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Old 03-30-2019, 05:50 PM
 
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Hello!

So I posted one of these in the DFW forum, and since I asked questions here also, I figured I would post one of my time in Austin as well.

So, we arrived pretty late. We flew into and out of DFW because it was cheaper, and because my Cleveland Indians were playing the Texas Rangers there, I figured it would be a good opportunity for a city break, combined with a trip for my wife to be matron of honor in her cousin's wedding. While she had a lot to do though, since it was just bridal shower, I had no responsibilities.

Saturday, I went into downtown, but first I visited a couple film locations from Office Space. The Chase Bank on 360 (Formerly Chotchkie's in the movie), and the Initech Building (at Friedrich). I know it sounds funny, but that movie has a cult following that I am a member of, and I wanted to see the location firsthand. Prior to that, I drove the 360 Bridge, and got off to hike up to the 360 Bridge Overlook. A short hike, but indeed very scenic. Already at this point, Austin was one of the more scenic cities in the east, but as I learned, it would only get better. I parked at the convention center garage (flat rate of 10$, I would have rather parked cheaper or free, but all things considered, not terrible for a good location. Note, before this I also had BBQ at Kerlin. It was rated #1 in a book about BBQ. I ordered the Chopped Brisket, and would say it was a 9/10. Not the best BBQ I have ever had, but very good, better than what I am used to for sure.

As I got out and started walking, the first thing that was really impressive was that there was construction everywhere. My first destination, grabbing an "I'm on vacation" pint at Bangers on Rainey Street was neat, however, I will say that perhaps those highrises over there could have gone to a better location. They mess with this aesthetic of that area a little bit. Though, Austin is kind of a lowrise town in form for most of history everywhere, though. After leaving Bangers, I went over and started walking, and then jogging, along the Lady Bird Lake Trail. What impressed me is that it is a dirt path and in such a natural state despite being in a downtown area. Many cities can claim to have a riverfront, but not many can claim to have one with such a widely preserved and pristine area, that is so well used by the citizenry.

Next up, I turned away from the trail at the Power Plant building, and checked out all floors of the stunning Central Library. The 2nd Street District does seem a bit "canned", though I suppose that comes with the territory, and it did feel very safe everywhere I went compared to many American cities (with the exception of the Riverwalk, and a few blocks north of 6th Street and east of Congress Ave. (though even that area didn't really feel too bad). I am hopeful that next time I am in town, I will be able to catch a screening of ACL Live, as it does look like a cool venue. I turned up Congress Ave., and took it straight up to the capital, with a slight detour to catch a view of the Governor's Mansion. The way that the Capitol is planned at the top of a slight hill, and Congress Ave. leads directly up to the capitol is really pleasing, from a planning and aesthetic perspective.

I didn't spend super long at the capitol itself, as my goal for this initial visit in such a long time was really to get an overview of the city. I did see the House of Representatives and Senate though, and was especially impressed by the view of the rotunda from the 4th floor. After that, I headed out northbound, and had to detour of Congress, but reconvened and took it into campus, briefly passing by the museums and Ellsworth Kelly chapel into campus. UT is not necessarily the prettiest campus I have ever seen, but the Mediterranean style was distinctive. My clear highlight from campus was going to the Harry Ransom Center and seeing the copy of the Gutenberg Bible on display there. I went past the football and basketball venues too, but there wasn't a ton to see from the outside, I just got pictures and kept moving, ultimately winding up back at my car (I believe a 6-7 mile journey, I'm not positive).

