Austin, Days 1 and 2

Finally!  We’ve landed in Austin, visited a bike shop (not just any bike shop, but Mellow Johnny’s), and had our first BBQ experience.  Yep, it’s been a good couple of days.

We hit the road early on Monday morning, as the drive to Austin would be more than 300 miles.  That doesn’t sound like much to many of you who are used to driving long distances, but for us, that’s a full day on the road.  The weather was cloudy and listless, with rain showers all along the way.  West Texas is deadly dull.  There is nothing out here.20150309_085731After 200 miles, we finally hit Fredericksburg, and pull up alongside the Brewery for a quick lunch.  My pepperwurst was pretty good, and John enjoyed his stew.  That sausage looks enormous, I know, but it’s not sitting on a dinner plate, but a smaller salad plate.20150309_130443Back on the two-lane highway, we are happy to be out of the cuteness of this town.  I’ve turned into a person who has no appetite for shopping anymore.  Get me outta here!  We briefly discuss going to the World War II (Pacific Theater) Museum, but nix that idea in the interest of getting to Austin.  But, as we’re zooming down the road, the LBJ Ranch comes into view.  20150309_135658Of course we have to swing in for a quick tour.

This site is part State Park, and part National Park.  Although the tour of the Western White House didn’t have much appeal, we did enjoy the movie in the Visitor Center, which was actually a broadcast of LBJ showing the ranch to reporter Bob Schieffer.  It was great – LBJ and Schieffer zooming around the ranch in a big ol’ Lincoln convertible.  LBJ really came across as a very human kind of guy, and one with a deep connection to the ranch that had been in his family for years.  It was well worth the time spent.

My favorite part, though, were some of the letters sent to LBJ.  Hope they make you smile as much as they did me – I doubt if Obama gets such ‘human’ mail.  20150309_14003520150309_14005420150309_14012120150309_14021320150309_140224Before leaving, we did decide to take the quick driving tour around the Ranch.  It’s still a working ranch, so we had to wait for goats and steers to move off the road in spots.  20150309_14415120150309_144438Finally!  We roll into McKinney Falls State Park, in the southeast corner of Austin.  We’ve only been able to get a two-night reservation, and it’s already 5pm of Day 1.The rain we encountered on the road was a deluge in Austin – a record-breaking 2″.  The Park is soaked – the initial site they assigned us to was unacceptable.  The fire pit was surrounded by a moat at least a foot and a half wide.  We would have to have waded to the picnic table.  We drove round and round, finally picking a site that had an elevated picnic table.  It’s pretty choice, and we’re happy.  The best news came on Day 2 – our request for two more nights became a reality, because of a cancellation.  So, we’ve got time to explore.

Jezzy has spent lots of time in the truck this past week, so we decide to explore the Falls around the park with her before leaving for the afternoon.  In terms of waterfalls, they’re not much, but the riverbed is an old lava field.20150310_095908 All of the little craters in the surface were water-filled.  It’s REALLY wet around here!20150310_095946Finally, we pump tires, and plot out a route into downtown Austin.  Should be about a 45 minute ride, in this bicycle-friendly town.  Most of the route is on roads with bike lanes, and the rest is on bike paths.  Well, mostly……

We’re navigating a tricky section where the bicycle lane suddenly vanishes, leaving us to fend for ourselves on a four-lane highway passing beneath the expressway.  There’s a beatup pickup truck stalled, and one guy is trying to push it.  “We should help”, I said to John, so we leaned our bikes on a bridge support, and moved in to provide a little muscle.

Let me set the scene for you a bit.  John and I are wearing our bike shoes (and our geeky helmets).  We are joined in our pushing effort by the frail-looking guy selling newspapers on the corner.  This is not the most prosperous side of town.  “WE RUN OUTTA GAS!!!!  JUS’ NEED TO PUSH ‘ER AROUND THE CORNER TO THE SERVICE STATION!!”, shouts the guy who was Pusher #1.  I’m on the side of the truck behind the driver, and he looks like he’s having the time of his life.  Laughing and smiling encouragement to me in the rearview mirror.  John and I sound like Budweiser Clydesdales in our bike shoes.  KLOP!  KLOP!!  Must have looked ridiculous.  Things are going okay until we have to go around a corner, and it’s ever so slightly uphill.  The newspaper guy, Pusher #2 is wheezing and panting – I’m not sure if he’s going to make the last 100 yards into the gas station.  We finally get the truck up into the lot, and the driver coasts up to a pump.  Pusher #2 is bent over, hands on knees, trying not to throw up.  We wave, and go off to retrieve our bikes.  Good deed for the day is done.

