Chugga Chugga

This past weekend I rode the Austin steam trainWe rode the Hill Country Flier, which begins in Cedar Park and travels to Burnet. Here’s a picture of the train as we’re waiting to board!

As we were seated, one of the volunteers offered everyone snacks & drinks. The train is run by volunteers – they were all so kind and hospitable, I must add.

Somewhere between Cedar Park & Burnet:

We passed a handful of old Texas towns, such as this one. Only 30ish minutes north, but so very different from Austin.

And P.S. check out the sky. Fall is such a beautiful time of year in Texas. Yes, the summers are insanely hot here; however, when fall arrives and we have 70 degrees temps with sunny blue skies in November…

Al fin, we arrived in Burnet! We had a few hours here to eat, explore, etc.

We had lunch at Tea-licious. I ate a burger. Surprise, surprise. (:

After lunch, we walked around the downtown Burnet square. Again, enjoying the absolutely beautiful Texas fall weather. Each little store had so much character, such as exhibit A:

And, exhibit B:

And exhibit C:

About 30 minutes before we headed back to Cedar Park, they had a little performance/staged gun fight with the Burnet Gunfighters. It was a cute show that had me laughing fairly consistently throughout. (:

After the show, it was time to head home!

On the way home, we were entertained by one of the kindest, friendliest, good-spirited train volunteers. He began with making all of the kids (and many of the adults) various balloon animals, hats, flowers, and swords. He finished with performing a birthday rap for one of the passengers in our car. So cute. Check it out:

 

 

 

 

Summer Days

Un poquito mas of verano en Austin.

1 lb. of veggies topped with 1 lb. of potatoes, topped with 1 lb. of fried chicken, topped with 1 lb. of gravy. Dinner at ZTejas:

Jack Allen’s makes an insane burger:

Lunch at Frank:

Whip In:

Texas-sized frog.

At first glance, I thought this frog was a rock, so I figured I’d kick the “rock” out of the way of traffic/bikers… About 2 inches before my shoe made contact with the “rock”, I heard a loud “RIBBIT!!”. As if to say: “WTF are you doing?! I’m a frog! Don’t hurt me!!!” The frog jumped about 2 feet in the air, which caused me to jump about 27 feet in the air, screaming: “jesus christ! oh dear god. that is NOT a rock!!”.

Rudy’s:

Sno-beach:

Time with my piano:

Early AM walk/run. No other way to do it in this insane Texas heat:

A Day Of Mac & Cheese

Last Saturday was spent with Google & a group of mac & cheese loving Austinites, sampling the 3 top rated mac & cheese dishes found in Austin:

Hoover’s Cooking:

Hearty. Rich. Creamy. Would make an excellent side.

Cover 3:

Good for a meal. Breadcrumbs added a nice texture. Pancetta added a nice flavor but also made it taste a bit salty. This mac & cheese will make you thirsty! Overall, delicious.

Jack Allen’s:

We all loved this mac & cheese…which says a lot, as Jack Allen’s was our last stop and we were already full of mac & cheese. Great flavor. Great texture. Chicken was seasoned perfectly.

I had leftovers for about 4 days after our tour. All 3 restaurants provided incredibly different while incredibly delicious mac & cheese dishes. I’m getting hungry just thinking about the day. Thank you Google for a wonderful day of mac & cheese tasting!

 

And Then There Were 21,000

I really really really really really hate running. I’ve never liked running. I don’t get any pleasure out of running. It’s bad for knees. It’s bad for joints. It makes me get out of breath. I feel like I’m wasting time…I could be salsa dancing instead! Being sweaty grosses me out. It’s not something I can do past age 40, if I haven’t already blown out my knees before that point.

So, then why in god’s green earth did I run a 5 mile race a few weeks back?

Well, the idea popped into my head about a month before the race and went something like this: “Hmmm. I should do something that’s A. out of my comfort zone and B. something I don’t think I can do, just to prove myself wrong.”

As I was not able to go home for Thanksgiving ($600 plane ticket home? Sadly, not in the budget!), why not run 5 miles instead? And no, not a 5K. 5 miles. At this point, I don’t think I had run more than 5 miles combined in my 24 years of life. I knew this would be an interesting race.

So I trained almost every day for the next month. I did not enjoy the running but I did enjoy knowing I would be tackling a challenge. Meeting a goal.

Most runners set distance or time goals. My first goal was to finish. My second goal was to complete the race without getting a side stitch, “an intense, stabbing pain under the lower edge of the ribcage.” Side stitches are most likely caused by stretched ligaments between the diaphragm and liver. Makes sense, as the impact and jolting of internal organs from running is far more intense than from walking. One way to overcome side stitches is to establish a certain breathing pattern – there’s quite a strategy to it! (Strategy? One of my favorite things! Maybe running isn’t so bad…). To spare you the details, let’s just say I spent most of the race coordinating breathing with my strides. (This actually takes far more coordination that expected). The happy news is…I finished the 5 miles sans side stitch.

