When I first arrived in San Antonio, Texas, it was with the intention that I would be leaving in 6 months. I had plans, plans with extended far beyond the great state of Texas. This was in November 2010. At that time I had just returned to The States after a year and a half of travel abroad. The only thing on my mind was more travel. San Antonio was only to be a unique stopping point, just another place I had not experienced in a long list of places I had not experienced. Things change.
Though I did leave San Antonio in May of 2011, as planned, other things were happening. Things which were not planned, but which were very welcomed. I left with the intention of not returning, however shortly later, in August 2011, I found myself returning to Texas, and returning to San Antonio. Again, things change.
Up until this point my life had been about experiences, about the unplanned. I suck at planning. I excel at allowing things to happen, adapting, absorbing, and learning from these happenings. (Though some lessons come much more slowly than others, and at a much dearer price, it’s those which usually are the most profound.) I was the proverbial tumbleweed, going where the wind blew – and going well. My skills of landing on my feet would embarrass a cat. My adaptability would impress Darwin, and my resourcefulness would humble a wolverine.
So, I returned to San Antonio and it was soon after when I discovered blogging. It quickly became added to the list of things I love. But there were other things being added to that list, primarily a love of science, astronomy, cosmology, and space exploration. At the time I had no idea how deeply that love would run. Things change.
As I write this I am, once again, preparing to leave San Antonio. Only this time, I know I’ll be returning. I’m leaving on tomorrow for a 6 week house-sitting job in South Mississippi, followed by 2 weeks of visiting with family in Louisiana and Mississippi. (A family which has grown use to not seeing me for years at a time.) While I’m very much looking forward to this time, I’m even more excited about my eventual return here to Texas. Over the past few months I’ve come to the decision that instead of simply allowing life to happen to me, it was now time to put my adaptability, my resourcefulness, and my love, to work. When I return to San Antonio I will be returning to school to obtain a teacher’s certification in science. This will not be easy for me, and I’m not kidding myself about the difficulty. It will require the exercising of some very flabby skills – particularly those of planning, focus, commitment, and follow-through. (Skills not required of a tumbleweed.) I look forward to the challenge.
To say that I’m easily excited would be a gross understatement. To say that I’m inspired by the passions of others would be even more so. There are those who, though they may not be aware, directly contributed to this completely unexpected path I now find myself on, and to whom I am gratefully indebted. There is someone on the personal level, and he knows who he is. And there are those who have influenced me in the blogging world. Namely: Chica Blanca of White Lady In The Hood, Colline of Colline’s Blog, (both through example) and Smak of Promethean Times (it may have been his wonderfully encouraging comments which first sparked this fire).
In addition to these 3, there are so many more. So many of you whose comments, whose encouragement to write about the things I love, who’s excitement and interest have made me want to dive entirely into the waters in which I now find myself. Thank you. Thank you to anyone who’s ever read a post of mine, who’s ever hit ‘like’, and especially those of you who’ve left comments which led me down this path.
Though I’ve been extremely busy the past couple of weeks, making plans (Yep! I’ve made plans!), closing out what may be the last political campaign I work on, and preparing to leave, I’ve tried my best to keep up with you. I’ve every intention to take you on this journey with me, while at the same time following you on your journeys. My journey doesn’t end with teaching. I intend to continue my own studies and eventually incorporate my loves of travel, science, and writing by teaching abroad – particularly in Latin America. And yep! You’re coming with me!
After leaving Enchanted Rock and returning to Fredericksburg, and with the Funyuns seriously wearing off, Lucero and I were ready for some hardy eats. Luckily in F-burg there is no shortage of dining options. Lucero expressed a wish for ‘German food’ and within minutes we encountered the Altdorf Biergarten….
The town of Fredericksburg was established in 1846 and has a population of roughly 10,000 — all of whom apparently avoid the Main Street area on a Saturday evening. The Altdorf Biergarten is housed in a landmark limestone building dating to back 1847, so without question, one of the oldest structures in F-Burg. The German community here boasts F-burg as being one of the oldest settlements in Texas, someone should inform those crazy Spanish as they were establishing missions south of here about 140 years prior. (San Francisco de la Espada, 1689) This does not, in any way, negate the food at Altdorf! Lucero, being much more continental than myself, understood the menu, while I mainly focused on the selection of beer! (In fairness, she was driving.) Finding Shiner Bock on the menu, I was happy! Extremely HAPPY!
Shiner, Texas and the Spoetzl Brewery — a whole ‘nother road trip!
After a wonderful meal of German meats, which we started with some Tex-Mex nachos (of course!), we spent some time strolling up and down Fredericksburg’s main street. It was somewhere around this time we encountered the 4 drunk girls — who were, in fact, so drunk they had been thrown out of one restaurant and were hard-pressed to find another who would serve them. Yes, there are few things sadder (and funnier!) than drunk AND hungry Texas girls. After a much-too-long time hanging on Main Street with the girls, I was ready to exit Fredericksburg, and luckily so was Lucero. But not before a cruise around town looking for an open liquor store — for more Shiner Bock, of course! Finding the liquor shop, I also found Enchanted Rock Vodka! (I shit you not!) Apparently, the folks up at E-Rock are making vodka and putting it into clever tourist-eye-catching bottles. And of course, I bought one! But, you know, just the trial-size.
Admiral Nimitz National Museum of the Pacific War, established in the old Nimitz Hotel, Fredericksburg, 1852. There were NO drunk girls in here.
Lucero and I headed out of Fredericksburg in the direction of Kerrville along the banks of The Guadalupe River. The river runs from Kerr County southeasterly before emptying out into the Gulf of Mexico. The town itself boasts a population of 20k, and was named after Texas Revolution major James Kerr. However, before arriving in Kerrville, we pulled off the highway onto some long and deserted Texas back-road to engage in a bit of star-gazing. And, indeed the stars at night ARE big and bright deep in the heart of Texas.