That same evening, I went back downtown. My wife was in yet another wedding, and the Bachelorette party for that one just so happened to be in Austin as well despite her nor the friend having any Austin connection. While they went out for dinner, I further explored the city by foot. I started at the end of 6th Street (Dirty Sixth), right by the freeway, and went to a second floor bar that was just finishing having a musician playing there. Grabbed a pint there, as well as a surprisingly good pizza slice next door, and kept heading down/taking it in. I went into the Driskill Hotel which is just an absolute gem (I want to stay there if I am ever in Austin during a relative off season)-it appeared there was a wedding or event up top of some sort, but I was still able to relax here for a bit and admire the details. After that, I decided to check out the rooftop/poolside bar over at the Westin (surprised this doesn't get busier) as the views from up top are just fantastic. I'm hoping it continues to be open to public guests. Stayed out and just relaxed here for a little bit, as I didn't think things would be going too late. They did run a little later, and I got a bit bored, and so I ended up walking the rest of the "downtown" section of 6th Street, all the way to the flagship Whole Foods (which wasn't really anything different, I wish I would've spent the time I spent there going to Waterloo Records instead, but some mochi ice cream did improve my moderate headache). After that, walked back down 6th Street and over to where I parked again (Convention Center), while also briefly passing the O. Henry and Alamo survivor (can't remember name) houses. Things had picked up a bit, and it was cool to be able to walk through the middle of the street, even as I'm not a huge nightlife person or live music person, I do appreciate cities and the bustle they have-it also lent a feel of safety to the streets that not many cities have. Overall, I think that part of the city is somewhat overrated-but then again, it's not exactly my direct scene either, so who am I to say that.

The next day was kind of slower. Lunch at Chuy's with wife/cousin/fiance (I know it's a chain, but my wife is obsessed and I guess we figured the ones in Austin would be better somehow. Their M.O. everywhere seems to be giving people WAY too much food lol.) After that, we went to downtown, and tried Voodoo Doughnut. It may sound funny and I get that it is a tourist trap and stuff, but this was very likely the best doughnut I have ever had. Something about the way they rose the bread, or the type of bread or mix used, it was just fantastic. Rest of the day was spent hanging out, playing board games with family , with a brief stop in Round Rock (this part of town kind of reminds me of suburban Orlando from 20-30 years ago (I don't remember that well, but it just has this "used to be small town, now getting swallowed up by Austin, but not completely yet type of vibe). Watched my UCF Knights have a near miss against the mighty Duke Blue Devils :_(

So, for this day, we started out by visiting an old roommate of my wife from college. We always enjoyed passing thru to visit her in Atlanta en route to North Carolina mountains or Cleveland, OH, and now she is in Austin! What made this visit esp. unique was that we were able to tour a co-op living space. I am not sure how prevalent these are in Austin, but I found it to be super neat, and something I wouldn't mind trying if I ever move to a new city and want to try something different (though I can imagine doing so married vs. single is significantly more difficult). It seems like there were good systems in place, and it gave us a feel for the Austin culture that one hears about more in recent decades and years. She's an awesome friend, and did a great job showing us around. Not to mention, we also tried some more great places along Cesar Chavez, which seems to be the foodie bastion of the city (Mr. Natural had one of the best tacos I've ever had, and we also hit up a cool tea house in West Austin).

After this, my wife wanted to spend more time with her cousin, as it was our last day in town. One of my personal goals was to spend some time out in nature while in Austin, as the little I had already done was very rewarding. Frankly, I actually wanted to drive out to Guadalupe Mountains and Carlsbad Caverns, and fly back from El Paso, but for this trip, this would have to do. I put in for Balcones Canyonlands, a significantly sized NWR but one that even many Austinites seem to not even know about. My first stop was Doeskin Ranch, where I planned on hiking the Rimrock Trail, in search of Hill Country vistas and an "out there" feel. However, I was honestly a little nervous. In the time I drove west, the landscape became significantly more "desert southwest in appearance, and I wasn't sure whether coyotoes/mountain lions or snakes could make an appearance, and I was all alone, with no cell service, etc. I took the initial route down, and found it immediately ran on a semi narrow kinda hemmed in path next to the river. I felt like it was a prime spot for something to be hiding out in, and turned back. I went the other direction, and for a while it was wide open switch backs. I got some great views, and was the only person or vehicle I saw for the next 20-30 minutes, which was awesome. However, at some point, that trail started narrowing out too, and I sensed that even something like falling out here, and I would be stranded (I would like to come back with a group hike at some point-if they are offered). I also needed to get back for more family time by a certain point. I kept driving the loop road around the park, and I was impressed with how it was almost like a mid-sized national park, but with almost no people. I reached Warbler Vista, which is a stunning spot (I'm not certain, but I feel like that has to be one of the prettier/more significant vistas surrounding the whole Austin area. I was able to do the whole ridgeline trail, and something about the elevation and increased lushness made me less anxious about stumbling upon something I shouldn't. All in all, an excellent experience. I'm not sure there is another major city east of the Rockies with that type of vast wilderness and topography at such a close proximity to it. I then drove all the way to south Austin where my wife's aunt resided, but en route, since it was so warm, I took a dip for 15 minutes or so at Barton Springs Pool. Similarly fantastic. Like one of our freshwater aquifers in FL, but right next to downtown

