Posts Tagged ‘Austin’


An Invite From DAR

1 DAR Presentation ArkadelphiaLinda Burton posting from Arkadelphia, Arkansas – I was invited by Charlotte Jeffers, Regent of the Arkadelphia Chapter of Daughters of the American Revolution, to speak at their April 14 meeting. “Do you want me to talk about the history of the capital cities, or my travel experiences?” I asked. “What will everyone be most interested in?” “We are interested in everything,” was the reply, so I decided to focus on our likeminded objectives, which sent me to the DAR national website.

I learned that DAR was founded October 11, 1890 and incorporated in 1896 by an Act of Congress. Objectives are listed as Historical, Educational, and Patriotic, so I honed in on the “educational” factor, since that is a primary objective of Capital Cities USA. For DAR, “to promote…institutions for the general diffusion of knowledge, thus developing an enlightened public opinion.” For Capital Cities USA, “to build community, character and citizenship through humanities education.” From Objectives to Methodology explains the Journey Across America: Item 1 – to assess civic, community and historic resources in the 50 capital cities of the United States and their capitol buildings by gathering data through on-site visits to each capitol and capital city. In a nutshell!

I began my talk with bottom-line statistics – departed February 28, 2012 and concluded December 18, 2013 for a total of 659 days. Traveled 31,710 miles and spent time in 50 state capitols and the national capitol in DC. Shared neighborhoods with 12,947,450 people as I lived two weeks in each capital city. (With my two cats, no less.) I shared a map showing the 75 overnight stops I made before settling down in Arkadelphia, and then moved into story telling.

“What learning opportunities did I find in the capitols?” I focused on five that were exceptional:
• Austin, Texas – Most Extensive Visitor Services
• Boise, Idaho – Most Inspiring Kids Tour
• Atlanta, Georgia – Tie With Springfield, Illinois as Most Welcoming
• Springfield, Illinois – Tie with Atlanta, Georgia as Most Welcoming
• Montpelier, Vermont – Most Intimate & Inviting, Best Volunteer Program, Most Meticulous Restoration

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Nice Work If You Can Get It

Journey Begins

Linda Burton posting from Boise, Idaho – “That sounds like a lot of work.” I heard that phrase nearly every time I told someone about the plans for the Journey Across America. In fact, I heard it so often I threatened to get a bumper sticker! Well, I’ve visited 5 out of 50 Capital Cities now; the Journey is 1/10th of the way done, and before I begin my focus on Boise, I’m going to summarize, analyze, theorize and maybe even criticize. How are things going so far? What is working particularly well, and what is not so hot in the way I’ve set things up? Like the pioneers on the Oregon Trail, what am I throwing in the ditch, and what have I learned that I cannot live without? I think of the little girl in the ill-fated Donner Party; as adults around her moved into survival mode she was told to leave her dolly behind. But that dolly was her survival mode, she hid it in her skirt; survival is a very personal thing. And so is work. One person’s work can be another’s adventure, no matter what the stats reveal! Let’s see. » read more


The Ides are Springsteen

Linda Burton posting from Austin, Texas — Beware the Ides? The schedule said noon, but it was 12:27 before The Boss arrived at the Austin Convention Center and began his Keynote Address, kicking off the music portion of SXSW today. “A keynote speech at NOON?” he groused. “All musicians are asleep right now.”

Not a musician, and not asleep, I enjoyed immensely (via live coverage on KUT) what he called a key notes talk.  “Since Elvis died,” he commented, “we have not agreed on anything about music. There is no pure way of doing it. There’s just doing it.”

He’s been doing it. It was announced yesterday that Springsteen’s latest album, Wrecking Ball, had topped the charts at  #1, his 10th  #1 album in the US, tying him with Elvis for third most  #1 albums in US chart history.

I’ve got no photos for you, but others do. Check it out.





Joyce Kilmer And Me

Linda Burton posting from Austin, Texas –– Austin trees have character. They don’t just pop up out of the ground and head for the sky. They meander, twist, and turn, taking their time to decide which way they want to grow. Kind of like the city itself. Interesting.

These distinctive trees, many of which grace the state capitol grounds, are live oaks, so called because the leaves remain green throughout the winter. Not actual evergreens, they drop their old leaves when the new spring green comes in. A true Texas tree, they are suited for Hill Country soil and even thrive in the coastal plains.

Seldom over 60 feet tall, their massive crowns may spread up to 120 feet. Known for their longevity and durability, live oaks can live 200 years or more in undisturbed landscapes. Strong wood characteristics, the spreading, low branching habit and a deep root system combine to make this species highly resistant to storm damage.

This may sound like a lesson on gardening, but I’m not an arborist. It’s the poet in me that loves these trees. And Austinites must love them too, nearly every tree I’ve seen has a peaceful-looking person sitting under it. They even offer comfort when you’re stuck in an unforgiving traffic jam.


