Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Express Train!

Continuing my backlog of events, on the weekend of August 19th all of my roommates finished their internships.  This meant that I had the place to myself! Well.... after I drove them to the airport.  On Saturday morning I had to wake up at around 5 to drive Kyle to the airport, and then on Sunday I had to be up at 7 to drive Jacob to the roommate.

This sort of decreased my energy level to do anything during the day.  Saturday I did some shopping and then Sunday I decided to go to a Round Rock Express baseball game.  The Round Rock Express are the triple-A team for the Texas Rangers so they had a fair amount of prospects and I actually lucked into being able to watch one of their top pitching prospects, Martin Perez.

Eric told me that their stadium, the Dell Diamond, was one of the best stadiums in all of the minor leagues.  I haven't been to that many minor league stadiums, but it was very nice. Below are just some pictures of the stadium and the game.

This is the view of the outfield and the bullpen.

The view, albeit blurred by the sun, from the outfield seats.  The sun was pretty strong for the first couple of innings.  The majority of the people sat on the third base side, which was in the shade.

However, I was able to get awesome seats by sitting on the first base side.  2 rows behind the dugout!!  I think those are about the best seats that I have ever had at a baseball game.  The Express were playing the New Orleans Zephyrs, the farm team for the Florida Marlins, so I was right behind the New Orleans dugout.  I thought this was pretty fitting considering that I was planning on going to New Orleans with Katie and Will after my internship.

 The game was pretty much a blowout.  The Zephyrs scored 6 runs in the first 2 innings and pretty much ran away with the thing, but all in all it was a fun game to go to.  Particularly after the sun went done and I didn't have to worry about getting sunburned.

One thing that I noted was that the Express had a lot of players who had been in the majors with one team or another, but weren't good enough to stick.  So the proverbial AAAA player.  I was able to see Chris Coghlin and Logan Morrison for the Zephyrs.  I guess they were rehabbing injuries.  However, Eric and I made a bet regarding Coghlin, so seeing him basically assured me of winning $5!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Hamilton Pool

Well it has been forever since I last updated this blog and lots and lots has happened.  But I am going to start with the oldest noteworthy thing and slowly get caught back up.... maybe by the end of the year I will actually be all caught up.

So during the first week of August we were able to get a half day off on a Friday and we headed to Hamilton Pool.  Normally, the pool is very busy as only a certain amount of cars can get in at a time.  We figured that going on a Friday afternoon would limit that and make it more likely that we would get in.  And that was the case!  We got in very easily and parked and headed down to the pool.  One thing of note... I didn't drive!!!

It was about a half mile walk down a hill, so we set out.

We got to the pool and it was not very full... or at least it didn't seem that full.  The only sad thing was that there was no waterfall.  Normally a waterfall would be streaming down from the rock shelf.

We got in the water and it felt really great.  The Texas heat made it so that the water was just really refreshing.  We swam around and swam under the "waterfall", which was more of a drip coming down from the shelf.  Afterwards I walked around the pool and snapped some pictures while the other guys kept swimming.

 In the picture below you can almost see the waterfall... which is the drip that is coming down in basically the middle of the screen.... it was really small, and I think that the pool would have been much more impressive with the full waterfall, but it was still a pretty amazing pool.

I really wanted to walk to the river which was .6 miles away.  It took awhile, but I finally convinced the guys to come along.  Jacob was really skeptical... but since everyone else was going he begrudgingly came along. I made the mistake of not changing my shoes and so I ended up walking in my flip flops... which was not all that great of an idea... but I made it.... so that was good, just with some slightly dusty feet.

On the way we saw some awesome local wildlife!  Well.. we say some vultures.  I didn't see any dead animals... but it was pretty hot so they may have been following us expecting that we would fall over.

We eventually made it to the river, which was totally deserted and also totally warm! The water had to have been at least like.... 80 degrees or so.  Or at least 78.  It was also really low as the drought had clearly had an effect on the water levels.

