Approaching the town of Georgetown from I35, coming south from Waco, is quite a sight to behold in March. The hills of the surrounding towns and countryside are a strong, deep green.
This area of Texas, although a thirty minute drive from the heart of Austin, sits free from the plague of endless Texan urban sprawl. Windows down, the smell of spring in the air, you’re truly deep in the heart of the verdant Texas Hill Country.
The lush green, and sparse signs of commercialization, remind me of my travels in the countryside of Guatemala. Dark greens and yellows espouse the trappings of industry.
Coming from four weeks of rain and snow in [sc name=”city”], I can’t imagine being greeted by a more beautiful. The vast beauty entices, makes you proud to be a Texan.
As you turn off the highway and then onto Austin Road, you’re met with the trappings of small-town Texas. The rolling hills house 80’s strip-malls, with announces business started decades ago. Yet the Chipotle and adjacent Starbucks, stuffed with customers, reveal a level of prosperity in this small town, and point to its high percentage of college students. I’m sure these staples of modern America assuage freshmen anxiety, assuring them that they’re not leaving all signs of familiarity behind.
Hole in the wall Mexican restaurants, errant palm trees, and stone facades tip you off that indeed you’re in the heart of Texas Hill Country. Crossing the lush San Gabriel River, cacti and Yucca dot the road to the center of town.
A quaint town Square juts up from Seventh Street and Austin Avenue, boasting hundred-fifty-year-old Texas architecture, and houses antique malls and thrift stores alongside lawyers’ and accountants’ offices. Business is alive and well in the small town.
Turning down Eighth Street, you’re met with architecture that’s more Alamo than Dairy Queen. College students and retirees enjoy coffee and food side by side at Eats. It’s a beautiful thing to see old architecture preserved and used. The most vibrant neighborhoods of Texas take advantage of pre interstate highway architecture: narrower streets, more walkable layouts, a denser design. This unique mixture of tradition and innovation stands as Texas’ biggest cultural and economic advantage.
Entering Georgetown from the north side, after cutting through a few streets of residential housing, you’re greeted by two-story student housing, enveloped in more stone facades. I can’t recall the last dorms I saw that were adorned with limestone fronts. What a unique feature. I hope they mention this in the brochure.
Once you pass the rows of low-slung stone buildings, a regal cathedral thrusts skyward, high above the surrounding structures. A park to the right bursts with bright green grass and bushes that foretell an impending scorching Texas summer. But it’s March in Hill Country, and it’s in the mid-70’s. Only God himself could create such perfection.
Cody Memorial Hall and Thomas Fine Arts Center are colonial in style and stately in appearance, evoking Oxford. What a unique and intriguing campus this is, mixing the best of Texas with the old world style of the European university system.
Well maintained baseball and tennis courts and a cadre of students wearing bright T-shirts and flip-flops remind you that you’re actually in 2015. But it’s easy to forget that. This is truly a unique, beautiful, and restorative campus. A quick stroll would do much to ease Finals’ anxiety.
Upon closer inspection, you’re faced intricate Stained-glass designs on the larges walls of Perkins hall. Very New England.
Beyond that opens a large oval expanse of manicured green space, dotted with deserted green and yellow lawn chairs, evoking congenial spring afternoons spent studying and relaxing in this inviting space.
As I’m snapping photos, a friendly groundsman in a golf cart approaches. Perhaps stupidly, I ask him: “It must be spring break this week, huh?”
He responds, friendly: “Yep, but feel free to make yourself at home.” Small-town Texas charm on display.
During my brief visit, it’s easy to see the allure of the small-liberal-arts-college-in-a-small-town experience. The campus feels safe, relaxed, and comforting. Some of my fondest childhood memories come from the three or four summers I spent at summer camp in Texas Hill Country. Away from the hustle and bustle, things are quieter, simpler. To be in a rush is to be vain, to be ungrateful for the perfect day God has blessed you with.
As I cruise out of town, I realize why this is an attractive place for many. College should be, at least in part, a time for reflection and introspection. What better place to immerse yourself in great texts and in the serious study of your chosen academic discipline than in this slow, welcoming town that feels torn from the pages of an Americana novel. Add a great academic reputation to boot, and its easy to see why Southwestern is a sought after university.
Sure, you could get bored here, some might suggest. You could grow to feel trapped in a place that time has lovingly forgotten. But what exactly is the virtue in rushing, in sprinting towards an inevitable future? There’s a wisdom, a charm, in slowing down. The future comes regardless. And anyways Austin, in its hustle, bustle, and immeasurable influx of Californians, is only thirty minutes away.
I feel a little odd stopping in front of a stone church and plantation style house to get out and take pictures, in this small, not particularly touristy, town. I’m thrown a few quizzical looks by locals as they pass in their Chevy’s and Ford’s.
But I’m struck at that moment by the beauty of
being a tourist in your own state, completely immersed in a new world, a new reality, just a two hour drive from home. These quiet Oaks, proud plantation homes, and stately stone churches can teach as much as The Mona Lisa, The Coliseum, or the bustling streets of Hong Kong.
Just a few minutes out of town towards Austin, along 35’s implacable, winding route, endless urban sprawl again shows itself: a VW and Ford Dealership, a La-Z-Boy outlet, and a Jack In The Box rise up from what was once unmolested countryside. Yes, Doc, we’re back to the future.
I check my email and Facebook as a force of habit, looking to see what I’ve missed, what’s happened. But there’s no new news: no notifications, no emails. I’ve missed nothing at all.
As I head towards Austin, I wonder if it’s better to meander in the past or to speed towards the future, a greater virtue to stay in times gone, or to obsess on a nebulous, unpromised future. I’m unsettled. I’d Google it, but don’t want to slam into the retaining wall.
I doubt there’s a right answer, and certainty is for fools anyway. As I think on my week’s plans in Austin, I savor the quiet enjoyment still hovering over me from my small trip to another time and place. Georgetown, and its small, stately Southwestern University, get two Texas thumbs up from me.