January 23 Loafing near Austin

Today was a rest and relaxation day. We got fuel for tomorrow’s drive to Columbus. We went to the liquor store next to Costco to buy some Irish Cream sold here under the name of Blarney which makes me wonder whether or not we should drink it. Other than that, we were quite sedate and spent a good part of the day in unproductive, fun stuff.

January 22 Austin II

Trevor and Gina were gracious enough to offer their guide services to us again today and we jumped at the offer. Unfortunately for me, they are still dining under the vegan lifestyle and I was skunked on getting any food that I would normally consider palatable.
Today’s dining selection was Thai Fresh. On our way in, we were happy to see that we had not chosen an easy place to park because a sign fell off the roof of the building where we were originally going to park. The sign made a wet slapping sound as it hit the concrete where we didn’t park. The Thai Fresh Restaurant does serve some meat items but today they were out of the chicken I ordered. There was one other lunch suggestion that the staff made; it was a pork belly sandwich with stuff on it I normally would not put in my mouth because of my peculiar dining habits. It also did not have any meat on it – nothing but fat. After a considerable wait, the food started to arrive in little dribbles, delivered by a guy with horn-rimmed glasses missing one of the temples. The glasses fit funny giving the wearer an appearance of having one enormous eye and a patch of flesh where the other eye should be.
The restaurant has a “no tipping” policy which is appropriate because the prices are pretty high and management can pay their staff quite well out of the excessive amounts collected with the bills. In summation: this is not the type of place I would normally go although I imagine rich vegetarians might like it. Service is almost glacial. Maybe they should rescind their tipping policy to get their staff moving such that ordinary viewers can see they are not statues.
We left Thai Fresh and wandered through the Bouldin Creek neighborhood to look at the spectacular architecture of both the residences and nearby downtown Austin. Austin has some magnificent highrise buildings, all surrounding the muddy brown state capital building.
We drove over to the state house, parked and strolled over to the capital building to take a look inside. Donald Trump was recently inaugurated as President and it seems quite a few women are really pissed off about that. There was a large demonstration crowd of mostly women on the steps of the capital and they were not using endearing terms about the new administration.
Once we got inside, we were exposed to an absolutely stunning rotunda with massive wings extending in four directions. We wandered through some galleries with many pictures of Texas legislators, many of whom seemed to have served for life. We visited both the senate and house of representatives chambers which are liberally decorated with much gingerbread and architectural confections. The building is impressive and visiting is free.
We felt compelled to again seek rewards for our day’s activities so we wandered through some gorgeous Austin neighborhoods before stopping at the Beer Plant, another place that, unfortunately, only served vegan fare so I settled for a few varieties of porter for dinner. Peggy had to take over the driving responsibilities but we eventually made it back to Leander without getting stabbed by the Texas DOT toll thieves.
Texas toll roads only allow two forms of payment; get an RFID chip for your rig and an account to pay or you will get a nice picture and bill in the mail for every time you screwed up and got on the tollway. There are no toll booths so occasional users get rogered. We would not get our bill by mail until we returned to San Diego which will not be until after a warrant would be issued for our arrest for non-payment. There are no signs or posters telling idiots like us where or how to get an RFID tag from TxTex so that doesn’t work either. We like many things about Texas but their toll road system is difficult for non-residents.
There are some Austin photos if you clickhere

January 21 Austin I

We have finished our necessary re-stocking of supplies and, therefore, we had the day to spend with Trevor and Gina who are cronies of ours from San Diego. They were nice enough to guide us through the highway hell that is Austin. We are thoroughly confused about how the roads and highways are configured here and were delighted to have some instruction.
We picked our friends up at their apartment and asked them to take us to a restaurant. Unfortunately for me, they are vegans and finding a restaurant that caters to both eating styles in Austin is impossible. We started by going to the Bouldin Creek Cafe where they offer an assortment of meatless dishes, much to my chagrin. I ended up with eggs and hash browns cooked in something other than butter that were almost tasty. Peggy got a form of Eggs Benedict that had a slab of material called Satan or something to replace the normally quite tasty Canadian Bacon. Despite the served food consisting of little bits of various veggies and fruits, it does not stop the management from charging exorbitant prices for the parsimonious servings.
We made a stop at Austin’s Zilker Botanical Garden which is a nifty oasis in the midst of a huge metropolitan area. After a bit of wandering there, we all decided we were both thirsty and in need of a reward so we hopped into Charlotte and made our way across town to Austin Beerworks where they serve excellent porter and also allow dogs. Many very happy dogs were spotted and petted while malingering in the fine alfresco patio.
Our day was about done by the time we had enough porter so we dropped Trevor and Gina back at their apartment and blindly attempted to find our way back to Leander and stay off the toll roads that are ubiquitous here.
There are two pix if you click here

