Sep 21, 2011

Texas Part Duex: 9/21/11: Austin and Farewell

Last day in Austin!  Skipped our regular breakfast so we could ensure a big lunch.  Instead of eggs and the works we had left over apple crisp paired with a few bites of Rudy’s cream corn.  I think my whole life revolves around food intake.  Especially in Texas.  (My waistline agrees.)   

Today we hit the road to University of Texas, home of the Longhorns.  Our mission:  to stand where  Charles Whitman (Texas Sniper) stood, to gaze upon the little spots below the tower and see what he saw.  On August 1, 1966 Whitman murdered his mother and wife before spending over an hour in the tower shooting at people below.  Thirteen people were murdered and 31 were wounded at the Tower alone.  By the end of the week the total death toll moved up to 16.  

Unfortunately, as with Waco, the University doesn’t appear to be very proud of their killer.  No signs, no memorials we could spot, and no roof access except for tours on the weekend.   Oh I tried, though.  (hmm, didn’t I try to get on the roof the other day at the hotel??? Another pattern emerges.)  
We parked at the Longhorn Stadium (not it’s official name) and walked through campus to the tower.  Campus is beautiful, despite the mass amount of construction taking place.  They must have acquired a large donor.  Once we got to the tower building we tromped inside like we owned the place.  We noted stairs which we passed’s a calorie conservation thing.  There are two elevators near the middle of the building which are kind of scary.  Leading to the elevators is a long hallway with a metal detector at the front (hmm, anyone learn from their past?).   
Photo from the bottom of the UT Tower, that's one large Tower..maybe that's why they call it a Tower???
Sign that immobilized Jen
At the rear of the long hallway, in between the elevators is a sign that reads:  Elevators for authorized personnel only.  At this point Jen (AKA Yellow Belly Chicken) and I parted ways because she didn’t want to get on the elevator since we weren’t “authorized.”  I’m a firm believer that as a tourist I’m entitled to at least a few “Oops, I’m sorry, am I not supposed to be here?” statements.   I jumped on the elevator with a man (whom I will call Tex so he doesn't get fired) who was going back to his desk on the 15th floor (damn, I just outed Tex!).  I chatted him up and asked if there were windows on the top where I could take photos.  Tex said, “It’s frowned upon.”  But, me, well, I just smiled politely and said I’d come all this way to take just a few photos.  Tex then invited me to get off the elevator at his floor and stood with me while I was taking some photos from the window, just in case someone came and wanted to know what I was doing.  Nice guy.  I said thanks then hit both the up and down elevator when Tex turned his back.  That way, I figured the direction I went was in fate’s hands.  When the elevator stopped I pushed the button for the highest floor I could go, which was 25 (two floors below the top).  
As the elevator went up I started thinking of excuses for why I was up there...the only one I thought would be convincing was “I’m looking for Tex” since, well, in my Oregon Ducks baseball cap and shirt, I clearly wasn’t a student (way to think ahead, I'm a criminal mastermind).  I peeked out the elevator door when they opened, saw the coast was clear, then jumped out and hustled it to the windows.  Snap, snap, snap, photos galore.  (I am such a rebel, feel free to live vicariously through me).  
View from the 25th floor of the tower, UT
I am amazed at how awesome of a shot the Texas Sniper would have had to be to kill anyone, let alone injure as many as he did.  (I supposed that's what a sniper does, eah?) I don’t know if I am supposed to be impressed with an act of such violation, but really, if you consider it, WOW (kudos to the American military and it's training)!!!  
Back on the ground floor I found Jen.  She’d apparently been playing tour guide to some freshmen, pointing them to the registrar’s office.   I’m sure that was much more rewarding than taking the elevator up!  (Take a risk, make a memory!)
Stubbs grubb...mmm mmm good (sorry Rudy,  I cheated!)
Next stop:  Stubbs BBQ for lunch.  Sure, we went there a few days before but we just bought stuff and had a drink.  This time, lunch was in order.  We both ordered two meats (brisket and ribs) and two sides.  My sides were mac and cheese and mashed sweet potatoes.  Jen had sweet potatoes and cheese spinach (which I’m sorry to say tasted like shrat to me).  The mashed sweet potatoes were awesome, with a hint of cinnamon and topped with walnuts.  Heavenly.  The brisket was good but the ribs rocked.  (I hate to admit it, but they were better than Rudy’s, don’t tell him.) Jen was having a hard time finishing her meal and I had to break out Rule #1 (leave no bbq behind) and she choked down the remaining bites like a good sport.  I thought she was going to hurl for the next few hours but as far as I know, things stayed down.
From Stubbs we headed for Rudy’s to get gas and some bbq for the road.  I ordered 4 pounds of brisket and one pound of smoked turkey, Jen ordered a pound of brisket.  Crazy as it sounds, I came prepared with a fold up ice chest/bag to bring food home.  I know, I have a problem.  Maybe there’s a group I can join for my Rudy’s BBQ addiction.  