Playlists. Intended for runners to get pumped up, motivation, keep the adrenalin going, etc. I presume the type of music in runner playlists usually looks something like: Black Eyed Peas, OutKast, Queen, Rihanna.

My playlist? Not so traditional, but def. got me pumped up and adrenalin was flowing. I’d say my playlist theme was something along the lines of “Classical & 90’s pop”. A sampling:

Lalo, Symphony Espanole

Bach, Allegro Assai III

Ari Hest, Caught Up In Your Love

Warlock, Pavane Capriol Suite

Gavin DeGraw, Chariot

Bloch, Concert Grosso No. 1

Portugal The Man, The Dead Dog

Evita, High Flying Adored

Houston County, I Can’t Make It Rain

Skee-Low, I Wish

Shai 360, One Love

Salt N Pepa, Shoop

LFO, Summer Girls

Stuck In The Middle, Can’t Help Falling In Love With You

So there you go. And now some visuals from the event.

Pre-starting line. Took us more than 10 minutes to make it past the starting line once the race began!

Lots of people dress up for the TT:

I love this sea of people!

5 miles of barefoot running? Holy cow.

Wouldn’t be a true Austin event without a live band. 

 

 

 

 

Perhaps more recycling bins would be good next year!

Finishing! The clock says 1:22:55 but I finished more near the 1:10 mark. As there were 21,000 runners, I wasn’t able to pass the start line until a little more than 10 minutes into the race!

Rockport

After the Turkey Trot, we headed down to Rockport, a small town on the coast of Texas. While many Texans claim that Texas beaches are unimpressive, I on the other hand, think Texas beaches are pretty great. (When you come from the Pacific NW and must bring a winter coat on every beach trip [including those in the summer], a beach where you can wear a t-shirt & possibly even get a sunburn in November seems pretty darn awesome.) Funny how pretty much everything in life is relative, yeah?

On a vaguely related topic, although I’ve been here a few years, our proximity to Mexico still blows my mind. The thing I find most interesting is that although we’re so close to Mexico, culture/society/life in Austin feels like we’re a world away. I guess you could also say the culture/society/life in Austin feels like we’re a world away from Texas!

With this all said…enjoy the following photos from my Rockport venture:

 

Once Upon An Adventure To Boerne, Texas

After just being in Reno for a week, anything involving fresh air and natural light sounded good in my book. Plus it was David’s birthday…what better way to celebrate but submerge ourselves into the earth?

There are a number of cavern tours around central Texas – I decided on Cascade Caverns. The other ones seemed a bit more commercialized, whereas this one seemed most down to earth (I am so punny).

On the way there, guess what we passed?

If you guessed “a Greek monastery!” welp, you are correct!  I have absolutely no idea how there is a Greek monastery in the middle of nowhere Texas, but there is. And here’s proof:

η αγάπη ζει Ελλάδα!

After our quick Greek monastery detour, we arrived:

Watch out, he’ll getcha:

The tour was great and we really lucked out – the tour before us had about 10 people and the tour after had about 246 boyscouts. Our tour had David and me. FTW!

See that cement looking hole in the middle of the picture below? That is a hole leading down to another cave. They offer a tour in which you must SWIM out to that hole, then lower yourself down the hole to cave. Did I mention the water is freezing? (Obviously I am not the target audience for this escapade).

Y ya! One our later and we surfaced from the cave (the tour was awesome!). This was the first thing we saw when exiting the cave. I wonder how old this sign is? If I owned that sign, I might consider taking it on Antiques Roadshow.

Part 2 of the day involved eating a burger. Something you might or might not know about me is that I love hamburgers. Luckily, David also loves hamburgers. After much Texas hamburger research, I found the perfect place to go. It’s a little cafe, literally in the middle of nowhere, called Alamo Springs Cafe:

Here’s what I ordered:

Ha. Totes kidding. As much as I love burgers and as much as I love challenges, I just can’t be ok with eating my weight in / vomiting my weight in hamburgers. Gross? Perhaps. True? Absolutely.

So we settled with this bad boy:

I would not consider myself a foodie/food snob, but I’ve got to say, this burger was pretty out of this world. Out of all the burgers I’ve consumed, this one makes the top 5 list. In fact, I am getting hungry, right now at 4:14 am, for one of these burgers. They are that good.

Back to Austin we went – time for the grand finale – birthday cake! And by birthday cake, I mean peanut butter mint paradise bakery cookie ice cream cake.

Interlude: David’s favorite cookies in the entire world are from Paradise Bakery. Unfortunately, there are no PB locations in Texas. Fortunately, I was in Phoenix the day before. There is a PB in the Phoenix airport. I had exactly one hour between flights to make it through the terminal, find PB, get the cookies, go back through security, back through the terminal and to my gate. Let’s just say I amazing raced my way through Sky Harbor. Success ensued. 

