Texcapade: The Austin Bats and the Dilly Surprise
After coming back from Jordan, I spent about 3 and a half weeks in the New York area. First I did an awesome teaching program through Columbia’s Teachers College called the Klingenstein Summer Institute for Early Career Teachers, and then I hung out with dear friends for a few weeks. Then, I made my glorious return back to Texas to do…. nothing. Besides attending an AP Calculus workshop in San Antonio for 4 days, I have been laying low and loving it and that’s just about my whole plan until I head back to Jordan on August 19th.
But while I’ve been here, I’ve been struck again at how the State of Texas is really the Republic of Texas. It feels like a different country down here. When I lived in New Orleans for a few months, I was struck by the very same thing – New Orleans has its own food, very loose liquor laws, its own dialect, and you know it can’t be in America, because there is literally zero Bank of Americas in the entire state of Louisiana (I just looked this up, all of these states don’t have BoAs: VT, WV, AL, MS, OH, WI, MN, SD, ND, MT, WY, and CO… who knew?) But Louisiana had a very laid back, we’re-our-own-country-but-we-don’t-really-care-either-way, type of feel. Texas is different. Every day at our AP Calc conference, we would do the Pledge of Allegiance facing the American flag, and then turn slightly to the right to recite the Texas Pledge of Allegiance to the equally large Texas flag. This is how it goes: “Honor the Texas flag; I pledge allegiance to thee, Texas, one state under God, one and indivisible.” Wow.
So I thought I’d share a few things that are unique to Austin as a glimpse into Texas life. These aren’t quite as Texan as Chicken Sh*t Bingo, a Texcapade from last summer, but they are pretty interesting nonetheless…
1. The Largest Urban Bat Colony in the World
Almost in the heart of downtown Austin, there is a bridge over Congress St. under which lives the largest urban bat colony in the world. More bats live under that bridge than live in the entire city of Austin, around 1.5 million bats at its peak. The cool part is that they all fly out from underneath the bridge at the exact same time right around sunset, all off for the night to go hunting for some tasty mosquitoes. If you’re ever in Austin, this is a must see, can’t miss. You can either stand on top of the bridge, sit on the bank of the river down below, or paddle around on the river in a kayak to view the spectacle. They just pour out from underneath bridge for what seems like forever, but is actually around a half hour. They’re not as much fun during the day – there’s a running trail that goes beneath the bridge, and whenever I run underneath it I almost puke. They smell really bad.
2. The Dilly Surprise – A Shaved Ice Delight with a Hidden Pickle
Right down the street is South Congress, a fun little section of Austin with great restaurants, cool stores, and a couple of food trailer parks. That’s right, abandoned parking lots with a bunch of trailers that all serve various tasty delights. The good one on South Congress street has a Thai trailer, Hey Cupcake (guess what they serve), the Mighty Cone (not an ice cream place, they serve delicious savory meals in a tortilla cone), and the Frigid Frog (serving about 100 different flavors of shaved ice). Well, since it has been over 100 every day since I’ve been here, I’ve somewhat a fan of the Frigid Frog. My favorite offering of theirs is the Dilly Surprise, a pickle juice flavored shaved ice that has a real dill pickle hiding inside of it. It’s not much a surprise anymore, and it’s actually a little gross, but I like foods that are a bit of a challenge. And each time I have ordered it, I have struck up some real good conversations with people who are like “Whaaat?” Only in Texas.