About Me

Tired of the mundane and craving an adventure, on Saturday, May 22nd, 2010, I embarked on the ultimate American road trip through all fifty states. After nearly a year and a half on the road, on a budget of less than 50 bucks a day, this is my story...

Texas: South Padre Island

Saturday, August 27th Leaving my wonderful cousin Drea and her boyfriend Jeremy in San Antonio (after a quick stop to see the "World's Largest Pair of Cowboy Boots" at the North Star Mall), I headed to South Padre Island, "the Southernmost Tropical tip of Texas," stopping for an oyster picnic lunch at the awesome Kenedy County Rest Stop (complete with beautiful bathroom murals, lol!), south of Kingsville on highway 77 (the Great Texas Coastal Birding Trail), on the way. 

I was totally reminded of Wildwood Crest, NJ as I entered beautiful South Padre Island, and I won't soon forget the terrible car accident I witnessed that flipped a boat and totalled a suburban, at the intersection at KOA, as I tried to find the Visitor's Center!  I couldn't stay and give a report to the police, because I was actually looking down at the point of impact, but quickly looked up when I heard the loud BOOM!  

At the Visitor's Center was a big, stunningly beautiful sand castle I couldn't help but stand and admire, before getting some area info and maps from the attendant at the front counter.  The next hour was was spent enjoying a drive up and down the main drag and having a nice chat with my mom over the phone.

Now THAT'S A Sand Castle!

Then I got a wonderful text from Kat, a couchsurfer who was kind enough to let me stay at her place!  I met her at her home, and she introduced me to her boyfriend Chris, and the 3 of us got acquainted as they finished baking their cakes for the pool party they took me to downstairs.  There was music, floaty rafts, beer and cake - I had a BLAST.  

Then we had a ball eating yummy shrimp quesadillas, singing karaoke and chatting at Jake's Bar & Grill.  I sang Baby Got Back and then Save a Horse Ride a Cowboy with Kat, which really got the crowd going (she's a natural performer with wonderful stage presence).  And Chris even sang Miley Cyrus' "Party in the USA!"  Before we left I met Joe, a friendly/horny guy who came to our table and struck up a conversation with me, lol.  Kat & Chris and I took a cab home, and I had a master bedroom suite all to myself! 

Okay, If You Look REAL Close You Can See Fang Marks, lol

Oh, and I did I mention I got bitten by Kat's California King Snake?  Yep, I had the blood and fang marks to prove it (I think it was accidentally startled when Kat picked it up from me).  And I got along great with Waffles the kitten (who really grew to love me and follow me around), Kitty (grown cat), Stella (Chris' dog) and even Zuli - Kat's very protective and somewhat aggressive dog.

Sunday, August 28th 

I woke up around 8am, chatted with Chris and Kat a little before she went to work, then Chris took me paddleboarding for the first time!  It was great; we paddled to the Birding & Nature Center, saw big crabs, mullets jumping clear out of the water (as high as 2 feet!), snowy egrets, blue herons and pelicans up pretty close!  If only I had brought my camera!  On the way back, their friend Bill met us out on the water and the 3 of us went back to his place for a dip in his beautiful deck pool.  

One of Many Bright, Funky Buildings

Then Chris took me to Sea Turtle Inc whose wonderful 3-part mission is to "Rescue, rehabilitate, and release injured sea turtles, Educate the public, and Assist with conservation efforts for all marine turtle species."  I saw several endangered sea turtles there for protection, treatment and recovery from humans' carelessness (missing limbs and cracked shells from boat propeller's, snagged fishing line, eating balloons, and other crap that people throw into the ocean with total disregard for equally important marine life).  I fed romaine lettuce to Jerry the sea turtle, saw the little one-year olds (only the size of my hand!) and attended Kat's presentation (about Sea Turtle Inc's mission, general info about sea turtles and what humans can do to prevent further harm to them) before Chris took me back to Kat's so I could grab a bite to eat and do some laundry.  While at Sea Turtle Inc, Kat asked me to stay through Tuesday to go with her and a friend to Mexico for a day!  Heck yes!

One of Many Turtles Rescued Turtles at Sea Turtle, Inc

Then I went to Schlitterbahn's Outdoor Water Park for some fun in the sun with Joe from last night and his friends Tom and Regina (but we had fun calling her Ragina, haha - it was only in jest).  The lazy Rio River was fantastic, but the best part of the park was not ever having to get out of the water while waiting for the chutes and slides, because they're all connected to the river, and there were no lines!!!  And they have a pool-side bar that we made good use of, lol.  Afterward, the four of us went to Daddy's Seafood & Cajun Kitchen for some really good seafood!  I had crawfish and regular fish and rice and fries and bacon wrapped shrimp - lots of leftovers :)

Then I met Kat and Chris back at their place and we watched a little South Park before bed.

