AUSTIN — News flash: my girlfriend, Navina Bhatkar, recently moved to Austin, and, as a proper boyfriend, I volunteered to help show her around.
One day, she informed me that her dog, Luna, seemed a little cooped up and could use a day at a park or trail. So we set out to find this dog park in Austin, but what resulted became a happy accident. Instead of heading to the intended destination, we found ourselves more confused by the GPS that showed a park called Barton Springs Greenbelt. We wandered around and noticed people swimming where most Texans still donned winter gear and jackets.
To be fair, it did warm up and I’m not the best navigator when it comes to finding my way around Austin. However, once we found a trail nearby, Luna seemed thrilled to walk long distances in her new bright orange harness. For the most part, the trail seemed well traveled and there were only a few sketchy parts littered with rocks and obstacles. As I explained to Navina, terrain like this is the kind of stuff I would pick up my mountain bike and walk it over. The dog seemed happy and met many other friends, furry and human, along the way and always seemed eager to greet others who roamed the trail. We weren’t sure where we were going, but the fading light of evening alerted us that it was time to head back. By the time we took Luna home, she seemed tuckered out and just chilled out the rest of the evening.
For the longest time, I’ve talked about taking Navina to Pinballz, an arcade featuring dozens of pinball machines, old school video games and so much more.
I had intended to take her to the Pinballz that I previously visited, but again, GPS took us to one it deemed “closer.” That place turned out to be a versatile venue which included go-karts, laser tag and more importantly a different set of classic video games.
To my dismay, I learned that none of the pinball machines took tokens anymore because of a renovation literally a week ago; only the classic games took tokens and they gave you three tokens for a dollar. Sure, I understand that the venue needs to make money, but the exchange rate did kind strike me as odd. Thankfully, I also learned those classic games still took quarters (despite all of them charging 2 per game), so I’ll just bringing my collection of quarters next time.
Despite that minor annoyance, it took no time at all to find the Star Wars pinball machines and show off my exceptional pinball skills to my girlfriend. So impressed by my mastery of the game, she asked “You used to play these all the time didn’t you?”
“Yeah,” I answered, “but, as you can see, I wasn’t ever very good.”
After taking turns and testing out some machines, we both decided to try the “South Park” one. Although I tried, she bested me pretty easily and I have no shame in that arena. My pinball skills remain unchanged.
Then, we moved to the old school, classic video games section of the arcade. There, one game stood out because I hadn’t seen it in years. “Rampage” is a three-player game where you work together or against each other as monsters to destroy buildings. I put myself in as George, the giant ape and attempted to put her in as Lizzie, the girl lizard, but she insisted on playing Ralph, the huge werewolf and my brother Greg’s favorite. Because Navina hasn’t played nearly as many games as me (though she’s no stranger to “Guitar Hero”), she struggled a little with the controls. She had issues climbing buildings and punching out windows, but she had no problems punching me. In fact, that’s the very first thing she did! Then, she punched me again! OK, so she has punching down, now just do it to a human or on a building within the game. Yes, she got it, and yes, she did help bring down a few buildings before our health depleted.
There’s food and drinks available, too. Typically, more adults come out at night, turning the establishment into more of a barcade. Although we didn’t really spend all that much money, the amount you spend might change if you do some of the other activities like go-karts and laser tag.
The next day, shopping became a priority since the girlfriend explained she needed to look for more work clothes (and I needed more pants). So, as a decent boyfriend, I suggested we check out the Round Rock outlet mall. I admitted that Round Rock Premium Outlets doesn’t always have the best prices, but the jeans I bought at that Gap lasted at least a few years. It turned out to be a great experience, as we each dipped into certain stores and were able to make a purchase or two. Both of us went into separate shoe stores and quickly figured out we didn’t want to buy anything. But we did find a few places we could check into from time to time. When looking for parking around this outlet mall, it pays to remain patient, since the parking lots always seem busy and full.
Eventually, we also made our way to The Domain, a shopping center in North Austin. Sure, there were more big name-brand stores and careful shopping, but I couldn’t help but notice one particular fancy car roaming the streets. Before we knew it, it was closing time and we found ourselves fighting sunlight once again. No purchases this time, but I did notice many more venues to visit when I return.