Well it’s been awhile since I’ve updated the ol’ blog.
Over a year Over TWO years. So I’ll recap the past events, starting at the previous blog post:
- We ate the ramen for dinner, and had some leftovers that we took to Lindsay’s house. The leftovers were perhaps more disappointing then the original meal. I have yet to attempt ramen again since this last attempt but recently have begun the search for bones to give it another shot.
- Lindsay and I went apartment hunting and ended up finding a great apartment in Chicago. The apartment itself was perhaps a bit odd at times, and certainly rough around the edges (exposed insulation in areas, partially pained ceiling, walls that crumble when you touch them).
- We moved to Chicago, Lindsay got a job at a great middle school, and I decided to start back at ID working remotely. We met a bunch of great new friends, including friends through a cooking community, and some very wonderful people we share the house / apartment with.
- We decided to go to Austin, TX for a month during the summer (
that’s where we are currently at– that’s where we were at when I started this blog post… which is sad, because that was the summer, and now it’s winterthat’s where we were over a year ago. We’ve since moved to a different apartment in Chicago, and it’s now the end of the NEXT summer from when I started this blog post!!).
- We ended up with rat issues in our apartment on Palmer St… we dealt with them for quite a few months, but eventually decided we should move. The rats were in the walls, and I would wake up often times in the middle of the night and pound on the walls to get them to be quiet. Also, the rats ate some of our clothing INSIDE of our bedroom, so at some point the rats were getting inside the apartment itself.
- We ended up moving to a new wonderful apartment in the Avondale neighborhood of Chicago
That’s the basic life update for our own memories, but I’d like to spend a tiny bit more time writing about our time in Austin as it was a wonderful summer and I feel like it would be sad to not capture some of the memories from the trip for the future. Already many details are going to be lost, but I’m going to just take a stab at it, as they say. And by “they” I mean.
So, what can I say about the summer in Austin..
First was the planning. To be honest,
I don’t recall exactly how we decided on Austin I guess Kyle, Lindsay’s brothers, visited a number of times while living in Texas and thought we might like it so made the initial recommendation (THANKS KYLE!), I think it was in large part because we had heard good things about it, and perhaps also because Nick lived in the area. We had considered New Orleans, and before that Vancouver and Norther California (Jenner, Salt Point, etc). At the end of the day, Austin was doable without our price range, so we went with that. It was also a somewhat easy drivable distance (16, 17 hours or so) for a weekend.
So we packed up our car and drove off. The plan (at least as I can remember it at this point!) was:
The Basic plan
- Drive to Houston and hang out with Nick for a few days or so
- Take a few days off during that period and drive to New Orleans with Nick to do that thing
- Drive back to Houston for another few days, then leave for Austin (Nick actually had to travel for work as I recall, so I think we might have actually dropped him off in New Orleans and driven his car back to Houston without him
- Hang out in Austin for a month
- Have some friends visit us
- Drive home and deal with the previously mentioned rat infestation in our apartment
For anybody wondering, I actually only took two days of vacation during this entire summer. There was sadly plenty of stress and solid 45 hour work weeks throughout this period, but I won’t be dwelling on this too much in this post! The reality is it’s work that makes this possible, so I’m grateful to have a job! Also teaching seems like a pretty good job if you want to do this sort of thing.
Driving to Houston
The trip was painless and like all road trips I’ve been on, great. I believe we split the driving up over two, possibly three days (sadly I forget at this point… we may have started on a Friday night to help break up the trip). We made a few stops along the way, trying to make the most of the trip (which was a success).
First, we stopped in Memphis, Tennessee. We were here for all of 30 minutes probably, just passing through, but we did stop at the farmers market, which was to be perfectly honest fairly typical. We didn’t buy anything, and took turns walking through because it was super hot so we couldn’t leave Sai in the car, but also couldn’t bring her into the farmers market. I think there was a nearby tree that we took turns sitting under.
We don’t have a photo, but we also did a small tour of Memphis and visiting the location where Martin Luther King Jr. was shot.