Schlitterbahn Water Park!

Monday, August 29th
This morning I went with Kat to run errands and have ID tracker chips put in the dogs in Harlingen, about an hour or so away.  We stopped at Bob'z World to take a couple pictures with all the crazy fiberglass sea statues.  We didn't go in and support their business though (and never will), because they actually sell endangered sea shells!!!  Would you go to Alaska and buy a stuffed Polar Bear cub?  I would hope not.  Then Kat took me to the original, 130-ton
Iwo Jima Memorial statue at the Marine Military Academy.  It was used for the plaster model of the famous bronze sculpture in Washington, DC 

Before heading back, we stopped so I could get a highly-recommended "Q" burrito from the popular "Stripes" store (like a 7-Eleven and partnered with Valero Gas Stations; common in the region).  It's a heaven-stuffed, warm tortilla filled with eggs, cheese, potato and beans - YUM.  Upon arriving back at Kat's on South Padre Island, we started watching Jurassic Park (it never tires, heh heh), then Kat went to a meeting at work, while I went went to the beach and collected seashells (it's legal here if they're uninhabited :) and blogged a little bit at McDonald's.  After Kat and Chris were back from work we watched the rest of Jurassic Park.  "Dennis, our lives are in your hands, and you have butterfingers?!"  =)

Iwo Jima Memorial

Tuesday, August 30th
This morning I went with Kat and a c0-worker of hers to Mexico for a day, woo-hoo!  I had never been there before, and it was only about an hour away, so of course I said, heck yes!  We parked in a little lot on the U.S. side for only $2, deposited 25 cents in the turnstyle, and just like that we crossed the bridge over the Rio Grande into Nuevo Progreso (or just Progreso as most call it).  

"As soon as visitors cross the border, they know why Texans flock to the shops in Progreso. The scene is exactly as Hollywood might have drawn it up. The dusty streets are highlighted by a variety of brightly colored buildings that line a long stretch of Avenida Benito Juarez, the main street that bustles all day with shoppers and Mexican hawkers of all ages and selling styles. Dentists and pharmacies occupy many of the storefronts: Winter Texans living the cheap life in South Texas like to cross for affordable procedures and highly discounted drugs.  Shoppers cruise the sidewalks with a cold beer in hand while Mexican children offer shoe shines and wind chimes, young men sell pirated DVDs, women stand at the front of their salons offering haircuts and the infamous hair braiding, while the older men sell everything in between, including jewelry, glassware, lucha libre (Mexican wrestling) masks." 

Supposed to be Running Errands, lol

Kat and I each got our teeth cleaned at Mustre Dental Clinic (it's only $20!), then the 3 of us went to "Jessica's" for lunch.  After everyone was nearly done with their food, my order of mixed seafood finally came, which holds the record as the blandest seafood I've ever had in my life (apart from the delicious complimentary chips & salsa). I felt so bad, because Kat's friend was treating me (because I drove), but I just couldn't eat it, and the service was horrible (only for me - our male server treated my friends like royalty; I wonder why...heh heh).  According to Kat's friend, the place had really taken a dive.  So word to the wise - eat elsewhere :)  The atmosphere was lively and festive though, and I didn't let our server or food sour the experience.  There was a guy playing live music on the keyboards and singing, and people started dancing - our server danced with Kat!  We had a great time.

First Ever Meal in Mexico!

Then we spent the rest of the afternoon walking down the busy, dusty street, poking our heads into several of the stores - Kat especially loved all the souvenir shops, and she tried on colorful sundresses - she bought a beautiful yellow, orange and purple one, picked out by yours truly (and she managed to negotiate the price down a little).  A couple of the souvenir shops were HUGE, and by the time we done in Progreso, Kat and I were carrying several bags, a big, mock terra-cotta planter in the shape of a turtle, two bottles of beer, and I bought myself a cowboy hat for $9 :)

The Quiet Side of Town - Progreso, Mexico

As we neared the bridge to the U.S., we came upon a very friendly, malnourished mixed-breed dog, all skin and bones, with no family.  Kat asked the Mexican army officers about it, and they said it showed up a couple of days ago.  They chuckled as Kat immediately returned with a couple of tacos and a bottle of water to feed it.  It took him a couple of moments, then he began to scarf it down.  She asked the officers if it would be impossible to take it across the border, without papers or anything, and they said she could certainly try.  Kat asked what we should name him, and I replied with "Lucky" because he was lucky that Kat, with her heart of gold and insistence of helping however she can, stumbled upon his path.  Kat agreed, so she named him "Suerte," the Spanish word for "Lucky."  We approached the turn-styles at the entrance to the bridge, we looked around and none of the border officials said anything; they let us pass without a question.  Kat then called Suerte into the inspection building everyone is required to pass through.  Here, the guard asked if Suerte was hers, his name and his sex.  Satisfied, he let us pass, with no further questions or concerns.  And just like that, Suerte hopped into my car, indeed a lucky dog, with a new home and loving family, where he'd be happy and healthy the rest of his days :)