Jacob was clearly happy that we came all this way for a low, hot river.

I really liked the river, it was secluded and actually had some really nice scenery.  According to Todd the area was actually used in the movie "Predators", which is pretty cool, and I could definitely see why as it was kind of an exotic type place.

We managed to find the only shady area and parked there for awhile and enjoyed the area and the water... well I did anyway.

Jacob particularly enjoyed the view from his rock down the river and so he borrowed my camera and took a ton of pictures.  The one below is the artsiest of the bunch.  Mainly since it is Sepia toned...

Off in the distance we saw some creatures rumbling down the hill.  They were really far away, but I decided that I wanted to figure out what they were.  So I headed off down the river..... it ended up being a lot farther than I thought it would be, thought that might have been because of the heat.

I eventually made it to the area ad found out that... it was a herd of goats!!! I am assuming that they were wild goats? But I am not sure... it just seemed really weird for a herd of goats to be roaming around the wilderness.

Anyway, I tried to sneak closer, but the sentry goat noticed me and then they all tore off away from me and back up the hill and away from the river.

Finally, we headed back to the pool and dove in for a few minutes to cool off from our walk back.  We didn't have long since the pool closed at 5:30.  We swam around for a little bit and then headed back up the trail.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

The Watering Bowl

So one day we got home from work, and there, chilling out on our deck was this squirrel. It was kind of a tiny little squirrel, and it was sprawled out on our deck, for some reason directly under the metal bar of the railing. It's little heart was just beating as hard as could be, and it just seemed the the heat had sort of had an effect.

A black metal railing... cooler than being in the Texas sun
We sat and watched him for awhile and he soon ran away. Since we are in a pretty horrible drought in the state of Texas, we figured that we wanted to try and help him. So we put a bowl of water out on our deck. We didn't really notice any difference in the behavior around our deck, but one day, after a long arduous day of work... ok it was normal :P, we got home and there was the squirrel, drinking out of the bowl!!

Mission Accomplished!

I asked Jacob what we should name it, and he came up with Skippy. I thought this was a little bit silly, but since I asked him, well.... I had to stick with the name. Also there is actually a Skippy the squirrel from animaniacs, and as I am writing this Jacob claims that he knew that... although at the time there was certainly no mention of that. Anyway, we stuck with the name Skippy and now it is always a happy occasion when Skippy visits us. He still sprawls out under the railing... but at least now he is hydrated better!

I am not entirely sure that every squirrel we see is Skippy.... but it is funner assuming that it is. We have at times put some nuts next to the water and they always disappear, but we aren't positive what is actually eating them. It could be ants, or maybe skippy is actually enjoying them.

After a while, we started to see more wildlife, so Skippy must have told his friends that our deck was safe (at least it is funner to think of it this way). Our first other visitor was a rabbit. I had the honor of naming it this time and went with Clover. I am not sure why.... it seems rabbity. Clover occasionally comes by with another rabbit, which is cool I suppose. They have never gotten to the bowl as far as I have seen, but maybe when we aren't around.

Clover eating... not clover
We have also seen more birds around our deck. Below there is a picture of a cardinal, and recently there have been these tiny little birds that have been bathing themselves in the water. I feel kind of bad for Skippy since his water bowl might get dirty because of that.... but he seems to not really care.

Jacob and I were the ones who started the whole thing, but even Andy got into it and when his mom was here she asked why we had a bowl on the deck and he was worried she had moved it and that Skippy wouldn't have it anymore. Also the last words he said to me before he left were "Take care of Skippy for us!"