IT. WAS. AWESOME!!!
Arriving in Kerrville, where we planned to stay the night, our attention was immediately caught by the lights of a Ferris Wheel! Apparently, we’d stumbled upon a small-town Texas carnival, and there was NO WAY IN HELL we weren’t going!
Folks in Kerrville, Texas enjoying a very pleasant Saturday evening.
After a night’s stay at the lovely Kerville Motel 6, where Lucero was finally able to do a bit of drinking, and we talked till about 3am, we woke to a very CHILLY Texas Hill Country morning. (Ok, it was more like noon.)
After a breakfast/lunch at the local Cracker Barrel, and much coffee, we headed to the town’s visitor center to find out what was going on in Kerrville. It was then we found….Stonehenge! Or rather — Stonehenge II. It seems in the nearby town of Ingram, Texas, population 1,740, a local farmer, Al Shepperd, with the help of his neighbor, Doug Hill, had constructed a near-replica of the original Stonehenge located in Wiltshire, England. This being the stuff of road-trip glory, we were off and heading towards Ingram! We were SO not disappointed!
Realizing that with our encounter with Stonehenge II we’d pretty much hit ‘road-trip nirvana’, Lucero and I headed back to Kerrville to chill out with a hike along the banks of the blue-green waters of the Guadalupe River.
Scenes of the Kerrville Dam of the Guadalupe River.
After a nice hike, and a HUGE brownie, we were off and back on the road — this time heading for the town of Boerne, population 10k or so.
In Boerne, after cruising up and down the nearly deserted main street, we found out about the Boerne City Park Lake, and decided to head on over.
After leaving the lake it was time to head back towards San Antonio, and towards more food! Lucero was craving Puerto Rican food, and that was sounding pretty damn good to me! But before reaching SA we encountered more road-side wild flowers and we just had to stop!
All Photographs: Alex Autin
On Saturday morning my friend Lucero and I headed out for a little Texas road trip. We had no REAL destination, as any good road trip should NOT, and only a general idea of wanting to hit The Hill Country.
The Texas Hill Country pretty much applies to a region of Central Texas consisting of tall rugged hills which feature thin layers of soil atop limestone or granite. It includes the Llano Uplift and Enchanted Rock. (More on E Rock in a bit!!) The Hill Country reaches into portions of San Antonio’s northern suburbs, the western half of Travis County, and ends just west of Austin. The terrain’s large number of limestone or granite rocks and boulders plus its thin layer of topsoil makes the region very dry and prone to flash flooding. The Hill Country is also home to a host of cool native Southwestern vegetation including yucca, prickly pear cactus, cedar scrub, and the Texas live oak. And in the early spring — Bluebonnets, the Texas state flower!
Since this was a road trip, and since I’m pretty sure that trips of such nature are meant to be started late, we tried our best to get a late start. And we succeeded wonderfully! Even before leaving San Antonio, in fact less than a mile from my house, we had already made our first stop of the trip for roadside eats. In our defense it was nearly noon…. and who can resist Texas Brisket!!
I had the brisket taco with jalapenos (on the right), Lucero had the brisket sandwich on Texas toast. (And no, I will not be documenting every meal we ate with photos. But only because I forget to take them! I remembered to take these — so I was damn sure gonna use them!)
It’s my thought that any proper road trip should include lots and lots of really crappy photos taken along the way from inside a moving vehicle. If you share this thought, this post WILL SO NOT disappoint! Here we are moving leisurely along I-10, and we’re fairly certain we’re moving in the right direction.
Me: It’s starting to look all hilly!
Lucero: Damn, did I miss my turn? (I heard this A LOT, and loved it each time!)
Crappy Moving Vehicle Photo #3 – Fredericksburg! Our first ‘official’ destination. Fredericksburg is a very cool town in Gillespie County, known as the home of ‘Texas German’, a dialect spoken by the first generations of German settlers who initially refused to learn English. It’s a lovely place, very German-ish-y, and not nearly as out-of-focus as this exit sign would imply.
We checked out Fredericksburg for a bit, and realizing that Lucero’s a shopper and I’m a hiker — we then knew that compromises would need to be made. And quick!
In F-burg, taking part in the strange activity referred to as ‘Antiquing’. Interesting…. Lucero has Olympic-quality antiquing skills! I mostly walked around texting anyone and everyone I know. In fairness we spent very little time here, and were soon back on the road and heading for ENCHANTED ROCK! The locals at The Red Baron Antique Mall, extremely nice people who showed no signs of refusing to speak English, gave us directions to The Rock, and also a very valuable heads-up — If the road sign on Ranch Road 965 was ‘flashing’ this meant the park was full and no more visitors would be allowed in. Oh no! We now were re-thinking that whole ‘leaving late’ thing. But in true road-trip fashion we decided to give it a shot and headed out to Ranch Road 965 — after a quick stop for water and Funyuns. Hell yeah! (If you don’t have Funyuns — it’s not a road trip!)
Crappy Moving Vehicle Photo #4 — IT’S NOT FLASHING!!!! WOOHOO for us!
Enchanted Rock is one of those ‘must do’ places I learned of when first coming to Texas. So far, I had not been, and this was all about to change! (Thank you, Lucero!) According to Wiki — The Enchanted Rock State Natural Area includes Enchanted Rock, an enormous pink granite pluton rock formation, and 640 acres of surrounding land. E-Rock rises approximately 425 feet above the surrounding terrain to an elevation of 1,825 feet above sea level. It’s the largest such pink granite monadnock in the United States, and was designated a Recorded Texas Historic Landmark in 1936. According to me — 100% pure awesomeness!