Back to the cake. Here is it! Sadly, I forgot to grab a picture before digging in. Thankfully, it was because the cake turned out so well, we couldn’t wait to dig in!

Riding Bikes To Shiner

The other weekend I volunteered at the Shiner G.A.S.P. – a 100 mile bike from Austin to Shiner.

We arrived around 4:45 AM to begin setting up – the parking lot had only a handful of people when we got there. Within a few hours, it looked like this:

There were about 1,600 riders coming from Austin (riders also started out in other cities – Houston, San Antonio, etc.)

I took video of the start of the race in an attempt to give perspective to the massive amount of cyclers. It took more than five minutes to get everyone through the start!

Once the bikers took off, we hopped in the car and began our journey to Shiner.

We drove along the same path the bikers, in case anyone needed help, a bike pump, etc. along the way. I’ve never driven through this part of Tejas, so it was quite fun to explore new Texas territories! (;

Here I am:

We drove a little farther…passed more cyclists…coming across this woman! Did she really cycle with a dog in tow for 100 miles?

Once we got to Shiner, it was BBQ time! The afternoon was full of good BBQ, music, people watching, brewery tour and another check on the Texas bucket list!

It was fun watching all the bikers ride in – I am blown away by how many hardcore cyclists there are out here. The truth is, I have minimal desire to become a cyclist; however, when thinking of the activities I am passionate about and dedicated to, I can appreciate the passion and dedication these guys have for their respective hobby.

Back to Austin! We look a different route, passing other neat “stereotypical Texas” places. It’s sometimes easy to forget that the rest of Texas is very different from Austin…I love getting out and galavanting through the small Texas towns – so many interesting things/places/people to see! Such as this place!

And this little downtown strip of buildings:

Before I knew it, we were already back in Austin (after a quick stop at Smitty’s in Lockhart for ice cream cones…they are only $1! How can you turn down that deal?? (:)

Pun-Offs & Burgers

This weekend, I attended my first pun-off.

This round’s topic was a category involving the solar system:

And this round’s topic was bedroom furniture:

This dog was wearing a candy necklace:

After leaving the pun-off, we stopped by Downtown Burgers, a burger-selling food trailer!

The burger was good… The bun wasn’t too thick. The tomatos were freshly cut. The burger wasn’t so packed, it fell apart 1/2 way through.

And the staff at Downtown Burger was awesome. In fact, the guy making the burger, slash the guy whom I believe owns DB, came out and chatted with us for about ten minutes. And by chatted w us, I mean, he was cracking us up for about 10 minutes straight.

Anyway, here’s a beautiful picture of the burger, followed by a beautiful picture of the french fries:

Matador Meetup

I’m a huge fan of Matador Network– not only as a travel blog, but as a social network, a magazine and really just as a solid brand. A few sentences from Matador that wonderfully define it’s mission:

We use media and technology to bring people together and inspire the next generation of world citizens. MATADOR-ians are explorers, linguists, entrepreneurs, writers, filmmakers, photographers, activists, and adventurers. Our company and our brand seek to serve this community of people and act as a catalyst for them to get out in the world and do great things.

Last night I had the pleasure of attending Matador’s Austin meetup. Hal Amen & Lindi Horton of Matador coordinated the event that look places at Contigo Austin.

It was a wonderful opportunity to meet fellow travel-writing enthusiasts in the Austin area. I always find it so intriguing to chat with travel writers, as many have had such interesting experiences and unique stories.

With this said, I must take a moment to reflect on the amazing drink/food Contigo Austin has to offer. I ordered the Maine Root Cactus Fruit Lemonade – it was PINK! The best way to describe the taste? Well, it taste exactly how it looks:

My co-worker, Chelsea, ordered the Crispy Green Beans. Yum:

Toward the end of the event, we partook in a travel-themed trivia activity. We were each given a 3×5 card, a Sharpie, and were instructed to write down our guesstimate of the distance between Austin, Texas and Adelaide, Australia (one of Austin’s sister cities) in miles as well as flight duration (direct flight, no layovers!).

Here’s Lindi looking at some of the guesses:

And speaking of guesses, guess who had the closest guess for flight duration? ME! I quite honestly wasn’t expecting to be anywhere close, but apparently I got within 7 minutes. Must have been my lucky night! (;

They had prizes for the two winners – here’s mine wrapped in (adorable) owl paper. What could it be??

