieville. Okay, okay, it’s Austin.

That’s right, since I apparently live in the great country—state, of Texas then it is an unspoken requirement that I must visit our great capitol. This is so I can view such great wonders as our state capitol building, fifteen feet higher than the national capitol and only slightly lower than our state’s massive ego; as well as random men walking around with sticks shaped like bow and arrows, yelling that the scripture of the ‘fabled archer of Hindu’ will ride again tonight.

That part was not even made up. Apparently it’s just a bit of normalacy in Austin, which makes the rest of us think they’re cuckoo.

Though my parents took me to this great city when I was younger, my brother and I decided to make a weekend trip out of it and see things we may not have been able to last time around. Why Austin, exactly? Good question. We didn’t even know why we wanted to go. Seriously, on the way home my brother asked me why I wanted to go. Great planning.

The Austin Bats:

Image Calvin was almost right.

The Austin bats are the largest urban bat colony in America. I don’t know if it’s THE largest bat colony in America. Just the largest urban. I guess that’s like saying, “Largest Urban Penguin Population in America”, you know you don’t have the most penguins, but you can brag you have the most in your city.

But seriously, the bats are a good thing. When the female bats are pregnant with their baby bats, called pups (you’ll never look at your dog the same way again) the females can consume their body weight in bugs EVERY NIGHT.

It’s a wonder Austin doesn’t have the “World’s Smallest Urban Insect Population.” That’s a title I’d gladly wear.

There are about 750,000 bats around the time we went in June, and can range all the way up to 1.5 million in August, when the pups are almost grown and fly out with their parents. This is the best time to go see the bats. We were there in the average bat watching season and the bats were still flying out from under the bridge for four hours. SO if your marathon bat watching sessions often go over four hours then August is the time to go. You won’t be disappointed.

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A very bad picture of a unceasing stream of thousands of bats leaving the bridge and nearly hitting the nearby tree. Bats navigate by echolocation, much like dolphins. They emit high pitched pings too high for human ears and then judge where objects are around them by how fast and what direction the pings come back to them. Something good to know for the next time you’re on Jeopardy.

The bats really start flying between 8:45 and 9:00pm. Plan on getting there an hour early to get a good spot. Do NOT go across the bridge towards the capitol and pay outrageous prices for parking. There is free BAT parking in an Austin Newspaper parking lot nearby, close to a small foot path leading under the bridge.

Last note about bats. Though you should never pick up a bat on the ground because there is a chance they have rabies, they are highly beneficial and keep the insect population down. They are not icky and are not something to be feared. Unless you are a bad guy and live in Gotham City.

Oh, and bats are mammals. Flying mammals. Not bugs, Calvin.

The State Capitol:

There’s not a lot I can say about our state capitol that you haven’t already learned in history class; or perhaps heard about from the recent series of super-filibustering, protesting and the like going on there. We were actually there just a day before the whole issue exploded and boy are we GLAD we got out.

The place looked like a four year old’s birthday party, Mardi Gras in New Orleans and the Soccer Mom’s National Convention of America collided in one place.

The capitol itself was beautiful and I loved how you can go into almost every room. Even ones you’re not supposed to courtesy of my brother trying to find the bathroom (The politicians have it nice in the bathroom department, by the way). There is no charge for an inside tour of the capitol or the grounds and the tours usually start every half hour.

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Sixth Street:

This was one attraction I was told I had to see and honestly, I wasn’t really that psyched for it. I’m not a huge fan of loud noise, strange looking people and, strangely enough, drunk people, and wouldn’t you know it, sixth street delivered a heaping helping of all three!

It’s not that bad. Even if you’re not a big drinker or making small talk with drunk people person, it’s a really cool place to go see. Obviously, you’ll get the full effect, in more ways than one, if you’re twenty one, but it’s cool to go otherwise.

I thought the most interesting part was that all the bars had the bands near a huge open window right up against the sidewalk so you got the full effect of hearing them without actually going in the bar. I really like the whole musical side of Austin and Sixth Street delivered.

There are covers for most of the bars but a lot of them were running specials for the weekend and every place had one or two bands playing. Don’t have to see it, but definitely gives you a taste of Austin.

Barton Springs:

Boy, I was so ready to write an amazing little segment on this wonderful little spring. Too bad a quarter mile of people and a three hour wait stood between me and getting in. Yeah, don’t go on the weekend. Or you can go during the Winter. You won’t want to swim, but you’ll get in.

Yeah, hundreds upon hundreds of people were lined up and I would have gotten a picture had I not left my camera in the car since I had expected to, surprise, swim!

However, if you are much better at planning than we are, which is to say, everyone, then by all means find time to go. My brother and I had already gone once on a church mission trip and the spring is beautiful. Even if you don’t get into the spring, Zilker Metropolitan Park is right nearby and it’s beautiful. It is the epitome of what I like about Austin. There is such a wanting to be outside doing something and a ton of people walk or bike most places.

Beyond those places we did visit a friend and found some smaller things to do, but these were a highlight of what I would recommend. Obviously on the capitol building, go when there’s not huge protests going on. Or maybe go when there are to get the full effect of Texas Politics, your choice.

Until five minutes from now when I make another post.

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