The Gumball Machine

Linda Burton posting from Austin, Texas – “They should name it Austin Over-Tours,” I thought as I called to make my reservation. The Austin Overtures Sightseeing website promised I would “see Austin and the Hill Country in Air Conditioned Mercedes-Benz Comfort” for only $25. For that bargain price I didn’t mind having to drive downtown to meet them; the exercise would help me learn my way around the city. I parked at a meter by Brooks Brothers, just a few blocks off historic 6th Street (aka Pecan) and walked into the Visitor Center with time to spare. Postcards for sale, tshirts, books; big and little souvenirs of the Live Music Capital of the World and the Big Howdy state of Texas. People lined up on a bench by the front to wait for the promised Mercedes-Benz ; there was quite a crowd. Our ticket-time was finally called; Tour Guide Philip (wearing a jacket of tweed) led us to the curb for our personal Pink Chariot Ride. “Can I please sit in the front with you?” I asked; permission granted. I wish I could remember everything to tell you. But Phillip rattled off so many facts and fictions about Austin, Texas that the inside of my head is like a giant gumball machine – filled with colorful, delicious, juicy bits. Which ones will the quarter bring down the slot?

Here are the 42 talking points listed on their brochure:

  1. 2nd Street District
  2. 6th Street
  3. Auditorium Shores
  4. Austin City Limits
  5. Barton Springs
  6. Barton Springs Road
  7. Bob Bullock Texas History Museum
  8. Bremond Block
  9. Brief Geology Lesson
  10. Brief History of Texas
  11. Brief History of the Highland Lakes System
  12. Camp Mabry
  13. Congress Ave
  14. Congress Avenue Bridge and Bat Colony
  15. French Legation
  16. Harry Ransom Center
  17. Hill Country Views
  18. J Blanton Museum
  19. Lady Bird Lake
  20. Lake Austin
  21. LBJ Presidential Library
  22. Long Center for the Performing Arts
  23. Mayfield Park
  24. Moonlight Tower
  25. Mount Bonnell
  26. O Henry Museum
  27. Palmer Events Center
  28. Pennybacker Bridge
  29. Restaurant Row
  30. Texas Capitol
  31. Texas Memorial Museum
  32. Texas State Cemetery
  33. The Drag
  34. The Driskill Hotel
  35. The University of Texas at Austin
  36. The Warehouse District
  37. Umluaf Sculpture Garden
  38. UT Performing Arts Center
  39. UT Royal Memorial Stadium
  40. Wild Basin Preserve
  41. Zilker Botanical Gardens
  42. Zilker Park

Did we see all of that? I couldn’t promise! Our tour of the U of T campus was cut short due to massive crowds; school buses were bringing UT wannabe’s in from all over the state; Phillip took one look at the traffic jam and quickly chose another route. I remember a quick-ride through the Texas State Cemetery although we didn’t stop for famous graves. I remember passing down the street where O Henry lived and hearing a story of his financial problems. I remember riding down Willie Nelson Avenue and I remember seeing Lady Bird Lake. The ride into the hills was enjoyable and scenic; the buzzing around the city made me blink at the awesome skyline.

I came away with the overall sense of Austin as a city full of color – colorful characters, a colorful past, and a colorful approach to living. Just like a big gumball machine.

Austin Visitors Center, 209 E 6th Street,