The Austin Chronicle


The Elements of Summer Fun

May 25, 2012, Features

Keeping Pace: Get Behind Lone Star Exotics' Wheels

What's the closest you've ever been to a Lamborghini Gallardo? In a video game or blockbuster movie? Having one blow by you on 620? Well, dear drivers, start your engines and prime your adrenal pumps, because the world of high performance automotive is now within reach.

Friends scoffed when Jacob White and Justin Blackburn told them they intended to move their exotic car rental business from Denver, Colorado, to Austin, Texas. "There aren't enough millionaires," to support their concept of offering drives in some of the world's most souped-up chariots, friends said. "That's not our clientele anyway," says White, the 28-year-old co-owner of Lone Star Exotics. "Millionaires can afford cars like this."

According to White, while 50% of their customers are women, only 5% of their customers are women who experience the machines. The majority buy gifts like the One-Hour Experience, which puts a driver behind the wheel of one of six cars – a Dodge Viper SRT-10, a Ferrari F430, a Chevrolet Corvette Z06, a Shelby Mustang GT500, an Ariel Atom, or the Lamborghini – or the Dream Drive, an all-day Hill Country trek that allows drivers the chance to try four sports cars out of the fleet.

Tracy Lepak is pretty pleased with herself. She's managed to surprise her husband, Kevin, for his 35th birthday – pretty much blown his mind. He's out feeling the gut growl of 500 horses under the boot of the blue Italian while Tracy and I chat. "Kevin's an engineer," she says. "For him, it's less about the cool factor and more about the ..." "Nerd factor?" I interject. She laughs, "Yeah, the performance appeals to the nerd side, and the rumble to the guy side."

"It's so great to be in a car town with car people," says Blackburn, White's partner in the biz. "We moved here for three reasons," says White. "Austin's weather, Austin's economy, and the Formula One track." While Lone Star Exotics hasn't sealed any deals with the folks at the Circuit of the Americas – they're barely at the green flag stage – they are feeling out their new Texas home and hoping to be a part of F1-Austin history.

"Our dream relationship with them would be to have an exotic car driving experience on the F1 track," says Blackburn. "To allow people from all walks of life a bucket list item: To drive an exotic dream car on a world-class track."

These guys rent the stuff of dreams. No reason they can't have a few of their own. – Kate X Messer

Cave In: (Inner) Space Explorers Welcome

This summer get your "earth" on at Inner Space Caverns. Austin's most convenient cave adventure is a perfect mix of awe-inspiring natural wonder and roadside-attraction camp. The caverns harbor fractal vistas, theatrically lit by colored lights and playfully pontificated upon by adolescent tour guides. The many stalag(ma)tite wonders are named things like "the flowing stone of time" and "Soda Straw Balcony." Whether or not you thrill to geology, the belly of the Hill Country is an amazing place. The weather down under is a moist and balmy 72 degrees year-round.

While the actual skeletons have been relocated to the UT campus, it's still a good time to imagine prehistoric beasts crashing through the fragile limestone roof to perish, bellowing, in the pit of the crater, oh, 10,000 years ago. The caves themselves are estimated to be 90 million to 100 million years old.

First encountered by a human being in 1963, when the Texas Highway Department was drilling for core samples, the cavern opened to guests in 1966. Visitors can now choose between an array of spelunk-tabulous rated tours at a leisurely pace for prices ranging $19.95-100 per adult. Kiddies are particularly catered to, with an above-ground playscape and picnic area, a concession and gift shop, and a mini-mining spot where they can pan for gems. – Raven Hinojosa

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