Saturday, 21 May 2016

Our Epic Detour: Keeping Austin Weird

Our Epic Detour:
Keeping Austin Weird

It was clear that our venture into Texas wasn't off to a great start (especially with the whole Galveston Island debacle) but alas the journey must go one with the hopes of turning things around. Next up was Austin, Texas, Becca's choice of detour on our road trip.

Becca chose Austin because she loved the city's motto - "Keep Austin Weird" (a slogan that was introduced to promote Austin's small businesses) - and when she told us that the city had an indie music following and generally good vibes all around, we knew this information going forth was a hopeful indication of good things to come.

While on the road from Galveston to Austin, we sent out some last minute couchsurfing requests and while we got a few potential responses, one in particular stood out to us. This host used to live in Hawaii and avidly plays the ukelele, which immediately sparked an interest from Becca as these are some of her favourite things. But the thing that sealed the deal was his name: Austin. Yes folks, we stayed the night at Austin's house in Austin. The chance for such an opportunity was too perfect to pass up, so we accepted his offer and 45 minutes later we were pulling into his driveway.

Choosing Austin as our couchsurfing host ended up being an ace decision on our part. First of all, he wasn't cynical of the city which would have been a huge deal breaker - just look at how the New Orleans trip went. And second of all, he ended up being a great example of an ideal couchsurfing host (which was surprising since it was actually his first time hosting travellers).

When we got to Austin's place, he welcomed us into his house with a seemingly never-ending supply of mimosas - always a positive sign. He was incredibly hospitable, showing us around to a great burger place and even offering to make us a delicious - and healthy - meal. Things were definitely turning around!

After another much-needed shower - something that we often take for granted when we aren't travelling - we got ready to spend the night out in the city. Austin dropped us off at 9th street (a popular place in the city for nightlife) and we spent the next couple hours hopping from bar to bar. We even got the chance to visit a proper Coyote Ugly bar, where we were given free shots and I was invited to dance up on the bar...which I did OF COURSE. Never turn down the chance to dance on a Coyote Ugly bar especially if Shania Twain is playing #rulestoliveby.

Soon enough, Becca and Jelena joined in as well and we showcased our awesome (awful) dance moves while trying not to fall flat on our asses in our high heels - a difficult feat, let me tell you!

Overall, it ended up being a great night and was made even better when Austin and his friend joined us later on. Nothing beats a good night with good company!

The next afternoon Austin took us on a hike to a swimming creek where we just chilled, enjoyed the beautiful scenery and listened to some lovely ukulele music courtesy of our awesome couchsurfing host. While we had every intention of leaving for our next destination that night, we made plans to all go camping at this stunningly gorgeous campsite that Austin recommended. Seriously, this place had a grotto and waterfalls, and had a swimming creek that looked like something from a disney movie. Frankly, we were all super excited for this detour but like the detour in Galveston...things didn't go to plan.

STORY TIME! (a.k.a Ranting time...)

Basically, plans fell through as soon as we got to the campsite and discovered that the owner (at least I got the impression that he was the owner) was a massive twat. We had gotten through the gates with no problem and went to park in front of the office so we could pay for a campsite and unload our supplies. Before we got out of the car we saw a man with a long white beard and moustache standing in the shadows near the office watching us. NOT MOVING AT ALL, just watching us. So that was slightly creepy and should have been a huge sign to turn straight around but alas we just stayed in our car and stared back. Yeah, we were not getting out of the car with creepy mcgee just a stone throws away. Well...we didn't have to wait very long because then he started to come over to our car with a very disconcerting expression (in other words: not helping the creepy factor). So we rolled down our windows to find out what he wanted and were greeted with - by far - the rudest and downright obnoxious welcome. The guy asked us what we were doing - were we going to go in and pay or what? - and we told him we were going to pay to camp but we were just waiting for our friend to arrive. This is when the guy laughed in our face and said that the park is closing in 5 minutes, we either pay or leave the premises. See, we had the impression that the gates closed at 9pm - as this is what Austin told us - and as it was only 7:55, we thought we still had plenty of time. When we tried to explain that we were from out of town - "clearly - and didn't know, oh was he happy to set us straight and call us idiots for not knowing.