Enchanted Rock’s prominent granite dome is visible for many miles in the surrounding Llano Uplift basin. The weathered dome is actually the visible above-ground part of a segmented ridge, the surface expression of a large igneous batholith of middle Precambrian material that intruded into the earlier Packsaddle Schist. The intrusive granite of the rock mass was exposed by extensive erosion of the surrounding sedimentary rock, primarily the Cretaceous Edwards limestone, which is exposed a few miles to the south of Enchanted Rock.
There are more than 500 species of plants inhabiting the rock, such as this White Lace Cactus. Vernal pools on the rock– ecologically threatened depressions of flora and fauna adapted to harsh environments — are said to contain fragile invertebrate fairy shrimp. I saw no evidence of fairy shrimp!
I did, however, see Bluebonnets! : )
Since this post is growing to monster proportions — and with Enchanted Rock how could it not?! — I’ve decided to break it up into 2 posts. Be sure to catch the next installment where Lucero and I return to Fredericksburg for some fine German dining including Shiner Bock (!!!), encounter the ‘drunk girls’, make a last-minute run to a liquor store (more Shiner Bock!), head out for some jaw-dropping middle-of-nowhere star-gazing, stumble upon coolness in another small Texas town, hike along the banks of the Guadalupe River, argue over freedom of expression, and find Stonehenge….
On the way back to F-burg, goats…who were completely unimpressed with E-Rock….
All photographs – Alex Autin
The above video is of Swiss pilot Yves Rossy’s 2011 eight-minute flight over the Grand Canyon. According to his website, Jetman, Rossy is the first, and only man, in the history of aviation to fly with a jet-propelled wing. How exciting! I was introduced to Rossy this past week by a April 19th post on Galicia Futura titled Jetman: el sueño de volar hecho realidad (the dream of flying come true). The post features a breath-taking 4 minute documentary, directed by Evert Cloetens, of Rossy flying over the mountains of Switzerland. If you’re as blown away by Rossy and his jet-propelled wing as I am…check it out! Exciting!
On the subject of EXCITING, there was also no shortage of excitement in the blogosphere this past week! One of the most exciting happenings was Michael Housewright, The Blissful Adventurer, being Freshly Pressed for his April 18th post Hong Kong – Hipstamatic Tour. Congratulations Michael!! It’s always wonderful when one of the nice guys wins, and they come no nicer than Michael. If you haven’t as yet, stop by Michael’s to say hello and check out his work!
Also generating excitement this past week were a few posts I place in the ‘Not only do I LIKE you, I freaking want to BE you!’ category. On Sunday, April 22nd, Spiritual World Traveler helped me to pleasantly close out the week with an amazing photo-essay of her visit to Bran Castle in Romania. Her post, The Enchanting Windows of Count Dracula’s Castle, is indeed enchanting and features some STUNNING window photography taken on an eerily overcast Romanian day. Grab a cup of coffee and join her!
Also, in the ‘I Want To Be You’ category is William Allen of Long Time Spent. William opened the week with China – Part 1 – with supporting holiday snaps in which, through the use of his excellent photography and words, William relates his adventures in China along with his friend Shane. William has the gift with his photography of making one feel as though they are right there along with him. He then closes out the week, along with Shane, in Tian Shan, China. This may seriously be my favorite post of the week. And yes William…I am very, very, envious!
If it weren’t known before that I want to be El Guapo, of Guapola, then let it be known now! Though, technically, Guapo’s adventure began the previous week with his April 15th post titled An Adventure – Learning To Skydive , we all had to wait till his April 18th post, An Adventure – Learning To Skydive Part 2, before learning if Guapo actually survived the adventure! He definitely left us hanging! As always with Guapo…it’s fun, it’s exciting…and it’s hilarious. Of course you don’t have to wait, you can check out both parts of his adventure NOW!
Refusing to be outdone by the travelers and adventures a couple of my favorite writers added to the excitement of the week. White Lady In The Hood easily gets the nod as ‘Most Hilarious Post Of The Week’ with her April 22nd post titled My Skipper. Through her words she completely illustrates the insanity which takes place anytime a man begins a sentence with the words ‘Hold my……’ And no, of course I wont finish it! Go there and find out for yourself!
Another writer which I admire greatly, Richard of The Last Song I Heard, helped to supply me with excellent weekend reading with his April 21st post titled Band Of Brothers Requiem – Michael Kamen. While it’s true I enjoy all of Richard’s work, I liked this one in particular. It contains all of the honesty, elegance, and courage in writing which Richard is building a reputation towards. Check out this post…or really, any of his posts. You’ll be glad you did.
I’ll close out another exciting week with my favorite song of the week…from World Music, of course! This one titled Malaniña from Havana Mambo, an Italian salsa band formed by members from Cuba in 1994. Enjoy!!
Thanks and have a GREAT WEEK!
Thanks to this past week Spring is officially with us…those of us in the Northern Hemisphere, that is. Along with the arrival of warmer weather and the digging out of summer clothes comes the want to get out and into some travel and adventure…and there was no shortage of evidence to support this in the blogosphere this past week!
El Guapo of Guapola: The Asylum Within The Asylum. And music! got the ball rolling on Tuesday morning with his much awaited post IT. IS. SPRING!!! And time for the Spring/Summer Stupidity! Guapo’s ‘Days Til Spring’ counter finally hit zero…and there was much celebrating and general foolishness (not unlike most Guapo posts!). The post includes the Annual Listing of Events in which Guapo details some of the awesome plans for adventure including such activities as surfing, rock climbing, and flying trapeze. Sign. Me. Up!
