This is an ongoing tale of Alan and Jo's exploits in Austin, TX. Alan hopes there will be plenty of tasty beer involved, while Jo hopes to find lots of interesting aircraft.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Dad's Visit

It's been a while since the last update, mainly because I have been busy playing tour guide again - my Dad, Steve, came to visit for two weeks. Which was very splendid. So of course he needed the whistle-stop tour of Texas.

I picked him up from Austin Bergstrom airport on the afternoon of Thursday 28th, took him home, then once Alan was back we introduced him to Tex-Mex food at the Texican Cafe.

On Friday we started with Austin; went to Taco Deli for early lunch tacos, then downtown and had a mosey about. Looked in the Capitol Building. Went into the Chamber of Representatives and watched them conduct government. Here's a pic of the voting - all the green lights are votes for the motion, activated by buttons pressed by a few people who seem to run up and down empty desks, voting for those absent. It's a bit odd.

Diana had invited us to her house on Saturday for a pool party with Tamzin and the gang, so after a bit of shopping in the morning, we spent the afternoon splashing about which was good. Alan thoroughly enjoyed the water.

Sunday morning is shooting time, so we took Dad up to Capitol City Trap & Skeet where we normally shoot and met Larry for a round of sporting clays. This was (as always) a lot of fun and Dad shot pretty well, especially considering it's been years since he fired a shotgun. So here he is, obliterating a clay pigeon:

Monday morning saw us in Kerbey Lane Cafe on South Lamar, for a proper Austin breakfast. Here's Dad in the cafe:

After this, we went over to the LBJ Presidential Library to look around the museum there. This is always interesting but made more so right now as they have an exhibition relating to the space missions going on at the time of LBJ's Presidency.

We ate in Nonna Gina's Italian in Buda this night, which is one of our favourite places. The food is good, the portions sensibly sized and the place is friendly and local.

Tuesday was to be our jaunt into the Hill Country. We started at 7am in order to get over to Enchanted Rock early, before it got too hot. It takes a couple of hours to get there, so we enjoyed driving across country. The roads here stretch for miles and have almost no cars on them. It's still a place where other cars wave to you, simply because you're there.

Enchanted Rock was looking lovely. I'd been up there six weeks ago with Diane and the rock was looking very dry and barren. It had completely transformed during the intervening time, and was now covered with bright yellow flowers and lush grass in islands over the top, interspersed by rockpools with tiny creatures swimming inside. It was a beautiful day.

We spent the best part of two hours on the Rock before heading to Fredericksburg. I wanted to take Dad to the Airport Diner which is a fabulous 50's style diner, covered in chrome and colour, right at Gillespie County Airport. Unfortunately it was shut Mondays and Tuesdays. Here's an old DC-3 on the airport grounds:

So we repaired into town and got lunch in the Brewery; of course Dad took advantage of their flights of taster-size (2oz) beers so he could try them all :-)

Next up was the Admiral Nimitz Museum. This is supposed to be one of the best Pacific War museums in the country. Unfortunately they have closed off one of the biggest areas for renovation and expansion, which I'm sure will be a good thing in the long run, but meant Dad wasn't going to see their B-25 today. We did the rest of the museum though which was good and includes this Avenger:

Wednesday was forecast to be stormy but turned out into a lovely day again, which pleased me as I wanted Dad to see Kingsbury Aerodrome in the sun. This is where all the WW1-era aircraft live and Roger Freeman, who owns the place, was quite happy for us to come down and have a look around. He let us wander around the hangars so I gave Dad the tour, before Roger took us for lunch at the Chinese place in Seguin. Here's Dad outside one of the hangars:

Dad had made very good salad the night before, which we augmented with some extra veg. This was all we needed after eating well during the days.

Thursday took us down to San Antonio, as every guest has to go and see The Alamo. They don't let you leave Texas unless you've been there, you know. We stopped for breakfast on the way into town at a completely randomly-chosen Mexican cafe and had some really excellent breakfast tacos.

On we went, the Alamo has been seen and duly remembered. We then went into the Riverwalk and took a boat tour. This was quite amusing.

Next stop was on the south side of town, at Stinson Airfield. I'd not actually been to this airfield before. It is the second oldest airfield in the USA and is beautifully kept, with loads of GA aircraft about and a monument to the Stinson family who started it all. They also have a small museum at one end which was the object of our visit. Here is one of their two Curtiss Pusher aircraft, from the same era as the Wright Flyer and Bleriot:

We left there and managed to escape San Antonio before most of the rush hour traffic kicked in and got back in good time. Once Alan came home, we drove up to the Salt Lick and made sure Dad had some proper Texas barbeque while he was here.