Here's to Good Friends :)

On the way to South Padre Island, Kat's friend mentioned her vet that is open to walk-ins, since Kat has other animals that must be considered, before bringing in Suerte, who might have infections and such.  Well, the kind people at the Veterinarian Center checked him for all sorts of things, of which he had nothing - he was indeed a lucky dog!  He was very well-behaved and just kept smiling and licking us, so happy to share his love with us.  They sent us off with quality dog food for a healthy diet, and some medicine, and we were off!


After dropping Kat's friend off, we gave Suerte the ultimate test - checking how adaptive he'd be to his new surroundings in Kat's home, with two dogs and two cats, all of which had established alpha and non-alpha roles.  Suerte was obviously nervous, tucking his tail in between his legs, and coming over to me and Kat several times to regain comfort-ability, while the other animals curiously sniffed, played and tested.  Surprisingly, he really had no problems, other than minor difficulty with the oldest cat, which would be worked out with time.  Suerte got a bath, which was a fun challenge, lol, as he kept him leaping out at any chance he got.

Home at Last w/ Suerte

I picked up some dinner from Dirty Al's (fantastic blackened catfish!), and we watched Jurassic Park 2, then I said my heartfelt goodbye to Chris, since I wouldn't be seeing him again before I left.  And the next morning was even more difficult, as I said goodbye to Kat's family of sweet pets and Suerte, a dog who does nothing but smile and love, and then to Kat.  It's never easy saying goodbye and I couldn't help but get a little teary eyed and choked up when leaving.  Usually I can at least hold it 'til I get to the car!


Texas: Family & San Antonio

Scottish Rite Cathedral

Friday, ‎August ‎19th
I left the German village of Fredericksburg this afternoon and arrived at my cousin Aundrea's at 7pm, about 70 miles away in San Antonio.  We hadn't really talked since we were kids, and even then our families weren't very close, but I'm so glad she contacted me and invited me for a visit after so long; she opened her door and gave me a big hug, and introduced me to her Fiancé Jeremy.  He's a commercial roofer, so he was beat after a hard day in the hot, summer sun, but that was fine; it allowed Aundrea and I to catch up on everything and how our lives have taken their courses, and of course we reminisced of childhood memories, like the magic of Christmas at Grandma's house.  Though we are very different people now, we haven't lost ourselves, and I still see the kind, shy cousin from back in the day.  

"So Happy Together..."

And that's how we spent the evening, the 3 of us just talking, and I got to know Jeremy a little too.  Jeremy and Aundrea got to know each other online, they've been playing the popular, epic computer game "World of Warcraft" or "WOW" for short, for about 4 years, Aundrea playing from Minnesota, and Jeremy from California, and after a month or so of regular chats on Skype and phone calls, Jeremy followed his heart to Minnesota to be with Aundrea.  They moved to Virginia for a while, then back to Minnesota, then Jeremy moved to Texas (where his mother and grandparents live) for a new job roofing, and Aundrea followed.  Talk about the classic "chase" for love.  Aww... :)

Ever Seen the Inside of a Canon? 
Yep, pretty much what you'd expect, lol.

Saturday, ‎August ‎20th
After a lazy morning the three of us went to Downtown San Antonio to see The Alamo.  To my surprise, it was Drea's (as she's called now) first visit there, too!  "The Alamo, originally known as Mission San Antonio de Valero, is a former Roman Catholic mission and fortress compound, site of the Battle of the Alamo in 1836, and now a museum, in San Antonio, Texas. The compound, which originally comprised a sanctuary and surrounding buildings, was built by the Spanish Empire in the 18th century for the education of local Native Americans after their conversion to Christianity. In 1793, the mission was secularized and soon abandoned. Ten years later, it became a fortress housing the Mexican Army group the Second Flying Company of San Carlos de Parras, who likely gave the mission the name "Alamo."

Fresh Tortillas at HEB

"Although the Alamo fell in the early morning hours of March 6, 1836, the death of the Alamo Defenders (a small band of Texans held out for thirteen days against the Centralist army of General Antonio López de Santa Ann) has come to symbolize courage and sacrifice for the cause of Liberty, and represents nearly 300 years of history.  Three buildings - the Shrine, Long Barrack Museum and Gift Museum with exhibits on the Texas Revolution and Texas History."

