Austin: Land of obscene highway overpasses, bumper-to-bumper traffic, and man-buns

Louis CK once said there is nothing more stupid than civic pride and civic rivalry (, offensively grunting as he mocks people who cheer and boo cities he mentions in his acts.  For the most part I agree with him, but I have to admit that I am filled with protective-mama disbelief and even anger that people compare Austin to Madison.  Boo!!!!!

From where I’m sitting, Austin is the lovechild of Los Angeles and Milwaukee AT BEST.  It is HUGE, sprawling miles and miles in every direction.  There are highways EVERYWHERE, and the layout of their multiple, multiple interchanges is terrifying and unnecessarily sky-high.  The traffic is so bad EVERYWHERE you go, you’d think that when they designed this city that they didn’t actually expect anyone to live here.  Yes, there is a capitol building and a big university within walking distance of each other, but it is CHAOS.  You can’t drive on campus without a permit, you can’t get into the capitol building without going through security, there is no free parking anywhere, and there are even a few skyscrapers here in the downtown area.  Really?…  This is like Madison? Have you ever BEEN to Madison?!

Let’s look at some numbers:

MADISON: 84.7 square miles; population approximately 244,000

MILWAUKEE: 96.8 square miles; population approximately 599,000

AUSTIN: 271.8 square miles; population approximately 913,000

CHICAGO: 234 square miles; population approximately 2.8 million

So Austin has almost 4 TIMES THE POPULATION of Madison and 3 TIMES THE SIZE of Madison.  It’s even close to twice the population of Milwaukee and again is almost 3 times the size.  Please…..

And don’t be deceived by the hip youngsters….  There’s no shortage of hippies, hipsters, and all the hip-whatevers.  This is still Texas, and I’m not fooled by the man-buns, Urban Outfitters, and coffee shops.  Anything cool is Austin is a 20 minute drive from the next cool thing.  Forget that.

A few quirky things about Austin that worked for us: All the parking spaces are long and huge because every other vehicle out there is a big truck; most gas stations have diesel and if they do it’s at every pump because every other vehicle out there is a big truck; and….. actually that’s about it.

So it will make my parents very happy to know that another city has further etched in our hearts how much Madison is truly home.

You know you’re in trouble when the best times you’ve had in a city are at IKEA, playing in the park, and at the grocery store.  Not exactly site-specific.

This was a grocery store worth mentioning.  Yes, I know….  I become more and more of a mother every day…  I go to Target just so that I don’t lose my mind; I get excited about things like milk and toilet paper; I covet the 30 seconds of alone time I get in the toilet.  It’s the greatest privilege and the greatest soul-suck that ever was…..

But, seriously, I don’t think I was happier in Austin as when I went to this store.  HEB is not a store I’d ever heard of, but it is everything I could ever ask for in a store.  It’s the lovechild of all the stores I go to in Madison but in one place.  It has everything I buy AND is not so big that you get lost.  It has organic produce AND is afforable.  It carries the obscure things I struggle to find (large cartons of goat’s milk, Genoa tuna, quality fresh basil, organic meats, etc.) AND run of the mill everythings.  It has bulk foods AND is not all obnoxious about it.  It has a large pharmacy, liquor section, free samples, and they don’t give out bags for free.  LOVE.  IT.

IKEA was also a successful trip.  After much hemming and hawing about the bulkiness of our kitchen table, we found a more simple and compact table to replace it.  For good karma, we donated the chairs along with the table (instead of donating them separately), so have been flying chair-free this week after a few unsuccessful thrift store trips looking for 2 chairs.  Harder than we thought to find….  We also got a twin-size mattress topper to put on the bedroom floor with the intentions of giving Eli his own sleep space (and reclaim our sleep space).  So far, he’s still in the bed with us 🙂

And after lots of meat, bread, and dairy, I’ve opted to do my 9-day liver detox diet again.  I know, right before the holidays, but it’s a good thing to invest your time in when you don’t give a hoot about the city your adventuring in.

But are you reading this right now?… This is how we spent our time in Austin.

Dave endearingly has tagged this entire blog site as “Susan’s blog of doom,” and it’s kind of true.  Just like my music, you don’t want to make it into one of my songs or blog posts…. it’s not a compliment to make an appearance.

But it wasn’t all bad 🙂  Despite our 2-week committment to a city that ended up being a bust, we had some beautiful weather, happened upon Christmas carols at the state capiltol building, and watched a beautiful sunset at the Oasis restaurant.  I could write another blog post about the chaotic service there, but I’ll just focus on the sunset.

