Sunday, February 15, 2009

I have survived my brief but harrowing journey through the deep south. Mom and I entered Texas amidst a massive thunder, lightening and wind storm. The wind whipped the six flags of Texas threadbare and when we arrived at the little state park that we were planning to camp the nearby town was eerily dark and quiet. We finally surmised that the power was out. After a brief attempt to summon the courage to camp in the rain and the strong winds, we opted to try for a hotel a little farther down the road with some warmth and electricity.

We ended up in Austin the next day and spent a good part of the afternoon exploring the capitol building. It is the tallest capital building in the US, even taller then the nation's capital building. We spent the better part of the evening looking for happy hour deals on drinks, nachos (which is ironic because of the proximity to Mexico and all the Mexican restaurants in the area) and good music. We eventually found all three. We found great beer at a place called the Gingerman. It had over 80 beers on tap and twice that many in bottles. It had a great little outdoor patio and we made lovey dovy eyes at all the dogs that folks had with them. I had a great German hefe from Live Oak Brewery out of Austin and mom had pecan porter from 512 Brewing Company, also out of Austin. We tried to get nachos at Maria Maria, Carlos Santana's restaurant, but they were dinky little things with a total of 12 chips and so we ended up searching a bit more and finding a place with a giant pile of nachos. Then we proceeded to search out live music, which there was a ton of. All the bars have glass windows to the sidewalk and leave there doors open. They also have recruiters standing outside the door, trying to entice you in. We settled on JT Coldfire Hot Rockin' Blues at Friends Bar. They were playing rockin' blues and the lead guitarist even played with his teeth on some guitar solos. Then we moved to another bar where a group of six guys called Statsborough Review were playing some great alt-country rock. The Austin scene on a Monday night was quite manageable but a little bit reminiscent of Bourbon street, a little.

We pushed on to San Antonio the next day. We had all the good intentions of being good little tourists and visiting the Alamo, which is near and dear to every Texan's heart, as well as the famous River Walk. However, we only got as far as the ATT Center where the very first PRCA professional rodeo of the year was going on. We got off the bus for a brief look around but ended up buying tickets to see that night's rodeo along with a performance by the famous country rock star Taylor Swift (I hadn't heard of her until the moment we bought the tickets...but then again, I don't really listen to country). We wandered around the fair-like exhibits and things for sale and then piled into the giant stadium where the San Antonio Spurs normally play basketball. The rodeo was a skeptical of loud music, clowns, men in tight jeans and big belt buckles, girls in sequined shirts, bucking broncos, angry bulls, barrel racing, calf tying and big hats. It was great...well the calf roping and wrestling was actually quite disconcerting. Then the Taylor Swift concert began and it was a flurry of golden sequins on her dress and silver sequins on her guitar and music videos above her head and overall it was a really good performance. It also turns out that I have heard one of her songs! She seems to be really popular with the 8-18 year old crowd as she tends to sing about boys and crushes etc. She was all about hope and the ability to change and/or reach your goals.

We went to the Gulf Coast next and camped on the beach. We were treated to spectacular sunrises and sunsets and I even went for a refreshing coastal run.

We drove to Louisiana. We drove all day. Texas is a big state! When we got to the State Park in Louisiana that we were going to camp at, our attention was immediately grabbed by the "alligator active in this area" sign. I had been a bit concerned about the reptiles since we started this trip and it has become a bit of a running joke that the alligators are out to get us, but it was, a reality. Well...that's not quite true. We grilled the lady at the desk about how dangerous it actually was and she assured us that an alligator would not get us in our tent and that there were not alligators in the ponds surrounding the camping area. We were in the thick of a swamp though. The air was crowded with mosquitoes and we were surrounded by cypress trees and boggy marshy type ecology. There were a bunch of tent campers though and that helped. We survived the night and, as it turns out, the real thing to worry about was the rain that poured down at 4 in the morning. We had left the rain fly off to look at the stars.

We passed up visiting New Orleans in the heat of Mardi Gras celebrations and rushed through Mississippi, pausing only long enough to get a picture and 16 ounces of Cajun boiled peanuts from a gas station. I should note that the welcome center was handing out free cokes, here in the deep south, all soda is called a coke.

We made it to Mobile, Alabama where we learned that the city is the "mother of Mardi Gras" so we didn't miss out on the celebrations after all. We quickly made our way downtown and to the local brewery. It is quaintly named Hurricane Brewing Company and has such beers as Tropical Wheat Warning and Floating Car Blonde Ale, Flying Debris Mardi Gras Ale, Projected Path Amber, Storm Surge Stout etc. I loved the place and especially their dunkleweizen! We joined the revelers on the street for a parade at around 6:30. The sky had opened up and unleashed a torrent of rain but the floats and the bands rolled on for nearly an hour. The floats are filled with folks hurling Mardi Gras paraphernalia at the crowds lining the streets. They hurl beads, moon-pies, stuffed animals, hoola hoops, candy, hurricane cups, chips, peanuts and all sorts of other trinkets and sparkelies. I was pelted several times by a flying wad of beads. There were puddles everywhere and many an unfortunate stuffed animal met its doom in a muddy wake of rainwater. Mom and I had a great time and we ran from street to street so we could keep up with the bands. Then, soaking and laden with beads and moon-pies, we retired to the brewery where a wonderful band was playing the night away.

We drove all the next day to get to Jacksonville FL. The entire drive, all 400 miles of it was in a corridor of slash pine trees and that is all that I know of Florida. It is a corridor of slash pines. We spent two nights with a friend on the outskirts of town and reconnoitered a bit. We fly to Mexico City in two days for about 12 days with Jo Tuxbury, a friend of my mom's. It should be an interesting and challenging adventure.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Saguaro Cactus in Phoenix South Mountain Park

Little Bear Canyon in Gila Wilderness of New Mexico

Saguaro National Park in Tucson

Grand Canyon Trail

Grand Canyon sunset

My friends!

I have embarked on yet another adventure, an extended roadtrip from Missoula to Miami.
Currently, I am in New Mexico, heading to Austin, Texas today. Highlights have included hiking to the bottom of the Grand Canyon and spelunking Karshner Caves in New Mexico as well as 4 different breweries, one of which we caught the Bruce Springsteen half-time show of the Superbowl. We have also had fun exploring the Senoran Desert Museum in Tucson and the 10 miles of trail in the South Mountain Park in Phoenix as well as cave dwellings and petroglyphs in the Gila Wilderness of New Mexico. I will be in Mexico especially Mexico City February 17-28 with my mom and Whitney's mom.