Also tingling my adventure senses this week was Erica from Experience North Cape. That’s North Cape, Norway, for the geographically challenged…and it is beautiful! Erica excited me to no end with her March 20th post Dreaming of Kirkeporten: An Easy Hike with a Spectacular View featuring some amazingly atmospheric foggy and soggy photography fully illustrating the Norwegian expression ‘There’s no such thing as bad weather, just bad/poor clothing.’ Gotta LOVE that! The next day Erica follows this up with A Bucket List that Kicks A Little…. which details the adventure of 17 year-old Tonje Helene Blomseth who along with her Siberian Husky, Maddox, became the youngest person in the world to walk the length of Norway. Only a mere 2,500 km (1,553 miles)! Solo! Are you shitting me?! No, I am not! Check it out! And while you’re there also check out some of Erica’s ‘too good to be true’ photography! The word ‘stunning’ is an understatement. Erica is living a dream life…and she’s all the proof one needs that it can be done! If her blog doesn’t make you want to book a flight, immediately, to Norway…dial 911… because you’re obviously in need of medical assistance.
Before booking that flight, however, you’ll definitely want to pay a visit to Airports Made Simple. The folks there have a couple of goals…to provide critical information about airports (how many terminals, how soon to arrive, security line times, rental car situation and much more) and to have a sense of humor about it. They succeed in both, and in a big way. Without them how else would I know of the travel danger involving Snow Globes and their threat to the world’s airport?! Or what to wear (and what NOT to wear!) while waiting on a flight. Aside from the humor..of which there is plenty…Airports Made Simple is packed full of useful, time saving, completely cool travel information and if you visit right now you can get in on helping to select their next Airport Summery. Votes Are Needed!
No adventure/travel round-up would be complete without a mention of Eric Murtaugh’s A Freelance Writer’s Observations On Adventure. Eric simply never stops and this past week was no exception. From A Hundred and One Uses for a Bandana, to the very important questions asked in Adventure: How much is too much? Eric proves he is interested in all aspects of adventuring…not just his adventures, but ours as well. One of the coolest things about Eric’s blog, besides Eric himself, is the lively, fun, and informative exchange which takes place in his comment section. As usual, well done Eric.
Closing out an adventurous week be sure to pay a visit to Antonio Pinon and check out his March 19th posting of the charming video Hyperactive Marienkafer which brilliantly, through the use of animation, shows the sense of adventure and discovery which is naturally found in all children…even Lady Bug children! If you’ve kids at home I strongly suggest viewing it with them. I should also mention that Antonio is recently back from a 3 week adventure of his own, and it’s great to have him back!
My absolute favorites of the week:
Cheers and have a great week!
Me – “It doesn’t look venomous to me, gonna get a picture.”
Aussie Bloke – “Oi…I wouldn’t get too close!”
Me – “Why? Do you know what kind it is?”
Aussie Bloke – “Yeah, mate, its my least favorite kind.”
Me – “Really? What kind is that?”
Aussie Bloke – “The not-dead kind.”
* * * *
Yep, the words…‘it doesn’t look venomous to me’ actually came out of my mouth and, no, it wasn’t in reference to The Wallaby, but rather in reference to a snake I had just suddenly come across in a car park. And just as with anything else I ‘suddenly’ come across…I am ‘suddenly’ an expert…THE Snake Specialist! I am not only fearless, I am also an authority on all things venomous. I am Venom Woman and I was having my very first Australian snake encounter! (Please see Photographic Evidence #2 – The Snake) I actually very nearly stepped on this snake, but it wasn’t my fault! The snake was hanging out in a very non-snake-like location; the car park behind the Rock Pool. (A car park is a ‘parking lot’ to us American types.)
I managed to whip out my Nikon camera in time to snap a pic before the snake slithered away. (At this point I think it important to make clear that I ADORE Nikon cameras, always carry a Nikon camera with me in my travels and would swear on my mother’s collection of whimsical ceramic hummingbird figurines that Nikon cameras are the best in the world!)
Checking the photo I was instantly delighted by the out-of-focus, fuzzy quality to it. As Mitch Hedberg pointed out, ALL photos of fantastical creatures are in fact blurry and out-of-focus. See any picture of Big Foot, Sasquatch, The Loch Ness Monster, or The Abominable Snowman if you have any doubt. These creatures are, in actuality, fuzzy. It is not the photographer’s fault (and certainly not the fault of Nikon cameras!). If you’re ever in the woods and come across a fuzzy creature….RUN!
Though I AM a snake specialist, I did feel the need to get a second opinion on my car park snake. So I shared the photo with my friend Ben, down in Melbourne, because he’s awfully hot…I mean nice, he’s awfully NICE…and yep, he’s also really fun to share with. No, he’s not an ophiologist or a herpetologist, but he IS a photographer and a bartender, and damn good at both from what I understand. Furthermore, he’s been to the Out Back….more than once, so yeah…snake expert. I also imagine he would sound really Australian saying the word ‘herpetologist’! (I should, in addition, point out that I’m fairly certain Ben also uses Nikon cameras.)
Melbourne Ben – “Hmmm, might be a taipan.”
Me – “So, taipan it is then.”
Melbourne Ben – “…….maybe. I’m not sure. Kinda looks like one.”
Me – “So, yeah……taipan.”
Melbourne Ben – “Hard to say, the pic’s a lil bit fuzzy.”
Me – “Well, yeah!”
Melbourne Ben – “Were you using a Nikon camera?”
Me – “……..of course.”
Melbourne Ben – “Hmmm.”
Now for you Steve Erwin fans, the taipan is what he referred to as the Fierce Snake.