At the airport, the excessive meat proved to be a bit much as I had to remove stuff from my bags to make weight.  Doh!  Still, it was worth the agony of dragging around my carry on full of extra stuff.  I wasn’t leaving without my Rudy’s.  

Texas Part Duex ends.  Another adventure will start soon, Ireland and Scotland in October.  Until then,  may laughter and fun be on your mind and may every opportunity to step outside your comfort zone bring you one space closer to the ...oh shrat, Jen’s looking over my shoulder and I can’t write while she does that.  RUDE.  So, my words of wisdom will have to wait.  (Consider this a temporary reprieve.)
As Jen would say, “Whatever.”  

Cheers all.  Thank you, Texas, for accepting me and tolerating my childish behaviors yet again!  See you soon law dog, see you soon!  

Sep 19, 2011

Texas Part Duex: 9/19/11: San Antonio and Austin

San Antonio this morning.  Headed to The Alamo first thing.  Exciting stuff.  Ok, fine.  It wasn't THAT bad.  It was hot.  There were walls (which we weren't allowed to touch) and we also had to be quiet (it's a shrine, shut up!) but we did get to see the place.  There were shockingly few tourists on site, which was a blessing.  Finally a break.  We pounced over to The Riverwalk where we boarded the Riverwalk Barge Cruise for a half hour tour ($9.00 for the privilege) of the shops and restaurants.  Last time I was at The Riverwalk we actually walked.  Trust me, this was a lot more....better.  Walking sucks.  It takes a lot of calories to keep up this weight so I don't like to risk doing any excessive exercise.  Walking is especially bad when it's so hot outside you feel like all you want to do is sit in the local Irish Pub (I counted three along The Riverwalk). The Riverwalk takes on a whole new look when you aren't walking amongst the crowd and don't have sweat pouring down your shirt from the awful heat.  You can actually appreciate the beauty and history of The Riverwalk, which I certainly didn't do on my first tour years ago.  
The Riverwalk
The heat felt worse once we got off the barge so we headed out of San Antonio toward Austin.  We stopped at Chuy's for some fajitas and a margarita...yum yum.  In Austin we went to Stubb's BBQ to purchase some hats (it's a bit stalkerish, I'll skip the details).  While we waited for rush hour to pass we walked around 6th Street, which is famous for it's music.  I'm sorry, Austin, but 6th Street reminded me of Vegas.  It was dirty and kind of seedy.  We found a bar that had early live music and listened to some sweet blues for a spell.  The music made up for the seedy atmosphere.  I imagine the locale is awesome at night when the streets are full of people, the music is blaring from all the bars along the strip, and people laughing and full of energy.

I was in charge of hotels since I did nothing but complain about the Marriott and it's lack of a fridge and no free internet.  I picked a great Holiday Inn which was conveniently near my two favorite places (Rudy's and Chuy's).  I scored a room for $75.00 (fridge and internet included)...can I get a booya!  

We got to the room and "surprise" it was a king bed only.  Yeah, not gonna work.  I went back down and got a different room (two beds were a necessity).  Back up the elevator we went.  I opened the door to our new room and noticed the light on and the bathroom door open.  Someone was already in the room.  NICE.  I thought this was funny, but Jen thought it was a little something else.  I let her stay in the lobby and I went back down to the front desk.  The bartender and the front desk manager were talking and the manager asked if that room had a single bed, too. When I told her there was already someone in the room she seemed mortified.  I just laughed and said it wasn't a big deal.  For my kindness I was offered a free drink from the bartender.  He and I went over and he mixed an apple margarita for me, double shot.  We bonded while he made the drink, laughing about the mix up and talking about BBQ and tourist traps in Austin.  He mentioned he liked Rudy's and then he walked the extra drink up to Jen.  He was even so kind as to open the room door and help Jen carry some of her stuff into the room.

We hopped over to Rudy's and got some food for us and for the bartender, who was so excited he gave me a hug.  Awww, schucks.  Apparently I'm really nice.  Don't tell anyone.

So there goes another day in Austin.  Not as exciting as the first few days, but I'm going to count it as a win...if nothing else, because I laughed.