The rest of the night was spent enjoying the company of family. For me, I hadn't really spent that much time with that side of my wife's family before, and so it was enjoyable to get to know them all a little better. Before leaving, my last foodie stop in town was at the famed (or infamous) Top Notch burgers of Dazed and Confused fame. It was decent, but honestly nothing out of this world as burgers go. Probably the coolest aspect was the drive up/car hop nature of it, a dying concept in America at this point.

So, a few thoughts:
1. I like Austin, but not really for the reasons that people tend to hype it up for. As nightlife districts go, 6th Street is interesting, but honestly it doesn't quite have the charm, walkability or bustle of say New Orleans. Music, certainly is a factor, but it didn't exactly seem like one could walk up to a bar and just hear outstanding live music along 6th at least either. Probably one of those more "in the know" type things. I did hear a pianist that everyone else ignored doing his spin on modern pop songs, and I lingered by him for about 15 minutes. Nice spot for people watching, and he did a fantastic job livening up the block.

2. Parks are probably the facet of this city that make it most special for me. Again, I'm not gonna say that it would go to world class level or anything like that, but I'll be honest, at times driving in the Balcones Canyonlands, it so exceeded my expectations that there were audible "wows" coming from me. I knew it certainly wasn't flat, but sections and views from this drive wouldn't be entirely out of place on the Blue Ridge Parkway, but with a lot more variance besides that in nature, too.

3. Health in general. It seems like Austinites are very health conscious, on multiple levels. For one thing, people seem to always be out and utilizing trails that surround it. For another, people seem to eat pretty well, or at very least, BBQ and Donuts aside (lol), there really seem to be many options for doing so. Last, while I'm sure the booming economy is changing that, it seems like people really care about a work life balance here. It seems like things are much less measured on productivity or output here, and that having a good time is a very legitimate part of what people have in mind here.

4. Traffic and roads weren't terrible. I didn't take the metro at all here though I intended to, but hours and location are very limited. It seems like some new highways around the city have been added in recent years which probably helps. Probably the most bizarre thing I noticed with the roads, is that they are sort of like a double blocked artery in some places. Meaning, esp. along the 183, that you have to drive a mile south, and then drive 1-2 miles back north, before you can enter on to a northbound freeway. That has to be headache inducing when you can almost walk to a place quicker than you can drive to it as a result of that, but I suppose it probably reduces congestion in some respects because it eliminates some time consuming intersections.

5. I like the hours of things here. Austin is by no means a city that never sleeps, but coming from Bradenton-FL, there seem to be hours for various things around town (24/7 coffee shops, diners, etc.) that exceed what is found in a fair number of similarly sized cities. Very good for the tech and college crowd that may have unique ideals on when the best time to get things done is.

I had a great time. I was able to explore much of downtown, suburbs, and even some outskirts. Next time, I plan to spend more time hitting various trails, and perhaps focus on some specific attractions now that I have gotten a pretty good overview of the city. Would I move here? Absolutely. But compared to Dallas and Houston, it does seem like there's less of a jobs growing on trees type of vibe, and a worse earnings/COL ratio. At the same time, it seems like one of the most livable metros in the nation. If I was lucky enough to find something good here, I would strongly consider it, and it would be a lifestyle move as much as anything, for some of the positives of living out west, but at a lower cost and with calmer vibes.
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Old 03-30-2019, 06:20 PM
 
