This isn’t my first solo road trip and it won’t be my last but this summer I’m doing to separate trips; the first is into Austin, exploring Austin and the surrounding area, and then exploring Big Bend National Park. My second road trip will be through Chicago (not stopping there), a stop in Indiana, and then a full loop around Lake Michigan, stopping to hike, kayak, and explore that area.
So, Austin. I’ve been wanting to go for awhile but just haven’t had the chance to get out there. So when my step brother invited me to his wedding I felt like this was the perfect time to extend a trip and explore.
I flew in direct from Tampa and went to my hotel to drop my things off. I wanted to stay on the west side of town the first night because everything I wanted to do was convenient for this area. First I got my rental bike that Barton Springs Bike Rental dropped off at my hotel for me. They also have guided tours if you want someone else to show you around. Austin is bike friendly, bike lanes pretty much everywhere. I first went to the Greenbelt. The trail says you can bike, but it was way too rocky and uneven so I hiked. I went down to Twin Falls and hung out there for a bit to cool off. It’s a cool place to bring some food and drinks to on a hot afternoon. See the picture below:
I wanted to explore more the area, but first taco time. There was a lot of hype with Torchy’s Tacos, but they did not disappoint.
I got the dump truck, dirty (means with queso) (bottom) and the democrat (top). Now that I was fueled up it was time to start exploring. I rode around to see a bunch of awesome murals, up and down Congress Avenue, and 6th street. It was quite the day, and hot! So I returned the bike and called it a night.
On day two before the wedding festivities began I went downtown and explored there. I stopped at Torchy’s for some breakfast tacos (when in Rome). I got the wrangler and migas. Once again, they did not disappoint. Then I wondered downtown, stopping for a Portland favorite of mine: Voodoo Donuts which was a nice treat.
Then I continued exploring and decided to visit the State Capital for a free guided tour. It was pretty awesome to hear all of the history behind it all, and hey, free tour (with AC). These are some of the photos I got from inside the tour and the outside of the capital:
After that, I walked along Lady Bird Lake before I met my family at the hotel. I went to The Line Hotel (where we were staying for the wedding. It was very nice, and the location was perfect. But this is why I didn’t rent a car, it was $60 a night to park it there! We all went to lunch at Second Bar + Kitchen for a break from tacos. We got avocado fundido, pomodoro pizzas, and some local beers. We then walked and did some shopping across the congress bridge. After a shower and quick nap, we met at Sour Duck Market for the rehearsal dinner which was an outdoor area with fun drinks and good food. My favorite drink was the Turmeric Mule-vodka, their house ginger beer, and turmeric.
The next day my family and I went to Juan in a Million for some authentic Mexican breakfast, and wow!! I got the con queso breakfast which was two eggs served any style (I got them over easy) with queso, carne guisada, refried beans, potatoes and two flour tortillas as well as a bloody mary. My brother and dad shared the famous Don Juan. Both pictured below:
Then we decided it was time to burn breakfast off. We took an Uber out to McKinney Falls State Park for some hiking (it was $6 per person to explore). We hiked to Upper Falls, Old Baldy, Bouldering Rocks, El Camino Real, and Lower Falls. They were all easy, on a loop, but it was definitely a hot day out there.
Then it was time for the wedding. It was at Jennifer’s Gardens which was a beautiful venue and great event. We had Slab BBQ food truck food: pork ribs, smoked mac and cheese, and Notorious P.I.G. Sammich (pulled pork) and it was delicious!
We went out for a few drinks after the wedding, stopping at the Arcade Bar on 6th Street and the Container Bar on Rainey Street. It was fun to see some of the night life out there.
The next day was when my solo trip started–but not before one last Austin brunch with the family. We went to Corner-Flavors of Texas, which was good food. After brunch my brother and I rented a kayak and went down Ladybird Lake for some last minute fun. It was a beautiful trip down the river:
Then I picked up my rental car and I was off. I wanted to explore some areas right outside of Austin so I was off to Mount Bonnell. It was 106 steps to get to the top to be able to see all of Austin from above. Check out this view:
After that I drove to famous Salt Lick BBQ, which is an Austin staple. There are all you can eat options and since it’s BYOB be prepared to wait for a while for a table. Since I came around 3:30 pm and I was only one person I was luckily able to get right in. And I had some really good pulled pork!
