Thursday, April 12, 2012

Weirdness Showdown: Portland vs. Austin

A little more than a week after I got back from Texas, I was shocked to hear about the tornadoes that hit just south of Dallas. It's comforting now to hear most of the loss was material, and I feel even luckier that Mother Nature was more than kind to me on my trip. Dallas, Austin, and everything in between was especially mild and verdant. Case in point: Part II of our Texas adventure... Dallas to Austin.

[Austin, Texas]

On the way to (but south of) Austin, I went a little out of my way to check out Hamilton Pool in Dripping Springs, TX. I think I first saw pictures of the state park on pinterest some months ago. It looked like an oasis in the desert; something, though commonplace in Oregon (horray for that!), that seemed out of place in Texas. I heard the waterfall that runs into Hamilton Pool isn't always flowing like in the nicer pictures, but seeing as Texas just got out of a particularly rainy couple of weeks, I thought the area would be picturesque. It was!

From the parking lot, a path led down a hillside quarry filled with unfamiliar flora and fauna (Giant beetles! Vultures! Cacti!) to the pool. It continued behind the waterfall. Dripping moss cascaded over the overhang. A dip in might have been welcome in the heat, but not that day... e.coli was present in the water after all the heavy rains of the previous week. Still gorgeous!

Finally, to Austin! I've heard a lot about Austin lately, living in Portland. I've heard the cities are similar; indeed, both have the same slogan "Keep Austin (Portland) Weird!" and have been seeing 20-somethings flocking in as of late, keeping up some of the traditions of the hippies that settled in both cities in the 1970s and 80s. Microbreweries and foodies abound. I spent my two days there on the lookout for the "weird." In the end, I witnessed enough to make us feel a kinship between the two places.

[Like Portland, there were pods of food carts (trucks)]

Unlike Portland, the food trucks were closed and empty at noon. They open only for the late night crowd. Too bad; I wanted an organic bison taco from a solar-powered food truck for lunch. Portland's organic solar-powered food trucks only have vegan food. Probably not enough sunlight to cook meat. (I speak nothing but the truth here...)

[Taco wraps from this guy! Austin Weirdness: + 2 points]

Luckily, I was there for the Austin Saturday Farmer's Market, always a good bet for street food. I grabbed some tamales and taco wraps.

[Colorful street graffiti art. Austin Weirdness: +1]

Nice art scene; fabled music scene.

[This truck thing. Austin Weirdness: +1. The fact that we were stuck behind it in heavy traffic on a major highway : -1. Too "Anytown U.S.A." Cannot handle traffic after living in Portland for three years.]

How many hipsters need to wear a tie-dyed T-shirt with the city's slogan on it for it to be ironic enough to still be weird? What is the maximum amount that can wear it before it is not?]

[A playable mini golf course/art installation temporarily set up on the grounds of an historic mansion on a bayou that doubles as the city's art museum? +4 weird points!]

Keep it weird, sister city! While your famous donuts are sold from a truck and ours from a little shop on a sketchy corner of Old Town, in the end, they are both topped with bacon.


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