We were eating Thanksgiving dinner in 2016 when my sister announced that she wanted to see the bats. I don’t respond to everything weird she says. I learned that as a kid. I figured there was some reason behind it so I waited and ate turkey.
Apparently Austin, Texas has the largest urban colony of Mexican free-tailed bats in the world. At that time there were 1.5 million bats roosting under the Congress Avenue Bridge. They migrate there between spring until late October. It’s a maternity colony, so babies are born in June, only one per mama. They leave the bridge every night to fly hundreds of miles to feed on insects, then they fly back and have to find their babies again. Texas is also home to the largest bat colony in the world. My sister knew all this and was fascinated by it.
I’m not afraid of bats— I have encountered bats and they are just animals. If you open a window they fly out. I think they are cool and kind of cute. So I said “Sure, I’ll go!” Why not? Austin weather is nice, so we figured it’d be a fun sister bucket list trip. If you remember my earlier blogs, previous bucket lists included Punxsutawney, PA for groundhog day, and to the Trans-Siberian Orchestra in Toledo. We were due for another trip. We decided to fly into Dallas, spend the night, then drive to Austin. On the way back, we would pop in on my cousin Sara and visit. We expected bats, a vibrant city, and good weather. We got two out of three…
We flew to Dallas in August of 2017. My sister touted the benefits of the cheap, measured carry on airline. I brought a small suitcase. She did too, but had too much stuffed in so she wore many, many layers. We stopped at a small restaurant in the airport and she had to unpack a little to find something or other. When we left, she forgot her sandals on the seat. “Ugh, hopefully this wasn’t an omen”, we thought.
We arrived in Dallas, and we rented a car to get to the hotel. She drove the car and I navigated. It was a bit hairy. It was dark, she wasn’t familiar with the car or the highways around the Dallas airport, and there was the phone issue. See, I have a ringtone of screaming goats that I find hilarious. You can look up screaming goats on the internet and you will love it too, I’m sure. It sounds like a person screaming, but the goat looks so funny just standing there, then this big scream comes out. So every so often, I would get a call and the screaming goat ringtone would go off. My sister did not love the goats as much as I did. At one point she said irritably, “can’t you stop that thing?” Being the older sister, I probably laughed. I’m not proud of that. My navigation skills were fine but who knew there were two of the same type of hotel in Dallas? Obviously not me. I navigated us to one…the wrong one. So after the kind desk clerk told us where to go we piled back into the car and found the other one. So far so good!
We drove to Austin on Friday. We had heard that there was some kind of storm coming and it may hit Austin. We had made reservations for the bat boat for Friday night. I hoped and hoped that we could see the bats. I was a little anxious during the day. You know the feeling that you HAVE to do something and this is your only chance? I had psyched myself into a be all and end all moment with the bats. We talked about trying to postpone it, but the sky cleared and the viewing was full steam ahead. We ate a good meal and Friday evening found our way to the bats.
What can I say? The bats were amazing. So many, just bat after bat emerging from the boat at twilight. We were in the boat out on the lake with a perfect view. There was no rain, and we watched in awe as these beautiful little mamas flew to get their fill of insects. The guide mentioned that she hoped the weather south of Austin was OK and they would make it back. It is overwhelming to think that they do this every single night. Everyone on the boat was quiet as masses of bats exited the bridge. We had our moment then went into Austin for a drink. It was a lovely evening.
Saturday it rained. My sister tends to worry more than I do, and we were hearing news of not just a storm, but something more substantial. Hurricane Harvey. We began to see people with blankets and a dog in the hotel area. It still was not terrible weather in Austin though, so I got a tattoo. Our kitty had passed away, and I wanted a tangible reminder of him. I got paw prints on my wrist.
It rained more steadily so we went back to the hotel and watched some stupid movie. My sister was in full blown worry mode, and kind of freaking out over the hurricane. I was blithely going the opposite direction, kind of a “meh” to the hurricane. Hurricane Shmuricane. She was thinking we should leave and drive north Saturday night but I was in denial. We awoke to the catastrophe response unit in the parking lot.
We left Sunday morning and drove north. As it turned out, we were fine, and one day ahead of the rain. Harvey dumped 8-10 inches of rain on Austin, and a whole lot more in other cities. There was widespread flooding. We on the other hand had a very nice visit with our cousin and her family. We ate dinner at “Whataburger” even though we didn’t really like burgers because, well, Whataburger! We flew back without difficulty. As we walked by the restaurant where my sister left her sandals, she said “I think I’ll ask them if they have it.” I scoffed. She asked and sure enough, someone turned them in to the lost and found! Go figure! A fortuitous trip all around.
Jumping to the present, in February 2021 there was an unexpected snowstorm and freeze in Austin. A large percentage of the bats were killed. There is a bat refuge that saved a lot, but a lot died too. It’s a sad point in bat history but hopefully they will come back and multiply again. It’s a helpless feeling when we care so much, but control so little.
Now on to Chester and his double dinner…John and I split days, so that whoever walks him does not feed him. It’s flexible though. I decided to walk him a little early, since I had to leave. I did, and when we got back he was really hungry. We know when he’s hungry because he wants to go outside. He goes out, stands on the deck, then comes back in. He trots over to John who gets him a Milk Bone. He did that to me right after the walk so I fed him his dinner. Unfortunately our communication was a little lax. I left, and when I came home, John asked if I fed Chester. I said yes, and he said he did too. That dog didn’t waste time in eating his two dinners. Both were gobbled up quickly. We reprimanded Chester for not telling John he was fed already. Chester promised us that in the future he will tell us. I think he had his paws crossed behind his back though. Chester is getting a bit pudgy. My friend calls it his “winter weight.” The squirrels have noticed. This one has decided that he can come up on the deck and Chester’s too lazy to get off the couch. He had no ill effects from the double dinner and still attempted to get a Milk Bone. He’s pretty happy with himself.
I think the good weather may be over. Yesterday I cut the roses back. While I hate to see the summer and fall move along, that’s something else I can’t control so might as well go with it! Have a wonderful week!