Update: This morning I put out some nuts for Skippy. Soon he hopped up and grabbed them and then took them and buried them, then came back for more. Here is video of one of is trips. After he was all done he had a nice long drink, then rolled around with a stick.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Food in Austin

So I am sure that all of you have been eagerly awaiting the post about the food in Austin. Well... perhaps not, but since there are so many amazing restaurants in Austin I figured I would delve into. Also the weekend of July 30 we went to Guerro's, which is Bill Clinton's favorite restaurant in Austin, and supposedly he always goes there when he comes to Austin, as well as Franklin BBQ, which is one of the best, if not the best BBQ places in all of Austin. Since it was pretty much a weekend of food I figured I would just go into all of the food places in Austin that I have been to. This means that there are going to be lots of pictures in this article. I contemplated breaking it up into different posts, but figured it would be better to just consolidate them into one.

On Friday we decided that we would go see the bat bridge and so we could eat somewhere close to there. I had been wanting to go to Guerros for a long time, and since it was close I recommended it to people. For some reason, probably because no one else really has an opinion, we went there.

It was ok... certainly not amazing, and I think the only reason that Bill Clinton likes it so much is because he doesn't have to wait in line. We got there in separate groups, which to them meant that we weren't ready. I tried to put our name in early so that we could get a table... but.... they wouldn't let us until we were all there. I thought this was amazingly ridiculous and it pissed me off quite a bit. We ended up having to wait about 30 minutes until our group all arrived, and then... then they said the wait would be another 40 minutes!!! I mean... geez... so I asked if we could sit outside and the wait was less for that... So we got seated about an hour after we got there.... which meant that we would have to be quick to get to the bats.

Sadly, at Guerro's, quick does not exist. They were slooooooow.... and we finished dinner about 15 minutes before the bats were supposed to launch. Jesse and Trish headed off to try and see them, and they sort of made it. The rest of us had to wait for the slow process of paying the check to be completed. Also.. they don't split checks... so that was fun! :P

Anyway, the food was pretty decent, it wasn't great, and it certainly wasn't worth the trouble. Shown below is what I ordered, which is supposedly what Bill Clinton gets when he goes there. The tamale was ok, and so was the enchilada. I liked the taco pretty well, but the beans weren't really all that good.

Franklin BBQ
On Saturday no one wanted to get up early with me to go to Franklin Barbecue, so basically Saturday was just sort of a lazy day. I ended up reading and just resting up, which was nice. But Sunday, I convinced Aaron and Daniel to get up early with me and go. Franklin's is a pretty small place and they are only open from 11 - 1, well... at least officially. In reality they are open from 11 until they run out of food. So you have to get there early or you will miss it entirely.

Of course, you can also get there slightly too early. So we arrived at about 11:45 and we were the 15th, 16th, and 17th person in line. We were also almost the only peoeple standing in the sun. There were two people in front of us and one person behind us who were also in the sun. So had we gotten there a little bit later.... lol

The people in front of us

Anyway, we had to wile away the time as we stood in line so we basically just talked about random topics and we played some triva and soon... although not soon enough given that we were standing in the sun, the doors opened. The picture below was taken slightly before that and you can see the line stretching past the building. It actually wrapped around the building... so there were a lot of people. At it was 11 AM on a Sunday!!
The people behind us
Anyway, we got inside and soon we were at the counter, Franklin, the owner, is actually a cool guy and ... given the quality of his food, very skinny. He is the guy in the blue shirt on the right side of the picture below. He also did all of the serving, which was cool and he clearly has a lot of pride in his food.

Soon we ordered and got our food. I wanted to try as much as possible, so I ordered..... every kind of meat. I figured that I could use it as leftovers. We were also pretty lucky since we got a table. It was pretty annoying, people would sneak inside and steal tables when they weren't even close to being able to eat. Franklin said that he would find us a table if there wasn't one, which was really cool. Below is my very very full tray of stuff. You can easily see the sausage, but I also got... pulled pork and brisket and ribs... lol.. and coleslaw, and bourbon banana pie.... so... it was a lot of food.
OMG... so much food. (I didn't eat it all)

Since they deserve there own close ups, I have included pictures of the individual meats. The first one were the ribs... and ... they were amazing!! Easily the best ribs that I have every had, just so tender and fall off the bone and succulent and wonderful.