A Moleskine!! I love love love Moleskins. This one is travel themed – location, Tokyo! I’ve not yet visited Toyko, though it is on my list of places to visit. Perhaps this is a sign that a Tokyo trip needs to happen sooner than later. (;

So there you have it. Travel, good people, delicious food/drink, great local venue, inspiration, travel trivia and moleskins. All in all, an awesome travel writing themed night. Thank you again to Matador Network, Hal & Lindi! (:

Eeyore’s Birthday 2011

I was so intrigued by last year’s people watching/ethnographic/wild/insane/mind blowing Eeyore’s birthday, I couldn’t help but go back this year for seconds.

Again, words can’t quite describe Eeyore’s Birthday festivities, so I’ll let the following photos & videos do the talking:

As we were heading out, we saw a giant rectangle squared off with a bunch of people on unicycles playing some sort of unicycle team sport:

Yup.

So, a few more images to finish out the post:

And ya! There you have it, Eeyore’s birthday 2011, done + done. What an experience.

Fiesta Festival

So yesterday began with a drive to San Marcos to pick up Matt, continuing on to San Antonio to meet up with KV + KS to attend Fiesta!

On the way out of San Marcos, Matt asked me: Have you ever been to the oldest bar in Texas? My answer was no, so he told me to get off 35 and follow the back roads….we ended up at Riley’s Tavern…in the middle of Texas Hill Country:

Def. a “Texas” experience! After ordering a beer each, we went out to the back of the bar. There was all sorts of crazy stuff out there. Including a horse shoe and washer game. Here’s Matt playing with the washers.

It had just rained, so there was mud EVERYWHERE. Mud + throwing horseshoes and washers = even more mud. Freaking loved it.

There were no bathrooms, but definitely outhouses!

When we were outside, we heard live music coming from somewhere down the road. So of course, we had to go check it out! Following is what we found..it was like a little mini music fest. with people drinking beer, bbq-ing, etc. Love it.

We finally made it to San Antonio…and were hungry. So we went to the Fruiteria. See exhibit A:

What people tell me is right. SA is full of authentic Mexican food. Check out this fruit cup. Felt like I bought it straight from the Mexican streets (;

And these amazing tacos!! One avocado taco, y el otro un taco al pastor!

So we finally made it to Fiesta. Music and drinking and food and trinkets everywhere. Here’s part of it:

Straight from Mexico, I tell you! I was having strong flashbacks of Queretaro yesterday.

So…like I said, there was band:

They played their own music, but they also did a cover or two:

THEN, the best part happened. When the band took a break, they put on dance music…but not just any type of dance music…

There was the Cupid Shuffle:

There was a cicle dance:

There was the Boot Scootin Boogie:

There was also the Cha Cha Slide…I tried to take video while doing the Cha Cha Slide…I think this video is evidence that I shouldn’t do that again (;

The thing I think I like the most about the dancing was that it included everyone – there were kids doing the dances and older people in their 60s and 70s right there with them doing the same dance. I think we all know how I feel about community building…so this was def. a good thing in my eyes (;

There were a number of stages during Fiesta, following is another stage we found. This was probably the most awkward I’ve felt at a concert…just watch the video and I think you’ll know why:

After that we went to explore San Antonio a bit more. The original plan was to hit up the Alamo, so we started walking that way from Market Square. Here’s one of the plazas we passed. I love how many plazas we passed…reminded me so much of Queretaro and how there is a plaza pretty much on every corner!!

More San Antonio plaza action. See the people dressed in indigenous paraphernalia in this pic? WOW. This for sure reminded me of Mexico. During my study abroad in Queretaro, we spent a weekend in D.F. and in the main square there were people wearing the same types of costumbres, doing the same types of rituals.

So we never did make it to the Alamo. However, we did make it to the River Walk…found a nice dueling piano Irish pub to finish the night out.

What a experience yesterday was.!!!!! Love it.

Snail Mail, Cooking and Concerts

The other night I spent more time writing hand-written letters than emails. It was a beautiful thing.

Some of my friends from around the globe are also getting back into snail mail, which I love. (:

So here’s the view from my balcony. As you can see, my garden has grown. As you can also see…comparing this photo to the next…

…there really is no drainage in Texas! This is just after a day of misty rain. 

Learning to make good food, one dinner at a time. Here’s a homemade pizza that I made, topped with a few fresh veggies out of my “garden”!

40 Acres Festival at UT. It was also where the Girl Talk concert was held AND where I had my first bush-surfing experience. In case it isn’t widely known, bush surfing is exactly like crowd surfing, except for you are passed over a row of bushes blocking your way instead of being passed over a crowd. (:

I also donated some blood. Felt pretty good about it.

Geocaching Around Town

My friends Kyle and Kristin were in town this weekend from Portland. I wanted to show them some of my favorites Austin places, so we went down to the trail and ended up geocaching, one of my favorite pastimes. (:

Later that night we were down on South Congress and ended up going on our 2nd geocaching adventure of the day. (: This cache had 2 clues: busy location & peanut butter jar. 

This cache was a little trickier, but we ended up finding it…down a little hole in the sidewalk!