He was willing to let us stay but refused to wait fifteen minutes for our friend Austin to join us, seeing as the office closed in 5. We were willing to pay for both our stay and Austins but the guy was not having any of it. Seeing how we didn't want to ditch Austin since he was the reason we were even at the campsite in the first place, we had a bit of a predicament which wasn't made better with the owner breathing down our necks and being a huge dickhead. I seriously needed to bite my tongue when I tried to reason with him since he was grating on my every nerve but when he called us stupid tourists, we drew the line and immediately left.

Look I understand the need to go home after a busy day at work and not wanting to wait one minute more. I understand that some people think they are the exceptions to the rules set in place, and that he got the impression that we were one of those people just trying to stretch the limits. Dude, I've worked in the service industry many-a-years. I have dealt with tons of those people and much more bullshit that any person should ever have to handle BUT NEVER have I EVER been unintentionally rude to a customer/client. Scratch that, I have NEVER been rude to a customer/client EVER, even when it was warranted. What I am trying to get at is the fact that regardless of the situation, there is a better way he could have handled it - and that's putting it lightly. There is no reason he needed to be incredibly rude to us when he could have just explained the problem to us in a polite and professional manner. He was dealing with Canadians for goodness sake!?! We are reasonable people! Probably the most reasonable people he could have encountered! We had no intention of skirting the rules, we just didn't know what those rules were and needed someone to explain them to us. Sorry but I don't think confusion or a miscommunication on the park hours warranted such abusive and downright ignorant comments from the OWNER of all people. It was not a pleasant experience I'll tell you that much. I was almost driven to write a really long and nasty yelp review but thought better of it. There is no good in stooping to his level because that doesn't make me any better than him.

It's such a shame that things went down the way they did because the place did have huge potential. Oh, and if you want to know the place it's called Krause Springs; there's no reason I need to censor the name of the just made me angry thinking about it all over again. I'll even post a picture to show you how much potential this place did have.

Yes. This was the abyss we were supposed to stay in Austin...
You can now cry. 
Alas, I think we can all agree that it was good that we didn't stay there in the end as I think I would have felt ashamed if I actually gave my hard earned money over to that shmuck and encouraged such horrific customer service.

I think the biggest downfall of the night was that we weren't able to see Austin again or give him a proper goodbye, but he was incredibly understanding when we sent him a message discussing the encounter - and also thanking him profusely for his amazing hospitality. See, SOMEONE had the ability to be understanding and NOT an asshole! IT IS POSSIBLE PEOPLE!!!! Honestly, the whole experience was incredibly surreal, especially since we had received amazing Southern hospitality thus far but I guess it just goes to show that some people just suck regardless of where they come from.

With these unfortunate turn of events we came to another roadblock: we now had no place to stay for the night and sleeping in the car just felt like another defeat. At this point, Jelena and Becca turned to me and asked for my opinion on what we should do. It was yet another opportunity for us to either give up and accept this defeat or move on. But giving up just isn't an option.

I thought about it for a bit and then decided with finality that we would start driving towards New Mexico - our next destination - and then stop off on a deserted roadside after a couple of miles to lie on top of the car and stargaze. It was one of the things we had talked about doing for quite some time, so it was as good a time as any to do so. And that's what we did. We stopped off on the grassy shoulder of the Texas hill country highway, talked for a bit and just unwound.

Sometimes you just need to take a moment when things go sour to stop and reflect on your experience. It's obvious that things won't always go the way we plan them to, so it was time to stop planning and just start doing. This way, we couldn't be disappointed when things didn't meet our expectations #roadtripsurvival101.

As we all lied on top of the car starring up at the starry night sky, we collectively decided from that moment on, nothing - I repeat, NOTHING - was going to ruin our road trip. Moving forward, we were going to make the best out of the remainder of our trip.

And that's just what we did.

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