I didn't experience the same overwhelming feelings as my dad who nearly cried when visiting the place, but then I am from a younger generation and therefore father removed than he.  I did, however, enjoy exploring the grounds (it's not a big place) and learning of its significance to so many.  We visited the exhibits in the Gift Shop first, then the ones in the Long Barrack.  Drea & Jeremy had plans to bring me to their weekly get-together with Jeremy's family, so we left without seeing the Shrine (church), but that was fine, because I would be in San Antonio long enough to see it.

He Was a Nice Distraction From the Obnoxious
Evangelist Shouting in the Streets of the Alamo

A couple miles before reaching Jeremy's grandparents' house, we stopped at an H-E-B Plus store, so I could check out the Texas version of a Walmart (of course, they have those, too).  Nothing special, but a Texas experience nonetheless.  I got to watch a couple workers make tortillas from scratch, and there were lots of yummy sample stations, including one that we stayed at for an unusually long time - Drea & I had about 5 samples of wine, haha.  I reached the limit of samples and was officially cut off by the HEB employee, lol.  Well I say, don't put out 6 different samples if you don't intend to provide all of them! :)

The Emily Morgan Hotel

We got to Jeremy's Grandparents' house at 5pm and it seemed like Thanksgiving or something, everyone was greeted at the door with warm welcomes and their was food coming out of the oven and place settings thoughtfully set out on the table - it was me, Aundrea, Jeremy, Jeremy's mother, her partner, and his grandparents.  After fun, silly banter over dinner, Jeremy's mom insisted we sit down and watch the movie she brought.  Jeremy and I for sure, and maybe Aundrea, found ourselves uncomfortable as the next 90 minutes was spent watching a conservative evangelist sing his lungs out with "silly songs" berating the government and encouraging home schooling (to keep our kids away from the devil no doubt) among other things, who thinks he's relevant because he's young and goofy.  Was he talented?  Yes.  Was he offensive?  Yes!  And did Jeremy's mom send him on his way with a book about overcoming failure right in front of everyone?  YES!  We should have watched a parenting video on loving your kids.  I was so hurt for him.  How disgusting.  He's a responsible guy who works full time and pays his own bills.  He's not out terrorizing the neighborhood or having children to make up for his own shortcomings.

Along the River Walk

When we got back I made it a point to tell him how proud he should be of himself; that he's not a failure.  Of course, god only knows what damage may have been caused earlier in life with the other disgusting displays of "concern" he was no doubt subjected to.  I'm surprised he turned out as well as he did; a kind, level-headed guy who just wants to be happy like everyone else.  He's a grown man and doesn't need to be reminded of your disapproval of his "living in sin" with his girlfriend or some other crazy, archaic nonsense that religion likes to push.  Your son's happy.  That's enough.  Oh, and I could hardly wait to get out the door when his grandfather started talking to me about politics.  *Sigh*  My friend Alida was raised to know there's three things you don't talk about in front of guests: Religion, Politics and Abortion.  It's disrespectful.  I'm glad everyone felt at ease around me, but don't put me on the spot or try to engage me in controversial discussions when we barely know each other; its rude.  And THAT'S this week's rant, lol.  Be sure to tune in next week, haha.

The River Walk Along La Villita

Sunday, ‎August ‎21st
This morning I headed back into Downtown to check out the rest of The Alamo and explore other parts of the city.  The Alamo Shrine itself, and even the entire grounds for that matter, was surprisingly small, so it didn't take much time to walk through; we did all the exhibit stuff yesterday which makes up the bulk of a visit to The Alamo, so I had the whole rest of the day to check out Downtown.

Main Doors to The Alamo Shrine

I crossed the street and popped into the Visitor's Center to pick up a map, then walked around the corner down to the River Walk, "a network of walkways along the banks of the San Antonio River, one story beneath about 5 miles of downtown, lined by bars, shops and restaurants - it's "the number 1 tourist attraction in Texas."  What a unique park right in the heart of the city!  The most frequented "tourist attraction" part is fun and lively and runs in a loops, and I discovered if you get away from the loop it's a whole other world; a place of tranquility.  Apart from the river itself, and the diverse range of restaurants (from beautiful brunch cafes to Dick's Last Resort - a loud, obnoxious restaurant and bar, where the rudeness from the staff is part of the fun), highlights included the water garden terraces near the Visitor Center, a stop-off at the quaint, little, historic arts village of La Villita (beautiful buildings, art galleries and a Scentchips factory, mmm), beautiful bridges and underpasses, old lampposts and majestic trees.  If there was a definition for "Urban Nature," the River Walk would be it.

A View of Downtown

About halfway into the River Walk loop, I took a detour onto Market and Commerce streets (there are entrances/exits on the River Walk).  I snapped a couple photos of the wonderful red sandstone, Romanesque Revival-style Bexar County Courthouse, before visiting the San Fernando Cathedral built by the same architect.  It's "the oldest cathedral in the United States; the walls of the original church were built between 1738 and 1750, and today form the sanctuary of the cathedral."  I didn't know I'd be completing my Alamo experience by finding the remains of The Alamo heroes entombed in the chapel at the left-hand side entrance of the cathedral.