Sep 18, 2011

Texas Part Duex: 9/18/11: Salado, Austin, & San Antonio

Woke up in the Holiday Inn (which is good since that's where I went to sleep) to the sound of doors slamming in the rooms next to ours.  At 6 AM.  Damn.  Dozed off and on until around 8 am when I just couldn't bear the thought of keeping those cinnamon rolls lonely in the free breakfast zone.

Once on the move we headed toward Austin to make our way to San Antonio.  My only wish was to stop at the Snake Farm along the way but we were easily sidetracked by a Cabella's that sprung up out of nowhere.  I screamed at Jen to take the exit we were almost passing, which she did with a bit of frustration.  I didn't know what the big deal was since she'd been driving like that the entire time.  Geez.  All I've heard thus far on the driving portion of the trip is, "Where do I go?  Which way? Where?  How?  These roads are stupid.  Which way? Which way????"  Keep in mind we have a GPS and me pointing the way...both of which have malfunctioned.  It's not my fault I keep programming the wrong address into the GPS.  I mean, who calls a road FM2548???   In Oregon we call roads by actual names.

I love Cabella's.  The only thing more exciting to me than Cabella's itself is a Cabella's with a sale.  Jen went ape shrat crazy trying on clothes and ended up spending a lot of money.  This from the girl who, as we were walking in, said, "I'll just play on my phone while you look around."  Silly girl.  Cabella's is for everyone.  Everyone COOL that is.

Rattlesnakes..their pens stink.   Scary.  
From Cabella's we headed to Animal World and Snake Farm ( where Jen wanted to see some exotic animals, like armadillo's.  I informed her the armadillo wasn't exotic but she seemed set in her ways.   The last trip I took to San Antonio was with my friend Cher.  We passed the Snake Farm and shivered, thinking, "Thank Gosh it's closed!"  Later I saw the same snake farm on an episode of Dirty Jobs with Mike Rowe.  Being a Mike Rowe (and Dirty Jobs) fanatic, I decided if I ever came back, I was going to stand in the place that Mike Rowe stood.  (Not at all stalkerish.  The thought was of love, I assure you)  At Snake Farm the first animals we saw were some box turtles.  One was upside down in the pen, so Jen tells the guy the turtle is upside down.  He says, "No, he's not."  Jen, who always has to be right, says, "Yes, the turtle is UPSIDE DOWN."   The man says, "That turtle is EXACTLY where he wants to be."  So I look at the turtles and see they ARE really close.  I say, "So, um, the turtles are...making a baby???"  The guy smiles and says, "Yes, in fact, the turtle starts out on top of the other turtle and when penetration happens, the turtle flips backwards off the female and lays upside down while they are doing it.

Turtles mating.  I know, I've hit an all time low.  Even turtles need their privacy.  

At that point we found there was too much information being given out.  However, I did find it rather entertaining that I'd asked two days in a row if a baby was being made (first at Waco and now at the zoo).  I hope that's not going to be a repeating theme.

After the Snake Farm we headed toward San Antonio.  Nothing all that exciting happened there until we were in the Marriott's bar, drinking our complimentary margarita (which by the way was WEAK) when it started pissing down rain and storming.  San Antonio hasn't had rain in about six months.  Amazing, considering in Oregon we get rain almost twice a week in the summer and almost every second in the spring and winter....and sometimes fall.   We Oregonians are prepared for the rain.  Texans, well, let's just say, no so much.  The storm was so awesome it shut down the cable television for a spell.  The noise was deafening as the rain crashed into the roof and walls.  Suddenly it's raining INSIDE.  Rain is leaking down through the walls and all over the floor.  I'm thinking this is totally cool and I want to run up to the roof and scream, TOP OF THE WORLD!  as thunder and lightening crash around me.

No roof access.  Bums.  
There was a guy sitting next to us who apparently is doing some work here in one of the hospitals and was trained initially as a nurse or something.  He was saying he didn't think going on the roof was a good idea and I told him since he was trained if anything happened I'd just come down and see him for medical attention.  He kindly pointed eastward and said, "The psychiatric hospital is over that way!"  That got quite a few chuckles but frankly didn't sway my opinion of the task at hand.  We took the elevator up to the highest floor, Jen held the doors open so I wouldn't get locked in (safety first) and I skipped up two flights of stairs to the roof access doors.  Rainwater was dripping all around the doors and I could hear the lightening.  I was so ready to go!

Damn Marriott thinks locking the roof doors will save someone's life.  I guess it could be true.   No entry for the stupid on this date.   I'll have to save my TOP OF THE WORLD scream for some other storm.  I'm praying it happens within the next few days or it will be too late for Texas.

