One of the biggest challenges on a road trip in my opinion is pulling into a city after a long day on the road and trying to figure it out on the fly.
It's also something that I've been told I have a knack for. I think it's something I inherited.
Years ago, my parents were traveling in England. My Mom later told me that my Dad was so good at just getting around over there that even British people were asking them for directions.
I first noticed I had some of this ability as I was traveling through Europe with some friends just after college. Somehow I knew how to avoid the silly tourist traps and find the real deal. A little pub down an alley in the middle of Baden-Baden. Perfectly grilled lamb souvlaki and fries for 50 cents in Santorini. A bar filled with tall Dutch girls somewhere in Interlaken.
One of these guys, Mark from Sydney, Australia would taunt me: "You've got the sixth sense, mate . . . the voodoo." Then in jest, "Bastard."
So the other night when I got into Austin I knew I needed food right away and didn't have the patience to look around. I drove straight to the Whole Foods flagship store in downtown Austin and got a quick bite while I strolled through the aisles and got the vibe.
Immediately it was easy to notice how friendly and laid-back people are in this town. I also saw more than one KEEP AUSTIN WEIRD t-shirt. I love that attitude. It's how I felt about NYC when I was living there, and nothing makes me relax more in a new place than one that has the courage to basically say JUST BE YOURSELF.
The next thing I knew I was back in the car and driving around purely by feel. And somehow I felt my way to what for me is still my favorite part of Austin yet, the Barton Springs area just south of downtown.
Burger joints, Mexican cantinas, juice bars, they were all there. Everyone was outside, drinking beers, hanging out. The night air was warm and felt good on my skin as I walked around.
Where else could you find a place like P.Terry's burger stand that serves probably the best burger I've had since the middle of nowhere in South Dakota -- fresh all-natural Black Angus beef, hormone-free & antibiotic-free, with real Land O'Lakes cheese, Heinz ketchup, organic tomatoes, Hellmann's mayonnaise, and French's mustard?
Only in Austin. Please. Keep this place weird.