ACL – Rough Road

On the interstate, headed into Austin, there’s a sign that I’ve grown fond of, the signage is between developments and the sign reads, “Austin City Limits” and “Travis County Line,” the two are next to each other. For the geographically challenged, Austin is in Travis County. Then, a half mile down the road, another highway sign “Austin, 11 / Waco 112.”

I was looking for a pair of shorts at the big downtown REI store, in Austin. Next to Book People, one of the largest independent bookstores. Don’t start – they don’t support independents like me. Sad, in a way. Go to Whole Life Books, next to Maudie’s and Alamo Drafthouse – 1006 S. Lamar – they carry my books.

The shorts I was looking to replace were REI-branded “sports shorts” which, if the branding is true, means the shorts, although they were clearly labeled that they were made in a third world country, if REI is true to their core ideals, at least the house brand products aren’t made by child labor. Not so much with the rumors about some of the other brands, but that’s not what this battle is about. It’s about Austin’s own crown jewel, Barton Springs. The new REI had at least one employee who was from “Seattle,” and an “outdoorsman,” self-professed. Rock climber, Kayaker, tan, fit, looked good in the company’s vestments.

Since he couldn’t find the shorts in inventory, or in the online catalog, I veered off into his version of adventure. So far, after a year or so in Austin, he had yet to visit Barton Springs, although, when pressed, he lived walking distance to the downtown store. Biking distance.

Another quick geography lesson: Barton Springs is a spring-fed pool with constant water temperature of 68 degrees (F). The F stands for “Freezing” cold. For a dilettante like myself, the temperature is reserved for daytime, summertime swimming. Still, to live within easy walking, hiking, biking distance for swimming access, and failure to do so? It’s a crime against one’s nature. The other piece of the geography lesson? The big rule in real estate is “location,” and Baton Springs is less than a mile along a pronounced scenic portion of Austin’s hike and bike trail, from that REI store. Over the pedestrian bridge or the Lamar Street Bridge, either one, drop down to the trail on the south side of the lake, follow it around the corner, and there’s Barton Creek’s confluence with the Colorado River. Barton Springs is a quarter of a mile up from there.

Hiking, biking, running, kayaking, swimming, sounds like an ad for “feminine protection,” doesn’t it?

In the larger scheme, I reckon this makes very little difference. But god is in the details, ask any Virgo, and this is a detail that one shouldn’t miss.

It’s a moral obligation, if one lives in Austin, and for that matter, a short hop to Barton Springs? It’s morally imperative to swim there, as often as possible. The waters are sacred.

Like, ask how many times I’ve showed up at the BBQ place or the other plethora of restaurants, and I’ve had that faint reek of creek water. Maybe a twig or leaf still matted in my hair?

The trailer park is gone, sold, resold, and dug up for another high-rise. I don’t live anywhere near Barton Creek anymore – I can’t afford the prices in the ‘hood. But for ten years, I would swim in the creek, every chance I got. Even some days when it wasn’t well-advised. I tend to keep my own counsel in such matters.

The water from limestone-filtered springs, a common sight throughout the area, is a special kind of teal green. The limestone (filtered) waters, their colors, the way the water stays a set temperature? It’s all part of living in Austin. Like, it’s something locals should take advantage of – before it’s too late.

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Musical interlude: Box of Rain.

The shorts, I liked them, but I’ve worn through three or four pairs by now. The cargo pockets are big enough for serious cartage and haulage while having grommets at the bottom so water drains out. The slash pockets in front and back pockets have mesh bottoms, excellent for swimming. Stylish enough to be formal and yet useful as swimming trunks. Like, swimming in Barton Creek.

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