The two primary definitions of the word “folly” are as follows:
- Lack of good sense; foolishness
- A foolish act, idea, or practice.
Saturday night in Austin, underneath the lights of Darrell K. Royal Stadium, where I was as the centerpiece event of the third leg of the MSF-La Quinta College Football Road Trip, the Texas Longhorns fell to the visiting West Virginia Mountaineers in large part because of some unfortunate 4th quarter folly.
In addition to quarterback David Ash pissing away a prime post-turnover scoring opportunity with a fumbled snap, Texas curiously went for a 4th and 13 rather than attempting to pin West Virginia deep.
The opportunistic and explosive Mountaineers took advantage of these flights of folly, as well as Texas’ general inability to slow down Geno Smith and his array of weapons, en route to a thrilling 48-45 victory.
If only Ash and the Longhorns could have erased that errant snap, perhaps the game would have turned out differently.
But alas, the Longhorns could not make enough plays to send the home fans home happy. And that meant there were a lot of fans going home unhappy, as a new home attendance record (101,851) was recorded Saturday night.
The visiting Mountaineer faithful, on the other hand, left feeling justifiably jubilant, a continuation of their general feeling from earlier in the day when we arranged for a spirited singing of John Denver’s classic “Take Me Home, Country Roads.”
More on this later, but for now just enjoy my favorite video from the weekend:
And why shouldn’t the Mountaineers fans be happy? Their team’s BCS hopes are still intact, their Heisman front-runner is still Heisman front-running, and their decision to travel the long trek from Morgantown to Austin was rewarded with victory.
After spending some time with these friendly folks on Saturday, including the happy man below in the coonskin cap, I have to say that I was quite pleased for them as we exited the stadium that night.
Saturday night’s game was the perfect cap to what had been an absolutely wonderful 24 hours in Austin with one of my best old friends and one of my best new friends, all made possible by the folks at La Quinta (who I can’t thank enough).
If you enjoyed my recap and photo diary from Norman, and the story of how I fell back in love in Lincoln, I think you’ll have some fun coming on the adventure I took this weekend with Aaron and Kristin.
A Fun Friday Night in Austin
At around 4:00 on Friday afternoon, my weekend travel mates and I departed Dallas for Austin. It won’t surprise you to learn that we were quite excited to get the weekend started.
An expenses-paid weekend in any college town would be enjoyable. But Austin, Texas isn’t just any college town, as anyone who has been there knows.
I’ve visited a few times (though certainly not enough) since I moved to Dallas, and Kristin had made her way there a handful of times while getting her MBA at SMU, but Aaron lived there for over two years. We decided to put the weekend in his able hands, and he did not disappoint as a tour guide.
Here is Aaron explaining what, in general, makes Austin so great:
An underrated attribute that makes Austin great, which somehow slipped Aaron’s mind, is that there are three La Quintas within about a five mile radius of downtown.
We were fortunate enough to nab a room at this one, even on a gameday weekend (thanks La Quinta!), where we checked in before making the easy drive downtown for dinner.
For dinner, Aaron decided to take us to a place called Rainey Street, a unique and quaint section of town where old houses have been turned into restaurants and bars. This New York Times article explains Rainey Street’s considerate charm.
With our stomachs yearning for nourishment and our palettes feeling adventurous, we opted for Indian food at G’Raj Mahal Cafe.
The defining feature of G’Raj’s Mahal’s exterior decorations is this 10+ person serpent bicycle that winds around the outdoor seating.
Unfortunately, a number of other people had the same idea we did, so there was a 45-minute wait for a table.
Undeterred, we jaunted over to Lustre Pearl just down the street for a pre-dinner cocktail.
Eventually, we were seated at G’Raj Mahal, where we partook in a delicious meal highlighted by some of the spiciest and tasted varieties of curry I have ever had.
East Side Show Room
After dinner, we decided to eschew the lure of Sixth Street to instead venture off the beaten path a bit (i.e. the other side of 35). We took a nice 20-minute stroll over to the East Side Show Room.
This bar, with its 1920s speakeasy-type feel and incredible drink menu, quickly became a favorite.
Easy Tiger and the Food Trucks
After an enjoyable hour of good drinks and good music at the East Side Show Room, we ventured back out onto the streets to make our way, leisurely, back towards our car.
This included a stop at the Easy Tiger bake shop and beer garden for a brew and a hot pretzel.
It also included the inevitable stop at a food truck on the way back to the car. One such truck was called, simply, “Bacon,” which was especially appropriate because we had listened to Jim Gaffigan’s bit on bacon during the drive down.
We were pretty excited about our late night BLTs.