Just looking at this picture makes we want them

Next is the Brisket and the pulled pork. The Brisket was also amazing. I actually liked it a lot more when I reheated it, it was easily the best of the 4 meats as leftovers... it just held it's flavor really really well. THe pulled pork was ok, but.... very overshadowed by the first two.

The finally two items are the sausage and the bourbon banana pie. The sausage was pretty good, again overshadowed by the ribs and brisket, but the Pie was really really good. I wasn't sure exactly what to expect since it was mostly a BBQ/meat place, and the sides were pretty lackluster. But it was very good. I was pretty full at the time, so I shared it with Aaron and Daniel

As we left the place I snapped a picture of the line. It was still back to the end of the building.... This was an hour after the opened. So Franklin BBQ is getting a lot of people coming and waiting... and I have to say, it was very very worth it! The food was amazing.
The suckers who got there too late

One of my roommates favorite... By far my roommate Andy's favorite restaurant in the entire world, Chuy's is located in Austin, and he managed to convince us to go 3 times before I got tired of it.

The food there is ok, nothing special and I don't really understand why he loves it so much. They serve a texmex style of food as the two pictures below show. One of the cool things about the second Chuy's that we went to was that it was the place where Jenna Bush got arrested for a DUI! So that was interesting... I tried to tell myself that I was sitting in the booth were it happened, especially since Andy was talking about underage drinking... but it just wasn't happening

Overall, the food is decent, but nothing special, and I don't really recommend this place if you are only in Austin for a few days... or really... I don't recommend it at all.

Mangia's is a local pizza place that comes highly recommended by locals. And the pizza is ok, Jacob and Kyle didn't really like it so I ended up getting to eat most of it. It was chicago style deep dish with the sauce on top... which I haven't had much, but I enjoyed it. I thought it was better as cold pizza though. :) (I am sure that those sentiments are not shared by many people).

Taco More
The only other place that I have extensive pictures of is Taco More, which is a very, very authentic mexican place. When Daniel and I went there, we were the only non-hispanic people there. And when we went a second time with people from work so that Guillermo could go, we were again the only non-hispanic people there. It was a little bit intimidating at first, particularly since in the evening there was only one guy who spole english. But we managed. I ordered two tacos as well as a Gringa de Pastor, which is basically a little quesadilla with martinated pork.

They also had an amazing salsa bar, so it was fun trying all the different types. There was one that was super hot. The second time we went, guillermo, who loves spicy food tried it and at first he just poured in on his taco and was like, oh yeah, this is probably a 7 or something. As time went by he kept revising his estimate, all the way up to 9, and soon was just barely dripping it on his tacos.

The second time I went I got a cubano sandwhich.. there was another name, but I can't recall it, and a breakfast taco. The sandwhich was excellent and very filling, and the breakfast taco was also good.
Jesse got crunchy quessidillas which are much bigger than the actual quesidillas for the same price, they looked pretty good.

Finally, for some reason, maybe because we had 8 people, they gave us dessert... on the house! That was amazing. They had some tres leches cake, which is cake soaked or made with 3 kinds of milk and then some jello stuff and some candy bars. Jacob got a candy bar...... I went with the cake. It was really really good. So I think I made the right choice. I can get a snickers any time :p.

Other Restaurants of note

Fabi and Rosi, which is a really fancy European styled place. I went there for a group intern dinner and it was great. The food was amazing and the dessert was excellent. It is a little expensive, but really really good and worth a visit.

Torchy's Tacos A local taco place, that has really good cheap tacos, not as authentic as Taco More, but still very good. I like the Fried avocado one and the Democrat. Todd says there are two camps, Taco Deli and Torchy's. After being to both places, I am very solidly in the Torchy's camp.

Freebird Burritos This is a local burrito place that is pretty good. I didn't think they were incredible, but the food was good. However, of note is the fact that they make a super monsterburrito... which is really huge. We went there for Nico's last lunch. He got one... he is pictured with it below..... He said that was a small one. There is no way that I could eat that, but he finished it with ease.

