Friday, April 27, 2012

County Line BBQ

We recently went to Austin to dine at County Line Barbeque.  The restaurant has another location in Austin and several more throughout Texas.  The County Line, and Cooper's barbeque restaurants are considered to have the best barbeque in Texas.  Both restaurants have online ordering and ship their barbeque nationally.

This is the interior.

This is the deck next to Bull Creek.  The creek flows into Lake Austin.

There is a feeding station for the turtles and ducks.  The ducks weren't around, but I enjoyed seeing the turtles swimming together while waiting for a treat to be tossed into the water. 

Now for what we came for! Roy and I both tried the 5 meat dinner. It has barbequed pork and beef ribs, along with smoked turkey, sausage, and brisquit. County Line offers an established menu with prices.  With this much food, Roy and I enjoyed a nice lunch from it the next day.  Although County Line and Cooper's barbeques were both good, it is Roy and my opinion that there are some equally good mom and pop places to be found.  We have a new mission!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Good Friends & San Antonio

Roy and I recently got together in Johnson City with our good friends from the years we lived in Idaho. It's been 22 years since we've been together, but the ease of our interaction was as if time hadn't separated us at all. During their visit, we decided to check-out the sights in San Antonio.

Here is a glimpse of downtown San Antonio. The downtown area is relatively small, clean, and easy to manuever. The wall on the left side of the picture is the barrier wall for Fortress Alamo. Ample parking was available close by.

Here are our friends, Carole and Nate, in front of the Alamo, with their dog, Bella. We found that dogs aren't welcome inside the building even if carried. A nice self guided tour through the mission building and grounds only takes about a half hour, so we took turns going in. Admission to the Alamo is free. There are numbered points of interest in the buildings, with signs giving historic information. You can rent a handset to hold to your ear for $6.00 that takes you to the points of interest, also. Carole and I rented the handsets, but felt we didn't get a lot of worthwhile information. Pictures aren't allowed inside.

Here are a few bits of information I learned about the Alamo from our visit. The Alamo mission was called Mission San Antonio de Valero. The original mission consisted of just four walls without a roof. There originally were no interior rooms. The arched doorways are Spanish architecture. When the military occupied it, they added four small interior rooms with rectangular doorways. They also added a roof. During the Texas Revolution (1835-1836) the Alamo was mostly destroyed, and so much of what you see now is a reconstruction.

Across the street from the Alamo is the entrance to the famous San Antonio Riverwalk. I learned from an informational sign in the center of this area that the southwest corner of the rock wall surrounding the fort was located here. The walls made-up the exterior of long barracks and artillary towers. This corner of the wall is significant in that it is the location where the Mexicans scaled the wall to overtake the fort. With the information gained from our visit to the fort and a little bit of Internet research afterward, I had enough of a working understanding to really enjoy the 1960 John Wayne movie called, The Alamo. We happened across the movie on a television program called, "An Officer and a Movie". The program is on the Military channel, and consists of a present day General giving perspective on events depicted in war movies. I really enjoyed the addition of the General's commentary. It seems like our retirement activities are heightening our interest in history.

This is the walkway that goes through the lower level of the Hyatt building to the main riverwalk.

This is the downtown portion of the riverwalk. I'd advise you to come hungry, as there are lots of places to eat. We didn't take a river ride, but I later found out that it's only $8.50 for a 30-40 minute narrated ride. There is a Senior discount lowering the cost to $6.00. There is also a reasonably priced one hour narrated trolley ride to points of interest in San Antonio. The trolley ticket can be purchased as a day pass that allows passengers to hop on and off the trolley throughout the day. We'll definitely be back.

A great day was had by all, except for having to say our goodbyes.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Texas Men's State Chili & BBQ Championship

This is the ninth year that Johnson City has hosted the Texas Men's State Chili & BBQ Championship.

Outwardly the event isn't fancy, but we enjoyed attending it last Spring and this year. It is a free event held at the Blanco County Fairgrounds. Competitors are required to prepare their foods for the competition at the event. There is a field full of RVs with meat smokers set-up outside, people cooking, and lots of good smells filling the air.

Inside are some vendors selling a variety of items, a silent auction, and contestants gathered around the scoreboard.

