Day 53 - Austin, TX know those times that you are on a two and a half month vacation, and you have to audition for a dance team but you're 1,200 miles from your dance studio, but you can submit a video audition, but you can't really dance well enough on hotel carpeting or in the parking lot to record your audition tape?  Yeah, I hate it when that happens.  So what's a kid supposed to do?  You use the power of the internet along with Big Trip Karma to find yourself a place to dance, that's what!  Bam, once again we got lucky.  

Last week we looked out on the schedule for a day that would have some free time. We hit on Austin as our first choice.  We then searched for a studio that looked like a winner, and our first choice was Dance Xplosion.  Kim sent an email, told them about the Trip and our situation and asked if they would have a studio to spare for an hour.  A little back and forth and we had ourselves a plan on our first try!  When we arrived, we met the husband-half of the studio owner duo, Adam Frishman.  SUPER nice guy, great staff on hand and a really nice space to let the girls do their thing.  They did, and on the way out, we had another great chat with folks in the studio, including some good tips for upcoming days and some fun comparing Wisconsin and Texas talk, y'all. We couldn't be more thankful for the help, Adam and Co.  If you ever need something dance related in Austin, look them up!

Back to the hotel late morning and there was another errand on the agenda - OIL CHANGE!  Yeah, we're at oil change #2 on the trip.  We found a really nice GM dealer near the hotel (thanks for the free oil changes, GM!) and they did the change plus a thorough once-over.  All appeared to be fine with the BigTripMobile , I was on my way.  The girls took the opportunity to hit the awesome pool one more time while I was out, so smiles all around when I returned.

In the afternoon, we decided to first hit the LBJ Library.  It was well reviewed and, honestly, air conditioned.  We weren't sure what to expect in a Presidential Library, but it was a really pleasant surprise.  Lots of history, memorabilia, personal connections and a great context to learn about Executive Branch and historical stuff.  And a bonus, in their 'other' exhibit area, they had a really nice Beatles exhibit.  Can't ever get me enough Fab Four. Great stop and the girls might have even enjoyed learning a thing or two.

We were then off to downtown Austin.  We parked in the famed 6th Street area.  We grabbed a bite in a newer gastropub sort of joint (good stuff) and then strolled 6th Street.  Pretty cool, but also pretty rough around the edges from a family-oriented standpoint.  And it was early.  I can only imagine how interesting it gets late and when SXSW is in town.

As the sun was getting lower, we went down by the river and staked a spot on the Congress Avenue Bridge in hopes of seeing the famous bats.  The normally trusty TripAdvisor app had been telling us that we might be in for a disappointingly lame showing of bats. Those people were wrong, wrong, wrong.  In a nutshell, the underside of this large, long bridge is the perfect habitat for an estimated 1.5 million bats.  And just before sunset, they all take off in flight, heading out for the night to go hunt for bugs.  It is absolutely unbelievable.  They start flying and before you know it, there is a stream of thousands and thousands of them flying right below you, heading off over the horizon in a non-stop stream of bats.  And it goes and goes and goes.  We stopped looking at our watch after more than 20 minutes of a non-stop bat parade.  If I would have had to guess, I would have said there had to be many millions - it was just one of those things that you have to see to grasp.  5 stars of fun.

We then drove Amy's Ice Creams (a local favorite) for a pre-bedtime snack and hit the hotel for the night.  Austin is one of those classic Big Trip cities where we missed 99.9% of what it had to offer, but we got a good taste for what makes it a great city.  Good job, ATX!

Off to another Texas star tomorrow.  Cheers!

- Jim

Bats.  Lots and lots of bats.  This is 1/250th of a second showing one very small portion of the stream of bats that took off for over 20 minutes straight.  The angle is looking down over the edge of the Congress Avenue Bridge in Austin, TX with the water below.  The colorful areas are people in kayaks watching from below.  They most assuredly are getting bat-shat upon.

Adam and Dance Xplosion.  THANK YOU for opening your doors to the girls.  

Beatles Exhibit fun at the LBJ Presidential Library.

LBJ's Oval Office recreated in the Library.  Very detail oriented, very cool.

The 'Library' part of the LBJ Library.  Tens of thousands of documents, pictures, notes and files, all open to the public.  Because it's ours.  Just like the National Parks.