It has almost been 2 months since I touched down safe and sound in Orlando International. I was returning from a business trip in Austin, TX, which I lovingly refer to as the Vegan Mecca. I kissed the ground after the harrowing flight- or at least that’s what I claimed I was doing after stumbling out of the airport.
The trip was an absolute blast. I love seeing new places and experiencing new things… like riding around in a taxi, for instance.
I pride myself in having earned a wealth of experience as a human on Earth. I attribute most of this to having worked many different jobs in many different industries. I am not flighty, just excited about new things and vehemently opposed to repetition (unless you are reviewing an application or resume I submitted, in which case please know that I am a very stable individual who can be counted on to… oh who am I kidding, its to late to try and act stable now).
Because of my diverse work history, I have had a chance to drive almost everything on and off of the road: bikes, scooters, mo-peds, motorcycles, go-carts, three wheelers, four wheelers, small cars, huge cars, various vans, little trucks, 4×4 trucks, many various tractors, a dump truck, a forklift, a Bobcat, a back-hoe, a school bus, canoes, kayaks, small sailboats, a 45 foot sailboat, a deep sea fishing boat, ski boats and a riding lawn mower.
Yet despite this list I’ve never driven, much less taken a ride in, a taxi before. I’d seen the yellow mysteries of course, and I had a rudimentary understanding of their form and function, but it wasn’t until Austin that I finally got a chance to cross taxi off my life experience list in a big way.
I took taxis all across that city. I enjoyed meeting the drivers on each ride. It felt like watching episodes of Taxi, except with a new and exciting character each time. They were usually nice and if they couldn’t communicate verbally, they were always willing to look at photos on my phone to help find our destination. I got in the habit of locating an image of where I wanted to go, before the taxi showed up so I wouldn’t have to try and use gestures to describe 6th Street.
**Pro-tip: the sign language for getting to 6th street is the drinky-drinky motion. To get picked up from 6th street you hail a cab by holding a plastic bag in front of you which is the international sign for ‘despite how I look, I am not going to puke in your cab.’
During the trip, I traveled and ate with a couple of guys. We ate about half of our meals together, and with Austin restaurants this never seemed to be much of a problem. There always seemed to be a vegan option or workaround that was worth some momentary eye-rolling. To be fair, I also find this to be true in restaurants everywhere else, but in the heart of Texas, I never ran into someone who required an explanation, diagrams or doctor’s note. My thanks to the vegan population of Austin for training your restaurants so well- you’ve created a plant-based vacation destination.
If you ever hop a cheap flight to the Vegan Mecca, be sure to stop for a meal at Juan in a Million. However, if you do not mix well with omni- and carni- types, you can probably skip down to the wrap-up paragraph below, because this place is full of meat and cheese and leather boots.
You can read all about Juan and his shockingly famous restaurant, including the Man vs. Food breakfast taco fiasco, with a quick search of the interwebs, but I’ll tell you what this plant-eater ate and still dreams about to this day.
I’ve always been a big fan (literally) of Mexican food, but I had never been so close to Mexico when enjoying it. The meal started with the obligatory chips and salsa, but a travel companion sprang for a side of guacamole. This single act changed the course of the meal for me. The quac was insanely good and I wanted more.
As a beverage, we each ordered a Bloody Mary. It was one part hair of the dog, one part pre-flight courage, and six parts vodka. I think the waitress knew the secret to big tips is making the customer incapable of calculating small numbers. I know it worked on me.
With only a sip or two of the cocktail down, lunch arrived. I’d ordered a simple guacamole salad, minus all the dairy and an order of beans and flour wraps. What I got was a bed of shredded lettuce and tomato, covered with a ocean of mind blowing guac, teaming with deadly corn chip sharks. I made crunchy, soft, taco wraps filled with everything I ordered, plus salsa, and relished each bite I took.
I would like to give you directions, but since I was in a cab, I have no idea where the place is located. However, I can tell you, that all taxi drivers are familiar with the universal signal for Jaun in a Million. You simply stand next to the cab, flap your arms like a bird and say QUAC! GUAC! while turning slowly in a circle. The driver will understand immediately and drive there. Often without you in the back seat.