We also stopped at a hotel the first night, which is fairly atypical for us, but it was not much more expensive than camping, plus there was a pool and free breakfast. Lindsay had a chance to meet her first official Trump supporter on this trip at the hotel parking lot. Apparently a nice guy, and from what I recall was going to take care of his brothers estate.
Next stop was Little Rock. As you might expect we stopped at the High School, walked around a bit, and also visited a nearby museum.
Sai and Lindsay checkout out the school.
We also stopped on our way at a place called Naaman’s on our way and got the first of what would be quite a bit o
Eventually (after 17 hours) we made it to Nick’s place in Houston. Nick’s apartment was, in my opinion, really nice.
We had an awesome time in Houston hanging out with Nick for the better part of a week.
I sadly don’t have a ton of photos from Houston, but we did a lot of stuff. We went to a bunch of really cool / interesting bars (one to watch a soccer game and lay in hammocks, one to watch the recording of a podcast that we somehow missed or was too busy for us to get in (but Lindsay found Buffalo Trace instead), one to hang outside in a bar near Nick’s house, etc, etc), plus went on some great walks (terrible picture below is inside a great park near Nick’s house), got some great food / BBQ, watched some great TV, and in general just had an awesome time seeing Nick and hanging out doing hanging out stuff.
I must say that Houston was a lot cooler than I thought it might be. There were a few really great grocery stores that I would have been super happy to have near me, and one of the greatest things was (as cliche as this is) the size of so many of the venues we went to. It really felt like there was a lot of space. A lot of outdoor bars that felt like you were basically standing in a really hip field in the middle of a big city. A++ would visit again.
A small note: typing all of this after a year has passed, is pretty crazy. I feel so lucky / jealous of myself, as stupid as this sounds, to have done such a great trip with so many fun parts. Note to self: keep doing this stuff always
I believe I took a Friday, possibly a Thursday AND Friday off to go to New Orleans with Nick and Lindsay and Sai. The drive is short-ish (5.25ish hours), and was once again a great time just to hang out and chat with Nick.
This picture is of the Raising Cane’s menu. I’d never heard of this fastfood chain before, but I must say it is now one of my favorites. There is one in Chicago and I’d highly recommend checking it out.
Nick drove most of the way, and Lindsay did some driving as well I think.
New Orleans was really awesome. I wish I could think of some more colorful / expressive way to put this. But really, it was like a dream, especially looking back on it. We stayed in what I believe was the “Magazine District”, or near that, in a small house. The feel of the incredibly hot sun is something I surprisingly really enjoyed, the slowness of people around, all if it was really great. We stayed in an AirBnB, which was actually a bit dirty when we got there because I guess they forgot to clean it or something, but it was a yolo situation and not a big deal (to be honest the only reason I even mention it here is for historical accuracy). We’ve actually talked about moving to New Orleans since coming home, and living in a house like that. I don’t think we really would, but it’s a pretty magical / special place I’d say.
The first night we didn’t do a ton, but went out and ate a po boy at a local bar, plus watched silence of the lambs (IIRC).
There Lindsay and Nick are doing the RuPaul arm at our New Orleans home on our first morning.
We ate donuts at a cool local donut shop. We ate oysters at some place that had cheap happy hour oysters. We got beignets and coffee at Cafe Du Monde, walked around the french quarter or whatever it’s called. We went on a ‘gater tour, and I said “get them gaters!” a bunch.
We also did a self guided tour of a lot of the historical places from the big Katrina flood. Not very exciting pictures (sadly, none of these are!), but just for historical purposes you can see in some of these photos the significant places the levees were broke / damaged, and some of the markings still on the houses where people searched for bodies and marked the houses with spray paint to signify which houses had been searched.
Really I’d say we did about everything I would have wanted to do in New Orleans and more. The feeling of the place, as I mentioned, was unique and special. Actually, one thing we didn’t do, and one of the great things in my life I’ve missed (thanks Lindsay and Nick!), is visiting the WW2 museum. One of the top tourist attractions in New Orleans, and I happen to be super interested in WW2 history, and we never went. Other friends who have gone said it’s amazing. I’m not joking when I say I might visit New Orleans again sometimes just to visit this museum. Oh well.