Location: Austin, TX via San Antonio, TX
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If you visit again venture outside the tourist-y, hipster, instragramable areas. The type of trip you took is the type of trip that people take and fall in love and decide to move here. If I had a dollar for every person I have met that said they came for a visit and decided to move here I'd at least have ten dollars (lol...not rich but I know many who have said such things). If you can afford the type of life where you live that way (go to Rainy every day, have the trail in your backyard, work out by 360) then that's great, but if you can't (or it's not your thing) to live that way please check out the areas east, west, south and north of the core of the city that you obviously enjoyed or wherever that job happens to be. I know you said transportation and traffic wasn't that bad, but were you anywhere on the road at 5pm during the week? I drive from south Austin to central Austin at least once a week, leaving at about 5:30pm and it takes me an hour to get 15 miles on 35.
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Old 03-30-2019, 07:07 PM
 
2,932 posts, read 1,147,131 times
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Originally Posted by ashbeeigh View Post
If you visit again venture outside the tourist-y, hipster, instragramable areas. The type of trip you took is the type of trip that people take and fall in love and decide to move here. If I had a dollar for every person I have met that said they came for a visit and decided to move here I'd at least have ten dollars (lol...not rich but I know many who have said such things). If you can afford the type of life where you live that way (go to Rainy every day, have the trail in your backyard, work out by 360) then that's great, but if you can't (or it's not your thing) to live that way please check out the areas east, west, south and north of the core of the city that you obviously enjoyed or wherever that job happens to be. I know you said transportation and traffic wasn't that bad, but were you anywhere on the road at 5pm during the week? I drive from south Austin to central Austin at least once a week, leaving at about 5:30pm and it takes me an hour to get 15 miles on 35.
I personally also feel that Austin's traffic problem seems slightly exaggerated currently, this coming from having lived in Atlanta, Chicago, Seattle and so forth... it definitely has traffic congestion but its still nothing on par to the cities I've mentioned before.

That stated though, I do see a potential issue that may incur in the future as Austin grows... I don't think its infrastructure will be able to keep up with the growth and that will probably be an issue. I personally also am blessed to live fairly close to my job though so my commute is only 15 minutes. In Atlanta - before I moved here my 5 mile commute could take me anywhere between 30 to 45 minutes depending on traffic. My commute about 30 miles (all on surface streets as well) easily 2 hours....easily. My commute between Lawrenceville and Kennesaw (two opposite spectrum northern suburbs about 50 miles apart by Interstate) between 1.5 - 3 hours depending on traffic.

But yeah, Austin also really surprised me as well when I first saw it as well. I was more-less expecting a town like Waco or Temple or maybe College Station that was focused around a university with nothing else outside of that and I was kind of expecting it to be smaller. Austin unfortunately has spoiled me because its really the only city in Texas I desire to live in. I guess...if it came down to it I wouldn't mind DFW, I don't really want to go to Houston or San Antonio though.
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Old 03-30-2019, 07:50 PM
 
Location: Austin, TX via San Antonio, TX
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Originally Posted by Need4Camaro View Post
I personally also feel that Austin's traffic problem seems slightly exaggerated currently, this coming from having lived in Atlanta, Chicago, Seattle and so forth... it definitely has traffic congestion but its still nothing on par to the cities I've mentioned before.

.
I wouldn't put it on par with any of those, but it already cannot withstand the current number of people. We get large job announcements almost weekly and you're right, we can't sustain that. I visited Atlanta about a year and a half ago and went to pick up a family member at the airport. She was flying from Denver to Atlanta and we left at about the time she took off and we got to the airport just a few minutes before she was ready for us to pick her up. It was a thing for sure.
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Old 03-30-2019, 07:58 PM
 
