Austin – Jan 2020

Keep Austin weird.  We’re doing our part, just by being here.  Forgive me if I repeat myself, but Austin is one of our favorite places.  One of these days we’re just going to have to spend a month or two here – get it out of our system.  But for now…

We took several walks along Lady Bird Lake, which is actually the Colorado River in Texas that is dammed up along the Austin skyline.  There are beautiful parks throughout Austin, with hiking/biking/running trails.  And the city is SO dog friendly.  This is a town with a very cool vibe.

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While we didn’t have much time here, there is ample evidence to see the impact the arts have on Austin, from the number of venues, the visible art, the support for city-wide events like South by Southwest (SxSW) and Austin City Limits, and the pure number of places one can find live music or other forms of art.

 

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We hiked on trails beside the lake and visited Barton Springs Pool – a natural pool fed by natural springs.  I am told the pool temperature stays between 68-74 degrees year round.  Shrinkage – all I have to say.

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Apparently, we are not the only ones who seem to enjoy Austin.  Just about everywhere we looked there were signs of construction – huge cranes building new buildings on every available scrap of land.

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We revisited some of favorite haunts, and tried some new.  As we have done for years now, we stayed at probably our all-time favorite campground – Pecan Grove, located in the heart of the city.  While it might look like someone’s version of hell, it is really the neatest, coolest campground – with an eclectic set of residents.

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We revisited a few favorite restaurants including Terry Black’s (incredible BBQ), Shady Grove (great burgers and more), and Chuy’s (fabulous Mexican) – all within a very short walk from the campground.  They were all wonderful, in their own distinct way.

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We tried a few new (to us) restaurants, including Juliet (mostly Italian), which was good, and a food truck called Biscuits and Groovy, whose name may have been more alluring than the food itself.

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One has to feed the truck as well as the heart and stomach, so we made a fuel stop at Bu-cee’s.  For those of you not familiar with Bu-cee’s, think of it as a marriage between a truck stop for cars and a Wal-Mart sized food court, with a Disneyesque feel.  There had to have been 40-50 employees working at this particular location, and the stores are open 24/7.

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If you ever feel the need to get stuck in a snow storm, you could live in a Bu-cees for a week and never eat the same food.  If you get a hankering for beef jerky, Bu-cee’s has a food case about 25 feet long with just jerky.

Feeling the need for some cultural enrichment, we decided to gear up and make a road trip to Brenham, TX, home of Blue Bell Creameries.  Again, if you are not familiar with Blue Bell ice cream, my condolences.  BEST.  ICE CREAM.  EVER.  If you live out west, up north, in the Mid Atlantic, or Northeast, you can be forgiven for not knowing Blue Bell – they don’t deliver there.  Sad for you.

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Aside from making great ice cream (since 1911), or probably more to the point as part of making and delivering great ice cream, they deliver all of their products direct to the shelf case in each retail store (even to each store in huge chains like Publix) – no distribution, so the product is always fresh, always kept frozen, and always good.  Blue Bell bought its first refrigerated truck back in 1936, for delivering their products in the local Brenham area.

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Well, mostly always good.  About 4-5 years ago there were a number of fatal cases of listeria linked to Blue Bell products.  Blue Bell shut down their operations for about two months and corrected the issues, and their processes.  Nonetheless, listeria is a bacterium found in soil and water, and is found in many manufacturing environments.  It is never really eliminated – managed and controlled are perhaps better terms.

It wasn’t until 1989 that Blue Bell went beyond the Texas state line (into Oklahoma), and have continued to expand since.  When we moved for a short time to New Hampshire, one of our considerations was leaving the “Blue Bell states”.  That probably sounds like a scary thing to admit to, but true!

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Heading back towards Austin, we stopped in Cedar Creek, TX at – you guessed it – another food related stop: Berdoll Pecans.  You can go to their family-owned retail store and get anything you want that relates to pecans.  And if you arrive at their location after they close, don’t fret!  You can buy a pecan pie or other assorted pecan products out of their vending machine 24/7.

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And don’t fret if you can’t get to Cedar Creek – they sell their products at some Bu-cees locations!  And of course they ship worldwide.  For a small fee.

See how much you didn’t know (and most likely didn’t care)?  It’s all part of the journey.  Stick with us as we search for more useless bits of knowledge.  It’s still 1000 times better than reading the news!

See you down the road.

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