Breakfast was taken in the Root Cellar Cafe in San Marcos on Friday. I'd spotted this place on the interweb and seen plenty of good reviews. We were not disappointed, the breakfast was really nice. This set us up for visiting San Marcos airport. This is a very nice airfield at which one may still walk on the live side amongst parked jets and turboprops without causing anyone to bat an eyelid, much to Dad's amazement and my delight. After examining the GA side, we drove round to the CAF hangar to look at the WW2 aircraft they keep inside; most of which are airworthy and appear at various shows in the region. This T-33 lives outside:

We continued south and visited the outlet mall, before going on to Gruene, a pretty town on the edge of New Braunfels.

After this, we headed back and boucned off the house to freshen up, before heading into Austin to meet Alan at the Ginger Man pub for a beer. It was very pleasant - and Dad was suitably impressed by the 150 or so beers on tap! - but it was heaving, so we walked over to Little Woodrow's where we were able to get a seat. Then it was only a short step to Hut's Hamburgers for dinner, where they serve onion rings so giant, they deserve to exist around planets.

That night, we got a huge thunderstorm in a cloud, although it didn't seem to quite reach us here. It looked good though:

Saturday was mostly spent shopping in preparation for the events of the weekend, although we did go up to Fry's Electronics via breakfast in Taco Deli North. We had been invited to a wedding on Saturday night; Phil and Renee from the balloon club got married. They held the ceremony on the front lawn at their house which was unusual but very pleasant. And then of course there was partying to be done!

We took Sunday morning slow, although we hadn't drunk a lot, but for some reason were very full. Eating catches up with you. Too bad we had to make a monster curry to feed the gang who were coming round later on! Tamzin, Diana and their families all descended on us about 3pm. Of course I had vastly underestimated the time it takes to make a curry for 12 people - I usually cook for two - so spent a lot of time having to finish that rather than be sociable, but hey ho. I made chicken tikka masala (we had marinaded the chicken the day before and Alan grilled it Sunday morning) and it turned out pretty good, everyone seemed to enjoy it.

(This photo © 2009 Steve Mitchell)

Monday was our last free day and we spent it fairly quietly; did some shopping for sports gear in Academy, looked at camping gear in REI. Alan had come home not feeling well so we came back to make sure he was OK. We did go out for tea but only locally, to the Galaxy Cafe for a light dinner. Alan went home again while Dad and I went into town, to Zilker Park, where the balloon club were doing a demo for anyone who cared to watch. Unfortunately not many general public folks turned out, and the winds were too high to properly inflate the balloons, so they were packed up again. The club tailgated but Dad and I went home to be with Alan.

Tuesday was very cool. Alan was feeling better so went off to work as normal. Dad and I met Diana and Tamzin in the Kyle HEB parking lot, before I tailed Diana down to Kelly Air Force Base in San Antonio. Her brother, Col. Mike Kelley, flies F-16s for the Texas Air National Guard, and trains new F-16 pilots for the Air Force. He had invited Diana and the rest of us to the base for a visit. They got us on base and we had to wait a while during his briefing, and then we went for lunch in their BX. After this, we were bussed out to the flightline from where we could watch the F-16s taking off. There was also a huge C-5 Galaxy doing circuits. Mike flew for an hour but unfortunately we missed his landing as we were stuck in a traffic jam on base, trying to get to the other side of the airfield where the jets were parked. We had to return and have our guide grab a radio so she could drive us directly across the active runway. We arrived just in time for Mike to be walking away from his plane; he had just enough time to give us a close up look at the jets and a few quick photos before we all got on the bus with some other crew to be taken back to the squadron HQ. Thank you Col. Kelley, Diana and the 149th FW for our day out, it was fabulous!

Of course the pictures are on my main site, but here's Mike taking off:

The day was rounded off with a visit to Trattoria Lisina, a very nice Italian resturant alongside Mandola's Winery, out in Driftwood. We did the wine tasting and enjoyed a very splendid meal there.

We left on Wednesday morning at 6AM sharp, in order to drive to Houston and get to the Johnson Space Center by 10AM. This we did with no mishaps, stopping at a Whataburger for breakfast along the way (not great but it's fuel). Visits to NASA are always good. Dad enjoyed the tour greatly, in which you get to see the old control room:

Followed by the ISS training/mockup room which is huge, and finally a stop at the rocket park:

Back on site, you can wander around the spacecraft exhibits which for some reason are almost hidden behind the raucous children's area. Once inside, however, there are Mercury, Gemini and Apollo capsules to look at, spacesuits, equipment and moon rocks to examine. They have the old training simulator for Skylab which you can walk through; this is really quite big:

Following this, we drove over to the hotel. I'd chosen the same place as we stayed at when Diane was here, for the same good reason: you can walk to the Ginger Man Houston from it! This we did. Hot and humid as it was, we needed our beers by the time we got there, so plenty of Real Ale's finest Rio Blanco Pale Ale was consumed, before we left in search of food. The next block contained a very fine Vietnamese resturant in which we enjoyed a lovely meal and a TsingTao, before walking back to the hotel and one last beer (Chimay Red) before bed.