Rudy's Rudy's is probably the second best BBQ place that I have been too. But I didn't make it to salt lick, so I am pretty sure those places were better. Kyle went to both places and enjoyed Salt Lick more, so I trust him.

Lick it, Bite it, or Both This is a local cupcake place that I went to. They make really good cupcakes. They are flat tops, which means the frosting is sometimes a little over the top, but they were really good. I particularly liked the Peanut butter ones (3 at the bottom).

The Monument Cafe I already talked about this place, but this is best southern food in the area. It is a little far away, about a 25 minute drive, but the food was sooo good, and they have fried pie!

I am sure that I am leaving a place or two out.... and I certainly haven't been to all of the places that I want to go too here, but this is a pretty good primer.

Monday, August 8, 2011

6 Flags Trip

More Backlog! But this one will be shortish... since there is really only so much that one can say about roller coasters.... especially given:

1) I have a limited knowledge of roller coasters and
2) We stood in a lot of lines.....

While roller coasters are exciting... line standing is .... not. So I will skip most of the line standing. Before we left Andy informed us that it was federal law that we could get water for free from the park. This was a very good think to know... especially since it was about 102 degrees outside.

This trip was set up through the Sports Committee, which I am proudly a member of. At times I felt like we were actually the most effective committee. I suppose the T-Shirt Committee did make t-shirts... but we had a lot more events than the social committee, and they were all pretty successful...

Anyway, the trip was set up and we got enough people to get the group rate which was about $25 off the price of a normal ticket, which was really great. I strongly recommend dragging lots of people to 6 flags with you if you want to go :P

We all met at the 6 flags parking lot at around 9 AM so that we could make it to the park kind of early. It was about an hour and 40 minutes drive, so it was a little long. The park opened at 10, I think we got there around 11:30 or 11:40. We were supposed to wait a bit and everyone would show up and we could decide from there what we were going to do. But we waited and... no one showed up.... so after about 20 minutes we decided that we would just head out and do our own thing.

There were 6 of us and we were a pretty good group. One of the most interesting things that we discovered was that Kyle absolutely loves Roller Coasters... he even knows manufacturers based on the type of beams used on rides and had a lot of data that.... while interesting... I had no idea to even think to look it up. So at a few points during the trip we would quiz him about rides and stuff in general. However.... my iPhone did know about some wooden coasters that caught on fire which he was unaware of... so at least I know that he learned something during our quizzing. :)

The first ride that we went on was Goliath, which is shown here at night, but I assure you, it looked exactly the same during the day! It was actually a pretty great ride and we zipped through the line, I guess we actually did get there early enough to miss some people.

Emboldened by our quick line we went to the next most popular ride, Superman! Below is a picture of it while we stood in line. It is hard to really tell how awesome this ride was from this picture, but the ride sits right next to a cliff so a lot of the time we would zoom super close to the cliff, it added a lot to the ride, and we ended up doing this ride again later in the day (as the last ride).

Kyle describes it thusly: (all of Kyles quotes blatently stolen from facebook)
This was definitely one of my favorite coasters i've been on. It really used that cliff to its advantage.

After this ride is was getting quite hot, and so we decided that we should try out a water ride, so we headed to the tube ride. When we got to the line, there were lots of people actually leaving the line... which we thought was really weird. But we soon discovered why... the line was super super slow.... this was easily the longest line that we waited in and it didn't seem worth it. By the time we got to the front we were all hot and ready to get soaked... sadly... it was not really all that turbulent of a ride... but Greg did get really really soaked... he also had the bag with all of our phones... :P luckily, they did not get wet. Below is a picture of some random people tubing....