January 20 Shopping in Leander

Right close to the Leander KOA we were able to find some stores where we needed to go. We started out with fuel but soon followed up with a visit to Lowe’s (12 volt fluorescent lamp) and a stop at Costco (too much food to fit in the freezer). After one of Costco’s terrific polish dogs each, we moseyed outside the store where they have a separate, attached liquor store, not affiliated with Costco other than having a common wall. They do not sell Kirkland Irish Cream in this store, even though it is Costco’s brand. They sell Bailey’s for about $35 a handle but we found a nearby, dirtbag Irish Cream product called Blarney selling for $19. We got two.
Our route through Texas going through Austin is fortuitous because two former San Diego friends of ours, Gina and Trevor, have been living here for the last year because that’s where Trevor’s work took him. We barged into their neck of the woods hoping to have some time with them and, zowie!, they will be available for escorting the elderly around town tomorrow. I understand there is a place where a big cloud of bats erupts from under a bridge or a cave in the evenings and I would be delighted to see it for myself.

January 19 Lakehills to Austin

Today we reluctantly departed from TT Lake Medina and headed northeast. Due to the nature of Texas geography and traditional routes for trade, there are no roads directly from areas west of San Antonio to the Austin area. To start our journey, we were obliged to go southeast. Near San Antonio, we joined up with pretty heavy traffic on I-10 until we got to I-35 where we turned northeast.
On the map, San Antonio and Austin look like cities 60 miles apart. In reality, it is pretty much continuous city all the way up I-35. Moderately heavy traffic but pretty good roads once you get the hang of how they are laid out.
North of Austin we pulled off at TX-189, not to be confused with TX-189A which is a toll road. We drove along the cheapskate route for about 10 miles and then turned east on Hero Road where we pulled into Leander NW Austin KOA. We generally shy away from KOA facilities because they are expensive and crowded but decided to give them another try. When we called in advance to make a reservation, the nice lady (Mary) indicated it would cost $120 for a five night stay. That sounded very reasonable so we went ahead and booked the spot.
Upon arrival, we found out that Mary was bonkers and, in addition to $44 they had already collected from us, it would be another $177 to stay in their unremarkable park for five days. We forked over the $100 in mordida and pulled into space 9, a pull-through. Mary, who was not in the office at the time of our check-in, called later in the evening and initially tried to blame an office trainee named Margaret for the initial $120 quote. Peggy calmly told her that she had only spoken with Mary before, never Margaret. At this point, Mary started getting excited and naming other blameworthy folks, including the customer. My dear Peggy actually had to raise her voice, a rare occurance, when dealing with the blameless nincompoop. After a bit of Peggy barking, Mary resumed trying to be reasonable and said she will see what she could do, which will probably be nothing. Now I remember why we don’t stay in KOA facilities. They are expensive and crowded.

