By Valerie Coffey

Austin is the capitol of Texas and its also the capitol of vintage neon. It’s a gas!

I have had a lot of work the past month, so didn’t get to see as much of Austin as I’d like. I’m a science writer and have certain seasons that are busier than others. I rarely left the RV by day the whole month we were in Texas, but I went for a walk at midnight on a Wednesday just outside our quirky-cool RV park, Pecan Grove, on the quirky-cool Barton Springs Road, which is full of restaurants and bars that ooze the weird-in-a-nonconformist-way essence of Austin: neon light, strings of Edison light bulbs, al fresco dining, food trucks, and a happening music scene.

Indeed, Austin has numerous neon artists, Roadhouse Relics, the Neon Jungle, Hayward Neon, Mega Volt Neon, and Ion Art.

Even the power company has a neon sign!

Austin has oodles of art and artists, period. Austin is the embodiment of a Renaissance City, defined by the intersection of art and engineering.

I would have liked to have had less work and more time to spend in Austin, but we did get to hang out a few nights at 6th Street during South By Southwest Music and Film Festival (aka SXSW or South By to locals).

However, the highlight for me was hanging out with friends Reed and Laura Armstrong. I met Reed and Laura when they lived in Boston 15 years ago. They were originally from Texas. They left Boston and moved back to Texas about ten years ago.

Now Laura is an artist here in Austin. She works as an iron sculptor! She’s a badass blacksmith!! Her studio is called Turtle On a Rock. Check out this video of how she crafts iron into beautiful sculptures.

Their house is situated at the end of a canal connected to Lake Austin (the Texas Riviera, yeah baby!) and they took us for a boat ride on a gorgeous day to the Hula Hut…a slice of paradise: a little bit Polynesian, a little bit Tex Mex.

Keep Austin Weird is a great city slogan and definitely keeps things fresh. Austin feels like the bright spot of Texas.


Reed and Laura Armstrong with Val and Mitch at the Hula Hut, Lake Austin on Sunday, Mar. 22.

See you in the warm places!


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On Procrastination in Writing: The Work-Life Balance