After the tube ride we headed to the Rattler, which we had watched while standing in line for the tube ride. The Rattler was a wooden coaster and ... it rattles a lot while you ride it. According to Kyle this is the triple helix of the ride... I am not sure exactly what that means... but I enjoyed this ride quite a bit. Here is Kyle's description of the ride:
This had some cool features. You can see its first drop, which goes into a few turns then a triple helix. Then you can see the second drop which goes into more twists and turns.
I think a lot of other people didn't really as it was too rattly for some and ... I dunno... I can't remember it was too long ago. :P

We got in line for the Rattler at like...1 something maybe? And we thought we would be donefairly quickly... but the line took much longer than expected... this led to a rather grumpy and hungry group while standing in line.... we vowed that we would get lunch afterwards, and that is exactly what we did! $12 burgers and fries for the win!!! They weren't really good.... but I was starving so they tasted great.

After lunch, we headed to the Roadrunner Express, because it was close and we figured we probably wouldn't be back in this area again. The line for this was actually super short and the ride was pretty fun (I think that the short line helped my opinion). As you can see from the picture below... the riders are totally hyped!.... or not.

After this ride we ran into some of our fellow interns and talked about our day... they had done most of the rides they wanted to already, mainly by skipping the tube ride. We still had a couple left so we headed away and across the park to Poltergeist, which was... a crazy ride. We started by being launched off the pad at about... I dunno... lets say... 80 MPH! (it was fast....) Then we zoomed through all these twists are turns, still going super fast. Before you could think.. the ride was over... It was kind of amazing. This was unfortunately, the one ride with very little shade in the line, so should you ever go to the 6 flags near San Antonio... do this ride earlier in the day :P.

We were contemplating doing the tower drop, but we walked by and the line was super long. Miriah also didn't want to do this, which only meant that everyone tried talking her into it... this didn't really work, but she did agree to go on it.

Since the tower was packed, we went to .... the spinning top ride... or something similar. This was a super short ride and we just were spun around and in a pendulum... it was very disorienting, but pretty fun... I definitely was a little queasy for a while after we finished.

After this ride we went to the spinning coaster, where the cars actually spun as you sat in them. This was kind of a crazy ride and the wait was much longer than expected, but it was AC which was very nice.

We hit the superman ride again, and because Nico asked, the whirrly gig (spinning chairs) I was easily the oldest person on the ride who didn't have a kid... so.... that might have looked a little awkward :p.

And then we were done. We headed back after a successful trip to the theme park.

I would rank the rides that we went on:

1) Superman - This ride was great, used the cliff very well, was exciting and fast and teeth rattling and fast and turny... (Can you tell I know lots of roller coaster words?) Awesomeness Rating: 9.5/10 (I have no idea what a 10 would be)

2) Poltergeist - From beginning to end this ride just did not let up, you started super fast getting launched into the ride and barely had time to get oriented to flying around the track before the ride was over. Awesomeness Rating: 9/10

3) Goliath - This may have suffered a bit from being the first ride and thus less in my memory, but I enjoyed this ride a lot, I just liked the other two more :) Awesomeness Rating: 8.8/10

4) Roadrunner Express - This was helped immensely by the super short line. The ride may have not been as cool as the Rattler... but the line was much much better... which made the ride feel better to me. Awesomeness Rating: 7.51/10

5) Rattler - The quintesitional wooden Roller Coaster... you will get rattled.... but it had some really cool parts and dives and worked really well. Awesomeness Rating: 7.5/10

6) Spinning Cart Coaster - This one was short, but the ride itself was pretty fun, and the spinning cart was very interesting.... It lead to some suprises which was fun. Awesomeness Rating: 6/10

7) Spinning Top - The line was super short, which was great, and the ride was fun enough, the queasyness wasn't so great, but still a pretty fun ride. Awesomeness Rating: 4/10

8) Whirrlygig - I enjoyed this... kind of... but... yeah... Awesomeness Rating: 2.5/10

9) Tube ride (only because of the wait... the ride itself was fine... but not worth the 1.5-2 hour wait Awesomeness Rating: 1/10