Fredericksburg and Austin, 6-Apr-2014

Another travel day for us. We started by going to the top of Enchanted Rock and ended with a short walk in downtown Austin.

Having enjoyed our breakfast, we packed up and said goodbye to Ava's Suite, dropping off the key downtown. On the way the car indicated that at least one of the tires was low on air. Looking around, it was very evident which tire was low, so we found a gas station and topped it off. Interestingly enough, it cost 50¢ for air, but when I fueled up later in the day, I noticed air was $1, even though the two stations weren't very far away.

Enchanted Rock State Natural Area

 Enchanted Rock (there are two people at the top)

Enchanted Rock (there are two people at the top)

With tires filled with air, we headed north to Enchanted Rock State Natural Area. We had checked the weather during breakfast and saw there would be some showers; on the drive, we experienced a wide range from light drizzle to full-out rain. We debated what to do, since it would be sad to pay entry but get caught in a lot of rain; on the other hand, it would be sad to not go and find out the weather headed out.

When we pulled into the parking lot and walked to the station, the weather looked pretty good, so we decided to just go for it and do the hike. After a bit we got past all the trails and were going up the rock itself.

 Cactus patch on Enchanted Rock

Cactus patch on Enchanted Rock

Every now and then we ran across patches of vegetation, some large, some with just one small plant. They looked like oases in a desert of rock.

 Erratics on Enchanted Rock

Erratics on Enchanted Rock

We saw a lot of erratics of various square-ish shapes (otherwise they would roll to the bottom). The photo also illustrates that the climb was definitely not flat. Going up wasn't nearly as difficult as going down, however, since there were spots which were kind of slick. Fortunately it didn't rain and the rock was dry, otherwise it would have been even more challenging.

 Route taken on Enchanted Rock

Route taken on Enchanted Rock

Since Enchanted Rock is a big dome made of rock, things start to look alike at the top. When we got there, we looked around a bit, examining the different mini-peaks. We started to head down, but after a little while things didn't look familiar, and there weren't any other people on the way up to help get our bearings. Fortunately, I run an app which tracks our location so I can tag photos with their location, so it was easy to see that we were going in the wrong direction. You can see on the map how we made a roughly straight line to the top, went west, then started to head down towards the east. You can also see where we made the correction and got back to the main route, where we started to see other people.

As we were correcting our route, Jean saw another route down, and continued that way. We took our time getting down the dome, wondering how we were going to meet up with her. By the time we were off the rock, we had decided that since she would probably reach the bottom east of us, we should take the loop trail and hopefully meet up with her. Unfortunately, there were more trails than we saw on the map, so we made our best guess. At some point we thought we were further around than where she would have come down, so we decided to head towards the car, thinking we'd meet there. As we were looking at the map, Jean was approaching us from the other direction. Pretty amazing.

Going up and down the rock was more work than we had expected, so we decided against going around the loop trail for more hiking. We opted to go back to Fredericksburg for lunch, after which we drove to Austin.

Austin

Our first destination was the Firehouse Hostel, where we would be spending the next couple nights. Checking in took a little while since there were two rooms, three different payment methods, and during our checking in the person at the front desk handed everything over to someone else because of a shift change.

 Suitcase chair at the Firehouse Hostel

Suitcase chair at the Firehouse Hostel

Having gotten our room keys, we went upstairs, where there were some chairs which looked like suitcases. Each room also had a small table made out of a suitcase. Each room had several beds—two sets of bunk beds, one with a double on the bottom. Plenty of space.

The beds had bottom sheets and blankets on them, but the top sheets were folded, sitting on the beds. We opened one up, but even though it was sitting on the double bed, it was only large enough for a twin bed. The other beds were twins, and had the appropriate twin top sheet. After a bit of thinking what approach would be better, we settled on putting one twin crosswise at the foot of the bed, and another crosswise at the head. Very strange, but we got it to work.

Next on the list was laundry, so we gathered our clothes, and were able to fit our stuff with what Jean had into one load. While we were waiting, we tried out the wireless, which seemed to have a strong signal but very slow throughput. In fact, we had troubles connecting at all (between Melody, Celeste, and me, one out of six devices got a connection). After about an hour and a half we had clean, dry clothes, so we could last the rest of the trip.

Originally the plan was to meet up with a friend of Celeste for dinner, but that got changed to the next day. That left us free to find a place to eat, and we chose to go to a food truck, Valentina's Tex Mex BBQ. The reviews looked good, and indeed, the food was great. Melody and I split a couple orders, a brisket sandwich and a pulled chicken taco. The brisket was extremely tender, and the chicken had great flavor.

 Checkout lanes at the Whole Foods Market flagship store

Checkout lanes at the Whole Foods Market flagship store

After dinner we walked down to the Lamar Whole Foods Market, the flagship store of the chain. As you can see, it's very large; there are 20 checkout lanes, with a few of them being doubled-up express lanes. One of the food stations was serving gelato, so we each got some. Melody and I were both surprised at how good it was; between the two of us we had vanilla bean, orange fig, and coconut.

 Chandelier at the Driskill Hotell

Chandelier at the Driskill Hotell

On the way back to the hostel we stopped in the Driskill Hotel to take a quick look at the lobby. Very fancy.

It was time to move the car. Since we had arrived on Sunday, downtown parking was free and we scored a spot directly in front of the hostel. The staff had recommended a garage a couple blocks away, so Melody and I went to find it. The instructions said to push the red button to gain entry, which I did, but oddly enough you don't get a ticket which says when you entered. After parking, I took a look at the exit, and there was a machine to take cash or credit cards, but no place to put a ticket in, and no booth for an attendant. All indications were that the garage was fixed-price, with a different fee depending on when you left. We walked back to the hostel with more questions than answers, but hopefully things would be clear when we got the car in a couple days.