The Taipan : (It helps to read the following description using an Aussie accent, preferably Victorian.) Australia has 30 different kinds of venomous snakes. The largest and most poisonous of them is the taipan. Taipans eat rats and hang in car parks.
CRIKEY!!!! Now with that rather unpleasant, though not completely uncool, taste in our mouths, I think I should quickly direct our attention to Photographic Evidence No. 3 – The Possum.
While the sight of the (possible) taipan caused me to (naturally!!) draw nearer to it, the initial sighting of the possum caused me to – well – scream, and not at all un-little-girl-like. I’m sure, given the time of night, most neighbors were thinking the sound to be that of a Bush-stone Curlew. (See Photographic Evidence No. 4 – The Bush-stone Curlew, aka The Screaming Woman Bird.)
It was nearly 10 pm and I was in the home of the wonderful and awesomely cool North Queensland family I was staying with. The boys, Jack(10) and Dillon(7), and I were playing video games and Jessica (13) was in her room being a 13 year old girl and having no interest what so ever in video games. Dillon, being more of a morning gamer, had fallen asleep, while Jack, being damn hardcore, was killing everything in sight. I, being a somewhat responsible adult, was remembering washing which needed to be hung out on the line. And, yes, before you ask, any time it is NOT raining in North Queensland during the ‘Wet’ is a good time to put clothes on the line. I was nearly finished and reaching down for the last piece to hang……….when there at my feet……and I mean RIGHT AT MY FEET…….was this large furry ‘thing’! (Please note, the ‘thing’ was furry, but not fuzzy, so I know immediately it is non life-threatening. This, however, does not stop me from screaming.)
Ok, where am I? Oh yep……screaming…….
I’m screaming and I jump back. In my defense I did not immediately identify this thing to be a possum. I seriously thought it to be a rat. A very, VERY, large rat. (Though I had never seen a rat there, apparently they are found in car parks else taipans would not be hanging there.) This ‘thing’ was not small, it was easily the size of a cat, a good size cat!
To make complete my freaked-out-ness…..as I backed away…….it advanced! It seemed to be sniffing my feet – closely, intently. This, I’ll admit, was making me very nervous. I then realized it was backing me further and further away from the house. Then with agility previously unbeknown to me, with the grace and swiftness of a gazelle (one that’s been targeted, separated from the herd, and facing certain death) I leapt over the furry creature and race towards the open back door. The possum followed – quickly. I shot across the utility area and into the boys bedroom, “Jack, come see this!”
“Whoa!” Jack stepped out of the back door. “It’s a possum!”
Me, looking cool – “Yeah…I…..I know that.”
Jack – “Back away! That thing will bite you and…..and scratch you.”
Me – “Nah, it’s alright. Ummm, it doesn’t look venomous to me.”
This made absolutely no sense, however it HAD worked for me once before. I was extremely cool at this point as the possum, having found a much more preferable target, was now following Jack.
Jack – “It’s after my feet!”
Me – “Oh wow, it’s so cute!”
Jack – “What do we do?”
Me – “Lets feed it!”
Jack – “Hell, yeah!”
Jack raced around to open the kitchen door and we were thinking……now, what would a possum like to eat…..
Me and Jack – “Chocolate cake!!”
Three pieces of chocolate cake later and the possum was still into it. Jack and I, at this point, felt certain we’d hit on it’s natural and proper nutritional diet! If not for the lateness of the hour we could have rang Ben in Melbourne to verify this, but the cake felt right and we went with it. At some point Jess, hearing the ruckus, came from her room and joined in the fun. We tried to wake Dillon but not even a marsupial hopped up on chocolate cake was match for the child’s X Box induced coma.
By this time the possum had climbed it’s way up to the top of the clothes line post, and was in no hurry to leave. It held out it’s little paws as if pleading (or jonesing)….
The Possum – “Oi, what else ya got?” (The possum was obviously a Queenslander, and possibly sporting a mullet.)
It’s big shiny eyes were now on nearly the same level as ours, only a bit higher. If it were planning to launch into an aerial attack, it was now in perfect position. It was then Jess who thought of feeding it an orange. I’m sure given the time Jack and I would have come up with that, but in the excitement of the moment the chocolate cake definitely seemed the go. Once rendered passive by the combination of highly refined table sugar and carbohydrates the possum agreed to be photographed. Don’t be put off by the pic, the possum is actually MUCH cuter than it appears. (The poor quality of the photo is to be blamed entire upon the photographer and not at all the fault of Nikon cameras….)
Thanks to Mitch Hedberg and Steve Erwin for their posthumous assistance in writing this piece, and also thanks to Ben in Melbourne for being extremely cool and stuff!
I LOVE…Moving! Moving is always exciting….leaving one place and going someplace new with new experiences, new neighbors, new options. Moving, for some, can also be a pain involving boxes, hiring a truck, and having to bribe a few friends with promises of beer if they come over and help you place said boxes into the back of said truck. This is usually not too bad. It’s when you ask them to also move a refrigerator, heavy furniture, and a washer and dryer that things get a little tricky. This usually requires LOTS of beer….especially if this move is taking place in the hottest part of the summer or the coldest part of the winter.
Yesterday was moving day for me. It was not a major long distance move, just from one part of San Antonio to across town, from one room-mate to another. Goodbye Deco District, hello Northeast Side! For me a move is not all that traumatic or stressful. I not only ‘travel light’, I also ‘live light’. All that was required was to throw my things into my pack, slip my laptop into it’s shoulder bag…and I was ready to go. No beer necessary….though its ALWAYS optional! I did have a bit of shock when loading my back pack….way too much stuff. It’s amazing how in just a few months of being in one location I can manage to collect things….little things like a few extra clothes, a new pair of flip-flops, extra-large industrial sized bottle of shampoo. (Really?! Does it need to be that freaking large?!) Not to mention 6 library books. No matter….somehow it ALL HAS TO FIT IN THE BACKPACK!