Although I would have liked to stay in Fredericksburg, known for being wine country, I wanted to stay half way between Austin and Big Bend National Park so I wouldn’t have to drive as far the next day. But I did stop in Fredericksburg first at the Altstadt Brewery for a beer and then Six Shooter Cellars for a glass of wine. I stayed at the Travelodge in Ozona. This place was gross and I wouldn’t recommend it.
I was up early the next day to get to Chisos Basin Campground early to reserve a camping spot. They are all first come, first serve so I wanted to first make sure I got a spot and then got a spot in the shade. So, I didn’t get a spot in the shade, but I got a spot. Then it was hiking time. Because of the location I was close to most of the areas I wanted to hike at, so that was convenient. I did the Lost Mine Trail first. It was 4.8 miles roundtrip and not too strenuous of a hike, and the views were amazing!! However, there was very little shade so staying hydrated was very important. Then it was off to the Window Trail, which is a 5.2 mile round trip hike. After putting a lot of miles on my feet it was time to relax with dinner at the Chisos Mountain Lodge. The food was decent, but the view great. Then it was back to my camp site where I thought I’d be able to see the Milky Way, but it stormed. I did wake up around 3 am and saw some amazing stars though!
The next day it was up early to hike again. This was to avoid the heat and also because it was hard to sleep. I hike the Pinnacle Trail which lead to the Emory Peak. Now this hike, was a big one, 9 miles roundtrip. Make sure you bring tons of water for this one, but the views when you’re done makes it worth it.
This <a href="http://”>personal mist cooling system saved me several times over. If you’re hiking in the heat, I recommend this!! After that hike I was done, which I knew I would be. So I had planned to just do driving to view points in the other parts of the park including: Blue Creek Canyon, Mule Ears Viewpoint, and Santa Elena Canyon overlook. While I did get out at these view points, I couldn’t resist a few more small hikes to see more sites.
I first did the Santa Elena Canyon hike where you have to cross the Rio Grande to finish it, that was pretty awesome:
Then I stopped at Tuff Canyon to see it from the top and the floor:
Big Bend was awesome! I was heading to Terlingua after this day, but first here are some more Big Bend photos:
I then drove to Terlingua Ghost Town, which was an old mining town that went bust. It’s considered a ghost town that is made up of decaying buildings, mine shafts, tall tales, ruins, crotchety old-timers, a three-legged dog, too much cactus, and semi-friendly rattlesnakes. It’s been slightly revitalized with rustic Texas lodgings, world famous chili cook offs, an internationally acclaimed restaurant, and — perhaps most importantly — a fully operational saloon/bar, the Starlight Theater. I had the smoked brisket tacos there and they were delicious. Be sure to check out the jail–where the bathrooms are that is.
That night I was staying at La Posada Milagro Guesthouse which was absolutely adorable! They had 6 or 7 rooms (some don’t have their own bathrooms so watch which one you chose), AC, and a patio. Check out these pictures:
There was a crazy Texan storm that night, followed by a beautiful sunrise to start the next morning:
I started my day off early because I was heading back to Austin (an 8 hour drive) with one last stop on the way. I stopped at Enchanted Rock State Park ($7 per person to enter). This was a cool site, they have a loop trail that takes you around the whole park which was about 4.5 miles around, with trails you can take on the way. I did the summit trail (.7 miles, but straight up), to get to the top, and the scenic view trail (.9 miles) and relatively easy for a great view of the park and surrounding around. Here are some pictures of these hikes:
On my last night in Austin I went out to Old Thousand with my step brother and his new wife. We decided to get a bunch of things to share, and each one was amazing! We ordered their famous brisket fried rice, buddha’s delight, mapo tofu, and some new dim sum that came by. It was a great (and delicious) way to end this amazing trip.
Be on the lookout for part 2