Day 281

This weekend, I discovered UT tailgating and it was pretty unreal. As someone who lived off-campus during his college career, this is something completely new to me. But, wow did I have an absolute blast. I’m not sure if every school has a pre-game event of similar scale, but I couldn’t help but stand in awe of how many blocks it spanned. There were even sponsored tents from the likes of Monster Energy, Southern Comfort and Bud Lite. If you ever get a chance to go, I highly recommend it. I mean... free booze, beads and BBQ? Count me in for next weekend’s festivities.

Anyway, a week in and I’m already getting the sense that things operate a lot differently down here in Austin. While I still have a ways to go in figuring out why, I have come to notice a few things that make this place one of a kind. First off, the city itself contains different elements that remind me of many of the other stops I’ve already hit. The atmosphere is a lot like Memphis; the architecture, a little New Orleans; the nighttime weather feels like Charlotte; and the bar-lined 6th Street harkens back to the likes of Bourbon and Beale Street.

It’s more than that though. Even the more casual things I’ve become used to are different down here. Take food trucks for instance. Over the years, I’ve grown accustomed to checking Twitter for my favorite mobile eateries’ daily locations. However, here in Austin, the food trucks have taken up permanent residence in the abandoned corners and parking lots of the area. They never relocate and instead they build up their spaces with tents, lights, benches and a slew of decorations in an attempt to grab attention. And these truck-sized restaurants aren’t regulated to certain parts of the city either. You can find them almost anywhere, usually filled with small crowds or long lines depending on the time of day. 

Aside from the aesthetics, the people here seem to operate on a much differently wave length as well. While they maintain the charm and hospitality you’d expect in the south, they also have a more carefree air about them. Things move a bit slower. People breathe a little easier. Everyone seemingly wants to have a good time and they don’t let labels get in the way of that. Where in other cities, you’d know certain places as ‘the college bar’ or the ‘local joint,’ establishments here seem to welcome people from all walks of life. Yet, in the end, every place still maintains this ‘rough around the edges’ sort of feel, regardless of their patrons. Really, the only two categories they seem to have are ‘good’ and ‘bad’.

With four weeks to go, I’m really excited to uncover even more ways Austin is different. Although, I will say, I was absolutely right about the weather. I’m not a fan of the heat and as expected, I’ve already developed a love/hate relationship with this city as a result. 

-Steve- 

Day 155

Court Square

New Orleans, I had an absolutely wonderful weekend with you. The ride was long, but the experience was well worth it. And even though I wasn’t able to find Boz Scaggs or Eric Clapton, I did happen upon the Bourbon House for some crawfish and caught a jazz performance at the Little Gem Saloon. I hope to visit again someday, because you really know how to throw a party. I'd have a lot more to say about my time with you, but some things just shouldn’t be blogged about. So, let’s move on shall we?

After 2 days of non-stop travel, I officially arrived in Memphis on Saturday night. While this is stop 6 of #TGAA, it also stands as the first city on my journey I’ve never visited before. I have high hopes for my time here, but I should admit that night one did not go well… at all. My train arrived an hour late and while walking to the apartment, I got caught amongst the hordes of Beale Street partiers, fresh off night 2 of the Beale Street Music Festival. Once I finally made it to the AirBnB, I was met with broken Internet, a towel-less bathroom and a bed that lacked any sheets whatsoever.

I called my host, only to find they had seemingly fallen off the grid, even though we were chatting as I walked up to the building. Since I was unable to shower, sleep or surf the web, I finally contacted AirBnB to weigh my options. I have to say they really won me over with their response. After sending out a single tweet, they asked for my phone number and called me up within 5 minutes. They arranged a hotel room and offered to put me up there until I could get things under control. So around 2am, I got checked in and managed to catch a few hours of much needed rest.

Anthrax @ The Beale Street Music Festival 

When I awoke the next morning, I received a call from my host who apologized for everything and promised the issues would be taken care of immediately. Having now been able to breathe a sigh of relief, I set out to explore the city for a few hours. If there’s one thing I can tell you from my stroll through town, it’s that this city truly loves and celebrates music. Its presence is everywhere you go and it fills the city with a unique and powerful vibe. That afternoon, I headed to the final day of the Beale Street Music Festival, where I got to see bands like The Dandy Warhols and Anthrax take the stage. I even had some time to check out the various stands, shops and tents that gathered as part of the festivities. The park itself is a beautiful green space and it’s only a short walk from where I’m staying. So, I can already tell you that I’ll be jogging through it at least a few times while I’m here. Honestly, there are a lot of awesome places nearby, including Court Square, Main Street and Autozone Park. I feel like I really hit the jackpot with my location, as it looks like I’m going to enjoy a true downtown experience.

In addition to all of the other great sights in the area, I’m also only a 5-minute walk from RedDeluxe, my agency for the month. While I can’t wait to begin my tenure there tomorrow, I’m also a bit nervous because I’m not sure what to expect. Out of all the agencies I’m visiting, I think I’ve had the least amount of contact with them. That’s not a bad thing by any means, but it does leave me very interested to discover what kind of culture they have and what the office is like.

As for today, I plan on walking around my area to check out some more of those awesome places I was talking about. If this weekend was any indication of what my time here is going to be like, I can’t wait to see what tomorrow brings… as long as there’s towels.

-Steve-

From the Rails #2

Greetings from New Orleans!

I just made it to my hotel room and I’m so happy I can finally stretch my legs a bit. I love riding the rails, but a 16+ hour train ride can certainly begin to wear on you. I know I’m only in town for the evening, but I can already tell tonight is going to be nothing short of magical. After hitting the hotel gym for a little bit, I plan on visiting Bourbon Street to see what kind of trouble I can get into there. I don’t know much about this city, but I do know they have great food and I’m pretty sure you can drink in the street, which all sounds good to me. I even learned you can rent your own four-piece jazz band here, so I might have to look into that too. After all, Hannibal Buress made it sound pretty fun.

I honestly didn’t have much planned beforehand, but while I was still on the train, one of the Amtrak attendants gave me a list of some music venues I need to check out. She told me that a number of the Jazz Fest performers tend to pop in and do secret shows after the festival closes for the day. So, I’m keeping my fingers crossed that I happen upon a Boz Scaggs or Eric Clapton show. As for tomorrow, I plan on getting an early start to the day, so I can grab some authentic Louisiana brunch, before I hop on another train for 8 more hours of travel.

I know a lot of people will be asking if the endless train rides were worth it, just to visit a new city for one night. I guess things like this are only worth it if you make them. Sure, I could stay in my hotel room all evening and relax. But, I made the journey here and I plan on getting the most out of it. Wish me luck and I’ll see you in Memphis.

-Steve-