Some days just scream for a good, old-fashioned field trip. You know – to a real field. And the best fields around here are tucked sweetly, organically in the heart of East Austin. Boggy Creek Farm's driveway is lined with peach trees and sunflowers, and it’s just the right combination of bumpy and dusty. (You should always jostle on your way up to a farm, and your arrival should be announced by a cloud of dust.) Spend the morning wandering among the shiny purple eggplants, the brilliant zinnias, or the warm, honest-to-God vine-ripened tomatoes. Chase chickens; admire the old farmhouse; or buy wonderful heirloom vegetables, sweet honey, or smoky dried tomatoes to take home. Or simply stand in the middle of the field and dream. It’s worth a trip. Open Wednesdays and Saturdays, 10am-2pm.
Paul Robbins' Austin Environmental Directory earned kudos in our poll way back in 1995. This year's edition is the directory's fifth. In that time, Austin has seen many changes, many of which have been related to the computer industry and Austin's burgeoning status as the "Silicon Hills." The directory argues that we've suffered economically and environmentally from limiting our concentration to one single industry. The writers alternately believe that Austin could thrive as an environmental business center. Presenting a thorough report on Austin's unique business predicament, the directory details many hopeful ways of harnessing environmentally friendly energies and the talents of Austinites to create a responsible as well as diverse local economy. The directory also features info on area creeks, environmental groups, recycling, and energy programs. It's an invaluable resource, available free at various locations or as a download from the Web site.
Austin is definitely a star on the map of the cycling world. Similarly, in the three years Nelo's has been in operation, it has become a favorite hangout for many Austin cyclists. Owners Jeremiah Alvarado and Nelo Breda have years of cycling knowledge under their respective belts. Nelo even has experience in both professial racing and as an Olympic coach for his native Brazil. They are best known for properly fitting customers to their bikes, which can take an hour or more of personal attention. In addition to great customer service, the shop offers top-of-the-line supplies, including everything needed to outfit triathletes, such as food, water bottles, goggles, a variety of gear, bicycles (of course), and much more. If it is just riding partners you are looking for, join them for their 7pm rides from the shop on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays (during daylight savings). So, whatever your bicycling needs, Nelo's has you covered. Who knows, you might just spot one of Austin's many famous cyclists shopping alongside you.
All too rare is the 24-hour Austin hot spot, but let’s take a short, sweet drive along I-35, headin’ just north of downtown and suddenly … we’re in Vegas, baby! Showplace Lanes lights up the night sky from the west with enough wattage to power all the casinos Bugsy Siegel ever owned. Once inside, it’s a smorgasbord of humanity, all together in the singular name of being entertained: hip-hop kids, the pierced and tattooed set, hipsters in tiny horn-rimmed glasses and carefully mussed hair, a gaggle of moms dressed to the nines, a herd of dads swilling their beers and smacking down pins. There’s even a somewhat mangy "arcade" for the kids, complete with Whack the Duck and Skee-Ball, dispensing tickets for prizes that range from cheap transistor radios to little plastic smiley faces and toy rings. Stroll past a wall of lockers, and you’ll encounter machines that dispense Homies and colorful stickers, as well as that bowling-alley requisite: the Claw. But perhaps best of all is the Texas Sports Bar, to which we gave a special "Best of Austin" all to itself. (See Critics, Arts & Entertainment.)
Since 1998, when Tanya Streeter reportedly discovered her talent for holding her breath a reaallly long time, the 30-year-old freediver has broken each and every record ever set in the "extreme sport." Streeter can dive more than 520 feet deep and hold her breath for more than six minutes. In 2002 Sports Illustrated named her the "World's Most Perfect Athlete," and last year the Island Thyme Bistro, on the tiny Salt Cay Island, even named a drink after her, Tanya's Deep Blue. For more on Streeter and her record-setting dives, check out the Web site.
St. Edward’s Park might otherwise be known as the Austin nature lover’s G-spot. For starters, just getting there is fun, as the park is located alongside the lovely winding Old Spicewood Springs Road. To Austinites, the miles of cacti-laden nature trails – many of which run alongside babbling Bull Creek – provide instant relief from the urban landscape left behind. Don’t be embarrassed if you end up spraying your nose-load in front of God and everyone, as this is Texas Hill Country, and it happens to even the least allergy-prone among us. For even more climactic vistas, veer south over the creek.
St. Edward's Park
7301 Old Spicewood Springs Rd.
An instructor here may ask, "Shall we go to the known or the unknown?" or even, "Moby or Terminal Mind?" NIA is the acronym for Neuromuscular Integrative Action; more simply, it's dancing, both for a healthier body and soul. Nia employs a lot of stepping and rocking motions (which can be as gentle or vigorous as you care to make them), along with some martial-arts movements. There's always a "free dance" portion of the class, and a yogalike stretching and cool-down period. The music for the classes tends to be cosmic, I-am-a-goddess, multicultural stuff (at times, we strain not to giggle), but mindless dance music really wouldn't do here. The best part about NIA is that there's no way to do it "wrong"; it would be hard to find a less threatening atmosphere to explore movement than at NiaSpace.
Boys and their toys. Sometimes, when the wind has picked up just enough, it's possible to catch kids of all ages playing on the huge slope behind Murchison Middle School. With model airplanes that range from balsa wood to the latest in aerodynamic technology, fantasies fly for an afternoon. Daring hang gliders also use the hill for its updrafts to help them get eye-to-eye with the birds.