**And as a side note I just have to say…. We stopped in Beaumont, Texas on our way from New Orleans to Austin and had some of the best pizza I have ever had.  I seriously cannot say enough good things about it.  If you are ever within 300 miles of Beaumont, Texas I recommend the detour so that you can partake at Crown Pizza.  I consider it tragic that we only discovered it on our last night there.  Otherwise I would have gone for every meal and conquered the entire menu.  Oh, I can’t even think about it it’s making me so hungry…. **

And there is still the never-ending privilege of watching Eli TV 24-7 as he makes those subtle and speedy developments, revealing his personality and illuminating the miracles of brain and body development!

Eli grows up more and more every day!  Lately he’s practicing sitting and standing from chairs and seats, climbing steps, freeing himself from bondage (child gates, high chairs, diaper changes, our loving embrace), and reaching the unreachable by standing on tippie toes and even little hops.  You can also watch all those wheels turning in preparation for speech as he watches our lips move, babbles constantly, and points at pretty much everything with the intention of “tell me what that is!”  And his favorite sound to make is, “Moo!”  He certainly says it when he sees cows, but he’s also decided it’s worth stating when he sees all animals.  Super cute.

Last Saturday we went to a small local farmer’s market and Eli got to play in a nearby park with some other toddlers, something that’s been lacking on our isolated journey.  He seemed a little intimidated 🙂

That will either get remedied soon or will get a lot worse as we head back to the midwest next week for a much-needed visit with family for the holidays.  On our first stiop with Dave’s side of the family, Eli will soon celebrate with his 4 cousins, ages 4, 3, 20 months, and 13 months.  Exciting stuff!!!  I think we will have to teach him about what “sharing” means.  On our second stop with my side of the family, Eli will shine as the first and only grandchild, free to play with everything and enjoy the uninterrupted attention.  More exciting times!!!

And somehow we are going to fly home with and add to the camper gifts from 2 X-mas celebrations.  Holy hotdogs…..  Exciting times?….

So, back to Austin….  I guess overall I just don’t get it.  I’ve been remarkably uninspired here.

Dave and I were reflecting on the places we’ve enjoyed and the places we’ve thought were lacking.  It definitely helps to have a guide.  Suggestions from local friends made some of our destinations truly wonderful.  And it helps to be in a good place yourself.  To be honest, Dave and I are struggling more now to balance it all.  Our “day in the life” routine is out the window.  Dave’s working more as things ramp up at work.  Not necessarily more hours, but his work days are more dense and stressful.  And watching Eli on my own for this long (basically 12-hour days most days) and the endless sleep deprivation/disruption…. Dave and I are both stretched so thin.  Our energy levels are low, our motivation is dwindling, and we’re both pretty irritable.  Not a great foundation for adventure, I recognize.  By the time Saturday rolls around, Dave can’t wait to have some fun and I can’t wait to relax.  Also not a great recipe for family adventure.  We both find ourselves doing the telltale sign of burnout: “What day of the week is it?…..”

So maybe Austin is a great place?… Maybe.  But they don’t have snow, close proximity to just about everything, state street, fantastic sister lakes, Wisconsin scenery, and a state capitol surrounded by cheese curds and beer.  Madison is tough to beat.

One of my coworkers told me that there was a large study “they” did to determine the most desired places to live.  They asked people, “If you could live anywhere, where would you live?”  Not surprisingly, most people said that they would want to live where they live.  People tend to live in the cities they want to be in.  Then they were asked, “If you couldn’t live in your first choice location, where would you want to live?”  To which the resounding answer was, “Madison, Wisconsin.”  Boo-yah!  Hollah!  Razmataz!

Sorry Louie…. Madison just wins, and I’m proud to call her mine.

Austin, on the other hand?….. Texas, you can have her.

Now, please, yes, now…. it’s time to go home.  Just for a while.

2 Responses to Austin: Land of obscene highway overpasses, bumper-to-bumper traffic, and man-buns

  1. Mom

    Wish I could be there to do my thing!!! But love reading all of it and can’t wait to see you and of course……
    yay Madison <3

  2. Angie

    I’ve also heard that Austin is “a lot like Madison”, and been underwhelmed by the actual comparison. I think it’s more fair to say Austin is to Texas what Madison is to Wisconsin – a big blue dot in the middle of an otherwise red state. Yes, it’s more progressive, more active, and more “green” than the rest of its surrounding state, but that’s about where the similarities end. Everything in Texas is bigger, and everything in Texas is … Texan, even the blue dots.

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