On we go.  Rolling down a smooth street with a nice wide bike lane, we pass a bus stop.  A crazy-looking guy wearing three hats, clutching a bottle in a brown bag leaps off the curb in front of John and hollers, “LANCE ARMSTRONG CAN KISS MY ASS!”  Well……ok.  We’re off to a fine start here in Austin, TX.

The rest of the ride was mostly uneventful, not counting the flat tire on John’s bike.  Repair went quickly, and we resumed our journey, ironically, to Mellow Johnny’s Bike Shop.  20150310_142252Lance Armstrong was a partner in this shop at one time, and it’s full of bikes that he and other teammates rode.  The first Livestrong bike is there, many signed yellow jerseys, and other stuff.  20150310_143856It makes me sad and angry to think of what a jerk he bacame.  End of editorial.  But, it’s a pretty cool bike shop.

Time to begin our Brisket Quest.  John has picked La Barbecue as Stop #1.  Once again, we are so happy to be on bikes.  This joint is a gravel parking lot with a few tent-covered picnic tables.  Two huge smokers are in trailers, an another smaller trailer is used for the food service window.20150310_15091420150310_150653We’re there late for lunch (around 2pm), and most items are sold out.  We do get a chopped brisket and a pulled pork sandwich, and a side of pinto beans to share.  Beans great, brisket great, pork fair.  That’s my review.  John goes crazy and decides that he wants to get ribs to take back to the Fireball for dinner.  Sold out.  The only thing available is (the last) beef rib.  At $20/pound, this little treat comes to $38!!  Want to see what $38 worth of takeout beef rib looks like?ribToo bad we didn’t photograph it on its greasy butcher paper.  It was stellar.  Crusty and chewy, the meat inside still moist and tender.  La Barbecue knows what they’re doing.

This is an interesting neighborhood.  Apparently, this guy has a fascination with wheeled stuff, which he displays in his yard.  20150310_152958He’s also a bird lover, and buys big boxes of donuts which he puts on a big spindle on the vacant lot across the street (this we learned from his sister, who was in the car behind John).  She invited us to come back with a big truck and take all the crap we wanted out of the yard.  Wonder what his neighbors think?

Just down the street was another interesting sight.  20150310_15324420150310_153410Seems like anything goes in Austin!

We’re getting back on the bikes this afternoon, heading back into the city for more treats and eye candy.  Sure wish the sun would come out for a bit.

 

 

22 thoughts on “Austin, Days 1 and 2

  1. It was great meeting you at McKinney State Park – we enjoyed the beer and conversation. To help support your quest for the best Austin barbeque, we talked to our kids that live here and their advice was Franklins, La Barbeque, Saltlick,Terry Blacks, or Micklethwait’s. Safe travels back to Michigan.

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    • We’re batting .400. We loved LaBarbecue, and some of Terry Black. Also hit Vic’s (their sausage was the best). We’ll have to save the rest for trip two!

      On your recommendation, we are now nestled into a great spot at Goose Island.

      Hope we run into you again sometime. It was great sharing stories. When you come back to Michigan, give us a holler.

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  2. Most of the blog posts I’ve read about Austin say it’s boring and not worth seeing. Your take on it was, as usual, a downright enjoyable adventure.

    I couldn’t read the letters due to a lousy connection, but I’d love to. Hope I remember to come back when I have a decent signal.

    The $38 dollar rib did load for me. I’m still trying to process that! :D

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    • Sharon, we make most places much harder than they need to be, it seems. But if it was all smooth and sanitized, it works be let still reading.

      We are still ‘processing’ that $38 rib ourselves. Have had two meals, and a happy hour portion still lives on. We may be bbq’d out. Told John today that I would kill for a real salad. That’s a sign…. But, we were in a BBQ joint today for lunch, and the guy ahead of us in line had an even bigger rib that he ordered for himself. Within 15 minutes, he had finished it plus a Coke, and was back on his motorcycle. We were flabbergasted.

      We’ve left lots undone and unseen in Austin. I’m in no hurry to return, but it probably deserves a second look.

      Happy travels.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I’ve only been to Texas a few times, while working, and didn’t care for it much. Nothing in your post has changed my opinion, although it was probably “right purdy country” until the humans came along and spoiled it. They’re all crazy in Texas, and proud of it!