Back to Houston
Eventually we dropped Nick off at an airport in New Orleans (he had to fly somewhere for work and just left straight from New Orleans), and we drove back to Houston. We stayed at Nick’s place for a few more nights until mid-week (thanks Nick!) when our month long airbnb rental started in Austin. We didn’t do a ton in Houston while Nick was gone, work was fairly stressful for me during this period (actually, this entire period!) so I worked fairly long hours. I did work one great day from an awesome coffee shop near Nick’s (picture below) called Toot Sweet. Lindsay and I went for a run one day and almost died. Lindsay ran a few more days by herself because she is much tougher than I am.
(I spent most of my time sitting at that table on the right actually)
So, finally we get to Austin! Check-in was painless-ish, we just had to grab a key from a mailbox somewhere and bam! We were in. The apartment was “interesting” I’d say. Which sounds like a shitty / snobby way of say “not very nice”, but that’s not really what I mean. I guess it wasn’t super nice, but also it was just different from most apartments you might find in the mid-west, or even California for that matter. The floor was all older tile, and there was a washing machine and dryer in the living room. The outside was super green / lush / beautiful though (see video / photos below!
Not a great photo, but this table is where I spent a good chunk of my waking hours working!
Here is the guest bedroom aka the livingroom aka where you do the laundry aka the kitchen
And the other part of the guest bedroom aka kitchen aka where you do the drying part of the laundry
Our kitchen table / dinner, with work laptop likely just closed for the dinner hour. One thing memorable about this meal, after dishing out this delicious mac and cheese with leftover brisket, 10 minutes later I had eaten my first helping (what a weird word) and went to get more from the pan on the counter, and there was a cockroach in it! No joke, in 10 minutes a cockrock managed to come out of somewhere (I suspect the cabinet where the dishes were stored) and climb into the pan of food. I don’t know how, it was a sauce pan with sheer stainless steel walls, but somehow it happened! The point is, there were quite a few small little cockroaches in this apartment. Honestly it wasn’t really a problem, though I do remember being annoyed at this particular time.
So that’s a rough introduction to our apartment in Austin. Now, as for what we did in Austin, I’d say that can be broken down into percentages as follows (ignoring sleeping and work, which was actually a majority of the time actually):
- 5% making iced coffee and yogurt
- 35% swimming
- 40% local activities / walking / exploring
- 5% watched movies at Alamo Drafthouse
- 10% eating brisket or working to that end
- 5% hanging out with friends
Making ice coffee and yogurt
This might sound silly, but when I think back about our trip to Austin, I think about Lindsay and my dedication and strict adherence to the scientific process to making iced coffee. Austin was hot, and although we had window air conditioning units that made the apartment totally comfortable and pleasant, it was still nice in the morning to wake up and have iced coffee. Being frugal people, and living in Austin for a month, we decided to make iced coffee with a bunch of different types of coffee / ratios origins / etc. I guess this was like a hobby for us while we were there, and also something we did that was fun and filled our extra time.
We went to a bunch of different stores to buy coffee, and bought coffee in bulk and ground it ourselves generally. I’d guess over the month we probably tried 7-10 different types of beans, which is quite a bit really, making ice coffee every few days. I enjoy having the summers with Lindsay in general, but the ice coffee in the morning thing, hanging out at the kitchen table together while I worked, was pretty nice. I’m generally super jealous (and sometimes bitter!) about Lindsay having the summers off, but it’s very nice for me also to see her / hang out with her more, even if it’s during stressful work periods.
Not picture is yogurt making. We made a bunch of yogurt (using the crockpot method). Nothing super fancy or anything, but it’s a thing we did. We had yogurt most mornings for breakfast.
Swimming, or swimming related activities, made up a good chunk of our summer in Austin (at least of the time not spent working or sleeping). Most days during work we’d spend lunch swimming laps at the swimming pool. Actually I didn’t normally swim laps, just a few, I normally would just practice breathholding or just swim around without any real purpose, just enjoying the water. Lindsay swam laps though. So that was lunch.