The Balcones

Linda Burton posting from Austin, Texas – Some say it’s where the south ends. On the east side of town is the rich black bottomland that once sustained the cotton economy of the old south; it’s an agricultural haven to this day. But in Austin, that farmland literally runs into a wall. That’s where it meets a bulwark of cracked and weathered rock, the beginning of the Texas Hill Country I’d heard about but couldn’t visualize before today. Now it’s clear to see; we’re west of town, parked at an overlook for a glimpse eastward towards the city; tall buildings rise high in the distance. The hills are sparse with vegetation, yet plentiful in high-end houses, perched and angled for the ultimate view. What once was considered “unproductive” from an agricultural standpoint is the high-dollar ticket for Texas real estate now. The demarcation line, that “wall,” is the Balcones Escarpment.

The Balcones Escarpment, which forms the eastern boundary of the Texas Hill Country and the western boundary of the Texas Coastal Plain, consists of cliffs and cliff-like structures. It is geology’s most fateful mark upon the surface of Texas, extending in a pronounced arc from Waco to Del Rio. The Balcones creates the Hill Country; the Hill Country sets the stage for the High Plains beyond. And that rich black bottomland ends here.

Our tour guide tells how Austin has expanded over the years. In the early 1950’s the land where we’re standing now was cheap. It was used for secluded weekends and church retreats; after all, it wasn’t fit for agriculture, it was more suitable for goats. The few neighbors were squatters, often called “cedar choppers” because they made their living cutting cedar trees for fence posts. By the 1970’s those squatters were being bought out, or forced to leave; thanks to rapid urban expansion.

This is land that is barren and almost devoid of topsoil; the principal vegetation is cactus, cedar, and stunted live oaks. It may not be appealing to a farmer, who judges land by the depth and blackness of soil, but to the Central Texan looking for a homesite, Hill Country is definitely a prestige address. High-tech wealth is splattered hill to hill; Sandra Bullock, Lance Armstrong, and Matthew McConaughey are a few of the celebs who have houses tucked away in here, our guide proclaims.

Urbanization causes controversy, in any city. In Austin, preservation of prime farmland is the main argument against urban sprawl eastward into the coastal plain. But conservation of wildlife habitat and protection of the Edwards Aquifer are reasons not to spread further west into the hills. As for earthquake hazards along the Balcones Fault Zone, geologists assure it isn’t active anymore; the risk for earthquakes is low.

And then there’s that other consideration for the Austin resident – do you want to live in the south, or the west? The Balcones Escarpment is a clear and simple dividing point; or maybe it’s a unifying one, where south and west join together to make a really interesting place to live.


The Ladies and the Bats

Linda Burton posting from Austin, Texas – Aw shucks, I’m going to miss the bats. Austin is famous for its music, its food, and a really odd thing that has always puzzled me. Part of Austin’s cultural identity is caught up in bats. And I don’t mean baseball bats, I mean the kind that fly around at night eating insects. The story goes like this: the Ann W Richards Congress Avenue Bridge (named after the 45th governor of the state of Texas), which crosses over Lady Bird Lake (named after the former First Lady of the United States and created by the Longhorn Dam on the Colorado River) is home to a large urban bat colony. These bats, on their nightly flying and eating quest, attract about 100,000 tourists annually and impact the city economically to the tune of $8 million a year. There are a million bats living under Ann Richard’s bridge over Lady Bird’s lake; which means there are more bats than people in Austin. It’s a spectacular sight, I’m told; gather on the bridge, or in boats, or on either side of the river just about dusk to watch. But alas, they haven’t come back to Austin from their winter vacation in Mexico yet; mid-March is a typical arrival time. Since I won’t get to see the little critters, I researched a few Bat Facts. » read more


On The Road At Last

Linda Burton posting from Lafayette, Louisiana traveling from home to Austin, Texas – Sometimes you have to stop planning and start driving. Today was that day. I’d hoped to begin the Journey Across America on January 1; it seemed an auspicious date, an easy target to aim for. I’d do Montgomery first, then Tallahassee, Baton Rouge, and Jackson, arriving in Austin on the first of March. But there was too much to do; buying the Scion and getting it decked out, packing and moving stuff to brother’s house, or giving much of it away. I had to buy a new laptop and phone that will let me work on the road. I had to visit the family in Florida; have that last lunch with cousin Emily; have that last visit to Mom’s and Dad’s graves and say goodbye to step-mom Opal; check in with the doctor and the dentist. Today I’m tired; I could sleep for a week, but no more delays. This is it. It took hours to load the car, brother helped me haul it out; I had no idea how everything would fit. But somehow it did; the cats were tucked against the back of the seat so they could see me, and I could almost see them. Brother got my picture by the car; I got his by the front door; arms extended, whew! We’re done! Now go! I stopped for gas, diet Coke, and a bear claw, my standard convenience-store shopping. It was 9:04 AM, and I was on the road at last. » read more