Finding Amtrak station is trip in itself
Have you ever taken an Amtrak train trip out of Austin? Were you even aware we had an Amtrak station? And, if so, can you find it? I went off looking for it last week so I could get tickets for an upcoming Colorado train trip, and I had one heck of a time locating it. After much Googling and some false starts and growling about poor signage, I can tell you how to get there:
From Congress Avenue, drive west on Cesar Chavez Street. Just after you pass under Lamar Boulevard, a little street called B.R. Reynolds Drive pops up on your right. Turn onto it, drive up a hill and you’ll come to a little street that jogs off to the left with a “No Outlet” sign on it. Against every instinct that tells you not to, drive up that little road, and you’ll find the Amtrak station. Now you know.
WISH YOU WERE HERE
Close encounters in Costa Rica
By Larry McGinnis of Rollingwood
The howler monkeys came out of nowhere high in the treetops of the Costa Rica rain forest and gathered 50 feet off the ground in a tree that reached up forever at the edge of a clearing.
A big guy tightroped out on a limb, began a slow, throaty rumble from the low side of the music scale and launched into a deafening frenzy. Filling his lungs from the diaphragm like your high school music teacher urged you to, the howler sent his roar through the forest canopy like thunder bouncing around for a way out of the dense foliage. It’s as if King Kong himself was marking his territory in the Tortuguero rainforest.
Then they were gone. Like a breeze slipping away at the end of the day, the monkeys moved off into the shadows of the rain forest, and the green curtain of the jungle closed up behind them.
Hearing the eerie call of the howlers was one of the many adventures that fascinated my wife, Lindy, and me when we booked a trip to Costa Rica with International Expeditions (www.ietravel.com). That’s how we found the iguanas. Dozens of them. Usually lazing about in the trees at the Restaurante Las Iguanas, the reptiles dropped down from their lofty perch and descended onto the patio. Some watched us like waiting dragons, while others lumbered close like dinosaurs of a prehistoric age.
Hoisting our flag like modern-?day explorers, 12 of us set a course with our guide through the heart of Costa Rica. For eight days, we immersed ourselves in the tangles of the jungle, walked the hidden trails of verdant cloud forests, drove precipitous curves of some very tall mountains and celebrated the rich culture of a wonderful Central American country.
Larry McGinnis is a government affairs adviser for the Austin office of the KL Gates law firm. ?Wish You Were Here runs the first Sunday of every month. Email 300 words about your trip, along with a high-resolution image, to firstname.lastname@example.org.
South Padre Island, land of sand castles
If you visit South Padre Island this summer, pop into the Visitors Center at 600 Padre Blvd. (next to the Wells Fargo). You will find a sand castle smack in the middle of the floor. It was under construction during my recent visit by local sand sculptors Lucinda Wierenga (also known as Sandy Feet) and Walter McDonald (the Amazin’ Walter). South Padre is becoming well known for its castles. One of its top annual events is its fall Sand Castle Days, although the event hasn’t been scheduled this year. It’s still looking for sponsors. Hope it finds some.
Bridge of many different colors in Corpus Christi
I was eating my way through a perfect medium-rare steak at Republic of Texas Bar Grill atop the Omni Bayfront Hotel in Corpus Christi recently when I got a surprise out the restaurant windows just after sunset: The city’s Harbor Bridge, which goes over to North Padre Island, suddenly turned purple.
The bridge lights, I learned, are new, just turned on in December. Using $2.2 million in public and private money, the city put LED lights on the bridge, and they flash in various colors and patterns. Wow.
Poor Corpus has never had much of a reputation for beauty, given that the first impression a visitor gets is the oil refinery as you drive into town. Finally, we have a view — at least after dark, looking east.
Wine time for La Quinta, starting with own label
More and more, I see chain hotels stepping up to make themselves less generic and more reflective of where they are. Here’s a great example: La Quinta Inn and Suites in Paso Robles, Calif., just released its own custom wine. The hotel’s signature wine, Inn-viting La Quinta Cuvee, is a blend of 20 percent primitivo and 80 percent petite sirah. You can taste it at the hotel’s complimentary wine and cheese receptions, offered Sundays through Thursdays. The hotel is also offering a couple of wine-linked summer deals. The Suite Wine Deal adds a welcoming bottle of Sculpterra wine and a tree tasting at Sculpterra Vineyards to your room starting at $139 weekdays. Or choose the Wined Down and Refuel package, which includes your room, a $25 gas card and some free tastings at nearby vineyards. It’s $139 weekdays, too; $209 Friday and Saturday. To book, go to www.lq.com. The hotel is at 2615 Buena Vista Drive in Paso Robles.
Marble Falls-area resort ready with Fourth fiestas
If you’re still planless for the nation’s birthday, here’s one last package. Horseshoe Bay Resort, an hour west of Austin near Marble Falls, is planning special activities including a fireworks show over Lake LBJ choreographed to music, a boat parade, a land parade, a kids’ carnival and a barbecue. There’s also a special Fireworks Extravaganza Package that includes your room, free golf for kids when they play with paying parents, a banana boat ride, a round on Whitewater Putting Course, arts and crafts, special seating for the fireworks, a round of beverages and a glow-in-the-dark necklace. Rates start at $419. Find out more at http://hsbresort.com or call 877-611-0112.