Market Square

Next I stopped by the Spanish Governor's Palace, a remarkably humble "palace" by today's standards.  "Built in the first half of the 18th century (possibly as early as 1722), it was originally intended to protect the nearby San Antonio de Valero Mission (the Alamo) and the growing colony. It is considered the sole remaining example of an aristocratic early Spanish house in Texas.  The building was actually the residence and working offices of the local presidio captain, and not the palace for the region's Spanish governor" so why they want to call it that and deceive everyone I don't know.  I didn't go in, because I thought an admission fee of $4 was silly, but I got a good sense of the place from peering into the open windows =)

Mi Tierra Restaurant

 I continued up the street and took a couple of the [closed] little O. Henry House, "a two-room dwelling, typical of the homes of early German settlers, built in 1855, occupied by William Sydney Porter, who gained national renown as the short story writer O. Henry."

Just across the street is the vibrant block of Market Square (aka "El Mercado)," a mix of Mexican restaurants and souvenir shops, and the market building with "Mexican cafes and 50 stalls selling handcrafted traditional blankets, clothes, leather and metal goods, all brought from Mexico; it's the largest Mexican market in the nation!"  Before entering the market building I poked around Mi Tierra Restaurant & Bakery, a huge, colorful place serving Tex-Mex dishes 24 hours a day, since 1941, over-accented in a mish-mash of festive lights, murals and garland-type decorations - it's like a pinata exploded!  The market building was fun too, with plenty of neat shops to keep your eyes and wallet busy!

Market Building

I wrapped up my day in Downtown with the completion of the beautiful River Walk loop, then went back to Drea & Jeremy's.  We got ready and hopped into Jeremy's old, red pickup truck for a night at The Alamo Drafthouse.  "Cold beer, hot movies, and delicious snacks and meals; The Alamo Drafthouse is dinner, drinks, movies and events, all under one roof. Our attention to detail in film presentation and programming has earned accolades from the likes of Entertainment Weekly (#1 theater in America), Wired.com (Coolest Movie Theater in the World) and Fandango.com (One of the Best Theaters in the Country).

Mission San José

 "Enjoy a break from our "no talking" policy by yelling out your favorite lines at one of our Quote-Along events. Pull out your cell phone and openly mock the movie you're watching with texts that show up on the screen at HeckleVision. Or just enjoy slumber party classics like Dirty Dancing or Clueless back up on the big screen in an auditorium filled with like-minded fans at our monthly Girlie Night presentations."

"The Alamo is expanding and opening both company-owned and franchised locations across the U.S. Currently there are theaters in Houston and San Antonio, as well as one location in Winchester, VA, and plans are underway to open in several markets in the coming years."

An Underpass Along the River Walk

Kicking back to the very entertaining "Fright Night" film with my delicious pizza (spinach, four cheeses, sundried tomatoes, artichoke hearts, roasted garlic and goat cheese), combined with the Drafthouse's zero tolerance for talking or cell phone use, custom preshows instead of lame ads, and in-movie food service (big menu; great selection, better tasting than you'd expect for a movie theater), the 3 of us had a great time, and I can't wait to go again and order the Guinness milkshake!

Monday, ‎August ‎22nd
Today I dropped Drea off at work and went to El Mirador for a bite, but everything I wanted to try was on the dinner menu, so I had to take a rain-check, instead.  I popped into the historic Aztec Theatre in hopes of seeing "the magnificent chandelier installed in the main lobby in 1929. Weighing over 2,000 pounds, this ornate, 2 story, 12 foot in diameter fixture was billed as 'The largest chandelier in the largest state in the Union,'" however, the lobby and auditorium were closed for rehearsal.  At least I got a taste of the place in the ticketing area; better than nothing.

The Men's Room at Mi Tierra - Not Too Shabby!

I went back to Mi Tierra Restaurant & Bakery and had their cheese enchiladas topped with Green Tomatillo Sauce, Monterrey Jack Cheese and Sour Cream, served with Guacamole, Spanish Rice and Refried Beans.  Muy Bueno!  No visit to Mi Tierra's is complete without a sweet from the bakery case, so I took the waitress' recommendation for an authentic Mexican treat and tried an Empanada de Calabaza - a turnover filled with the traditional sweet pumpkin filling - not bad!

I walked off some of the calories at Mission San José, one of four Spanish frontier missions that makes up the San Antonio Missions National Historical Park.  These missions were communities "established by Catholic religious orders to spread Christianity among the local natives, part of a colonization system that stretched across the Spanish Southwest in the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries.  Known as the 'Queen of the Missions,' this is the largest of the missions and founded on February 23, 172o, with a heavy outer wall built around the main part of the mission, which contained rooms for 350 Indians."