Next morning, we had breakfast at Einstein's Bagels, before I drove Dad to Houston International Airport for his flight home. It has been a wonderful two weeks.

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Monday, May 11, 2009

A few random bits

Couple o' bits that may be of interest. Or not. But I'm posting them anyway so here we go:

Went over to Llano at the weekend, about 1.5 hours away, for a clay shooting competition. We stopped in Llano town first as we'd got there quite early. Found a very nice little coffe shop called Fuel, in which Alan enjoyed his usual quad espresso, in fact he complimented them on the coffee which means it must have been good. I had a huge peach smoothie which was delicious.

Here's the courthouse in Llano, it's quite pretty:

We moved on to the shooting club and plinked our way around a very hard clays course. There were 50 birds and only one guy had scored more than 40 by the time we left later on. Of course we didn't go anywhere until we had partaken of the immense barbeque feast that was laid on as part of the package. They have a coal-producing wood burner, they take the coal and put it in the smoker. The meat came out very tasty as only Texas BBQ can be. Add to this a huge array of home-made side dishes and desserts that all the locals provide and you don't leave hungry.

The wildflowers are out in force around Llano, they're really pretty at the moment, and the shooting club was no exception:

Lastly, I saw a huge snake today! OK, maybe not moster sized but easily the biggest I have yet seen in the wild. It was crossing the road when I was returning to the house earlier. I reckon it to be at least three feet long. It obligingly stopped long enough for me to grab this picture, before scooting into the verge.

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Tuesday, April 14, 2009


Here's a few things I have observed lately.

First up, here's a picture I have been wanting to take for a long time, ever since I first saw this. I was stopped in traffic on I-35 so grabbed the opportunity. They transport new trucks by piling them on top of each other and driving the bottom one. I looked as I went past afterwards, they're attached by wooden blocks, bolted on to the truck frame underneath. There's four trucks next to me here, and there's three more in a separate batch up ahead.

Meanwhile, due to a slight mix-up in Cabelas the other week, I walked out of there with a box of shotgun shells that was a little more perky than the ones we usually use. They'd wrongly marked the shells with a sale price - or put them in the wrong place - I don't really know, but they ended up having to give me a $140 box of shells for $59! Now, our usual shells have 1 and 1/8 oz of shot pellets inside and a certain amount of powder. These expensive chaps (on the left) had 1 and 1/4 oz and some kind of souped up powder in there, and look at the amount of brass they need to contain all this extra energy! The normal shell on the right is a lot lighter. And yes, you can really feel the difference when you let one of these off. Packs a lot of punch. We actually ended up trading most of the ones we had left with Neil for some normal rounds as we like our shoulders without gunstock-shaped holes in.

Lastly, how about these Creme Eggs! I saw some in the garage over Easter and grabbed a couple after making sure they were actually imported from Cadbury UK and not some nasty Hershey's knockoff. (Big difference, you know.) I looked at them and thought they had got smaller since I last saw them.

Then on Easter Sunday, it was Alex's birthday and Tamzin and Allan had invited us to his party, so we were over there for the afternoon. Cara was just back from the UK where she had been doing a supply run and amongst lots of other UK foods, had brought us back an Easter egg! Thanks, Cara! And it happened to be a Creme Egg one... which contained normal UK eggs.

They don't look a lot different here I know, but the UK egg on the left feels noticeably bigger and heavier in your hand than the import egg on the right. (The battery is a AA for size comparison, no, we don't eat those). I am a sad git and weighed them, the UK egg is 42g and the import is 36g. So obviously Cadburys are keeping back as much of the good chocolate as they can, or trying to save on shipping costs, or both.

So if you see green on the foil, it's an import, and I guess you can feel good about eating so much less chocolate, in fact it must be good for you ;-)

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Monday, February 16, 2009

Clay Shooting

Here's a few shots from yesterday's sporting clays annihilation.

First up, an arty I-35 shot, where the flyover from 290 crosses over, as we're heading north:

Here's our mob's shadows at station 2. Our target has just leapt from the trap.

This used to be a small lake. It is now a clay graveyard. We need rain!

Larry shooting, while Alan pushes the buttons. If you look really close, you can see the two clays. Larry has just broken the higher of the two; you can see it's a bigger smudge as opposed to a sharp dot.

This is a 1:1 crop of a pic of a Rabbit target, running across the edge of the bigger lake (which is also much depleted of water).

This is a target leaving the trap on station 12.

And finally, another arty shot, this time of the big Agave cactus by the clubhouse.


