It has been a brutal winter here on Cape Cod. Or at least that’s what my friends tell me. Kevin and I missed most of it by absconding to Austin, Texas, where the sun shone almost every day, and temperatures were usually in the 70s. I don’t expect sympathy.
We learned a few things while we were down there (I mean besides the one big thing, which is that, come February, it’s way better to be in Texas than Massachusetts), and I figure if I tell you about them I can go a long way toward justifying my absence.
First, we learned that Austin is a great place. It is vibrant, it is walkable, it is historic, and it is full of good places to eat. It is also Tattoo Capital of the Western World. (Take that, Portland!)
We learned – or re-learned, actually, since we knew this when we were in New York – that a city is a great place to exercise. One of the best things about Austin is that a river runs through it; it’s the Colorado River, and there are paths on both banks. On a nice day, those paths are full of people walking, running, and biking. In our five weeks there, I probably ran 75 miles on those paths – you feed on the vibe of other people out exercising. Kevin did some mountain biking, and we also biked around the city.
We learned (from the Whole Foods people in Austin) that the Whole Foods in Hyannis is scheduled to open in May, which means there will be a local place to buy meat with a clear conscience.
Perhaps the most surprising thing we learned was that there’s good wine in Texas! If you get a chance, try the Duchman Winery vermentino.
Kevin and I both discovered how much easier it is to focus on your work when there’s no livestock to tend, home to maintain, or boat to clean. Our trip wasn’t a vacation, since we both worked full-time. It was more of a migration. Once we button up the oyster farm, the other work we do (I write, Kevin trades) can be done from anywhere. We prefer “anywhere” to be a place without relentless snowstorms and sub-freezing temperatures, so we get out of Dodge.
We rented a lovely annex to a house in a residential neighborhood just up the hill from Zilker Park, and there were no animals to feed, no oysters to manage, no wood to split, no garden to weed … you get the picture. There were also no fish calling our name, and no deer taunting us from the underbrush. We could focus. I filed four – count ‘em, four! – stories, three of which were big and hairy. (Should you be so inclined, you can read the two of them that have already seen the light of day. They’re two of my Washington Post columns, in which I answer the pressing questions: What’s Wrong with the Farm Bill; and Will Vegetarianism Save the Planet?)
We also learned that we need to replace both our microwave and our baking powder. In Texas, the popcorn popped in half the time and the pancakes rose to twice the height.
But the best thing we learned was also the last thing. When the beginning of March rolled around, and our return date was imminent, we weren’t ready to leave. We kept looking at the weather, and it kept looking grim. We didn’t want to pack away our shorts, and put our down coats back on. We might have found a way to delay, had we not had to be back for an event on the 15th.
It was late last Monday night when we pulled in, after 2000 miles. We left most of the unpacking for the next day, and took in only the necessities. We checked for damage from storms, water, or varmints, and exhaled when we found none. We turned up the heat, opened the wine, and sat down in our own house, for the first time in over six weeks. To our astonishment, we were glad to be back.
We feel very lucky to be able to leave for the winter, to get a change of scenery, and warmer weather, and a recharge of a sort. But we’re even luckier to have a life we’re happy to come back to.