Garcia Art Glass

 At the Visitor's Center I watched "Gente de Razón," an "award-winning film, which tells the story of the native people of 18th-century south Texas, their role in colonizing New Spain, and the results of entering the Spanish missions." It's very sad an entire peoples' culture was lost to the agenda of the Catholic Church; who denounced their ceremonial dances "demonic."  Afterward, I roamed around the property, which includes a church, Indian quarters, grist mill, granary, convento, workshop foundations, bastion, ans exhibits.  It was beautiful; I couldn't stop taking pictures, and lucky for me, because the mission had just been reopened on Friday, after ten months of preservation to the interior of the church structure!

Chile Relleno at El Mirador

Tuesday, ‎August ‎23rd
Today I blogged and went back to El Mirador for a feast of authentic Mexican cuisine!  I arrived at 5pm, which proved to be a great time, as there was hardly anyone there, and it was they were serving both dinner and drinks and food from Happy Hour!  I ordered a $3 margarita, and complimentary fresh baked chips and salsa, queso and the best refried beans I've ever tasted, followed.  What a generous set-up!  Then I ordered the Taco de Langosta appetizer ("tender lobster meat sautéed with spinach, garlic and cheese rolled in a flour tortilla), the Huitlacoche Empanada appetizer (stuffed with huitlacoche, twin cheeses and chipotle adobo on a bed of mixed greens and mandarin oranges), and for the main course, the Chile Relleno (tortilla chip crusted chile pepper, filled with a shrimp chipotle cheese mix, served with Mexican cabbage and frijoles a la charra).  It was all super yummy, but the award goes to the empanada for the best taste and the best value (the lobster taco is a close second for taste).

Wednesday & Thursday, August ‎24th/25th
Day: Blogging, emails, photo uploading (boring!)
Night: Nip Tuck Season 4 - I got sucked back in!

Friday, August 26th
A day of nothing but kicking back, finishing Nip Tuck Season 5 :) 

Saturday, August 27th
Said goodbye to my dear cousin Drea and her Fiancé Jeremy, and got back on the road again, headed for South Padre Island, 300 miles south.

Thanks Drea & Jeremy for a wonderful visit to San Antonio! :)


Texas: Germany in Fredericksburg

The Ausländer Restaurant and Biergarten

Thursday, ‎August ‎18th
Chet and I got back to his place after noon, and he had to head to work, so our goodbyes were short and sweet, and before you knew it, we were going on our separate ways.  I was excited for my next stop, but reluctant to leave behind all the fun we'd been having.  "Parting IS such sweet sorrow."  Well, one thing I know is, Chet will be added to the list of friends to revisit one day!

The Oh-So German Interior of The Ausländer

Just after getting off the phone with my dad on the 260-mile journey to the "Lonestar Bavaria of Fredericksburg," and telling him there's no way my couchsurf request would be successful on such short notice (I quickly sent two requests from Chet's house before leaving), I received a call from Tonya in Fredericksburg, who saved the day!  She wouldn't be getting back home 'til very late, so I would have to find something to do with my time until she got back into town, but that was no problem for me; I had plenty to do!

German Deliciousness at The Ausländer

The first thing I did when I got into Fredericksburg was get the lay of the land, driving up and down the charming streets of Downtown.  "The village of Fredericksburg was founded in 1846 and named after Prince Frederick of Prussia. Old-time German residents often referred to Fredericksburg as Fritztown, a nickname that is still used in some businesses. It is the sister city of Montabaur, Germany. On October 14, 1970, the Fredericksburg Historic District was added to the National Register of Historic Places in Texas."

My New Favorite Brew!

I stopped into The The Ausländer Restaurant and Biergarten for what would be one of the best restaurant meals in a while, and certainly one of the tastiest German meals I've maybe ever had!  It was a veggie burger with sauerkraut, melted Swiss and mayo on grilled pumpernickel bread, with a side of the delicious red cabbage that tasted like sauerkraut, only 10 times the taste; a real flavor explosion!

A Very Cozy Camper :)

After a pleasant chat with my server about life in a small, tourist town and how bad the drought affected the local peach industry this year (usually a big draw), I moseyed across the street to Silver Creek Bar & Grill for a Chimay Blue (recommended by a guy I briefly chatted with at Meers Country Store back in Oklahoma) and wonderful conversation with the bartender about travel.  He's lived all over the U.S.  He's from Fredericksburg, but catching him working and living back here was an anomaly, and he doesn't plan to stay for long.  It seems he always moves before he gets too comfortable.  He's lived on Hawaii's Big Island, California, and Austin, just to name a few places, and when he's ready to go he leaves without telling a soul.  I think he likes being mysterious and going with the flow, wherever his dreams take him.  