The BIG swimming activity that we did about half of the week, is going to various swimming holes. For anybody not familiar with Austin, there are a ton of places to go swimming, in the city as well as outside of the city. Inside of the city there are a bunch of free public pools, but there is also Barton Springs, which is a very crisp / cool natural pool. It’s huge, and probably the most “iconic” swimming spot in Austin (I’d guess).
Barton Springs is a place we went perhaps 3 or 4 times, so not a ton. It’s free after a certain point in the night, so we went at night a few times, then during the day once or twice with friends who visited. BUT, the reality is the place we REALLY went a bunch is various swimming holes along the Barton Creek Greenbelt. This is basically an 8 mile stretch of a river / stream that has hiking trails alongside it. Quite a few nights every week Lindsay and I would drive to a parking spot along the Greenbelt right after work ended, go for a one or two mile hike to a swimming hole, and go swimming / relax. There are basically parts of the river that are more ideal for swimming, with deeper water or little holes in the rock that you can lay in, etc, and these spots are what I refer to as “swimming holes.” On the weekend if you go during the busy periods, there will be TONS of people swimming and listening to music and dogs running around in the water and having a great ol’ time. Lindsay and I would bring Sai and just very much enjoy the cool water on a hot day.
The thing that made this most cool is just how accessible the Greenbelt is. Leave work at 6, 10 minute drive and you’re a mile hike away from an idyllic swimming spot with tons of people having an awesome time. This was a big highlight of the entire time in Austin, and one of the things I often think about and miss about Austin.
I sadly don’t have any photos on flickr because I didn’t feel like dealing with my phone getting wet, but google photos has a lot of photos that sum up our experiences pretty well.
One of the best things about being in a totally new city for a full month is that you have enough time to explore quite a bit and see a lot more than you would if you were just there for a few days, but you also aren’t there long enough to get totally bored with things. You know you’re only there temporarily, and won’t always have an opportunity to do things, so everything feels special and you feel motivated to experience things because you won’t have the chance.
With this in mind, we did a lot of great stuff. Here are some examples
- I went to a Laravel meetup (programming stuff)
- Lindsay and I went to a movie in the park
- We watched the fireworks on the 4th of July
- We went to book stores and Lindsay read a ton of books for school
- I went to all of the top rated donut places in all of Austin to try them all. I’m serious, I probably went to 7 or 8 different donut places, some of them even outside of Austin.
- We went to the best grocery stores to check them out (including of course the Whole Foods mothership store)
- We went bat watching under that bat bridge
- We went to the state capital building and did a guided tour
- I played a fair amount of Pokemon (it was a new thing at the time). This is of some interest because the number of people playing Pokemon in public parks was insane. There were a few days when we’d be walking around at night and there would be what felt like a hundred people hanging out playing pokemon, and everybody you’d see walking around was playing pokemon, etc. Crazy!
- We went to a shakespeare play where the actors drink and at least act drunk / possibly are slightly drunk
- We walked, a lot. There are tons of cool little streets and neighborhoods and outdoor food stalls and stuff like that in Austin. We spent a decent chunk of time walking around to a lot of these, just in the spirit of exploring the city and checking things out. I particularly enjoy this type of thing when I’m in a new city because I feel like most people don’t get the opportunity to explore in this sort of way. Maybe we don’t see a ton of interesting things on a 3 or 4 hour Sunday walk, but we really get to see the city!
- Not really a local activity but we watched the OJ documentary and also a few old black and white films at home
- Went to a corndog eating competition
- Flew to New Jersey for work 🙁 – also not really a local activity but where else am I supposed to stick this memory so I don’t forget it!?
- Went on a few hikes unrelated to swimming
So yeah, we did a lot of just random exploring type things, “normal” stuff that people do in the city, etc. Lots of walking!
