I’ve been ignoring this for awhile, and it might be time to pack it in for the time being. Time will tell, of course.
This weekend past we traveled to Texas to attend Carl and Amanda’s “wedding” get-together (even though they were married months ago).
06072012 – up at 0400. Holy crap, what was I thinking booking a 6:40 flight from Cleveland? Gnaahh. Security at CLE at this time of morning consists of a single guy checking boarding passes, and a single backscatter scanner (with its usual complement of TSA ilk), so getting through takes a long time. Girlface demands coffee, so I go get some at Dunkin’ Donuts. Long flight to Dallas Fort Worth. At the time, I was halfway through rereading A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again and so it is a little disconcerting to see the big capital letters DFW everywhere in the airport. Short flight to Austin, which is a nice airport with attached major car rental facility.
I would like to state for the record that this was the first time I had booked an entire package through a site like Priceline (flight + hotel + car rental) and it was pretty goddamn terrific. Having everything paid for in advance made it so that there were very few questions to answer after the soul-draining flight. I do not know why I am loathe to admit that it was a good experience. There is some part of me that recoils from the idea of travel “package deals” that I have not properly examined. Perhaps it is some desire to fly by the seat of my pants, to travel and experience things spontaneously. Whatever it is, it will be ignored if I’m ever traveling to Austin again, because seriously, was it ever convenient to have everything laid out w/r/t accommodations.
So anyway, pick up luggage, pick up rental car at convenient attached garage, decide to grab food before checking in. In a fit of nostalgia we decide to go to Trudy’s. We walk in and nobody is there. It was kinda eerie. Turns out they don’t open ’til 1400. It is now 1200 and we haven’t eaten since 0330 (adjusted for CDT). We are getting a little jangly thanks to travel + bloodsugar. We decide to check in since we’re near the hotel and deal with food promptly thereafter. Check in, room is a suite, and terrific. There is a Chuy’s nearby! Go to Chuy’s for lunch. Feel much better. Unsurprisingly, middling Tex-Mex in Austin is head and shoulders better than any in Ohio, and, being Austin, it’s very veggie-friendly.
So then we relax a little bit and head to our first big family event: dinner at Grandma’s. We arrive without issue (thanks, GPS!) and are joined by Becca’s dad (his name is Russell, but there are many Russells and it’s hard for me to think of him as such on short notice), and Carol and some fellow whose name was George, I think. Sheryl and Lauren are also there. There’s a wide spread of delicious bites, from summer squash casserole to potato salad to pie. Later on Elly and Amanda join us, and later still, Carl. Lauren, Becca, Elly, and I end up spending a good deal of time outside, playing with sidewalk chalk and then the night is more or less over and we return to the hotel where we watch probably too many episodes of Chopped and fall asleep. It was a surreally long day.
06082012 – Overcast in Austin, which is perfect because we have the day to ourselves and want to walk about and the clouds mean we won’t completely burn to a crisp. We grab coffee and head out1 to LBJ Library2, which is evidently under considerable renovation, and so only the lobby and tenth floor are available. We took some photos, walked around the dry fountains, and then hopped back in the car to park it shortly thereafter down by the stadium. We spent the next few hours walking about campus. Visited a couple art supply stores (to buy presents for Lauren and to obtain a new sketchbook for me) and walked up to Kerbey Lane on Guadaloupe, only to find it was closed for renovation (augh). So we walked back across campus to the car and drove to the main location for Kerbey Lane, which was delightful as usual.
After this, we stopped by the grocery and bought some dessert (ice cream for me, slice of cake for becca) at the nearby Randall’s. About halfway back to the hotel, a few things became apparent: a) traffic was horrible on 35 and associated frontage roads b) the pint of ice cream was melting, and c) I really didn’t want to go back out for dinner after we got back to the hotel. So we ended up eating the ice cream in the car and driving to HEB to gather dinner provisions to have at the hotel, and a fairly relaxing evening ensued (with more viewing of various Food channel programs, primarily, I believe, Diners, Drive-ins and Dives).
06092012 – Saturday morning. Star Co. coffee. I don’t remember immediately what transpired between late breakfast and the party. [I later recalled: we went to the hotel pool.] The party was held at Carl + Amanda’s house, mostly in the their backyard, which had been set up with long table and chairs (which had to have been rented/loaned). When we arrived, the Texas sun was blazing strong, and it wasn’t until it set behind the other houses that I was really comfortable. Music was playing the entire time and I had a lot of first meeting conversations with relatives. Behind it all was a faint but distinctive cooing sound, and it occurred to me to ask Carl if a neighbor kept pigeons or mourning doves. turns out that the neighborhood just has a LOT of said birds. It was a little surreal, as a background noise for a party.
Catering was provided by Sugar Shack BBQ, but they had an excellent grilled veggie wrap option, so we ate plenty well. Being somewhat (hah) introverted, I do a lot better in small groups than at parties, so for the second half of the festivities, I spent a lot of time just watching people. Near the end it became obvious that Carl expected to see us at brunch the following day, so we called it a tiny bit early and went back to the hotel at a not too crazy hour. I’m glossing over a lot, but overall it was a good time.
06102012 – Brunch! Brunch at Carl’s was pretty great. The backyard aftermath wasn’t completely horrible, but did look a bit post-apocalyptic. Amanda had prepared a couple quiches (mine was mushroom and leek and was outstanding), asparagus, mimosas, coffee, some fruit, and a “french toast casserole” which was delicious, but the less I know about its sugar+butter content, the better. It was a nice time, seeing Sarah, Eric, et al again, and way more satisfying culinarily3 than I had expected, “brunch” evoking, for me, way more fruit and less hearty (read: substantial) fare.
After departing with the promise of showing up to dinner at La Margarita, Becca and I drove around Lake Travis (soon to be renamed Travis Crater, on account of the drought), slightly in awe of the foliage (or lack thereof), the water (again, lacking) and the housing (which ranged from shanty to mansion4 in surprising proximity). We then had a respite at the hotel before heading over to Carol’s, where we briefly sat and chatted before gathering to head over to dinner.
Dinner wasn’t great, food-wise, but was lovely. We sat with Eric + Sarah and their parents and chatted and sipped margaritas.
And then it was over and we were saying good-byes in the parking lot. We went back to the hotel (after obtaining an ice cream treat for later, thanks again, HEB), packed, watched a little television.
06112012 – Up at 0400. What is wrong with me? At least the traffic on 35 at that time of morning is negligible. Security at AUS on a Monday morning is several orders of magnitude better than at CLE at the same time on Thursday. Amazing what having just a couple more pass-checkers and scanners can do. Another two flights home. Luggage, parking shuttle, drive to grocery, back home. Smash kitty into face. Decompress for nine hours and hit the hay, ready for work the next morning.
1 On the way down highway 35, we pass, going the opposite direction, a pack of 200-300 motorcycles. There was evidently a ROT (Republic of Texas, I shit you not) motorcycle rally and something like 50k riders (and 200k spectators) in town for Friday night’s festivities. Yeesh.
2 LBJ Library is the only free Presidential Library in the nation. It is also where Becca and I hung out by the fountains and took some photos the weekend back in 2001 when she left for Ohio. So we decided to take some revisited photos this weekend over a decade later. Austin is in the throes of a years-long drought, however, and so three fountains at LBJ had been converted to flower beds and the other was dry. This theme of dry fountains all over campus would be a running theme for the day’s walk.
3 I don’t think my spell-check should yell at me for “culinarily”.
4 My immediate sense of awe w/r/t to mansions was the cooling costs, considering so many included a lot of floor to ceiling windows.