My summer has really picked up in terms of me being busy...apparently I'm not used to that! My birthday was a few weeks ago, and I haven't even celebrated yet! I went to Texas for a week over the 4th of July to visit my brother -- very fun time! Austin is a fun city to visit, and Drew keeps asking me to move there (I think he misses being closer to family), but there are a few things I don't like about it:
(1) Driving -- traffic is awful! It feels like Chicago traffic to me....rush-hour all the time. For example, he lives 28.5 miles from his work place and it takes anywhere from 45 min to 1.5 hours to get there. Ugh! It's just bumper to bumper all day long, and I swear there was an accident like every day. How can people get wrecked all the time? I don't like the highway system either. Now, my sense of direction is pretty good but this just didn't feel right. I enjoy driving city streets to get to know a place, but you don't really get a lay of the land when you have to drive highways all the time.
(2) Heat -- I've decided that my Swedish & German genes aren't meant for hot weather. Those are 2 cold-weather types of people. I'm meant for snow :) It was so stinkin' hot that I just couldn't take it. And I mean it can get that hot up here in IL too, but boy it felt like I was in an oven. Bonus -- we waited an hour in line for a Gourdough's doughnut (totally yummy), and I got the tannest I've been in a long time. So the sun is good for making a golden fried Erika!
I must say though, the positives outweigh the negatives. If I had a few million dollars (I think I really need to crank up saddlemaking to hit that goal!), boy would life be grand there. I absolutely loved the Westlake area. It felt almost like Malibu, minus the ocean. You head over there and you can see these massive mansions hanging out over the cliffs, and it was just a sight to see.
We headed down towards either Lake Austin or Lake Travis (Drew wasn't sure which it was) and we passed by some $13M houses for sale (thanks Trulia!). I'd say the average price per home was well over $1M in this part of town, with many, many multi-million dollar pads. It was super dreamy.
There was one castle that we could see from the highway, and it looked like the size of a hotel. It had an observatory (which would house a telescope I imagine) sticking up out of the trees, so naturally I had to go take a look. It's on Coldwater Mountain Ct. The house is so big, it gets its own street. I found that it's something like 30,000 sqft of home. Drew saw the place a couple years ago, and it was under construction -- still under construction as of today as well. You can click here for a slideshow: http://homesoftherich.net/2012/11/mega-villa-style-compound-in-austin-tx/. Here is another slideshow from the architect's page: http://www.shifletgrouparchitects.com/architecture-portfolio/album/hill-town.
I wonder if they'd have an extra room for me to live in! :)
We went tubing on the Comal in New Braunfels, TX which was very fun too. The best place to drop in is at Landa Falls, which I think shares the parking lot with Wursthalle. It'll give you the longest float on the Comal River. There's a pretty little park there and you can just head on down to the stone platform and pop right in the water. The river has a current too, so you can just sit back and relax. Don't bring any cans! There are police in the water looking for people with cans, plastic bottles, or anything that can be considered garbage. We bought a $5 thermos from Walmart in their camping/fishing department and that was all fine.
