New digs in Austin
After spending some time in the Piney Woods area, we made our way to our next campground where we would be spending over 2 months. We arrived at McKinney Falls State Park in Austin a couple days before the end of the month to acquaint ourselves with the area and pick up a special package at the airport. Our boys were coming to visit us, well that and they were coming to attend the Formula One race. This was the other Christmas "experience" gift for the boys. Last month we took them to see Hamilton in Chicago and now to experience the only Formula One race in the U.S. in Austin.
We reserved a site for the three nights prior to the start of our workamping position. It was a lovely pull thru site on a small loop that only had about 7 sites, so it was nice and quiet. We got acquainted with the campground, the park and the local area. Of course we found the local Walmart and actually decided against going back to that one. The area was soo congested and right on the I-35 access road, so it really was not a fun time trying to navigate through all of that with a big dually truck. That is just the reality of our life with a big truck that we manage through as we go places. There are several other Walmarts in the area so we will explore a couple others.
This park is considered an urban state park as it is in the Austin City limits, but when you are in the park it feels just like any other state park, but with a bit of road noise. Still a really nice park. Obviously by the name there are some waterfalls, not huge ones like Niagra Falls but unique limestone falls. Onion Creek meanders through the park and has smoothed out the limestone rock where water flows over. The water level is low right now so the falls are a little more than a stream but we have heard that it is not uncommon for them to be flooded with a good rain. In the summer, this is a hot spot for locals to cool off. Almost every weekend the park is at capacity and has to turn day use visitors and campers away. While the boys were here, we went exploring the Upper Falls. You can see the small falls in the first picture.
We also spent a day downtown Austin, checking out the TX State Capitol and seeking out some TX BBQ. The capitol was pretty busy and even had a visiting Korean exchange group performing in the rotunda. We were lucky to score one of the free tours and learned alot about the building and the history of Texas. It certainly holds true to the saying that everything is bigger in TX, being that it is taller than the national Capitol in DC. Attention to detail is everywhere from "Texas" being on the rotunda ceiling, the light fixtures and even the hinges! Since the capitol is downtown Austin, when it came time to expand, they had to get creative and decided to build down, rather than up as not to take away from the grand view of the capitol building. There are now two levels underneath the capitol and the last few pictures are from that area. Oh, and believe me, it is not just long, dank hallways underground there are skylights and columns and alot of grandeur just as there is in other parts of the building.
We worked up an appetite after visiting the capitol and were in search of some good ol TX BBQ to continue our BBQ tour of TX. Looking on Tripadvisor and Yelp, there were a couple suggestions in the downtown area, one getting really good reviews. We decided to check it out but came to the quick reality that 1, we were never going to find a place to park and 2, the line was around the building and out in to the parking lot. We were too hungry to wait so we opted for another BBQ joint further out of city center towards our park. We found Pokey-e-Joe's bbq and enjoyed some good bbq and delicious banana pudding.
The real focus of our boys visit was the Formula 1 race, held at Circuits of America which is just 15 minutes away. Well without traffic, but more about that later. We decided to check it out prior to the race and glad we did so that Rick knew where he was going and what to expect. We scored some awesome tickets through Vettix and then paid for a parking pass. There is not alot of parking options in the area, so the pass was a must. We also took some teaser pictures that we sent to the boys while they were still in snowy WI. Their day at the race on Sunday was a balmy 75 degrees and sunny. They had a great time and came back with sun tans/burns. I opted to stay home and let them enjoy their manly bonding time. Good thing I did because I would not have been pleased with the over 3 hour drive back , or shall we say crawl, from the racetrack! Just getting out of the parking area took over 2 hours! Well, at least they enjoyed their day and Nicholas got to see his driver win the championship.
While the boys were here, we also moved to our Park Host site. It was great to have a couple pair of extra hands to make light work of the move. The site is a pull thru, full hook-up that allows us to have privacy and lots of room. Also, on this side of the loop, you hear less road noise.
We said goodbye to the boys on Tuesday as they flew back to cold, snowy WI with sunburns. They should stand out in a crowd there!
We then readied ourselves to start our workamping jobs the next day. We were originally going to be night hosts at the front gate for 5 days a week from 5-10pm, but found out when we arrived that we would be part of the maintenance team instead and be working during the day, 8am-12pm, M-F. We were a bit shocked at first that no one reached out to let us know about the change, but are ok with it now. We aren't night owls much anymore and a daytime shift works better for us.
We are doing your standard campground upkeep such as cleaning sites and firepits and yes this one involves cleaning bathrooms. We are assigned one campground loop that has a bathroom and a shower house. We also have the cabin area shower house. Honestly, I think I would rather clean the campground bathrooms rather than the day use bathrooms. Being an urban park, there is a high volume of day use visitors and those bathrooms are heavily used, day and night. We have been very lucky so far in that the bathrooms have been pretty clean. We work as a team and have our pick of Gator or Mule UTV's, or on cold days, we also have use of the Park trucks. We have come to quickly prefer the Mules over the any other. Besides cleaning the campground area, we also ride the trails on the UTV and pick up trash, trim branches and keep the picnic areas clean. Rick will also be doing some mowing and weed whipping as well. In TX they require 100 hours a month per site and between the two of us that is really easy to do and more. We like to volunteer and do not mind putting in a couple extra hours. We are appreciated here and considered part of the team. There are 4 other workamping couple here that do a variety of tasks including maintenance, front desk, night host and plumbing. We've met most of them and all seem to be very nice.
While out and about on the job we have come across all sorts of wildlife. Every day we see several deer in the park, including some nice bucks. We have seen a couple foxes, guinea hens and lots of hawks. One early, rather cool morning, while cleaning the cabin restrooms, I rounded the corner and found a nice size snake trying to wiggle its way into the women's shower house to get warm. Yep, that was a no go for me and I sent in the big guns! Rick grabbed the trash picker and relocated him to the woods. We have not seen any armadillo or turkeys yet, but have been told there are some in the park as well.
We will be here at McKinney Falls for November and December and are looking forward to exploring the area and getting the local feel.
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