Texas: Dallas & Austin

After 6 nights camping in the different national parks of Utah and Arizona, getting back to a real bed and en-suite bathroom was bliss.

A good nights sleep was all we needed before making our way to Las Vegas airport, direction Dallas!

The ride was a little bumpy but after 2.5 hours, we arrived at our destination safely.

As there aren’t tons of things to do in Dallas, we decicated this time to mostly relax after our particularly hectic week just gone. Our airbnb was a nice one bedroom apartment about 30min away from downtown by bus.

Having a whole place to ourselves now seems so luxurious, so we really enjoyed the peace and quiet.

We decided to do a quick food shop as we also had a kitchen but with the only shop around being a fancy organic market, our ‘small shop’ turned into a $100AUD expense we didn’t need. But to be fair, all we wanted was to cook something nice and healthy so we don’t regret it.

For our main day in Dallas, we decided to get the bus to downtown and have a little stroll around.

Dallas really isn’t what I thought it would be. It actually seems to be a pretty cool city with some nice bars and restaurants, art exhibitions (gutted we couldn’t make it to the Dior exhibition, the art gallery is closed on Mondays!). I guess I was expecting something a bit more ‘redneck’ but it really wasn’t.

Our first stop was the giant eyeball in the middle of downtown. As its name indicates, it is just a giant eyeball sculpture. It’s not very useful but it’s there so we went to see it.

Then we walked further down main street all the way to Dealey Plaza, and made it to the grassy knoll where JFK was assassinated when visiting the city in 1963. There is also a JFK museum you can visit up where the shooter was positioned (6th floor of the adjacent building), but we didn’t visit.

After walking around for a while, we then started researching gun shooting ranges because why not. We ate pasta in Italy, we should shoot guns in Dallas!

We found one close enough by bus and decided to make our way there.

Gun ranges are so intimidating. They are also shops where you can buy all kinds of weapons, so every wall and display unit were covered in guns of all shapes and sizes. Pretty scary.

As neither of us had used guns before, we needed to take a gun handling class to learn how to load, unload and handle a gun safely. It was actually quite informative and good to know. Unloading the gun, I hurt myself by pinching a bit of skin in the top part. It hurts!

As I was pretty nervous by that point, I was happy to share Nick’s gun rather than getting my own, and went to shoot 50 bullets.

We used an Austrian Glock pistol, something pretty light and quite easy to handle. Nick started shooting it first. It is so loud even with ears protection. I wonder how loud it must be without!

He’s done so well with his first 5 shots, landing right in the center. The instructor told him that with this kind of result, he’d get a perfect score in the license application if he applied for it.

Then it was my turn to shoot. It is so scary! This thing is so bloody powerful I couldn’t shoot it for more than 2 or 3 each time.

We continued shooting for a while until we reached our final bullet.

It was something different to do, though I got no thrill from it and don’t understand why people shoot for a hobby. I think they’re just dangerous.

On our way out, I asked the instructor how he learned how to use a gun and he told me he was ‘self taught’ 😳.

His cousin apparently received a rifle at age 5 (😳😳😳), which he used to use in his backyard when he was young. That’s just a bit silly really. Who needs a gun at 5!

After that very Texan experience we made our way to uptown, where you can find many cool bars and restaurants but by that point, the 40+ degree heat got the best of us and we were more than happy to get back to our air conditioned apartment.

The next morning, we woke up to a crazy storm and made our way to Austin via Greyhound bus.

Austin is pretty near, about 3 hour drive from Dallas and super easy to get to by bus. We had to get a Lyft from the bus station to our accommodation in Austin though, as it was quite far from downtown.

Our accommodation wasn’t the best (but not the worst). It looked like one of those motels on the side of the highway you see in movies where the killer is hiding on his way to Mexico, but the room itself was actually not bad and it was the nearest to downtown we could find with our budget.

As we arrived too early to check-in, we decided to go for a stroll in downtown through Capitol Hill, and then took Congress Avenue all the way to the river and walked back towards 6th.

Austin is… quiet! During the day, especially. There aren’t too many things to do.

We made our way to Rainey Street, an old street filled with bars.

Originally, the street started with one house transforming from a house to a bar. Soon after, other houses followed suit, making this street one of the night hotspots of the city. Pretty cool. There are many bars to choose from and all seem to have a great vibe. We stopped for a drink out front of one of the bars, making use of happy hour.

On our second day, we had set a goal of having lunch at Franklin Barbecue. Franklin Barbecue is a Texan Barbecue joint, known to be one of the best BBQs in the world. Because of the multiple awards they’ve won, the queue to eat there is absolutely insane.

We read that people start queuing in the middle of the night to ensure they get to eat there (it opens at 11am), and before they sell out, usually way before closing time.

We also read (and got confirmation from a bartender on Rainey Street), that by coming closer to 12pm the queue should ease up a bit, so we decided to get there for 11.15am.

Luckily, Franklin Barbecue was located literally 3 min walk away from our hotel so it was easy to get to.

When we arrived, one of the employees indicated that from where we were standing we had a 1h30 wait. That was fine as we came prepared with books.

After 1h20 (got there 10 min quicker than expected whoo!), we finally ordered our beloved lunch.

1 pound of beef brisket, a quarter pound of pulled pork, a sausage, some slaw and beans.

The brisket is what they are well known for, and it was absolutely delicious. The meat was so tender and tasty! They also have some delicious BBQ sauce you can use that is their own special recipe. Well worth the queue and the awards! It was really really good!

We then headed to the South Congress neighbourhood for a little stroll (it’s a younger, more fun place to visit with coffee shops and restaurants), before heading to Barton Spring for a swim.

Barton Spring is a natural spring flowing in the middle of Austin, with grass to lay down, toilets and changing rooms. It’s a great location to spend a hot afternoon like we did. Very popular with locals when they need to cool down.

At the end of the day, we headed to Congress Bridge. This is known for being home to a huge 1.5 million bat colony. They are well known for flying away at dusk to find food. Because of their high numbers, it is quite spectacular to see as they all fly away at the same time, it seems never ending!

Finally, we ended our day by going for a drink at the Marriott, which has a nice rooftop bar and offered good views of downtown.

Tomorrow, we will make our way 2hrs east to watch our first ever American Football game.

#TheDexplorers

TIPS

  • Franklin Barbecue is a must do in Austin for any meat lover. We got really lucky with the queue that day, but we believe arriving around midday should do it. You do run the risk they sell out by that point though.
  • Go for a drink at the Marriott’s rooftop for sunset or at night. Lovely bar with city and pool views!
  • Rainey Street is lovely for a drink in the evening. Any bar there would do. There are also many food trucks dotted around if you want an easy bite to eat.
  • The bats come out from below Congress Ave bridge at dusk. The bridge and surrounds get very busy, so get there 15min prior to sunset.
  • Here is a full recommendations from a local bartender for food in Austin. Locally approved!

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