It was then time to return to our comfy La Quinta room. Sleep beckoned, because a jam-packed Saturday of Austin fun awaited us once the sun rose.
Gameday Saturday in Austin
For a college football fan, there is one obvious course of action that must be taken before any others on a Saturday morning: turn on ESPN’s College Gameday.
This is exactly what Aaron did the minute his head arose from the pillow. The bright plasma TV in our La Quinta hotel room obliged.
Aaron, who is notorious for his wandering college football eye but was a committed Texas fan once again this week, also decided that his burnt orange T-shirt needed a quick ironing.
Fortunately, the room obliged this request as well, allowing Aaron to display his Texas allegiance sans wrinkles.
As comfortable as our hotel room was, it couldn’t keep us inside for long. So we ventured out into the city, stopping first for coffee and a little bit of Austin history.
We then made the impressive drive down Congress into downtown…
…where we immediately made a beeline for one of Aaron’s favorite Austin locations.
Austin Farmer’s Market
Once at the farmer’s market, I was told in no uncertain terms that I had to try one of the tacos from Taco Deli, which had a stand at the market.
We made our way in that direction, where we enjoyed story time with this jovial fellow and then ate some absolutely delicious tacos that more than lived up to the hype.
And speaking of living up the hype…how about exceeding it?
That’s what the tamales from this stand did, which is why we had to get a picture with the master tamale man who created them.
Walking Down Sixth Street
Upon leaving the farmer’s market, we decided to start making our way towards the stadium on foot via Sixth Street, popping into bars here and there along the way.
Before even reaching Sixth Street, we saw a familiar face staring at us from across the way.
The first bar we actually stopped at was Buffalo Billiards, the site of my favorite personal Austin experience: when I met and hung out with Louis CK!
Okay, so perhaps “met and hung out with” is a bit of an exaggeration.
(What actually happened is that, while playing shuffleboard with KVB about a year ago, I saw someone who I thought looked like Louis out of the windows you see in the right corner of the picture. Already a few beers into the day at that point, I decided I had to see for sure. So I darted out of the establishment, speed-walked to eventually be walking side-by-side with possible-Louis, and then turned to see that it was, in fact, the great Louis CK. So I over-exuberantly told him I enjoyed his work and awkwardly patted him on the shoulder. Louis appropriately responded with a terse nod of recognition and what might have been an eye roll. It was awesome!)
We then continued on down Sixth Street, where we saw this sage piece of advice:
As well as this West Virginia battle cry:
This was far from the only welcome mat laid out by bar owners for the visiting Mountaineer faithful.
Eventually we spotted the largest concentration of West Virginia fans while hanging out on the rooftop of Shakespeare’s Pub.
It was across the street at The Blind Pig Pub, where their entire rooftop was filled from wall to wall with yellow-and-blue clad Mountaineers.
It was at this point that Aaron, Kristin, and I decided it would be our goal to get the entire rooftop singing “Take Me Home, Country Roads.” We heard music blaring from the speakers already, so we didn’t think it would be too hard to manage.
We became especially excited when we found out that the bar used the Roqbot iPhone app to determine the music. Aaron downloaded it and quickly requested our money song. Unfortunately, we were told that it had been played recently, and thus would not be allowed for another two hours.
This might have frustrated us, but we were having too much fun the next eight songs breezed by rather quickly. One such song was “Sweet Caroline,” which included a rather entertaining (and NSFW) lyric customization by the West Virginia fans.
It was also around this time that the 74th person decided to ask Kristin if that was her “real hair.” Double Fisting Dave here was especially curious, but Kristin fended off his inebriated, awkward advances with impressive skill.
While waiting, we also meet Tiffany, who like me is originally from Bloomington, Indiana, and her boyfriend (or fiancee…I can’t remember which) Kevin. If there were two nicer, more friendly people in Austin last weekend, we sure didn’t meet them.
Kristin would surely concur, as she and Tiffany hit it off quite well.
Eventually we got our wish, and “Country Roads” began playing over the speakers. You can tell from Aaron’s face at the start of the video how excited we were to finally get to the song and get our footage.
I’ll embed the video again, since it’s my favorite from the weekend. And I’ll also apologize for singing so loudly into the speaker. I was excited, what can I say?
Oh, and Colts fans will want to pay attention for the cameo appearance by WVU Athletic Director Oliver Luck. You might know his son.
(Side note: how great was the transition from “Take Me Home, Country Roads” to MGMT’s “Electric Feel”? Both great songs…but slightly different genres. I wonder if that is the first time it’s ever happened…)
With our goal achieved and the afternoon quickly turning late, it was time to continue on towards the impressive, legendary Darrell K. Royal Stadium.