The judging is open to the public, and only requires that you show-up a few minutes ahead of the event's start time. Judging starts at 10:00 a.m. for wings, 11:00 for beans, 12:00 p.m. chicken, 1:00 chili, 2:00 ribs, and 3:30 brisquit. You can sit-in on as many judging events as your stomach has room for. Roy and I judged chili last year and this year picked brisquit. The entry form had slots for 20 entries, but thank goodness we only had to judge twelve. With a sip of water and a piece of cracker to refresh the palate between 12 nice size bites of smoked brisquit, I'd have had a hard time fitting in 8 more pieces no matter how tasty! We've already got our mouths watering to judge chicken and ribs next Spring, if we are in the area!

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Our Big Day

Roy and I decided to take a day trip to see the Spring Bluebonnets, and hike Enchanted Rock while the temperature is still in the 70s.

Enchanted Rock is located 18 miles outside Fredericksburg, Texas on RR 965. It is the second largest batholith in the United States, with the largest being Stone Mountain in Georgia. A batholith is a large rounded dome of granite that forms as a pocket of magma under the surface of the Earth. It becomes increasingly exposed, as the softer limestone around it erodes. Enchanted rock is estimated to have formed up to 1 billion years ago!

The trail to the top is .75 miles and has a rise in elevation of 800'. The trails difficulty rating is 3.2 out of 5.

Bluebonnets are looking good this Spring after having lots of rain.

The path just gets prettier or should I say pricklier! I felt alert to the possibility of snakes along the path, but never saw any.

Here's a cactus with pretty blooms. I didn't touch the flowers, but they appear to have the texture of dried Straw flowers.

The large rock formation in the distance sits to the right of Enchanted Rock, as one gets further up the trail. There are approximately 7 miles of trails within the park.

Onward and upward! There goes Roy.

Here's a well deserved rest stop before the last steep ascent! Is it really the top?

Here I come! By the time I got to Roy's rest stop, I was debating with myself, as to whether I could go on. The tiny things down in the woods, that appear that they could be cars, is where we started. A woman on her way back down assured me that just over the rise behind Roy's resting spot was the top of the dome.

I made it!!!

All this beauty, and Roy still has eyes for me! :-)

This is a little oasis at the top of the dome!

To our surprise, look what we found in puddles at the top! These look like minnows, and there were others that looked like tadpoles. Upon closer inspection lots of tiny legs could be seen under them. It turns out that both are types of shrimp. The eggs can be transported in the wind and have the ability to lay dormant for years in dry soil. Here is an interesting link telling about them:

After our workout, we decided to drive to Llano and check out the famous Cooper's Pit Bar-B-Que. That was a new experience in dining. People line-up the length of the Cooper's sign along the outside of the restaurant. The line went fast, and it was fun to visit with people during the wait.

When you get to the pit, there are lots of choices of meat, but no prices! The meat is sold by the pound. Be careful here to order a restaurant portion, or you could find your bill coming to much more than you expected. Side dishes inside the restaurant are also not marked for prices. One couple new to this type of dining was upset when they found themselves paying $50.00 for their 2 meals.

Here's a picture of Roy with a look of "Put the camera down and let me eat." Roy had smoked sirloin and I had 3 nice pork ribs. We both got 3 sides each. We judged our meal well, as it only came to a total of $27.00. We had enough left over for a hearty lunch the next day, as well. It was funny when the couple sitting across from us asked if it was our first time to the restaurant. They said they thought so, because of our getting the coleslaw and potato salad sides. The side of beans is free and unlimited. Experienced diners apparently maximize their meal by putting the focus on the meats and only taking the free beans. We were advised that it was acceptable practice to take a container of beans home, as well. Works for us! Check out the place mat style paper plates.

Throughout the day, we saw miles and miles of Bluebonnets along the roadsides. This is an Internet picture representative of what we saw. I figured someone with a higher quality camera could capture the wide expanse of flowers better than I could. Roy and I noticed that the Bluebonnets were thick up to the fences paralleling the roadside, and only occasionally went further into the fields. It got us to thinking that either farmers spray to get rid of them or that the Department of Transportation sows wildflowers. My Internet research states that back in 1917 the newly established Texas DOT found that native wildflowers not only looked good along the highways, but found that it was advantageous not to have to mow the roadways. Since then a wildflower management program, dare I say, blossomed! Texas sows 30,000 pounds of wildflower seeds yearly for roadway beautification, erosion control, to promote tourism, and to save money on mowing. Now we know!