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ashbeeigh: I certainly wouldn't say I spent the whole time in the touristy areas, though of course, downtown was what I saw first, as I normally live in the suburbs, yet prefer cities, and so I definitely take time to live that life at very least whenever I am traveling. I wouldn't necessarily say we saw a ton of the suburbs. But, we did stay actually about 20 minutes outside to the northwest (my wife's cousin's apartment was in the Anderson Mill neighborhood I believe? near the aquarium apparently, though I don't think that is much). We also were in and around Round Rock both it's core, and the area to the south of that. The house we visited my wife's aunt at was in the Circle C Ranch area. So we got around a fair bit, but to be fair, not really anywhere on the east side out of the Cesar Chavez and surrounding area, nor too many places south. That said-I don't think were imminently looking at Austin as our "it city" to move to either. For one thing, my wife very much likes the idea of being around family, which we are currently in south Tampa Bay. For another thing, though I would certainly want or at least be very open to the idea of trying a new city, I am pragmatic enough that I would only do so if somehow I really found a right opportunity in a place. There's no question that odds based on affordability, schools, etc. would suggest that if we did ever move to Austin, we would also be looking at outer suburbs (despite my strong preference to try urban living at some point, because that is more pragmatic and affordable for us at this point). That said, I still do think that some of those benefits would exist regardless of that fact. I'd say Austin might have a slight edge on Tampa Bay in overall vitality of areas to travel to (where our current house were potentially closing on is 26 minutes from Saint Petersburg, 33 minutes from Tampa), because even though certain areas of Austin are significantly more vibrant than anywhere in my area, the area I currently live in is also vastly more populated and touristed. I think the more significant edge for Austin lies in the level of natural stuff available throughout the area-not that there aren't parks in Florida, as there are, but not even in the same stratosphere as Austin. That is the major delimiting factor if we ever did choose to move. That commute you describe does sound brutal. We took the 183 in at rush hour in the morning. A drive in that would have been 20 minutes normally took about 35 minutes. We took the 1 south, again at rush hour, and from downtown to Circle C area it took 25-30 when I think it's normally just 15. I don't mean to insinuate that waiting in that would be a picnic, just that it seems to be comparably bad or worse at rush hour in our area, with the catch being that we frequently get traffic at odd hours as well due to tourists and a very low volume of roads. Again too, don't worry, I'm not one to do anything rash : ) unless of course my wife was suddenly okay with moving to Cleveland, or somewhere like Philadelphia. For that, I'd be gone tomorrow lol!

Need4Camaro: Perfect example of what you mention. I left my workplace (Bradenton) to drive to USF (50 minutes, would be 40-45 with no traffic). That said, going across the 275? 2 hours 15 minutes (should be like an hour or so). I can attest to the fact that you leave Tampa for a Rays game at 5, and you might not make first pitch in St. Pete (15-20 miles away) depending on the day. That to me is a whole new world. The same can be said for I-4 from about Mile 60 to Mile 82 (I lived in Orlando for 6 years previously, and thankfully, didn't have to go anywhere at those times usually).

I think you have a point about how the traffic will blossom out of control with time. Austin doesn't seem very inspired to continue to get regional rail up to speed yet, and those double wide freeways with roads on each side are about as opposite of pedestrian friendly as it can get, and that's coming from FL who knows quite a bit about pedestrian unfriendliness lol. Also, Austin's population is booming at a rate that blows away even most sun belt cities (I think the MSA has nearly doubled since 2000... crazy). If that continues, you are right, problems will occur, as it certainly isn't anywhere near Dallas when it comes to road infrastructure.

So I guess you may have moved there before-I am guessing many that visit actually assume it is bigger based on the size of it's reputation in recent years, and then are surprised about some things. I wasn't one of those people, because I read up and researched beforehand, but there are many ways in which Austin still does feel like a mid-size city or a town. I think those things add to the charm rather than hurt the place though, they make it what it is, and how livable a place it is. Of course, it's against all that boom and excitement too, which is cool to see.