Oh, and I have to say the food there was amazing! I was on a foodcation, so I had to be sure to get to the best eats in town. We tried out some food carts, which I had been wanting to do for some time. I was Eat St. and some other food shows on TV, and they always feature some of Austin's best. Places we ate that were awesome were: Home Slice Pizza (the line is huge if you go sit down, so try the building next door for overflow people...the slices are worth the wait), Lucy's Fried Chicken (I suggest the fried chicken salad sandwich, try their grits, and drink some sweet tea), ALC (Austin Land & Cattle -- Drew and I were not real hungry when we went, but we shared a melt-in-your-mouth ribeye steak. The escargot was quite tasty too -- worth trying if you like eating new things. I've only tried it 3 times in my life, and this was by far the best!), Rudy's BBQ (brisket, outside cut -- yum!), Gourdough's Donuts (super tasty, but get one to share. It's too rich for one person at one sitting. The chocolate one was good, but too much chocolate for me), Gristmill in Gruene/New Braunfels (the catfish & greenbeans are super), this Sunday buffet in Blanco at a restaurant I'm not sure of the name (one of the only places in town, and it's on the main road that goes through town -- fancy, southern-feeling place that has good food), and the East Side Fillin' Station had some good food trucks. The taco place at the far end on the left side has one of the top 16 tacos in the nation. I had the fish taco and el pastore taco -- highly recommend both, but the pastore taco was the one that won an award. Get the strawberry limeade they make to finish it off. I may have forgotten some of the places and I wish I could have tried even more places, but there's only so much time and so much room in my stomach for food :)
We did San Antonio one day as well. We just cruised by the Alamo, so I didn't get to see it but that's alright. Doing a drive-by is fine with me. The River Walk was pretty neat. Water was gross, so don't fall in. I do suggest a guided boat tour -- it's only $8.25 per person and it goes for 35 minutes. The gondolier we had was either a retired teacher or a teacher on summer break, so he was good at it. There are some great places to eat, but we decided we wanted to eat outside as close to the water's edge as possible. That lead us to Casa Rio. It was listed as one of the best restaurants there, so we figured that was worth trying. We asked the hostess and waiter what they'd suggest to eat, both said the Green Chili Chicken Enchiladas. It was just ok...I wouldn't get it again, the ambiance was what we were there for. It reminded me of Casa Bonita in Boulder, CO but the food was better. Their daiquiris are pretty good though!
The other thing we wanted to do in San Antonio was get a good scare visiting a haunted location. We're not believers in ghosts necessarily, but sometimes it's fun to just get a little scared with the what-if. All the haunted walking tours started while we were still at dinner, so we headed to South San Antonio to the Ghost Tracks. The legend goes that back in the 30's a bus full of children stalled out on the tracks, got hit by a train, and everyone died. So if you stop your car about 20-80ft back (different reports), put it in neutral, the little ghost children will push you across the tracks to safety. You're supposed to put baby powder on the back of your bumper or all over the back of your car to see their little hand prints. Now just so you know, S. San Antonio is a dangerous place to be and not somewhere one should be going alone. Drew heard it was dangerous, but he had played softball there and wasn't too afraid. When I got home I read more about it. I've read that gang members hang out there and rob people who get out of their cars to examine the power hand prints. We didn't experience any specific gang activity, except at the very end when we were getting ready to leave, a sketchy, potentially gang-looking SUV cruised by. That is the kind of thing that really scares me -- going to a dangerous place that I shouldn't be in and seeing people go by who who look like they want to kill me!
Anyway, we started doing the track thing and we were inconclusive as to whether or not ghost kids helped us across. Some other car full of a family was there doing it right after us, so the most fun was trying to get the kids to believe in ghosts! That was entertaining :) An odd note -- we were there around 9:45pm on a Friday night examining the powder, and I had turned to just look off in the distance for a minute just to take an inventory of the location (I'm always on the lookout for danger just in case, I don't want to get robbed!). There, about 50 ft from the intersection was a train! We couldn't hear it at all...I couldn't believe how silent it was. Even as it passed us, there was almost no sound....no clacking like you'd normally hear with a train. He didn't even sound his horn until he was like 10 ft from the intersection. Really strange! There were so many people there doing the tracks with cars off, lights off, just cruising in neutral over the tracks...that added an element of fear to what we were doing. After the train passed and the maybe gang-bangers came by, we decided it was time to go. If you try the ghost tracks, it's entertaining but beware of the potential dangers and remember to be sure you're not the only car out there doing it! Do it with a group of cars to lessen the likelihood that you'll get targeted.
Drew had things to do every day, and so when I got home I was extremely tired. Who's supposed to be tired after a vacation? It was a really fun time and I'd like to do it again sooner than later! Now, back to model horsing :)
I'm still working on my set. My initial idea to transfer a stitching design to the noseband & browband isn't working out as I had thought. I'm going to try again, but it's frustrating and slow-going. I'll try again soon and hopefully have something to report.