Movies at Alamo Drafthouse
So there is only so much to say about this, but basically Alamo Drafthouse is a chain of movie theaters in Austin (and maybe outside of Austin?). We went to at least two of them, possibly three, and we went fairly often. Why exactly? Mainly because the theater near our apartment was awesome. It’s tough to say exactly why, but some theaters seem to have a good soul, and I think we felt like this theater did. Comfortable seats, reasonably priced tickets, movie events with cheap tickets for more indy / art films. A nice system for order food and beer at your seat. Etc. Plus, as I mentioned and as you probably know, Austin is hot as hell in the summer and so going to watch a movie on a Saturday night after a long day of swimming and walking around Austin was awesome. I’m guessing we saw four or five movies over the month in Austin, which is WAY more than we’d normally see anywhere else we’ve lived. Anyway, this theater chain is one of the things I probably miss most about Austin in the “businesses” category.
Edit: Lindsay reminded me we saw Tickled and that was a pretty interesting movie / documentary, highly recommend you check it out!
Eating brisket or working to that end
It’s a cliche, but when you’re somewhere for a month it’s the perfect amount of time to both embrace the cliche but also experience it to the point of understanding more than just a single BBQ place. That might not make sense.
So we ate a lot of Brisket. Not an INSANE amount or anything, but I’d say we had brisket a good 7 days out of one month in Texas. A BIG part of the reason we ate so much is because there was a food truck very close to our apartment that gave away FREE food on Sunday’s with a 10 dollar bar tab. So Lindsay and I would both go, I’d drink two beers and Lindsay would have a bloody mary or something, then we’d get awesome, quality brisket.
Same place, different day, different free food
We also sometimes went and got food at this food truck but paid for it.
Sort of like coffee, we made brisket a piece of our experience in Austin, so although I’m generally against waiting in line to buy food when you can probably go somewhere else without a line and get food just as good, we decided to wake up semi early one day to go to Franklin’s (the most famous BBQ place in Austin, if not Texas, if not the US, if not hte world ?), but as luck would have it (and I really do feel lucky!) it was closed for vacation or something along htose lines.
… so we went to some other near by place that was BYOB and hung out until opening reading and drinking beer and playing cribbage until it opened.
Overall, brisket is good, and we enjoyed doing the cliche thing and eating it in Austin. Since then we’ve had BBQ in Chicago that was probably just about as good, but maybe not quite!
Hanging out with friends
Note to self: I should write shorter blog posts, but I now see why I was putting off writing this for over a year.
Last but not least, we hung out with some great friends in Austin.
Our great friend Elizabeth (aka “E”) came to visit for a few days, which was awesome. Lindsay and E went to a restaurant / bar that was apparently OK but had a beautiful view. We also went to Barton Springs, and a place to get brunch that had a bear.
(the bear wasn’t all that special, just something I remembered about the place and happened to have a photo of!)
My dear friend Nick also came from Houston for a weekend to hang out, which was really fun. We did a lot of the same things, eating food, going to the Greenbelt to go swimming, playing pokemon. I recall going to a donut shop that gave you extra donuts / physical goods / perks for having certain levels in pokemon. Nick got a lot of free stuff. Sadly, I have no photos. Oh! We also almost got breakfast tacos once. For my own memories I mention this. One day we went to the greenbelt to go swimming, and to get breakfast tacos, which I love. We wait in line at this taco truck, then right when we get up to the window, BAM, they stopped serving breakfast tacos! I was crushed!
So that was Austin! Eventually we packed up and drove home. The drive home was less eventful, though we did stop in a hotel that had a swimming pool. There were a million younger teenagers in the pool, which is what we remember. Plus it hadn’t been cleaned in a while, so was full of leaves, and the lights didn’t work around the pool so it seemed very seedy, but it was super refreshing after a long day of driving! (and cheap).
We got back to Chicago, work got even more stressful, we moved from our first Chicago apartment on Palmer to our new apartment (where I’m currently typing this from) on Whipple, and starting thinking about what we wanted to do next year! (spoiler: Iceland).
I feel unbelievably lucky to have been able to do this trip. I really couldn’t be more appreciative to all of the people in my life who have together shaped my life into what it is to allow me to do this sort of thing, and to have such a great compatible partner as Lindsay to do these things with.