Out of curiosity, why DFW, and not Houston or San Antonio? I have a little bit of knowledge about each of these cities and their reputations, but I am always seeking to learn more. Florida's big cities feel almost like cousins at times, where Texas big cities seem to vary much more significantly from one another.
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Old 03-30-2019, 09:05 PM
 
Location: Austin, TX via San Antonio, TX
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Originally Posted by cavsfan137 View Post
We took the 183 in at rush hour in the morning. A drive in that would have been 20 minutes normally took about 35 minutes.
You were reverse commuting in that case. The drive south is nothing and I did it for about three months from central Austin to the Circle C area. Driving on Mopac south in the morning was a breeze. Getting to Mopac was the problem. Try getting either north or south on Mopac (not "The One") any time after 4:15pm between Barton Skyway and the 183/Mopac interchange and it is at crawl, and that's with the addition of the express lane. Not arguing in any way, but providing different perspectives on the traffic. Traffic is weird and bottlenecks in the weirdest places here, but that has to do with our poor planning.
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Old 03-31-2019, 05:07 AM
 
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Originally Posted by ashbeeigh View Post
You were reverse commuting in that case. The drive south is nothing and I did it for about three months from central Austin to the Circle C area. Driving on Mopac south in the morning was a breeze. Getting to Mopac was the problem. Try getting either north or south on Mopac (not "The One") any time after 4:15pm between Barton Skyway and the 183/Mopac interchange and it is at crawl, and that's with the addition of the express lane. Not arguing in any way, but providing different perspectives on the traffic. Traffic is weird and bottlenecks in the weirdest places here, but that has to do with our poor planning.
Define reverse commuting, I just want to make sure I understand. Because we were heading towards town at morning rush hour and away from town at afternoon rush hour. Are you just saying that it gets worse on other stretches of the highway surrounding Austin than those within the city? Hopefully they will address those concerns as time moves forward and population continues to swell. I feel like there are many flexible occupations in Austin too which should start offering different shifts, opportunities to work remotely, etc.
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Old 03-31-2019, 07:39 AM
 
Location: Austin, TX via San Antonio, TX
6,433 posts, read 8,938,897 times
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Originally Posted by cavsfan137 View Post
Define reverse commuting, I just want to make sure I understand. Because we were heading towards town at morning rush hour and away from town at afternoon rush hour. Are you just saying that it gets worse on other stretches of the highway surrounding Austin than those within the city? Hopefully they will address those concerns as time moves forward and population continues to swell. I feel like there are many flexible occupations in Austin too which should start offering different shifts, opportunities to work remotely, etc.
From Wikipedia

Quote:
reverse commute is a round trip, regularly taken, from an urban area to a suburban one in the morning, and returning in the evening. It is almost universally applied to the trip to work in the suburbs from home in the city
Circle c is the epitome of suburbia. You went from one suburb to another.
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Old 03-31-2019, 08:08 AM
 
Location: Austin
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Originally Posted by Need4Camaro View Post
I personally also feel that Austin's traffic problem seems slightly exaggerated currently, this coming from having lived in Atlanta, Chicago, Seattle and so forth... it definitely has traffic congestion but its still nothing on par to the cities I've mentioned before.
Have you ever spent an hour trying to get from 45th st to Oltorf during rush hour?

Have you ever sat on 360 trying to go either direction during rush hour?
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Old 03-31-2019, 12:45 PM
 
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Originally Posted by ashbeeigh View Post
From Wikipedia



Circle c is the epitome of suburbia. You went from one suburb to another.
I must have actually mistyped it so I apologize for that.

Our friend (we met her at like 8:30 on Monday AM), lives in Central East Austin? In the area near George Washington Carver Museum and Franklin BBQ. We drove in there from Anderson Mill, so to me that was coming into town with traffic.

Then, in the afternoon, we did go to Circle C, but that was coming first from Anderson Mill again (183 over to MOPAC, though I did take the express lane and was glad I did, otherwise it would have been much worse). Stopped at Barton Springs Pool (again right by downtown, in the 4:30-5:00 range) en route, THEN we went to Circle C with traffic leaving downtown.

I wanted to check to make sure I didn't have the meaning wrong, because I felt like we were commuting towards downtown at start of day, and away at end of day. It's a moot point anyways though, as it's possible we just got lucky, and as you and other posters have mentioned, there are places on several freeways that are more bottlenecked than what I just mentioned.

Last edited by cavsfan137; 03-31-2019 at 01:02 PM..
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