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Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Austin Loves Aluminum

Thanksgiving 2012 Part 1
Pecan Grove RV Park
Austin, Texas

Texas Two Step
     I have wanted to do an Airstream trip to Texas for a while. Thanksgiving was the perfect time to make our move. The weather is mild in Austin and Big Bend National Park in late November and I can escape from work for a week without too many problems. Melizza and I have planned this trip for a while. The problem is that Texas is really far away from home. I worked on the Friday before Thanksgiving and departed after work. We made it just east of Little Rock, Arkansas before I crashed for a few hours of sleep at Wally World. I woke up early and pulled the Troutstream all the way into Austin for a Saturday afternoon arrival.  It was a long drive but completely worth it.  One highlight of our long drive was a visit to In-N-Out Burger.  They have made their way as far east as Dallas and we were excited to stop as it has been a while since we were in California.  It is every bit as good as I remembered.

     Austin has always been on my list of cities to visit. Until this break, I just never made it there. This is certainly a city I knew I would like before visiting. What's not to like? It is known for live music, great restaurants, a vibrant art scene, the University of Texas and it is the state capital. It also has a lot more character than Dallas or Houston. Also, they have bats that live under the Congress Avenue bridge and emerge each night at dusk. Traveling in an Airstream limits your options. We opted for the Pecan Grove RV Park in South Austin. Pecan Grove is an eclectic RV Park full of new and not so new Airstreams. Their slogan is "Save Our Nuts" which refers to the pressure to sell out and allow another Chipotle inspired condo complex to rise over this old hippie outpost. The kids loved it because they had cable and WiFi. Despite early exposure to world travel and Airstream travel over the past few years, the kids can be entertained by so little. They had to enjoy this connectivity while it lasted, because we were headed to Big Bend National Park in a few days and we would be completely off the grid.

     For those of you who have never been there, South Austin reminds me of Asheville, North Carolina with a little Boulder, Berkeley, Portland and Brooklyn mixed in. This is hipster central. It is a great spot for the young and the young at heart. Our neighbors were full timing in their Airstream for the past three years and they split their time between Ashland, Oregon and Austin with a couple months of travel in between. Like many of my full timing friends, he has figured out a way to work wherever he has an internet connection. I better get on that.

     Our primary purpose in visiting Austin was to eat. We needed to fatten up before heading to the desert. Just kidding! Kinda. Austin is a great place to visit if you love great food and you have kids.  There are more food trucks and vintage Airstreams selling exquisitely eclectic and high quality food than any other city I have visited. We visited no less than four "trailer park food courts" around South Austin. The nice thing about food trucks is that kids are welcome. With all of these great choices, we simply had to pick and choose.

     Our first stop on Saturday night was at the superbly named Mrs. P's Electric Cock. With such a great name and a reputation for the best fried chicken in Austin, how could we pass it up? We had the fried chicken and waffles with collard greens and truffle mac and cheese. Not a bad start. Thank god I exercise or we might have a problem.

Melizza getting into the Austin vibe
     South Austin is a fun place to wander at night.  Although we do miss out on the bar and live music scene with the kids, we do enjoy the shopping and the neon.  We do not live in a place where this kind of creativity and character is in abundance. Therefore, we appreciate all that a city like Austin has to offer. It seems that going out to bars is just a regular part of the routine here in Austin.

Another Vintage Airstream Food Vendor
      On Sunday morning, we drove down to San Antonio for a quick romp through the touristy parts.  We visited the Alamo, strolled along the River Walk and visited the touristy yet entertaining Mi Tierra restaurant. The decor was worth the visit alone. They had a shrine to Selena. It was more impressive than mine. The food was basic Tex Mex.

No Basement
The Bakery was impressive

Lucha Libre
     After visiting the sites in San Antonio, we returned to the Pecan Grove and found out that Uchi was just a quarter of a mile from us. This is an exquisite modern Japanese restaurant that is definitely not kid appropriate. Jack volunteered to watch his younger siblings so we were able to sneak out for a quick meal. This was the first time we have allowed this to happen so I had to call him every twenty minutes to make sure there were no problems. I can run a quarter mile rather quickly if necessary.  After loosening up with a double deuce of Kirin Ichiban, I can probably break my land speed record. Jack did fine and we had an unexpected treat. The sushi, the warm and cold dishes, the presentation and the deserts were among the best we have ever sampled. Did I mention the sake? If you are in Austin and you love Japanese fusion, this is among the top restaurants in the United States. The food at Uchi is top notch and this meal would have been double the price in New York or San Francisco.

Our Home in Austin

     After eating well, I enjoy a great run. Austin has a great running scene and is a bike friendly city.  There are countless running and bike stores all over Austin. I went for a run along Lady Bird Lake and up through Zilker Park with Maggie. One of the highlights of that park is the Barton Springs Pool. It is a spring fed pool which maintains a constant temperature of 68 degrees year round.  That is a pool for those with no fear of shrinkage.

Maggie and I on a morning run 
The Barton Springs Pool in Zilker Park 
     On Monday we visited the University of Texas.  I have always said that it is never too early for a campus visit.  The University of Texas has an impressive campus.  Although it is in an urban setting, it felt like an oasis and the architecture was uniform and pleasing to the eye. This univeristy has a nice balance between strong academics and a good social scene.  Hopefully, the place is not too fun should one of my children choose to enroll.

Future Longhorn?
     All of this campus touring was making me hungry. We headed about twenty miles out of town to Drifwood, Texas and the famous Salt Lick BBQ. You cannot visit Texas without sampling the barbecue.  Salt Lick did not disappoint.  It was a carnivores delight and the grounds were gorgeous. This was the kind of Texas experience we travelled so far to see. The beef brisket was tender and delicious. Once again, Austin was living up to the hype.  The food was superb.

      Upon our return, we sampled a few more food trucks and headed to G'Raj Mahal for the best Indian food I have had in a while.  We must have done something between the barbecue and the evening meal, I just can't recall what it was.

The famous Izzo's Tacos was forced to change their name to Melizzoz.
Dining at G'Raj Mahal

     After eating our way through Austin, it was time to move on to the Hill Country heading toward Big Bend National Park and the wonders of west Texas.

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