My friend BJ offered to help me move. In my case ‘helping me move’ pretty much involves only giving me a ride from point A to point B. While waiting for BJ to arrive I received a text from him….. ‘Feel like a hike?’ Now, most people would not even consider an impromptu hike right in the middle of ‘moving day’. To me, however, it sounded like fun. I should also mention that BJ has been known to take me to some pretty incredible locations….places I would never find without him…and I NEVER ask him where we’re going…I just jump in and go knowing it’ll be awesome. I also know that anytime when out with BJ there will be a moment when something ‘extreme’ will take place and I’ll be required to do something physically challenging. I tease him about this, and when that inevitable moment arrives and I’m forced to jump something, or climb over something, or crawl through something….I usually say to him….. ‘And THIS is why I don’t trust you!’
Yesterday was no exception, and I should have known right away. After receiving his text and replying that yes a hike would be awesome, he replied…. ‘It’ll be muddy…’ We’ve been getting an unusual amount of rain here in San Antonio. So I asked how muddy? His reply…. ‘Mucho muddy!’
We got to the location about 4 in the afternoon, and as he promised it was muddy….MUCHO! But as usual with BJ, it was awesome. He had been telling me about this place and how cool it is, so I was happy to be finally checking it out. As we hiked further and further in, and as the mud got heavier and heavier, he began to point out the places up on the top of the rock wall to our right where climbers had sunk their anchors for rock climbing. Very cool!
Then it happened, the ‘this is why I don’t trust you!’ moment. He stops and without saying anything starts to climb the wall. Next thing I know he’s at the top looking down at me. My only thought was ‘You’re shitting me, right?’ No, he wasn’t shitting me. He fully expected me to climb up after him…and it didn’t help that he made it look so freaking easy! But here’s the thing….I actually felt fear. I was afraid to climb the damn wall. In my defense my boots were incredibly muddy and the rock was wet and slippery. But, damn, that fear was not sitting well with me. I made my first attempt, and failed. I knew I only failed because of the fear….I’ve climbed before, and can climb, and I am 100% physically capable of climbing that wall. It was all about the fear of slipping and falling. And it was also about the fucking boots, I didn’t trust them. Finally I made a decision….I took off the damn boots. In my socks I then faced the wall and climbed it with no problem, no fear, no hesitation. My only regret was reaching the top and realizing that my camera was in my pack in the back of BJ’s vehicle…..so I’ve no photographic evidence of this!
Oh, yeah….as for my Moving Day…I arrived at my new home around 8pm, covered in mud, scratched and bruised, but happy. I found my new room-mate out back grilling sausages by the pool. He said nothing at all about my appearance, all he DID say was… ‘Hey Alex! Hope you’re hungry!’
I think I’m gonna like it here….
I LOVE…weird, exotic food! I’m one of those people who will try just about anything once, and most things twice if I think maybe I did it wrong on the first try. This also applies to food. One of the incredibly awesome things about travel is trying new foods… some things I never in a million years thought I’d be ingesting! I found this Food Challenge over on kimkiminy’s very cool Check Your Premises blog.
So here I go….The 100 Foods Survey….
1. Abalone: Nope, never tried it.
2. Absinthe: Yes, and umm….it’s ok.
3. Alligator: Yes….I’m from New Orleans! Either fried or in a sauce piquante. YUM!!
4. Baba Ghanoush – Yes, and I love it as I do most Lebanese food. (I know it’s cooked in other places, but I’ve only had it at Lebanese/Mediterranean restaurants.
5. Bagel & Lox - Bagels-yes, Lox-no. I don’t think I know what a lox is….
6. Baklava – YES! Delicious!
7. Barbeque Ribs – Please…I’m living in Texas! Rather pork ribs over beef…with TONS of sauce. Best ribs in Texas: Salt Lick in Driftwood outside of Austin!