January 18 Into San Antonio

The weather finally cooperated today and we took off early for a spin into San Antonio. Normally we would have gone to the River Walk or the Alamo but this time we started out by going to a restaurant called LuLu’s where they are famous for offering a 3 pound cinnamon roll for a mere $10.
I actually wanted to go because LuLu’s is also famous for their chicken fried steak, which has been the point of my food quest for the last 28 months. Although LuLu’s chicken fried steak has a savory coating and their gravy was tasty, the actual steak was a bit boot-like. Their fries were also very good but their corn side recently came out of a can. Prices were reasonable.
I still have not found chicken fried steak that can match Dean’s or Jake’s, both in Oregon.
After lunch, we took a spin through San Antonio and some spooky ghetto sections until we arrived at an early 18th Century mission called Mission San Jose. Mission San Jose is about halfway down a line of missions with the Alamo being the north end and Mission Espada at the south end. San Jose is built sort of like a western stockade; a continuous wall in a big rectangle enclosing a church, a granary where they stored sufficient food for a year, 4 water wells, a grist mill, workshops, a convento which was used to house visitors and clergy and a sophisticated aqueduct system for irrigation of crops. There are also some 85 residences inside the mission compound, all with common back walls that make up the exterior walls of the stockade. The structures are pretty impressive considering they were built more than 250 years ago. This mission is remarkably well preserved and is worth a visit. It is a National Park but it is free.
We bailed out of San Antonio before rush hour turned the drive into a nightmare. We prepped the Barbarian Invader for travel tomorrow because we are headed for Leander, near Austin.
We got some photos on the way and in San Antonio which you can see if you click here

January 16 Raining in Texas

The weather has been a bit uncooperative for a few days and we have been staying pretty close to the trailer. Last night there was a series of violent thunderstorms that blew through the area giving us hours of brilliant lightning and considerable cracking, rumbling and window-shaking of the associated thunder.
Today we went into Bandera to shop for groceries. It appears that vegetarians, gluten disdainers, diabetics, those with heart disease and vegans need not shop in Bandera’s Lowe’s Grocery unless intending to be disappointed. If we had driven 50 miles each way, we could have found a larger assortment or less expensive groceries but we were unwilling to go that far so we paid a bit more in Bandera. We are going to Austin next and figured we would drop in at Costco and Trader Joe’s when we get there. Our liquor supply is getting down to the size of a small pyramid and we will need some of that, too.

January 15 Still loafing in Lakehills TX

The weather is still not too good here but worse east of us. There is ice everywhere from Oklahoma to the Appalachians, irritating about 20 million. We are going to look for the internet today because there is certainly no wifi where we are staying.
While I type this, I can look out the windows of the Invader and see not less than one each of cardinals, cara-caras (a big eagle-looking raptor), meadowlarks, hawks, black-crested titmice, Egyptian geese, white egrets, blue herons, doves, coots, fat yellow-bellied squirrels and deer. Based on the nighttime ruckus coming from the marshlands between us and the lake, we suspect there may be a whole zoo of additional characters we have only heard so far. The amount of wildlife here is stunning.
Peggy spent a good part of the morning trying to get pictures off her computer and onto her phone by photographing the computer screen. Her efforts seem to work better when it is darker so she spent quite some time under a blanket with her phone and the computer.
Some pix can be seen by clicking here

January 14 Slugging it at Lake Medina

The weather is turning against us doing much exploring but we still got something done today. We did the laundry. Actually, Peggy did most of the thinking and work and I folded the rectangular stuff and packed bags of clothes from truck to laundry and back. I was also in charge of sticking the quarters in the slots and tricking the machines into performing their function. While we were waiting on the laundry, we took a short drive a little south along the edge of the lake to where we spotted big fires burning in the brush this morning. We found some smoky places where it appears there are land-clearing operations in progress. The folks here cut down the jungle of juniper and oak brush, stack the slash in big piles and light it off after adding an automobile tire for kindling. We didn’t see any controlled burns that became uncontrolled later. Charlotte and the Barbarian Invader have sprinklings of ash but I imagine the next flurry of rain will wash them off.
Wind and gobs of rain are passing through the area here but we are actually quite fortunate. Not too far east of us is the trailing edge of a massive ice storm that is inconveniencing folks from northern Texas to Pennsylvania and we are delighted to be away from it. There are dozens or maybe dozens of dozens of deer right here in the Thousand Trails Lake Medina campground. There is an abundance of bird species here and we are having a great time watching them. At night, we can go outside the Barbarian Invader and listen to countless creatures hobnobbing with each other. There are a lot of them because it sounds like a distant concert with a big audience. We are going to fire up the night scope one of these nights and see what’s out there.
Check out the pictures by clicking here