Keepin' It Weird in Austin
One of my job duties while working here at Texas Lakeside RV Resort will be to fill customer’s propane cylinders and motorhome tanks when necessary. The task of filling a propane cylinder is something I’ve certainly observed many times when getting Charlie’s two 40 lb. cylinders filled, but I have never been trained in the proper safety procedures to fill someone’s cylinders or motorhome tanks. In the state of Texas oversight for this industry is performed by the Railroad Commission (RRC) of Texas. The Railroad Commission of Texas is the state agency that regulates the oil and gas industry, gas utilities, pipeline safety, safety in the liquefied petroleum gas industry, and surface coal and uranium mining. Yes, you read that correctly, the Railroad Commission of Texas has nothing to do with the railroad industry. Strange, huh? Our instructor explained that at one time the railroad industry was much more heavily involved in the transportation of natural gas and petroleum products in the State of Texas. He admitted that the name should probably be changed, but since it is in the Texas State Constitution it would need to be changed by the State Congress and was not likely to happen. So the Railroad Commission of Texas it shall remain.
The certification in Texas to dispense propane requires attending a one day (8 hour) training class and passing two exams at the end of the day. These training classes are offered at various locations around the State, with the majority of them offered at the RRC headquarters in Austin, TX. Doug, the owner of Texas Lakeside RV Resort, had explained to us before our arrival that I would be expected to attend the class and obtain a certification so that I would be able to dispense propane as part of my job. He also explained that I would be responsible for the $155 fee, along with the one night hotel stay which would be necessary to be at the class in Austin by 8 AM. I would then be reimbursed for these two charges after remaining on the job for 6 months. This all sounded fair to me, now I just had to gain my certification.
So after work at the Park on Wednesday, Betsy and I headed out for the roughly two hour drive to Austin, TX for the class on the last Thursday of November. Doug made hotel reservations for us the night of the 29th, which we would then be reimbursed for as I explained earlier. Sometimes Betsy and I get a little cranky when we have to pack an overnight bag and stay in a hotel. We always feel like, “That’s why we live in an RV. So we can always have our stuff with us and sleep in our own bed.” But sometimes circumstances require us to do things we may not like. We arrived at the Residence Inn, near the Austin Airport, after dark and settled into our room. It was a newer hotel and was actually quite nice, but still not our Charlie! The next morning we were up early for the free hotel breakfast (Ok, maybe this hotel stufff isn’t so bad!) and off to my class at 8:00. Betsy dropped me off at the RRC of Texas building and she headed off to run some errands and find a nice coffee shop to spend some time. My class was full with 24 people in attendance. The instructor was knowledgable and a good speaker, so it was not difficult to pay attention. In actuality, the class ended up being 4 hours of instruction in the morning, a short lunch break and then we had four hours in the afternoon to complete the two exams. I was luckier than most in the group since I had a wonderful wife who had lunch ready for me in the parking lot when we got our lunch break. Thanks Betsy! The two afternoon exams went quickly as they were 30 and 28 multiple choice questions respectively, which were also both open book. Yes, the workbook we went through in the morning contained all of the answers to the 58 questions in the afternoon. I did get one question wrong, which made me a little mad, but was still way better than the 70% needed to pass both tests.
So with my work stuff out of the way, we had already decided to stay a second night in Austin on our own dime and explore the city a little bit. Betsy’s keen internet skills had nabbed us a room on Priceline at the Best Western Plus just north of Austin for Thursday night. After settling into our room we headed out for dinner in the Austin suburbs in an area known as The Domain. The Domain is a high-density office, retail, and residential center located in the high-tech corridor of northwest Austin. The area looked a lot like other developments we have seen in the suburbs of other cities. It had lots of bars and restaurants and provided some good landscape for an after dinner walk. We then called it a night and got some rest before heading to downtown Austin the next day.
We were up at a reasonable time on Friday morning to enjoy another hotel breakfast. It was adequate, but there’s still nothing like a good home-cooked breakfast in Charlie’s kitchen. Our goal for the day was to see and learn a little bit about the city of Austin. Austin is the state capital of Texas, and is an inland city bordering the Hill Country region. It is home to the University of Texas flagship campus and is known for its eclectic live-music scene centered around country, blues and rock. Its many parks and lakes are popular for hiking, biking, swimming and boating. We headed for parking in the downtown area and decided to see what we could see on foot. Since the hotel coffee was less than stellar, our first stop was at a coffee shop to get an appropriate cup of joe. A quick Google search directed us to Austin Java, a mini-chain serving health-minded comfort food & locally roasted beans. Two iced coffees later we felt a little more confident about traversing the streets of Austin. As you’ve heard us say before, we live in an RV and love to camp, but we also love the vibe of being in a city and walking the sidewalks while taking in the sites and sounds. So that’s exactly what we did for the next couple of hours. While there, we made a stop at one of Betsy’s favorite markets, Trader Joe’s, and walked on the path along the banks of the Colorado River, which runs through the center of the city. The size and vibe of the city reminded me a lot of another city I called home for a while, Richmond, VA. A place my younger brother, Rick, and his wife Karen still call home today.
Before heading out of the Austin area and back to Port Lavaca we decided to stop and try a local food establishment Betsy found on her trusty Find Me Gluten Free app. Yep, we headed for the famous Torchy’s Tacos. Torchy’s Tacos is a local chain with stores in Texas, Oklahoma and Colorado. But with its’ roots and headquarters in Austin, it is more of an institution here. We waited in the lengthy line and had plenty of time to make our menu selections from the wide range of funky and inventive menu items. We were definitely not disappointed with our choices and topped it all off with our favorite Mexican mineral water, Topo Chico (aff. link). I’ll venture a guess that won’t be the last time we eat at a Torchy’s. And it definitely won’t be the last time we visit the city of Austin. Austin’s slogan is “Keep Austin Weird”. And, well, let’s be honest, my middle name is Austin and we both are considered a little weird by some people, so we felt quite at home there.