I will neither confirm nor deny that we stopped and ate copious amounts of barbeque and chicken wings on the way. Instead, I’ll distract you with a good pic of me and Kristin:
But I will confirm that ran into Scooby Doo on our way to the stadium.
Like any big time college football program, gameday at Texas is filled with well-known traditions.
Here is one of the most well-known traditions in all of college football: the singing of “The Eyes of Texas.”
And here is the impressive pregame intro, which highlights decades of Texas football success:
Then it was time for us to get a few fun pictures of ourselves in the stadium. I think we proved pretty apt at the iPhone self-pic:
As discussed above, the game did not turn out well for Texas fans. So this was one sad sea of burnt orange that emerged from the stadium after the game.
But we did pass a La Quinta on the way back, just a short walk from both the stadium and the fun stuff. Note to self: next time I stay in Austin, stay at that one!
And though Sixth Street was quite lively by the time we made it there after the 25-minute walk from the stadium, I couldn’t help but feel that it was far more subdued than it would have otherwise been had the Longhorns won the game.
We decided that instead of a wild night on Sixth Street that we would head back to the East Side Show Room, since we’d loved it so much the night before.
Also, I’d seen someone order this bleu cheese burger and desperately wanted to try it. It delivered.
And yes, I ordered another Nectar of Folly during our return trip to East Side Show Room. Maybe two…
Upon leaving and walking back towards our car, Aaron stopped to have his photo taken beside an Austin legend.
We ultimately ended up the night at The Highball, a rather unique establishment that combines an upscale bar with a bowling alley and private karaoke rooms. They also serve the best Old Fashioneds I’ve ever had.
Also, this great picture of Neil Diamond hangs on the wall, which I decided I wanted a photo by since we’d been entertained by his music earlier in the day.
Then it was time to return to La Quinta, where we immediately passed out in blissful exhaustion.
Sunday Morning Taco Treat
By Sunday morning there was only one activity we’d made it a point to do that we hadn’t yet done: eat tacos at Torchy’s. Aaron and Kristin had both been many times before, and they had extolled the tasty virtues of Torchy’s all weekend long.
I was unwilling to wait any longer, so I snapped this picture right before rousing the two sleepyheads from their Sunday morning slumber.
They arose and readied themselves quickly once remembering the Torchy’s was on the docket for the morning.
My goodness did the food live up to the hype.
The salsa was spectacular, as Aaron had said it would be. And the tacos were quite possibly the tastiest I’ve ever had.
So, for those keeping score at home, over the last three weeks I’ve eaten:
- The best baked beans ever (at Ray’s Smokehouse in Norman).
- The best chicken wings ever (at The Watering Hole in Lincoln).
- The best tacos ever (at Torchy’s in Austin).
Accuse me of hyperbole if you will, but I retract not one of those statements. Such deliciousness.
And the good eating wasn’t done yet.
After dropping Aaron off at the Austin airport for his flight back to New York, Kristin and I began making our way to Dallas. And as anyone who drives from Dallas to Austin knows, you have stop at the Czech Stop on the way for a kolache. It’s, like, the law. Or at least it should be.
And we kind of devoured our jalapeno, sausage, and cheese kolache immediately upon returning to the car.
We ultimately reached our Dallas destination, where I dropped Kristin off before proceeding to Flower Mound to retrieve some precious goods from my parents’ house, where he’s been staying during my weekend trips.
He was pretty happy to sleep in his own bed again, I think.
Austin is such a wonderful city.
I know that it is perhaps not quite as quaint and charming as it once was, or so I’ve heard, what with so many people from so many places moving in and sending the metro population north of a million. But like Aaron told us multiple times, Austin still maintains its ability to “keep it weird” despite the influx of people, which means that the soul of the city has remained the same.
And the gameday experience in Austin is truly something to behold.
Not only is Darrell K. Royal Stadium an impressive (and amazingly clean) structure, but the energy and passion of the Texas fans is exhilarating. I’d have loved to see what the night would have turned into had the Longhorns pulled out a thrilling victory, but the better team won, so I can’t quibble with the result.
Most of all, I’m glad I got to create more great memories with my longtime friend Aaron, whose openness and optimism never change, and a fun first set of memories with the gorgeous and gregarious Kristin.
Amazingly, and to the credit of each of them, they hadn’t met before being placed in the car side-by-side on Friday. Yet within about ten minutes it already felt like we had all friends for years.
And that’s fitting, because Austin is a lot like that, or at least it has been in my experience.
The city could be or feel much more pretentious than it does. Instead, it’s simply a city that’s proud of what it is and true to its roots. And if you come there with an open mind and ready for a good time, that is exactly what you’ll fine…every time.
We sure did.
And La Quinta, I thank you again for making it possible.