RACE TO ANY OASIS
I made a drawn out grunt, holding on to the grab handle above my head, when my wife hit the apex, swerving into the curve on three wheels, the fourth one spinning inches above the road, flicking pebbles and stones like fireworks against the undercarriage. The rubber squealed as we leaned in, the three of us smiling in slow-mo, all grunting as we held in our breaths.
We were on Austin’s most famous driving road, riding down the twisties in our little Toyota hatchback.
Lime Creek Rd hugs the northeast side of Lake Travis, and starts in Volente, ending on the outskirts of Cedar Park. The road is dangerous fun, so it’s a popular playground for motorcyclists, and other high-end sports cars.
“Is he still behind us?” she asked.
A blue Porsche 911 was on our tail, flashing their lights letting us know they wanted to pass. I looked straight at the driver, my wife, and when I saw how tightly her forearms gripped the wheel, I told her, “It’s ok, babe. Let him pass.”
She nodded her head like the scared heroine in a movie who’s comforted by the good cop who tells her, “It’s ok, hun. You can put the gun down now.”
We kicked up a gust of dirt and sand as we came to a hard stop on the side of the road. The blue sports car rumbled past. I rolled down the window, fanning the dust, and saw the lake and a shimmer of sun ablaze over the waves.
“Babe, let’s finish driving the rest of the road, up to the convenience store where it ends, and head back.”
She put it in gear, stepped on the gas, and jumped back onto the tar like she was rejoining the race from the pits. Ten minutes of twists and turns later, we were parked at the store. I saw a motorcyclist and rider dismounting, taking off their helmets, and I heard other riders starting their runs, turning onto Lime Creek Rd. We went inside, found the restrooms, and I slowly opened a creaking door. Yuck! This was no restroom. More like a biological weapons lab. A living petri dish for the plague. I used my shirt to turn knobs and a kung fu foot to flush the toilet and open the door. Look Ma, no hands. I felt like a jewel thief breaking into a vault, careful not to leave any smudges or fingerprints. Making it out without skin contact became an Olympic event. And by the look on my wife’s face when she came out, I could tell she experienced her own Olympic trial as well.
We drove back down Lime Creek Rd but slowed down. We had to pull over and stop to get a closer look at something very strange we saw. Behind a fence stood what looked like a statue of a science fiction robot from the 60s. The rusty sculpture was guarding the Audubon Society grounds, and didn’t make much sense. Shouldn’t it be a giant bird? (Funny how the Audubon is right on the “Autobahn” of Austin, Texas. Please be careful when you drive on this road. The curves are dangerous, and there is no safe side of the road, just row after row of crash test cedar trees.) I read the sign at the closed gate that you have to be a member to get in, so we fired up the Toyota and left.
I told my wife we should stop by Sandy Creek Park, just ahead, and look for a trail. Maybe we’d find one by the water. And since she’d mentioned wanting to go to the Oasis earlier, I also suggested we go there for dinner after the hike. It was on the way back. She celebrated with a high-pitched squeal, fast-clap-happy, and my son also nodded that he was in. The hippie in me didn’t want to go. I didn’t want to do any touristy stops, but whatever the ones you love want is all that counts. Besides, my son needed a destination notch to add to his belt.
We drove into the Travis County park. I read the sign, skipping past the finger-waving parts: “It’s $5 a pop.”
“Well, let’s give it a shot. I want to get out of this car.”
We drove to the gate and talked to Cody. I made sure to ask about any secret spots or overlooks, and what would happen if we were to stay past sunset.
“You’re good, man,” he said, chuckling. I grinned. “I don’t want to get locked out, man.”
He said the trail to the left was the only spot he’d never hiked, so I knew that’s where we were going. He also said this park was on the quieter side of Lake Travis, and very peaceful. I was getting more and more excited by the minute.
We parked by the trailhead and with the exception of one Tokyo Drift Mazda with BBS rims, the whole place was empty. I noticed numerous campsites with firepits. Great spot to camp, I thought. Note to self.
We walked down to the shore and saw only three people. One guy by himself journaling, and an older couple walking the shoreline, bundled up like they were in Buffalo, New York. It really wasn’t that cold, I thought.
My son took off. He loves the water and left us to hunt for rocks. He walked down the shoreline with his hands in his pockets, strolling pensively. He stopped to skip rock after rock across the surface of the water. I’m amazed how water can relax my son and make him forget about his phone.
I wasn’t used to it, either. Watching wave after wave in blue and silver breaking against the rocks on the shore left me spellbound. The afternoon sun cast a fiery brass aisle right down the middle of the lake. I was enjoying another level of solitude here. What was it? The water? The sun? The energy? We hiked South and back North, and finally to the boat dock for a final look. Sunset was drawing near and we needed to make it to the restaurant so we wouldn’t miss the view. I had to shake the spell off, though. I was damn near hypnotized by the lapping water, the crunch of rocks underfoot, and the sway of a gold watch of the afternoon sun.
We left, racing the horizon, and drove up to the Oasis, past a white villa overlooking the lake.
When we walked out to the balcony, I couldn’t believe my eyes. The postcards were true. It looked like something an astronaut might view through a space capsule’s sight glass, reentering the atmosphere. Pomegranate-orange hues in a full-color bloom. It was like some Southern Aurora Borealis.
Admittedly, the sunset was unmatched. I was wrong about the touristy stuff. And that was hard for me to say. We took pictures and selfies just like everybody else, and my wife and I toasted to our oasis with two Space Dust IPAs.