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    • You hit the nail squarely on the head, Jerry. I’ve been dreading this leg of our trip, as I have a built-in Texas prejudice (exact reason unknown, but it’s largely political). But it’s such a big state that it requires an awfuil lot of time to pass thru. Grin & bear it, I guess..

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  4. We enjoyed our tour of the LBJ Ranch and wanted to make it to Austin, but the weather pushed us onward. Hopefully the weather will cooperate for you enough to enjoy your time there.

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    • Seems like there is far too much in Austin to absorb in a couple of days, so we will have to plan another visit, too. We must quit eating ourselves into a brisket stupor. It’s getting annoying!

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  5. You guys might have missed a real treat by passing up the WWII Pacific War Museum. Patty and I went there last year. There’s so much to see that your ticket is good for two days. We spent two days there and didn’t see everything. Of course if that’s not your thing then it might have been boring!!!

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    • I can do a bit of war museum, but two days would be beyond my attention span. There are only so many guns, uniforms, and strategy maps I can absorb. Would much rather spend my time in the big natural outdoor museum.

      Are you home, or still Snowboarding?

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  6. Bummed that Fredericksburg is too cutesy. . .really want to check it out, along with New Braunfels and Guadalupe State Park. Probably was flooded when you guys were there, though. Now, Mellow Johnny’s. I guess it’s OK to go there since Lance is no longer involved. He has always made my hair stand on end and, if you’ve seen that documentary, I think you wouldn’t want to even touch anything he ever touched IMHO. However that’s all water under the bridge, isn’t it and no doubt Chuck would want to go there as well. Love that you visited the LBJ ranch. My Dad was a press secretary to Sen. Geo. Smothers of FL during the 60s. He was one of Kennedy’s, and then LBJ’s, running buddies. He’s got LOTS of stories about just how down-to-earth LBJ was. . .”earthy” would probably be a better description. Keep on livin’ the dream! Everything’s bigger in Texas!

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    • Jennifer, I could always tell that you came from good, strong liberal stock!

      We might not have given Fredericksburg a fair shake – we were in a hurry to push on, and all the little shops were just overly cute, to me. Haven’t gotten to New Braunfels yet. There just doesn’t seem to be time to properly explore. We HAVE to be moving eastward, but we still seem to be dragging our feet.

      Lance turned into a slimeball, yes. But, I so wanted to believe……

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  7. I was stationed at Fort Hood for a time and got to visit the LBJ ranch in 1968. The only thing I remember is that the gift shop was selling little vials of water from LBJ lake for $1.00 a piece. That was a fair amount of money back in 1968 for a tiny vial of water ???

    I can also relate to the American Airlines letter. I was on a flight from Atlanta Hartsfield Airport and was seated and strapped in ready for departure. For some reason we weren’t pulling away from the gate. Then I saw Jimmy Carter (and 2 SS guys) walking up and down the aisles shaking everybody’s hand, grinning ear to ear. I guess I can say I got to shake Jimmy Carters hand but I’ll never get that 45 minutes back. The stewardesses kept coming over the PA saying that we can’t pull back until everyone is in their seats, but they didn’t pay any attention :-)

    As for the rain in Austin, it couldn’t be more deserved. That place was hit extremely hard in the recent drought. My friend who lives on one of the chain of lakes just west of there lost 2/3 of his home value when the Pedernales River and all the lakes completely dried up. I have videos on my channel of us boating on this beautiful lake and then it completely disappeared several years ago. Hope all that eco-system gets restored.

    Austin is also famous for the annual Lone Star Rally held in April I believe. I’m sure John would like it. Check out our video from there a couple years ago :-)

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    • Neil, if you think of the quality of time that defines a typical airport trip, that 45 minutes was probably the best airport time ever.

      There’s lots of water in the Padernales River right now. LBJ would be happy with the way it’s rolling thru his ranch.

      Hope the snow continues to melt away now that you’re home and will have to actually shovel the stuff. Take care.

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  8. Love the letters! I always knew politics was based on the availability of “Let’s Make a Deal”. (Oh – and I can almost smell that great looking beef rib.)

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    • All I could think about was that Dear American Airlines (did you read that book?) may not have been too original. John gnawed on that rib bone, then we let Jezzy have a second licking before throwing it out. For $38, I should have had a turn as well!

      On Wed, Mar 11, 2015 at 11:51 AM, campshaws wrote:

      >

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