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Sunday, January 08, 2006

Last weekend, Austin and I journeyed to Austin, TX via train. If you have the time, I highly recommend "training it." Even in coach, there's tons of legroom and stretchspace, and the enforced "You Must Spend Six Hours Doing Nothing" was a great vacation on either side of our day-long vacation. Sunday and Tuesday, we lived Atlas Shrugged by riding the round trip from the Dallas to the Austin Amtrak station.

The people on the train were weird. That is all I can really say. We, outfitted with a pair of laptops, iPods, organic picnic dinners, and urban-kid track suits, felt like aliens.

The view we had, all back yards and industry, made me wistful and detached. The sun filtered through the ambering, aged windows of our train car and presented the world to me in sepia -- I felt outside time and, since we were on the second deck of the car, outside space. Central Texas isn't particularly beautiful, but as the sun went down and Sigur Rós played on the iPod, its horizon sharpened and its few lights blurred, and I found myself further detached. The towns, settled unsettlingly in dusty stacatto along the track, seemed so old, so quaint. Austin remarked, after seeing a spray-painted frown face on an electrical box, "Wow, the graffiti here sucks."

On our dark way into Austin, a spiralling Christmas tree made of muliticolored lights beaconed us in. "That," I remarked, all into the widening quintuple helix of the tree, "would be something to search out." Without a car, though, that seemed unlikely.

We stayed at the San Jose Hotel, the two nights a gift from Austin's parents, and it was fantastic (they loan typewriters). An old motorcoach inn on South Congress, it was a design-lover's paradise, and knowing that after our day of walking and biking, we had a sharp, stylish, purposed room of our own was grin-worthy itself. Plus, a courtyard:

Monday morning, we had coffee and pastries at Jo's, the seemingly always-jumpin' coffee stand in the parking lot of the hotel. We rented two cruiser bikes and rode about five miles around the Town Lake bike trail. At one point, once we reached Zilker Park, Austin pointed off in the direction perpendicular to my bicyclical motion. "What? Am I going the wrong way?" He pointed again: "No, look!"

And there it was: the Christmas tree, lines of Christmas lights staked to the ground from the top of a radio tower. We biked over; it was a beacon for the city's Christmas tree recycling program. The trees, leaning against poles, other trees, or each other, seemed sad, ready to expire in the burning pit we found fifty yards away. I biked in circles, gleeful in the scent of fir and the surreality of Where Christmas Trees Go to Die.

Our bikes took a rest, as did we:

We got back, had lunch at Guero's (because, I am unashamed to admit, Beck has a song and album of the same name), and shopped South Congress. One store had some fantastic handmade clothes. I ran across the best coat ever, and before I'd even try it on, I had to set a limit. "Okay, I won't get it if it's over... ummm... $45." I flipped over the price tag, and it read $44. Crap. It fit like a dream, so now I'm the proud owner of a raincoat made out of a Twister mat. Yay!

After that, it was time for a shower (not to self and others: do not use Dr. Bronner's Castille Soap like it's normal bath gel, or risk unusual-though-kind-of-cool genital side effects), dinner at a takeout sushi place, and then an evening of wine, cheese, and pears in the San Jose courtyard. It was an ideal day.

Tuesday, the train back was filled with laptop DVD-watching, naps, and sandwiches we'd picked up at Jo's early that morning. I utterly loved it.

Here's the Flickr photoset of the trip.
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