8. Bellini – I know it’s some kind of drink and that alone is enough for me to try it! But I haven’t as yet.
9. Bird’s Nest Soup - No…..
10. Biscuits & Gravy - Hell yes!
11. Black Pudding – Nope, what is it?
12. Black Truffle – Would like to, but haven’t.
13. Borscht – Yes, once….I’m not sure it was cooked right. I need another sample.
14. Calamari - Yes, and when it’s good it’s great, but when it’s bad…..ewww!
15. Carp - Yep.
16. Caviar – Yes, at parties….the kind of parties I’m not usually invited to!
17. Cheese Fondue – Melted cheese=good!
18. Chicken & Waffles - Never heard of this, but I’d give it a try.
19. Chicken Tikka Masala – No…but I SO want to!
20. Chile Relleno – Oh yes, plentiful here in San Antonio, and quite good!
21. Chitlins – Ok, yes I’ve tried them….and I never, ever, want to again!
22. Churros – Yep!
23. Clam Chowder - Yes, but I rather Crawfish Chowder.
24. Cognac – Yes, don’t mind if I do!
25. Crab Cakes - Love crab cakes….my mother’s!
26. Crickets – Nope, but it would be interesting.
27. Currywurst – Again, I don’t know what this is…..
28. Dandelion Wine – No, sounds good though.
29. Dulce De Leche - Mmmmm, yes!
30. Durian - Interesting….but no, never had it.
31. Eel – Yes, I’m kinda iffy on eel though. I’d give it another try.
32. Eggs Benedict – Anytime, yes, and with a Mimosa please!
33. Fish Tacos – Yes, awesome fish tacos at The Cove in San Antonio.
34. Foie Gras - No, thanks.
35. Fresh Spring Rolls – I knew a woman who made these, yummy!
36. Fried Catfish – Yes, my folks have a catfish pond!
37. Fried Green Tomatoes – Yep, and I can take it or leave it.
38. Fried Plantain – Yes, when living in Jamaica.
39. Frito Pie – Yes, I hate to admit…but I have had this.
40. Frogs’ Legs - Of course, I’m Cajun! Taste like chicken! (Not really.)
41. Fugu – Ummm…nope. Would I? Maybe….
42. Funnel Cake – Well, yes, I’ve been to a Fair before.
43. Gazpacho – Yes, I have a friend who makes it wonderfully!
44. Goat – Yes, goat soup in Jamaica. Interesting, but a bit greasy.
45. Goat’s milk – Yep, but I’m not a milk drinker no matter the source. Love goat cheese though!
46. Goulash – No, would like to.
47. Gumbo – Oh Yes!! See my post on COOKING. Not only do I love eating it, I love cooking it!
48. Haggis - It would take some convincing, but I would try it. Haven’t as yet.
49. Head Cheese – Yes, I’ve tried it, my step-father use to make it in his butcher shop. I’m not a fan.
50. Heirloom Tomatoes – YUM!! Yes!
51. Honeycomb – Delicious!
52. Hostess Fruit Pie – Fried pies! Ok, I’ll admit I have….but Hubig’s pies on Dauphine Street in New Orleans are SO MUCH better! Cherry or apple!
53. Huevos Rancheros - Of course….again I’m in San Antonio!
54. Jerk Chicken - Ah….jerk chicken! Before I moved to Jamaica I had spent the pervious 5 years as a vegetarian. The smell of jerk chicken cooking broke this. I wish I had some right now!
55. Kangaroo – Yep, it was alright!
56. Key Lime Pie - Yes, and as often as possible!
57. Kobe Beef - No, but I would.
58. Lassi - No…what is it?
59. Lobster – Yes, but only once. Would like it again!
60. Mimosa – Do you even have to ask……Yes!
61. MoonPie – Yep!
62. Morel Mushrooms – I’m allergic to mushrooms, but some are worth the reaction!
63. Nettle Tea - Yes, in Australia….horrible!
64. Octopus - No, not as yet….cook it up!
65. Oxtail Soup – Yes, in Bali….delicious!
66. Paella – Yes, I like it!
67. Paneer – Never had it, but I want it!
68. Pastrami on Rye – I love pastrami, not crazy about rye bread.
69. Pavlova – Yes….very nice!
70. Phaal – Another food I don’t think I know of….I’m starting to feel very unadventurous about which foods I’ve tried….
71. Philly Cheese Steak – Of course!
72. Pho – Vietnamese….yummy!
73. Pineapple & Cottage Cheese - No….not together. Love pineapple though.
74. Pistachio Ice Cream – Love it!
75. Po’Boy – Again this is a New Orleans thing, so, definitely yes! Roast beef po’boys are the best!
76. Pocky - no….should I?
77. Polenta – Yes, yes, yes!
78. Prickly Pear – No, want to though.
79. Rabbit Stew – Yes, my mother’s. I don’t eat the meat, too many small bones for me, but the gravy and rice is heavenly!
80. Raw Oysters – Are you kidding?! Fuck yes! And I love them naked…not me naked, the oysters. If they’re fresh and naturally salty there’s no need to add anything.
81. Root Beer Float - Yes! What’s not to love?
82. S’mores - Yep, over-rated….I’ll just eat the ingredients as is please.
83. Sauerkraut – Never have, and I feel that I should.
84. Sea Urchin – No.
85. Shark - Yep. In Australia most fish and chip shops have ‘flake’ on the menu, it’s shark. It’s not bad but it’s not nearly as nice as barramundi. The barra is worth the price difference.
86. Snail - Yes, unfortunately I have.
87. Snake – Yes, it’s alright…not something I would go out of my way to have again.
88. Soft Shell Crab – This is one of the wonders of life….soft shell crab! My mother keeps a stash of these in her freezer….hidden, well hidden. I love them!
89. Som Tam - No, but sounds interesting.
90. Spaetzle - No…..
91. Spam – Of course I’ve had it….really don’t care for it though.
92. Squirrel - Yes…there are cute and delicious!
93. Steak Tartare - Yes, I tried it and my conclusion….we have fire for a reason….
94. Sweet Potato Fries – Yummy! Sweet potatoes are great anyway you cook them!
95. Sweetbreads – What are sweetbreads. It sounds like I’d like it….
96. Tom Yum - Oh, yes, more please!
97. Umeboshi - Don’t know this food….
98. Venison – LOVE it!! Another food in the ‘cute and delicious’ category.
99. Wasabi Peas – Fun to eat!
100. Zucchini Flowers – No….but zucchini is wonderful, and the flowers are pretty…I’d try it!
My Score: Of the 100 foods listed I’ve tried 68. Not a great score! But I’m willing to try the other 32…well, most of them! How did you score?!!
