An Austin in Austin

All anyone wants to see is their name up in the big lights, so heading to the Texas Capitol of Austin was always going to be high up on the priority list of this trip.

After the Cowboys game at Jerry World, we ducked off down the 35 to Austin – a highway of about 200 miles that was once upon-a-time littered with people and US flags for a funeral procession in honour of the late Chris Kyle aka American Sniper.

The place we were headed was actually a town called Buda which is a little south of Austin (not named after a God, rather it is pronounced ‘Beauda’ as in ‘My gawd that is beauda-ful’). There we were to stay with Mike and Laurie Hobson, friends of my dad’s who used to farm near Jansenville. Laurie is originally from the States and the Hobson’s moved out to Texas from the farm in 2008. All three of their kids have been living State side for some time, two of whom (Justin and Kelly) live in Austin. Their other son, Michael, lives in Phoenix and is a former USA Eagle and a current fighter pilot in the Army.

I hadn’t seen the Hosbon’s in years, although we spent much time hunting on their place when I was even wetter behind the ears than I am now.

They talk about Southern Hospitality in the States, quite clearly they are referring to folks from the deep south of Africa, as once again we get the red carpet treatment. Charlie and I head off with Mike to a place called the Salt Lick in Buda for a good old Texas style barbecue. It was a truly amazing setting, we sat under the trees on a warm Austin evening, sipping on some coolies waiting for our turn to get into the smoke house.

The Salt Lick was just like everything you’ve seen on a Guy Fieri episode of Diners, Drive-ins and Dives. A massive fire pit is the heart of the kitchen with all kinds of different meats on the go. We order a mixture of brisket, pork sausage and ribs to go with some coleslaw, fresh bread and sweet potatoes. Wash this all down with some homemade BBQ sauce and you have the recipe for a taste bud orgasm. It was the true Southern experience we were looking for and it was given to us by a Karoo farmer!

Saturday saw us head into town for the opening weekend of College Football where we hoped to hustle some tickets for the massive game in Austin between the hometown heroes the Texas Longhorns and the visiting Notre Dame Fighting Irish. Only problem was that the game was on Sunday and not Saturday as a result of the Labour Day long weekend…rookies.

Nonetheless, we got our tourist on by strapping on the takkies and sunscreen…oh wait, I left my sunscreen and hat at the Hobsons. Sunburn city here we come.

We checked out the Texas State Capitol building and some war memorials en route to a hipster’s paradise at a wall art mural. From there we checked out the Colorado River and posed for an obligatory picture next to the ‘Greetings from Austin’ sign. Despite the low number of Facebook likes, I thought we could win a Pullitzer for that snap (seen above on featured image and in gallery below).

During this time I will have you know that we both carried two shirts that we alternated regularly whilst the other dried. Cookhouse may have heat, but Austin is hotter and sweatier than Satan’s poephol.

We then popped into a sports bar from some wings and yeast whilst watching some College Football. Sports bars here are ridiculous and I think its easier to find a spot at a Cricket World Cup Final in Eden Gardens than it is at Sports Bar on College Opening Weekend. There are three different games on the go all being shown on different screens, but most attention is on the Texas A&M game from a neighbouring town College Station. This place is crazy and like Jon Snow, we know nothing when it comes to being sports fans back home.

That night we get hosted by a Kiwi expat named Scott Green. He is a referee in the Pro Rugby League, which kind of makes it awkward for Purds’ as like most half backs, he has a few words of advice for refs usually. Naturally, the first thing I do is make a few chirps about this and we have a few beers with Scott before heading off to 6th Street. I must say, Scott was a really awesome guy who took good care of us and it just once again goes to show just how uniquely tight the rugby circle is in this country is.

6th Street was pretty unreal though. Imagine Long Street in Cape Town, but with 1000 more bars and a couple thousand more people. At night, the whole street gets shut off from traffic and it becomes one massive party. I think there are more folks in the road than in the pubs and it is a real carnival atmosphere. Unfortunately, I got a bit overwhelmed by the whole situation and went into my shell a bit, then again tortoises have been doing that for years and they seem to be doing pretty okay.

The following morning we cooled off at Barton Springs which is a massive ice cold natural spring that with some man made construction has been turned into a huge swimming pool essentially. Being the chief members of the jock squad, we toss the rugby ball around, but only when the life guards aren’t looking…can’t afford many more run-ins with the law dogs. Sadly there were no belters around other than myself so we pressed on to a burger joint to strap on the feed bag.

We strode around the tailgating parking lots for the Longhorns game looking for tickets. Sadly we had no success, nor did we have $250 lying around for a spot in the top right corner of 100 000 seater stadium. The tailgating vibe is something to behold. I thought I had seen all the merchandising in the world at the Cowboys game, but this was truly mind blowing. Every Tom, Dick and Harry was fully kitted out from top to bottom in the rather ugly looking burnt orange of the Longhorns. Socks, Caps, Shirts, Flags, Beer Pong balls, Car stickers, you name it. Just about everything had a Longhorn logo on it, even one unlucky Labrador had a Longhorns jersey.

The vibe at the tailgate parties is incredible. Loud music, braais, beer pong, big screen TVs, it is all there.

Without the success of tickets we head back to Buda and watch the game at the Hobson’s place. It turned out to be a cracker which the Longhorns won 50 – 47 in over time against their more fancied opponents who were ranked 10th in the country. They did it too in front of a packed house of 102 000. Unreal, considering most of the players are U21. Don’t ever try compare it to the Varsity Cup. Ever.

In fact, my eyes have been opened to College Football over this weekend. It is a multi-billion dollar industry based around a bunch of kids known as ‘Student Athletes’ who are essentially used for slave labour considering none of them get paid a cent. Sure they get scholarships to good schools, but the main reason they in it is so they can get a shot at turning pro and earning an NFL contract to the equivalent of Zuma’s salary. Not only that, but I’m sure they come right a lot too.

You simply cannot compare the pandemonium and fanaticism of College Football to anything else. It is really crazy and totally American.

The Labour Day Monday sees us take a good old chill pill at the Hobson’s. Fortunately the weather seems to agree and goes kindly on us, dipping into the 20s and turning down the humidity. We managed to put in some good exercise in an attempt to rid me of my Benjamin Button looking body, which has declined more rapidly than the Rand since ending my rugby season in injury in July.

It was also a good time to catch up on some much needed sleep, writing and cleaning of the car which still carried the Amarillo mud like a tick on a Buffalo.

We now off to Aggie Land at College Station where we will join up with some of the boys from the Texas A&M rugby team. Charlie has a couple of coaching gigs lined up there, whilst I will do my best to convince them that I was a star at Craven Week before opting to take the academic route and go to Rhodes.

Part 0 – California here we come
Part 1 – Cookhouse, Cathcart, California
Part 2 – Dust, Snakes and the Wild West
Part 3 – The Excess of Texas

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