God Bless Texas! Part 5½: The Capital
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San Antonio, TX to Austin, TX (Map) - 79mi/128mi

Winter 2011/12.


I'm sure it was the fresh fruit, and not the biscuits n' gravy, which bogged me down as I moved from San Antonio to Austin. With two county seats between the two cities, I decided to stop in San Marcos. In the county seat of Hays County, I found a local coffee shop in an old building with a pretty barista. I cooled off on my initial enthusiasm though, as apparently since I wasn't a San Marcos local, then I deserved to be treated with a crabby attitude.

I left with my coffee and sipped it on the grounds of the Hays County Courthouse. The present Great-tailed Grackles provided better company.

Once I made it to Austin, it was drizzly and damp outside. Thankfully I had indoor plans.

The Texas State Capitol was designed in 1881 by Elijah E. Myers. Myers also designed the state capitols of Colorado & Michigan. Construction began in 1882, after a contract was put out where the State of Texas offered 3 million acres of land in the Texas Panhandle in exchange for the construction.

Construction would take 6 years after various delays. One delay was from the stonecutting union, after they had a problem with Texas using 1000 convicts to cut the exterior pink granite in Marble Falls.

The capitol was finished in 1888 with 392 rooms and standing at 310 feet tall. It is still the largest state capitol in terms of square footage, second only to the national capitol in Washington. It stands 15 feet taller than the national capital in D.C. though.

The figure atop the dome is the Goddess of Liberty, and if you're wondering how big it is, then you should view this awesome picture from 1888.

I walked extensively through the massive building. Checking out everything from the Senate Chamber, to door hinges, to the House of Representatives Chamber (above). I particularly enjoyed the aged board with gold trim, showing how each house member votes.

I eventually returned to the main rotunda and peered up at the impressive dome. I eyed a tight, circular staircase which winded its way up the side; imagining the fantastic and fresh pictures you could take from that ladder.

The rotunda walls are lined with portraits of every person who has ever served as the Governor of the State of Texas.

There was an exhibit at the capitol showing the first African Americans to serve as legislative members or delegates after the abolishment of slavery.

Much to my surprise I found Steve's ancestor Bird Davis! Neat!

Things seemed pretty quiet while I was at the capitol, but I later learned at the motel this night, that apparently Matthew McConaughey was in the building at the same time as me!

I imagine they had to keep his whereabouts pretty secretive, but still, I came very close to an amazing portrait with McConaughey!

The pavement was looking quite dry, so I returned to my car parked in front of the Travis County Courthouse.

To kill a little more time I went to Empire BMX, one of the more famous bike shops in North America. The guy at Albe's usually helps me out because I pay zero attention to new bike parts...and thankfully the dude at Empire was just as helpful. It was also pretty neat to sneak a few glimpses at their backyard ramps, which were laden with no trespassing signs.

I spent the next four hours at Austin's amazing, 1-year-old, $1.7 million dollar House Skatepark. Four hours is a lot of time for me to ride these days, but with the gloomy weather, the place was somewhat empty & just ideal. I often have people ask me if I've been to Millennium in Calgary, but I don't like skateparks like that. In Austin, the majority of the place is a plaza, with attention paid to making rails and ledges properly (something you can't say for Millennium).

There is a single bowl in Austin, but I didn't drop in once. The DK bicycles van showed up & a dude I recognized from videos was going stupid high in the bowl.

I spent the night at some forgettable Super 8, only stopping briefly to snap a lazy, handheld shot of Austin's moonlight towers. They purchased 31 of these towers used from the City of Detroit in 1894. These moonlights used to be present in a handful of cities, but Austin is the only city where a network of the lights remain. They were popular in the 1880s and 1890s, as a means of lighting several city blocks.

You may know them from Dazed & Confused, where Matthew McConaughey (Wooderson) exclaims "Party at the Moon Tower!"

I could probably spend a week in Austin & still have plenty left to explore. Unfortunately I only had 1 day, for I had to go west.

Forward to Day 6...


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1 - Texas Capitol - Texas State Preservation Board

2 - History: Texas Transmits Herself to Posterity - Texas State Preservation Board

3 - Moonlight Tower - Wikipedia