Tomorrow is all about San Antonio and Jen's desire to see the Alamo (which I've seen and been sufficiently bored with) and the Riverwalk (which I've seen and been even more bored with).  Somewhere along the line we'll hit Chuy's for texmes (thank you Lord) and head back toward Austin.

Bring it on, Texas.  I'm praying for more storms and a more cooperative hotel roof.

Salado, TX Mr. & Mrs. Sean Taylor's Wedding 9/17/11


When one of your friends (who happens to be younger than you little...or cough...a lot...cough!)  gets married it is a happy occasion.  That's even true for me, who happens to live part time on Bitter Alley in the town of WhyMarry?  Yesterday my good friend, Mettie (aka Cher) stood before God and all to profess her love for Sean (aka Sonny) Taylor.

The Groom and Groomsmen 

They tied the knot at the Tenroc Ranch ( in small but quaint Salado, TX.  I flew half way across the country with a friend to see the event and I must admit I am glad I did.  The venue was beautiful.  And frankly, I've never been at a wedding where I heard guns being fired in the background during the vows.  But, it's exactly how I imagine my wedding would be if I ever found Mr. Right instead of Mr. Right Now.  The bride and the groom both showed up.   There were moments of laughter, beauty, and my favorite moment:  the Father of the Bride's toast.

Mary Catharine and Delton presenting Mettie to Sean
I was finally able to meet some of the people I've been listening to Mettie talk about for years.  It's always great to put a face to a name.  Or a name to a face.  I've know Mettie for probably 8 years.; we met when we both started working for an insurance company.  I'm still there but Mettie has moved on (a few times) to greener pastures (or brown if you consider the fact that she moved back home to Texas).  I've been lucky enough to watch Mettie grow and succeed through law school, and I've listened to countless stories about boys and men (as she's done for me).  I've had the privilege of watching Mettie in love and in heartache.  Mettie has always been an inspiration to me.  She has always been the one person who I wish I could be more like.  And, truth be told, Mettie is the only person I know of who can wear white on her wedding day and actually deserve to.

Mettie's family is awesome.  Mettie's Dad is a quiet, hardworking man who was smart enough to marry the world's most wonderful woman, Mettie's Mom.  If I could choose my parents, I would choose hers.  They are both friendly, caring, considerate, compassionate, funny, supportive, and accepting.  The toast Dad gave (I may as well just claim them both since they probably aren't going to volunteer) was so beautiful I almost shed a tear.  Wonderful.  Simply wonderful.  Lucky Girl, that Mettie.  Very lucky in love and in family.

Mr. & Mrs. Sean Taylor (aka Sonny and Cher Taylor) Sept. 17, 2011

Sep 16, 2011

Texas Part Duex: 9/16-22/2011 Mettie's Wedding

I promise and swear this is my last trip to Texas this year.  I'm in the Austin/San Antonio area with a friend from high school (weird that I've know her for over 20 years and she's still talking to me) to attend another friend's wedding.  If you're the counting type that means I have at least TWO friends!  My first trip in August was on the moto, Runkle, and was to visit Sonny and Cher's place (aka Mettie and Sean's) and they are the happily engaged/soon to be miserable married couple.  (I kid!  Kind of.  Since I've never been married I'm not sure it would be miserable but I do note that most marriages end in divorce so...oh wait, not the thing to mention on the eve of a wedding.)

Anyhoo, my friend Jennifer and I flew to Austin today.  Our flight took us to Seattle first (because I always pick the flight that will ensure I get to see the most number of cities, or, as most of you will recognize, I'm cheap and I don't mind flying in the opposite direction for two hours if it saves me a few bucks).   Once in Seattle we had an hour layover (time to cruise through the airport so we can experience Seattle) where I met this lovely guy sitting next to me.  We bonded because I shared my napkin with him.  I'm nice like that.  It did turn out a little freaky when he stood and continued to talk to us about his pending trip to Tennessee and his road trip back to Oregon with his friend and the friend's two year old Golden Retriever.  I was really interested in talking more about the dog and less about the man and his friend.  My kindness only goes so far.
A big mountain.  (Perhaps Ranier)
The plane to Austin was packed.  I always try to sit behind the wing so I can watch the flaps go up and down and be one of the first people to see the fluids pouring out.  I have this dream of my 15 minutes of fame going something like this:  Television cameras pan in to my beautiful pearly whites as I say, "Well, we were just flying real normal like when all the sudden I saw this huge amount of liquid squirting from the wing and then we dropped about ten feet before the pilot corrected."  In my dream the pilot always saves us and I come out with the best story since I happen to be the only person obsessed with watching the wing looking for leaks.  It's like a public service.  I should get to fly for free because of my diligence.  And, truth be told, I could really use that 15 minutes of fame.
See that weird shaped cloud in the back???

