I was pretty excited to visit Longhorn Caverns State Park during my second week in Austin. The cave has a pretty colorful past, having played host to Native Americans, Confederate soldiers, and outlaws over the years; it was also used as a speakeasy during prohibition in the 1920s.
The cave cannot be accessed without a guide and tickets may be purchased through a super fiddly online system that requires download of an app that you don't end up needing at the door or you can buy tickets onsite. Our guide was very knowledgeable and showed us a ton of interesting things, but he was also prone to ridiculous and incessant puns (which he goaded you into acknowledging every. single. time.), miniature lectures on politics, and general comments about women that really set my teeth on edge and took all of the fun out of the tour after about 15 minutes.
Still, the place is absolutely gorgeous and worth a visit. There are huge crystal formations and large, smooth domes caused by water erosion, hibernating bats, stalactites, stalagmites, and pools of still water.
I had a terrible lunch in a neighboring town and then headed back toward Austin. I had noticed a sign for Spicewood Vineyards on my way to the park, and made a split second decision to visit on my way home. After winding through farmland for 10 minutes and over several cattle guards, I landed in the main parking lot. As soon as I walked in the front door I recognized a couple who had also endured the same cave tour I'd been on that morning. I joined them on the porch with a glass of wine and we spent a really nice hour talking, especially about getting out of the corporate rat race to start your own big project. I hope to get an invitation to a vineyard opening from them someday!