Saturday, June 28, 2008

Alan shooting

A true pair. Bang!


Alan and Jo after shooting

At a private game ranch outside Austin.

I've got a new phone, a Sony Ericsson K850i. It's brilliant. Until I added this paragraph, this blog entry was posted entirely from my phone. How cool is that?!


Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Of Wheels and Targets

Here's a gratuitous Jeep shot, just because it's been a while and I like this one. Took it on the highest level of the parking garage at the apartment, before we left.

So, Alan and I have been going shooting recently. Some guys from his work, Larry and Neil, go regularly and have been getting us to go too. We have mostly been going to an indoor target range on the southern edge of town which is pretty cool. The guys have been very generous in letting us use their equipment and we have been able to sample a good variety of things. Here's the results of a typical session:

The last couple of weekends, we have gone to try some clay pigeon shooting at a different place across the other side of town. This clay centre is great, they have plenty of space. And it's right next to a model aircraft field, so there's the occasional extra target ;-)
(We are told it has happened, too!)

We had never done clay shooting before so Larry explained it all to us thus:

Skeet shooting is where you have a tower on the left and the right, out of which come two clays, one from each side. These are called high house and low house. The trajectory of the clays is always the same. You stand somewhere on a semicircle in front of this. If you're in the middle then you're shooting 90 degrees onto the clay trajectory. If you stand elsewhere then you get more edge-on to it so you can vary how you shoot them.

Trap shooting is where the clay is released away from you so it starts in the same place but can vary the angle it is flying at, so you stand in the same place but are aiming in different directions to follow it. (I think this is meant to be like pheasants)

Sporting clays is where you wander around a course of shooting positions, each of which contains two clays and they are set up in all sorts of ways. They change them each week too so you get different things each time you go. It's a bit like golf with shotguns, only you get to play different courses in the same place.

So we ended up doing sporting clays last week, which is the hardest discipline but the skeet ranges were taken already. Alan was really very good at it. I was less good but I did hit a few; one exploded in a big starburst which was most satisfying :-)

This week there was a competition on the sporting clays circuit so we did some skeet instead. Larry was very kind and spent the whole time instructing Alan and me. He'd also brought his 28 gauge as well as his 12 gauge so I used the 28 which is smaller and lighter but also shoots the shot in a smaller pattern, so it's harder to hit things than with the 12 gauge.

Alan was very good (again) and I remained less good... Did manage to hit a few things. I seem to have trouble getting ahead of the target and I'm often a bit low too. I wonder if years of tracking a target with a camera is putting me off. Although I am OK at moving the shotgun, whereas Alan seems to find that harder; he often stops midway. I guess we all have our pitfalls.

Note to those who might be wondering: This is target shooting we're doing, both indoors and out. We have no desire to be shooting live things. There, it's said.

Anyway, we both enjoy the shotguns for sure, and we will be doing more of it, I have no doubt.

And finally, I have a new toy:

This is a Trikke. And actually, it's not a toy; no child's plaything, this, no sir. This thing is actually pretty big, those wheels are eight inches in diameter and it's built for adults. (You can get smaller ones for kids too.) You ride this with a foot on each plate. All three wheels remain on the ground so it's as stable as it gets.

The propulsion comes from turning it. You have to kind of tip it into a turn and then it's like skiing; you slalom left and right to make it go. It's the falling into each turn that gives it forward motion. It does need to be on the flat or downhill; hills are Bloody Hard Work verging on Almost Impossible, although this will be improved with time, practise and strength.

It's a workout machine on wheels. I rode it for an hour yesterday and had rubber legs at the end of it. Luckily, the roads around the house are very flat with only a slight hilliness, which is great for riding this thing. If we didn't live with such roads nearby I probably wouldn't have bought the machine. It does fold up so it will go in a car if needs be, too.

It's good fun. Although I think I've had my monthly quota of funny looks in the space of two days! This is not a machine for the shy ;-)

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Wednesday, February 07, 2007


We have just come back in from Red's indoor shooting range, to which we were invited by Alan's colleagues Larry and Neil. They have a fine collection of firearms between them and asked us to come and shoot with them.

So, we went along and had the pleasure of firing mainly Ruger and Sig-Sauer pistols, in .22, 9mm and .40 calibers.

Here's a couple of Larry's guns:

Later on, Neil brought in a pair of rifles. One of these is an AR-15, which is the civilian equivalent of an M16 rifle. Here's Alan firing it:

And here's the item in question:

This is a lot easier to shoot than it looks. The recoil is surprisingly light. It's a .223 caliber, so the rounds are not all that big, but the shell cases have a hefty dose of powder which spits the rounds out at very high velocity and creates a HUGE muzzle flash. It's pretty cool.

T'was a good evening. Thanks, Larry and Neil!