The flight from Seattle to Austin was uneventful except for the stranger sitting next to us, whom I will call "Dick" for obvious reasons.  This man was intent on leaving his cell phone on during the entire flight and even when asked three times to turn it off, he ignored the attendants.  I was about ready to grab that phone and slap him over the head with it since I was frankly frightened.  Fear makes you do strange things.  Surely the plane will go down if even one cell phone is left on.  That HAS to be why they tell us to turn them off.

By the grace of all goodness we flew without a hitch and landed with a few bumps but safely (no thanks to Dick).   Once off the plane we hopped in our fancy Chrysler rental car (I pushed for a convertible but the lady didn't think I was all that entertaining.  I do much better with men who are about 70 and looking for love) and promptly went what I thought was the wrong way.  The GPS and the cell phone's mapping system seemed to be contradicting each other.  The weather, a balmy 92 degrees, was a delight, and with Jennifer driving (and me alternating between whiplash and seatbelt burn due to said driving) I was happy when we saw a restaurant worthy of us stopping.

Our first choice (due to the availability of margaritas) was Chuys.  An hour wait wasn't going to work for either of us since we hadn't eaten all day except around 7 am (the worst airport burrito you could ever experience) and we were hungry enough to eat baby kittens (I'm not too proud to admit it).   We ended up at my favorite place (wait for it....) Rudy's BBQ!

This was Jen's first experience with Rudy's.  I don't think she was impressed with the fact that Rudy's is actually in a Shell Station.  And it's clean and good but not exactly up to her high standards.  But, the service was spectacular (free samples, can I get a horray!) and the guy helping us was adorable (for a twelve year old).

The verdict is in.  Rudy's is "good."  Great.  Fantastic.  Just the review I expected.  "Just good."  Gebus, someone take that girl out and teach her about BBQ and what's good and bad and what is THE BEST DAMN BBQ ever.

Jen's first thoughts on Rudy's  "It''s Good."  Me off camera:  Head hung down in shame.  
Tomorrow we attend a Bride's Brunch in a church (probably Mettie's way of ensuring we don't catch fire once we enter her wedding chapel) and then the wedding at 7 pm.  I'm looking forward to watching Mettie walk down the isle with a man who I think is perfect for her (does he have a brother??).  Jennifer and I are going to head into Austin during the day and see if we can find something pertaining to motorcycles so I can get my "fix."  We passed a Harley dealership on the way here, I shutter to think that may have to do.  Research is needed.

And for those keeping track, the Holiday Inn Express has passed the "Jennifer Test" for bed bugs.  None evident behind the headboard, on the mattress, behind the t.v. or on the night stand.  It has also passed the "BMWGSGIRL Test" and has no bodies under the bed and no peep holes in the ceiling.  Whew.  Who knew traveling could be so high stress???
Truer words were never spoken, written, or slapped across the back of a gas station.   

Sep 14, 2011

Runkle needs a bath....

Today marks only the second time I've taken Runkle out since my big trip.  I haven't washed him yet and the bugs, dirt, and grim call out to me like a nagging mother.  I must make the time.  The weather is starting to turn here in Portland, OR.  The clouds have come and the rains aren't far behind.  This is the time of year that separates the riders from the posers.   I love riding in the rain since it feels like more of a challenge yet I'm still just a poser.

There are a lot of things that have been going through my mind since my long ride to Texas.  It seems like a lifetime ago.  On the way to Texas I thought, "I want to do this for a living!"  and on the way back from Texas I thought, "Please just let me make it home so I can park this thing!"  Now, a month out all I want is to get back on the bike and ride somewhere, anywhere for a week or two.  I think I'd bring a friend this time so camping wouldn't be such a chore (i.e. so I wouldn't be too chicken to camp).

I'm headed to Texas on Friday (flying!) and will be there for almost a week.  I'm not really excited to be seeing things from the car but hopefully I'll still get to meet and greet people.  There's just something about being on a bike though that makes people feel better about talking to strangers.  In my paranoid mind I personally think it's because no one has ever heard of someone being abducted on a motorcycle.  (Although I am up for the challenge.)   If I meet anyone or see anything grand I'll let ya'll know.  In the meantime, stay safe and above all else, be happy and laugh every chance you get!

I found a house! A sale and a purchase...

Hey Readers!  (Mom and Dad) My Salem house, after MANY repairs and a new porch I haven't written in a spell because my plans took a ride...