After another loud, lively, and 5 a.m. night on Saturday at SXSW, Sunday became the perfect day to chill out and check out Austin, devoid of speakers and crowds. Not that the music had stopped, because some showcases did carry on into Sunday evening, but my eardrums had been efficiently paddled, and a slowed down day was in order.
For the Stomach: We began with a trip outside of Austin toward the rolling, tree-soaked “Hill Country” and the town of Driftwood, which is home to one of the world’s most famous barbecue meccas. That would be The Salt Lick, where for $19, you get all the sausage, pork ribs, and brisket you can handle, along with beans, potato salad, an actually healthy coleslaw (no mayo), and some bread.
Amazingly, the place, which is located about 30 miles outside of Austin proper, wasn’t too busy, and our party of six – namely former Mad Caddies bassist Mark Iverson and the family of San Marcos High grad Nicholas Long – sat down immediately. The only other time I’ve had true Southern-style barbecue was at Slim’s in Little Rock, and I think The Salt Lick licked ’em real good. Make sure to check out the massive ‘que in the center of the restaurant when you go.
For the Soul: Way out in the middle of Hill Country stands an impressive baby blue Hindu temple called Barsana Dham, built as a place of pilgrimage and supposedly one of the largest Hindu temple and ashram complexes in North America. Its serene setting is meant to represent the region of Braj in India, where the sect’s divine inspiration appeared 5,000 years back. I didn’t happen to spot a god-on-earth being, but it made a nice stop anyway, a place to get a little spirit back in my weathered SXSW soul. Free tour, and no one bothers you, even the information people who probably should.
For the Sport: I’ve always heard that Austin is considered to be the disc golf center of the world, thanks to numerous courses located around town and a year-round ability to play. So my buddy Rob Dalley took me to one as the sun started setting, and Zilker Park‘s short course proved a nice unspoiled walk – except for the obnoxious, littering, and thoroughly wasted slow players in front of us. The park itself is close to Austin’s heart, and is home to the Austin City Limits music fest as well as the annual kite festival, which just enjoyed its 81st incarnation on March 1 (and there were a couple kites stuck in trees to prove it).
For the Suds: In a town full of bars, many try to make themselves stick out with some sort of pizzazz or gimmick. But the tried and true always works in Texas, which is why we headed post-disc golf for a couple Lone Stars at The Horseshoe Lounge. With posters of beer, Texas flags, and warm dive bar lighting, The Horseshoe reminded me of scenes from Dazed and Confused, which was filmed in Austin, and exuded the nostalgia of the 1970s. It’s nothing fancy – unless you count a shuffleboard table as swanky – and little’s changed in decades. Of course, that’s the whole point.
For the Sipping: It seems like every state is growing wine these days, but it’s been a tradition in Texas going back 300 or so years, thanks to Spanish missionary influence. These days, the state is the fifth largest winemaker in the United States, trailing California, Oregon, Washington, and New York, and my trip to Austin wouldn’t have been complete without a sample of their best juice. So we took off to the nearby groovy grocery store called Newflower Farmers Market – remember, Whole Foods was founded here, so Austin helped start the nation’s organic wave – and checked out the selection of Texas wines. We settled on the Becker Vineyards Claret – a traditional Bordeaux blend of cabernet sauvignon, merlot, cab franc, malbec, and petit verdot – went home, and started sipping. For $18 a bottle, it turned out to be pretty decent stuff. But I probably will stick with my Santa Barbara County preferences for now.
For the Seeing: This tale wouldn’t be complete without a nod to the movie Twilight, which is all the rage among teeny boppers these days. I spent my last Sunday night hours in Austin watching this flick, and found it was surprisingly intoxicating. Maybe all the music and booze had turned my mind to mush, or maybe the teens are onto something.