Murchison Middle School
3700 North Hills
Definitely an American-born and, some might say, white-trash sport, roller derby has evolved in many ways over the last 70 years. But after its heyday in the 1970s, it had all but disappeared. Not so anymore, buddy. Those feisty women of the Texas Rollergirls bring it back in typical Austin style. With a certain do-it-yourself, punk rock flair they make it all their own by adding such features as the "Doors of Discipline," which get opened whenever a penalty is called. One penalty is the ever popular Swat Line, where either the penalized girl or selected audience members get a big ol' spanking. Then of course, there’s always live music – since it is Austin. And beer from Beerland. With no rails to rein them in and your seat right next to the track, they can literally land right in your lap. Now what could be better than that?
The P-Dog has previously earned "BoA" kudos for its wonderful meat-and-potatoes rock/country jukebox, as well as its raucous and delightfully down-home ambience, its bring-your-own-bottle-of-Canadian-blended-for-cocktails-sipped-outta-a-Styrofoam-cup kind of feeling that reminds us of home. But there's more. Sitting on the right-hand side of that big, fat bar, stands a shuffleboard table. That's right. The great equalizing table sport has historically cut through class, age, and physical ability to win over everyone's hearts, and dang if it can't do it again. Safer than pool or darts, shuffleboard is a blast even for the most inebriated. And here at the old Poo' you can sing along to Journey while you play.
Ever wonder what was inside of that damn briefcase that Vincent Vega rescued for his boss in Pulp Fiction? After a trip to the Horseshoe Lounge on South Lamar, we found ourselves with an all-new hypothesis: The contents were none other than a sparklingly clean set of shuffleboard discs. Trading in our car keys at the bar, the good people at the Horseshoe let us see the glowing loot inside of their black briefcases, as well as giving us access to what must surely be the most pristine shuffleboard table in Austin. Holding a cigarette in one hand and a beer in the other, we could actually see our reflection in the surface of the table! Boy, did we ever look happy.
OK, so it's surrounded by a partial fence and tall buildings, but somehow it remains amazingly serene and comforting. The story holds that cars, bulldozers, and various other man-mades reside at the bottom of the small lake directly off of Braker Lane and Highway 183. Every once and a while, a stream of bubbles bursts up from the bottom of the unusually deep hole and prompts these stories. Who knows what lurks beneath the black waters? That doesn't stop the occasional cliff diver from cutting through the still fluid, though. Beware of the backhoes, and try to stick to the trail. Quarry Lake could be your saving grace from the high tech world.
Deep in the lair that is Showplace Lanes lives the Texas Sports Bar, a haven for adults, amid a cornucopia of family fun. The Texas Sports Bar has it all and is guaranteed to show every NFL game and then some offered that week on the big screen, for a mere $2 cover, and local darts leaguers gather on a regular basis to compete. There’s a definite Eighties feel to the place, what with the Day-Glo carpet and intermittent fluorescent lighting. The two pool tables are a tad close together, but it makes for some fun maneuvering. Food is served; it’s yer basic burgers and fries, natch. And pitchers are cheap, Jack. Bring the whole gang. Call for drink specials, free-pool-night information, and scheduled events.
Texas Sports Bar
9504 N. I-35
This is not your grandmother’s garden party we’re talking about here. Every spring the Torchbearers, an organization of young professionals dedicated to preserving and benefiting the Umlauf Sculpture Garden, throws their annual Garden Party. Enjoy a lovely spring evening wandering among the amazing artwork of Charles Umlauf sampling decadent nibblies from some of Austin’s finest restaurants set up throughout the grounds. In addition, there is a great wine selection to complement the food, an amazing silent auction with everything from gift certificates to fine artwork, and live entertainment from one of Austin’s fine bands. You won’t want to miss it next spring!
Todd Rhoades literally made an ass of himself in Ballet Austin's performance of A Midsummer Night's Dream. But, my, what an ass! And we mean that in the best way. Rhoades, a supremely gifted dancer, took up yoga some years back to help recover from ballet-related injuries. Talk about silver linings – he fell in love with the ancient yet trendy series of stretching so much so that he became a teacher. He's graceful, funny, smart, full of sunshine, and man, what a nice yoga butt. These days he's teaching at the new Castle Hill Specialized Fitness on Lamar.
1112-B N. Lamar
Roughly five hours a night, three to four nights a week, of lugging drunken revelers to and fro is bound to build up some maximal gluteus maximus. Pedicabs – or bike taxis – provide the great service of carrying revelers around Downtown, thereby saving many feet from blisters and many lungs from added pollution from car traffic. After a night of dancing, there is nothing better then taking a load off, jumping into the nearest pedicab, and letting the wind cool you off. At the same time drivers are also providing a great view ... of the city, of course. Hooray for Austin bicycle-cab drivers and their fabulous derrières; tip them well!
Austin Bike Cabs
In their tight red jumpsuits, fishnet hose, and black high heels, the Red Light Burlesque Girls stop traffic ... literally. If you've attended one of SoCo's First Thursdays, then you've probably seen or met these sexy ladies. Usually positioned between Jo's Hot Coffee and Amy's Ice Creams across the street, they guide pedestrians safely across South Congress. The ladies have been diligently soliciting for a petition to get a crosswalk on the aforementioned portion of the street. We wish them luck, but hope if they succeed, they will still be available to walk us across the street. Although, if their campaign succeeds, they'll have more time to strut their "Original Southern style strippin'!" at their host venue, the Continental Club.
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