The other thing to do in Austin—other than a promenade along 6th Street—is a visit to Barton Springs. Barton Springs is a swimming hole, not far from the center of Austin and recommended by, well, everyone. The water is 68 degrees Fahrenheit year-round, and while the Austinites tell say that that's cold, you have to realize they live in a place where it's normal for the temperature to be 85 degrees and humid at 2:30 am.
The 900 foot long pool costs $3, but cheapskates and fellow travelers can swim for free in the rapids or the stream just past it (and in front of unenforced "no swimming" stencils). The pool was actually closed for three months in 2003, after the Austin American-Statesman reported high levels of arsenic and benzene in the water, but government scientists found no true hazards.
Still, the city closes the pool on Thursdays for cleaning, which makes Fridays the best day to go. That is, unless you visit downstream, which is where they push the algae.
Jocelyn—my friend-for-a-day in Austin—and I both agree that the water in Austin tastes funny.
"It's like the water's moldy," Jocelyn says, and she's right.
"It's like the water gets moldy from the heat," I say.
"Maybe," Jocelyn says.
The Colorado River runs through Austin, which doesn't make any sense. The Colorado has its mouth in the Gulf of California. The Rio Grande outlets into the Gulf of Mexico. So, we outlanders ask, do the Colorado and the Rio Grande cross? How is it possible that the Colorado is here?
Just as Nashville has a second Parthenon, Austin has a second Colorado River. It flows for 600 miles from Lamesa, Texas (more or less) to the Gulf of Mexico, and is the longest river solely in Texas. No canyons, grand or otherwise, though I suspect that this Colorado River always reaches the sea.