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Daniel Tours America
State capitol, Austin, TX
27th Apr 2008
Austin, Texas: congress, the bats, bands

I have been on the go for three weeks:  two weeks of traveling and one week of packing, all of which have been exhausting.  Apart from one day relaxing at the hippie commune I have not had a day off, and I can feel it.  Were I working, I would have 3-6 nights in per week, but at the moment I am busy all day and all night.  It's extremely tiring.  After hitting the bars on Saturday night I welcomed a lie in until all of 11am, and then mooched around until 2pm.  At that time I went to see the city.

Austin is a rather nice city. Standard grid system, but with the state capitol placed over the intersection of blocks, not on the block, meaning it's visible for miles down the main road.  Very impressive.   I took a tour of this, and saw the Texas houses of senate and of representatives.  They're a lazy bunch, they meet for 142 days every TWO years, not meeting at all in 2008. George Dubba's portrait hangs in the rotunda as ex-governor. The house is a little more formal that the UK parliament - in the senate at least, a speaker may speak for an unlimited amount of time so long as he does not wander or repeat himself, the record being 42 hours.

In the photos you can see six seals around the base of the capitol's dome.  These are the six nations under which Texas has been:  Spain, France, Mexico, the independent nation of Texas, the United States of America, and the Confederate States of America. This is the origin of the phrase, and the theme park, "Six Flags Over Texas."

I then went to the Texas state history museum and the IMAX.  It was interesting to read the story of oil.  The first derrick was sunk in (I think) 1901, and in just 100 years Houston went from nothing to the enormous megalopolis it is today, due to the oil boom.

In the evening I saw the outbound flight of the world's largest urban bat colony.  Around one million bats live under a bridge in the centre of town, and they fly out to hunt at night.  It was very cool to see them all, although I suspect that the colony was not quite up to full capacity.

At night I went out again to 6th street to sample the live music.  Amazing.  Every bar was full, even at midnight on a Sunday night.  The local bands were just so talented.  One guitarist's facial expressions put Jimi's to shame, it was as if he was using his facial muscles to play, not his fingers.  The drummer of the band did a drum solo, but came away from his drums:  he came out into the crowd and played everything available - mic stand, trash can, somesone's pint glass, pipes and beams on the wall, to make a tune.  Very entertaining.

While walking through the town my heart exploded in panic when I thought I has lost my passport. I carry it about my person and it never leaves my side, but I thought that the belt had broken and it had fallen down.  I turned and ran back to the museum, and in my single-mindedness was nearly hit by a car as I did.  Turns out I had not lost it.  But I never ever want to experience that degree of fear again. Everything else is replaceable, but my I94 is not.

Today I am off to Dallas.

Next: Drive to Dallas, Waco
Previous: San Antonio: the Alamo, Fiesta; Austin

Diary Photos

State capitol, Austin, TX

Rotunda inner view, State capitol, Austin, TX

Dubya when Governor, Austin, TX

Texas Senate, Austin, TX

Texas representatives, Austin, TX

Oil seeking equipment, 1900s, Austin, TX

Oil drilling gear, history museum, Austin, TX

State history museum, Austin, TX

State capitol, Austin, TX

State capitol, Austin, TX

Bat bridge, Austin, TX

Bats, Austin, TX

Face musician, Austin, TX

Drummer on the walls, Austin, TX

Army style showers, hostel, Austin, TX

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