I hit the road solo into Texas to visit a friend down in Austin and experience a city I have heard good things about. They call it Portland’s sister city, but upon entering Texas I was a bit skeptical.

My experience driving in Texas left me with the opinion that the worst drivers live in this state. Good luck ever wanting to change lanes. It seemed like the sea of trucks and SUVs would all speed up to block me anytime my blinker went on, as if this was a personal assault against their space. It was weird, but I made it to Austin eventually.

It seemed Austin was totally a different version of the Portland I know and love! I enjoyed some fabulous Tex Mex while I was there and just wandered the streets for awhile. The corners of Austin are home to clusters of food carts – another beloved Portland thing. I just felt at home – in Texas no less. How strange…

After sifting through some vintage shops in the South Congress area, a shop girl gave me a tip on some fun thrift storing. Turns out that Austin has a “bins”, just like Portland. It’s where Goodwill sends all the reject clothes, which get piled into huge bins that you then muscle through to find little clothing treasures. In Portland you pay by the pound, and in Austin you pay $1.49 per piece. Either way, it was a smoking deal and I found some fun new-to-me things.

I was all set to hit the road the following morning when my car started smoking on the Austin freeway in 100 degree heat during the late afternoon rush hour. How fricking miserable. Ugh. I got safely over, eventually was towed. The repair was minor – my silly mechanic in Oregon forgot to plug my engine fans back in, so the car over heated. I was back on the road, but stayed an extra night in town.

It worked out well because I got to see an awesome show at Antone’s on their southern blues night. The bands that played were The Statesboro Revue, Dertybird and Noble Dog. I think they all sounded better live than what I heard on their websites. It was a good night, although it does feel awkward to hang out at a show by yourself.

My best experience by a landslide in Austin was visiting the magical Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center, which deserves a whole separate garden-porn post. Austin was very good to me, even despite the car problems. I can’t wait to go back.

The road took me east in Louisiana…

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Written by Renee Wilkinson