Formula 1 & The Texas Capital

This is probably going to seem like an odd thing for me to be writing about for a myriad of reasons, but thanks to a visit from one of my older brothers I spent part of my weekend taking in the Formula 1 US Gran Prix. My brother Thomas arrived in town on Thursday and got to attend all three days of Formula 1 events at the Circuit of the Americas track, and thanks to some scheduling issues with my cousin I was granted a free ticket for the qualifying races on Saturday.

Now since I live in the U.S…. and I’m a girl, I’ve never been to a formula 1 race, and can almost guarantee I haven’t intentionally watched a race on television. Obviously this means I’m not a die-hard Formula 1 fan, but let me follow that by saying I have a lot of respect for the sport and for the absolutely insane men who strap themselves into land-based rocket ships for a living. Our morning began with a car ride, some traffic, a school bus turned shuttle and lots of walking, but we arrived with plenty of time to watch the end of a practice round for the Ferrari’s competing as part of the Gran Prix.

Next was the first of two Formula 1 qualifying rounds that really tested the limits of my camera and eyesight as the cars (remember those land-based rocket ships I told you about!?) zoomed past in search of one of the 16 spaces available. My camera wasn’t quite quick enough, so I don’t have any photos to show you from this section, as I hadn’t quite worked my timing out yet and don’t possess a professional camera with an impressive shutter speed. So once this round was over we took a walk to the Austin 360 stage to see the Sick Puppies perform a free concert.

Then it was the last qualifying race for the Formula 1 cars, and by some miracle I was able to capture a few cars on camera as they sped by. I got an impressive shot of both Red Bull racing cars as they came around the turns in front of where we were sitting along with the video screen showing the on-board camera from one of their cars.

After the Formula 1 cars were done, there was the final qualifying race for the Ferrari’s (not pictured) and a finale featuring antique Formula 1 cars from the 1960’s – 1980’s.

Later that evening I met up with some friends on 6th, which is bar/club central in Austin and was jammed packed on this particular night thanks to the normal weekend madness with a little international twist thrown in for flavor. It was a fun night which ended with me losing my voice and learning first hand how much it costs to get your car towed to one of the shady facilities in the area … trust me when I say it’s not worth the price.

MONDAY

Since I spent Sunday at work, the rest of this post will be taking place on Monday. I had the day off, so my brother and I did a little sight-seeing with our aunt and uncle. Up first was Mt. Bonnell which isn’t actually a mountain but rather a large hill given the name Mountain because it’s one of the highest places you can go in Austin. We took the short walk up the rocky ramp-like path that provides absolutely beautiful views of not only Austin, but also the hill country to the South, and the million dollar houses along the river just at the base of the Mountain … I mean hill.

Afterwards we headed out for some BBQ because it’s the Texan thing to do, and made our way to downtown Austin for a little tour of the state capital building.

In case you forgot which state you were in while taking a stroll through the capital building, there are plenty of stars emblazoned on chairs, ceiling tiles, door knobs, hinges, and lights to remind you. To top it off they always add the word Texas to anything any everything they can, including the floor and ceiling of the famous dome you see in photos of Austin. Despite the over-advertised feeling the building brings to mind, it was kind of cool to have a glimpse of the rooms laws are passed in and walk through the stone and wood-paneled hallways of a historic building. If that’s not enough to make you want to visit, then maybe the word FREE will help set a trip to the capital building a little higher on the list.

The Umlauf Way

Let me start by apologizing for my recent lack of blogging in the last few weeks. I finally found a small form of income, which will hopefully help keep me here in Austin, and has been keeping me busy as of late. Hopefully I will be making up for my lack of blogging now by writing about my newest touristy-type activity here in Austin. Having a free weekend from said acquired job, I decided to head into the city to check out the Umlauf Sculpture Garden and Museum in Zilker park. The place itself is named after the famous American sculptor Charles Umlauf, and all of the sculptures found on its grounds were donated by the artist himself back in 1985.

As some sort of cosmic gift for the hard time life seems to be giving me, I found myself arriving at the sculpture garden and museum on a free day that left $4 in my pocket and increased the good mood I was already experiencing. Sadly, despite my hopes that the universe still held some fondness for me, I later learned that this phenomenon happens every first weekend of the month in Austin… and applies to all museums in the city.

The museum promotes itself as a child-friendly place, but with all the nude statues, biblical figures, and frankly downright creepy images everywhere you turn, I’m not sure I’d recommend bringing your children here. While they might not have a clue what they’re looking at, it’s still probably not their idea of a fun afternoon and there are much more child-friendly places to visit in Austin.

If you’re not planning on bringing your children here, it’s a nice little museum to visit if you have a little time to spare. It took me about 20 minutes to walk through the entire garden area despite the crowd the free weekend brought along with it.

My favorite statues were “Icarus” and “Seated Bather” above, as they seemed to grab my attention and attract the light in more interesting angles than most of the others scattered about the shady grounds. They also seemed to be two of the statues that attracted the most attention from some of the other visitors the afternoon I was there. Since I was already in Zilker park, I spent a little time enjoying the afternoon sun in one of the many open areas available, before heading back to Round Rock for dinner with my extended family.

Among The Wildflowers

Recently I’ve been spending a lot of time indoors thanks to my job hunting efforts, so in order to keep my sanity, I decided I needed a little time away from my laptop. There are a lot of options to keep me busy here in Austin, and thankfully some hiking nearby, but with only a few hours to spare, I decided to take a trip out to the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center at the University of Texas Austin.

For any of you who aren’t sure who Lady Bird Johnson was, let me take a moment to refresh your memory or even teach you something new. Claudia Alta Taylor Johnson, or Lady Bird Johnson,  was the wife of former U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson, and a native Texan widely known for her conservation efforts and love of wildflowers, which brings me back to the reason I’m writing this post: I too love wildflowers! It’s the only reason a person finds themselves driving 25 minutes into the heart of Austin to visit a garden full of native flowers … that is unless you happen to be a guy racking up brownie points by making your favorite lady happy, at which point you should just ignore the first half of this sentence and take one for the team.

Anyway, since it’s already September I wasn’t expecting there to be a lot of wildflower growth, so I wasn’t disappointed with what I found at the center when I arrived. With that being said, there were still lots of beautiful things to look at. Currently the center is under construction as they add a new exhibit, so their two main trials are closed, which was a little bit of a let down since I would have liked to walk through them, but with plenty of flowers, butterflies, bees, and sculptures around to keep me occupied, I hardly had time to miss them.

I felt at home among the cacti in the main courtyard of the wildflower center and loved the large metal containers filled with overflowing flowers. It was a fairly pleasant day, not too hot by Texas standards, but just hot enough that there weren’t a lot of people wandering around the grounds. There were covered walkways, plenty of benches set back in the growing plants, and lots of pathways taking you to the various areas of the small garden.

I even managed to find some mushrooms growing sporadically in a section of the butterfly garden. Overall, it was a pretty good visit and well worth the drive. I’m definitely going to make a point to come back again during the Spring  and Summer months to check out what the gardens have to offer, but for now I will leave you with an extra gallery of flowers and cacti to brighten your day.