Enchanted Rock State Natural Area

Oh, and he was very generous - everyone in town seemed lovely - when I was tossing around the idea of staying another night in Fredericksburg to hear the band (lots of live music in town) he recommended, he said he'd be able to arrange a place for me to crash, and he gave me the Chimay Blue, Paulaner Hefeweizen, Franzishoner (Franziskaner?) and Shiner 102 (don't worry, those include one or two taster shots only, lol) for only $10 total, since I'm traveling on such a tight budget!  I gave him my info, but I doubt I'll hear from a guy that's such a drifter.  Who knows, maybe it'll be a pleasant surprise many months or years from now :)

Pretty Cacti at Enchanted Rock

Tonya came and met me outside Silver Creek, and we briefly greeted each other (and her and the bartender knew each other and said hello!) before I followed her to her house about 12 miles north of town.  When we reached her place she must've been very tired after her drive from Austin about 75 miles away, but she thoughtfully showed me to the camper where I'd be sleeping (her son's old room), placed clean sheets on the bed and showed me the bathroom and shower, before she turned in for the night.  That's all I needed, and while we didn't really interact much, that made it all the more generous for her to go out of her way to help a stranger.  I was so happy as I got comfortable on the bed (I hadn't slept on one in months), thinking about how fortunate I am to be doing all this, meeting new people, seeing new places, experiencing new things, and such.  I've said it before, doing this trip was one of the best decisions I've ever made :)

Welcome to Fredericksburg!

Friday, ‎August ‎19th
This morning I woke up to the alarm I had set on my phone for 8am, getting a shower in before Tonya was ready to go to work at 9.  I said my grateful goodbye, she opened the gate, gave me some directions, and I was off to Enchanted Rock State Natural Area just 8 miles or so up the road.  Highly regarded as one of the top things to see by the locals, Enchanted Rock is a nice little draw for outdoor enthusiasts, and had I known there was cheap camping, I might have saved Tonya the trouble, though I think I wasn't much of an inconvenience on her.  

Friedhelm's Restaurant & Inn

"The state acquired the property in 1984, added facilities, and reopened the park in March 1984, but humans have visited here for over 11,000 years. Enchanted Rock was designated a National Natural Landmark in 1970 and was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1984. The Rock is a huge, pink granite exfoliation dome, that rises 425 feet above ground, 1825 feet above sea level, and covers 640 acres. It is one of the largest batholiths (underground rock formation uncovered by erosion) in the United States!  Visitors can enjoy primitive backpacking, camping, hiking, technical and rock climbing, picnicking, geological study, bird watching, and star gazing."

Some German-Style Architecture

It was a hot hike up to the top via the Summit Trail, even at only about 9:30 in the morning, but it was great to get a little exercise after a few weeks of laziness, and the 360 degree view was beautiful :)  I wandered around, my binoculars really came in handy, I took a photo a group of friends that hiked up after me, then I was on my merry way back down the face of the rock.  Back at the bottom, I was delighted to find a working electric outlet in the bathroom for a shave, and running drinking water pumps to fill up my empty bottles :)

A Little Peek at Quaint Main Street

When I got back into Downtown Fredericksburg, I popped into the Visitor's Center for some maps and stuff, and walked all over town, taking in the sights of the beautiful, historic architecture that lines the streets, commercial and residential.  I tried spatzl and fresh, dark wheat bread at Friedhelm's Bavarian Inn.  The spatzl was bland (not their fault, it's the lack of flavorful ingredients is all), but the service and ambiance was worth it.  Then I continued my culinary curiosity at Old German Restaurant & Bakery.  Lacking the interior flair of Friedhelm's, but serving great food, big portions and delicious German sweets, I'm glad I stopped in.  The dill-flavored German potato salad was good, but the pastries were fantastic!  I had a poppyseed danish and berliner streusel.  I made sure to grab a couple to go for my cousin and her fiance I would see later this evening.

Cheddar Ale Soup at Fredericksburg Brewery!

The fun didn't stop there!  After escaping the desperate grips of old widows at the Welcome Center (I felt bad not indulging them longer, but had things to see!), I explored some of the shops along Main Street, and at the General Store I even bought stuff for once: a pack of Cry Babies (haven't seen em anywhere pretty much since middle school!), a pack of cherry-flavored Wonka Kazoozles (sounded enticing, lol) and a bottle of Sprecher Gourmet Root Beer, "rated #1 Root Beer by the New York Times" (tasted like regular, old root beer to me!). 

