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On Friday, March 15th, we woke up, again in our car, and studied each other’s faces. We had another long hot day of SXSW ahead of us, and we were both feeling a little tired of the entire thing. Between our car seats lay a ticket, and we considered it for a while.

Back on Tuesday, when we were still an hour away from Austin, we’d stopped to fill up at a gas station. While I waited for Eric to finish paying a very hairy jumped out from behind a pump and yelled a few things in a language I didn’t understand. I stared blankly at him while he repeated what he’d said, and then he pointed at our bumper sticker. “You Norwegian?” he asked enthusiastically. Oooohhhhhhh. Our bumper stickers says “Have you hugged a Norwegian today?” I pointed at Eric. “He is.” The hairy man, who I realized looked very viking-ish, embraced Eric and exclaimed some more Norwegian greetings that I didn’t understand. We got to talking and he told us that he runs a food stand at a Renaissance Festival up the road. We said our goodbyes, I got in the car, and Eric ran off to use the bathroom. While I was waiting for him the viking tapped on my window. He handed me a ticket for the Renaissance Festival, and suggested that, if we got bored of SXSW, at least we’d only have to purchase one ticket for the festival he’d be at. As we continued on to Austin we dismissed the idea of seeing the viking again, since it was 45 minutes away from Austin and besides, we’d be at SXSW!

So here we sat, early on Friday morning, bored with SXSW, staring at this ticket to the Sherwood Forest Faire. We decided to go for it! Eric had never been to a Renaissance Festival, I’d only ever been to one, years ago, and our next show at Lucy’s again wasn’t until later that evening. Besides, we were so tired of SXSW that we’d probably just end up hanging out at a Starbucks on our computers all day anyways. Why not have some fun?

We drove the 45 minutes out of Austin, got a little lost, found a sign, followed a dirt road way out into the woods, and we suddenly greeted by a field full of people in costume directing cars. A guy at the ticket desk told us he was born in Groton, CT. Small world! And then, we entered the magical world of the Sherwood Forest Faire…

There were fairies and people eating meat with their bare hands, corsets, full suits of armor, crystals, caps, people dancing off in the trees completely by themselves! There were fire jugglers, blacksmiths, full-on jousting, all kinds of happy music, mead being drunk from huge pewter steins, a game of chess with pieces as large as the child moving them. It felt as though every person who’s ever felt awkward, out of place, or lonely, found happiness and acceptance here at the Sherwood Forest Faire. Here where people could dress how they’d always wanted to, completely geeking out about Lord of the Rings or any other fantasy novel. I met and talked with Peter S. Beagle, author of The Last Unicorn! It was seriously magical. But my experience wasn’t even close to how happy Eric felt. It was as if he’d found his home, and by the end of it he was talking about how “next time” we needed to dress up.

We also happened to meet up with the viking who’s originally given us the ticket at the gas station. Turns out he’d really downplayed his role at the Sherwood Forest Faire and he’s actually the brew-master of the mead and wine that are sold all over the entire festival! Spectacular. (By the way, if you ever get the chance to try mead, do it. It’s amazing.)

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Sadly, our time at the Sherwood Forest Faire ended too quickly, and before we knew it we had to head by to Austin for our last showcase of SXSW.

We arrived back at Lucy’s, to a slightly bigger crowd than the night before. Remember, although we’ve decided SXSW kind of sucks, especially for bands (odd), Lucy’s actually treated us fairly well. More free food & drinks, and we watched and chatted some with the bands who performed before our set. Plus, even though I’d begun to consider ditching the animal-headed women, I was happy with how the barn owl on night turned out. So maybe I’ll stick with the idea at least a little longer.

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Two guys went in on the painting together, and one informed me that he’d just had a kid, and the theme of the nursery was owls. Fitting. They wanted me in the photo with them.

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After packing up we said our goodbyes to SXSW and headed out of Austin, south, towards San Antonio. After such an exhausting week we decided it wouldn’t kill us if we skipped out on sleeping in our car that night and got a cheap hotel room. Unfortunately, we forgot that it was Austin, SXSW, Spring Break, and St Patrick’s Day weekend. Even an hour out of Austin every hotel was either booked solid or no cheaper than $80, even for the crummiest places. I couldn’t justify spending that much money, so we eventually and grudgingly pulled into another Walmart parking lot and settled our tired, sweaty bodies into our dirty sleeping bags in the car. What a week it had been, and it wasn’t even over yet.

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