I LOVE…Hammocks! Hammocks are just cool. There is probably nothing which better illustrates the term ‘laid back’ than a hammock. I’ve met people who’ve told me, straight up, that they are ‘laid back’. The first thing which comes to mind is…show me a picture of you in a hammock, then I’ll believe you. I need evidence. This said, after going through literally hundreds of pictures, I can’t find a single picture of myself in a hammock. I clearly must not be nearly as laid back as I thought. I do however have a picture of a hammock I’ve laid back in. (See Photographic Evidence # 1)
This hammock is much cooler than it appears. It would look much cooler if someone were actually laying back in it. That person would also look cool. (It’s a scientific fact that people in hammocks, generally speaking, look much cooler then they normally would without the hammock.) One thing which makes this particular hammock extra cool is it’s location which is right outside my friend’s place in Airlie Beach. (And yes, that IS my friend’s house in Photographic Evidence #1. Also yes, it is an extremely cool house made even more so by the clever placement of the hammock in question.) Another thing which makes this particular hammock cool is the view from that hammock. (See Photographic Evidence #2)
Aside from the coolness and laid-back-ability of hammocks, they are also light-weight, portable, often colorful, and can be folded up to easily fit in a back pack…and I’m all for things which fit in a back pack! The absolute best place to hang a hammock is, of course, on a beach, and any beach will do. However, hammocks aren’t limited to beaches. My mom has a really nice one in her back yard, and I have friends who have hammocks in their living room instead of a couch and chairs. These people are extremely laid back and have the evidence to prove it. I once spent the night in a hammock outside on a porch in Managua. If you should attempt to do this please note: Hammocks, alone, are not an adequate source of mosquito protection, especially from Central American mosquitoes. Though I may have looked cool sleeping there, I did not look cool the following day. I have no photographic evidence of this, you’ll just have to take my word for it.
I LOVE…Cooking! It’s an act of creation requiring time and love. I will cook for myself, but when its shared with others, or one particular other, that’s when I enjoy it most.
I was taught to cook by my mother who did not enter into these teachings willingly. My mother guards her recipes as though they contain sacred scripture from the gods. The Cajun gods, of course, with lots of Louisiana French Creole thrown in. And her kitchen is her domain, very few are allowed in. My mother is the ONLY cook in the house.
She didn’t teach me as a child. As a girl I spent my time outside with my brother …exploring strange and alien planets, hunting for Big Foot, and seeing who could spit the farthest. It wasn’t till I was an adult, and went home for a visit, that she agreed to allow me passage into this realm. I sat at the kitchen table with a pencil and a yellow legal pad, she stood at the stove, and we began. Gumbo. Jambalaya. Etouffee. Sauce Piquant. Red Beans and Rice. Shrimp Creole. Cajun Rice. A basic roux. The seasonings …cayenne, bay leaf, parsley, green onion, garlic, file’ and more cayenne. And the holy trinity of Cajun cooking; onion, green pepper, and celery.
Gumbo is by far my favorite thing to cook. It’s a ritual which, for me, must being at dawn, preferably on a frigidly cold morning and when no one else is awake in the house. When I say it takes me 5 hours to cook a gumbo, I do not exaggerate. Each ingredient is allowed to slowly cook and mingle with the others before another is added to the pot. I love to cook it for friend’s when I travel, and I always travel with my own file’….it’s quite impossible to find in some places. The picture above is of the basic ingredients for a gumbo I cooked at my friend Jo’s place in Hobart, at the base of Mount Wellington. It was the dead of the Tasmanian winter, and conditions were perfect! We spent hours the night before searching the Salamanca butcher shops for just the right sausage. I think Jo liked it…she rewarded me later that day by taking me out for some amazing hiking. Thanks Jo!!
I love…Getting Lost! And how do I know I love getting lost? Simply because I’m so amazingly good at it. I mean, I’m REALLY good at it. I can get lost anywhere. Being equipped with absolutely no sense of direction definitely helps in this endeavor. I love when people stop me to ask for directions. There’s nothing quite as wonderful as the look on their face as I tell them the location is four blocks north while I’m clearly pointing to the south.
My dear friend Pullo recently told me…. The key to becoming great at something is constant practice. The only way you’ll be able to succeed is if you love to practice what you want to be good at. Absolutely, and thank you Pullo! So I make every effort to practice getting lost because as good as I am, I want to be even better! I’m pretty certain I can somehow make a career of it.
The really great thing about successfully getting lost is that…well, that’s when the adventure truly begins! Last year I successfully got lost while exploring Magnetic Island, which is an amazing little island in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park off the coast of Queensland, Australia. Not only did I get lost, I also managed to do so in a style which exemplifies my great skill in the art. I did accomplish finding the ferry to the island…and I did so in the dark! Once arriving at Nelly Bay, I managed to find the bus which would take me to the general vicinity of my destination on the island, which was an old World War II fort reputed as an excellent site for koala spotting. But somehow once the bus dropped me off in the middle of nowhere, I managed, rather quickly, to…umm… lose my bearings. (Please note the use of the navigational term ‘bearings’.) I don’t think I need to explain that getting lost on a ‘middle of nowhere’ island off the coast of Australia is completely different from getting lost in the ‘middle of nowhere’ downtown Cleveland. This is primarily because there are no death adders in downtown Cleveland. Here is an excerpt from my journal during that particular island excursion…..
“At some point, probably immediately after stepping off the bus, I’ve managed to get lost. Don’t panic! Getting lost is one of the things I do best. And actually, instead of saying I’m lost…because really, how lost can one be while on an island…I should say I’m ‘redefining my objective’. Apparently I’ve completely miss the trail to The Forts, and any chance whatsoever of koala spotting this morning. But as the Aussies say……no worries. The wonderful thing about getting lost, other than getting to stumble totally blindly upon cool things you have no idea exists, is you also get to return another day to carry out your original goal. In my book, this is called a win/win!”
The really remarkable thing about getting lost is that it can be done anywhere. One does not need an exotic island in the Coral Sea to practice it, though it does help to a large extent. My friend Oscar and I have been out to the Salt Lick Restaurant in Driftwood, Texas on two occasions, and both times we’ve gotten lost en route. Getting lost in the Texas Hill Country while seeking outstanding barbecue is quite simply one of life’s great pleasures. My friend promises next time we go, we won’t get lost. My very dear man….what would then be the point?