A Reminder I'm Still in Texas :/

For some reason I decided to spend the rest of the day inside, eating and drinking, probably to beat the [scorching!] heat outside, so I stopped back into The Ausländer for a glass of Chimay White on draft.  Delicious, but wasn't cold enough!  I brought my visit to Fredericksburg to a close after a food binge at Fredericksburg Brewery, where I had a delicious cup of Cheddar Ale Soup (on a hot summer's day, lol), "made daily with sharp cheddar cheese and our very own Award Winning Ale," and the Brewer's Favorite appetizer sampler of jalapeno "bottle caps," fried pickles, and mozzarella cheese wedges.

I somehow made it back to my car without food coma or a heart attack around quarter to 6, and drove about 70 miles southeast to San Antonio, where I was welcomed with open arms by my long, lost cousin Drea and her fiance Jeremy.

Texas: Austin [Weird]

On the Way to Austin
Tuesday, ‎August ‎16th
This afternoon Chet and I embarked on a 200-mile road-trip to Austin!  He needed to go there for work, and it was my next stop anyway, so we joined forces and had a ball!  Notable pit stops include gas in Italy (yeah, I thought it was located across an ocean, too!), where we encountered Starship Pegasus, "an architectural nod to Star Trek," but mostly where the aliens reside to lure their next target, I'm sure.  It's currently listed for sale, and has lots of space, haha!

Room at The Four Seasons

We took in a beautiful sunset before arriving at The Four Seasons around 7:30 - yes, THE FOUR SEASONS, baby!  Chet's work really sets him up well :)  While Chet was in meetings, I was kicked back to episodes of Family Guy, while wining and dining on [expensive!] room service (with condiments galore, lol) and welcome platter of sweets - perfect day!

Dinner Is Served!

Wednesday, ‎August ‎17th
Today was spent exploring Downtown Austin, a quirky metropolis with colorful cows at every corner - watch out, they won't move for you - they're made of fiberglass!  This article from The Daily Texan says that in a one month period 89 cows were dropped off throughout Austin in hopes of raising money for charity. "At the end of the three-month public exhibit, about 50 of the best sculptures will be sold at a live auction benefiting the Dell Children’s Medical Center of Central Texas."

View of Lady Bird Lake from the Balcony

By recommendation of the hotel concierge, I stopped into Lambert's for lunch, and tried the Cold Smoked Rainbow Trout (the fish was fresh and the plate presentation was beautiful), before snapping more photos of painted cattle and beautiful old buildings.  I took a self-guided tour of the exquisite Italian Renaissance Revival-style Capitol Building, set on 22 acres of landscaped lawns, with 17 monuments, and beautiful historical buildings.  "At the time of its construction in 1885, the capitol building was billed as "The Seventh Largest Building in the World!"

That's Bull!

Then I had a few happy hour brews (only $1!) at cozy Cork & Co, where I got to talking with Mike and Junior, and the friendly waitress who kept serving me drinks without my asking, lol!

When I got back to the hotel I lounged by the pool for a while and got to know a cool guy named Steve, who been working on a film, a documentary, about a guy who kills child molesters.  A modern day Dexter!  Check out his other film, "Native New Yorker."  Cool!

A Piece of Downtown

Afterward, I went to my room and ordered a children's tomato and cheese pizza, with ranch and extra pizza sauce and parmesan and oregano on the side, to be exact, then I took a chair onto the balcony along with a marble table, and kicked back to watch the the nightly "Bat Flight," viewable right from the hotel room!  "An army of bats pouring into the sunset sky may sound like something from the latest horror flick, but each year, thousands of people flock to Austin’s Congress Avenue Bridge to see such a spectacle. Humble abode to nearly 1.5 million Mexican free-tailed bats, the Austin landmark stands as a popular attraction to tourists and locals alike."  It was AWESOME!

The Capitol Building

The night got even better when I drove over to the The Park at The Domain for "Gong Karaoke" with Mike and Junior!  The patrons are given signs with one side marked "Sing" and other side "Stop," and if everyone holds up Stop the DJ bangs the gong.  After 3 gongs the singer's out!  If you make it through the whole song without getting gonged off, you win a shirt and a shot!  I did it!  Thanks my usual "Baby Got Back," LOL!

The next morning we headed back to Dallas, after taking a little drive through quirky South Congress Avenue in Austin's hip "SoCo" neighborhood.

The Skyline

PS: "Keep Austin Weird is the slogan adopted by the Austin Independent Business Alliance to promote small businesses in Austin, Texas. The phrase has long been believed to have been coined in 2000 by Red Wassenich, who says he made the comment after giving a pledge to an Austin radio station. He later began printing bumper stickers, and now operates the web site keepaustinweird.com and published Keep Austin Weird: A Guide to the Odd Side of Town.  A recently released book on the topic, Weird City, discusses the cultural evolution of the "Keep Austin Weird" movement as well as its commercialization and socio-political significance."  I had no idea there was a whole sub-culture attached to it, with strange places all over the city to see!  This is a whole trip unto itself the next time I come visit Chet!