Thursday, October 29, 2009

Things are always bigger in Texas

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If I learned anything in my time in the military, it was that when “Texas” is used in conversation it should always be referred to as “the great state of Texas”.  That said, I had the luxury of spending three days in the great state attending some job related training in Austin. Having never been to Austin, I was pretty excited.  I’ve been a big fan of the PBS Austin City Limits show since I was a kid, and that love has grown since the featured artists have become decidedly cooler over the years. Oh yeah, Lance has a little bike store there also, but more on that later.

One thing you need to mentally prepare yourself for when travelling to the great state is the sheer expansiveness and retail repetition. The whole experience of driving through Texas reminds me of the Chemical Brothers’ Star Guitar video with retail chains taking the place of the telephone poles. Round Rock, the adjacent city to Austin, is home to Dell and happened to be where my class was.  I expected it to be hot as Hades there and was somewhat looking forward to a good dose of sun, but alas it was cold and rainy for most of my trip.  That didn’t bode well for the grand unveiling of the Dell solar panel farm in the building 1 parking lot on Monday.  Given the clouds and rainfall on its opening day, I doubt that the panels could generate the 1.21 gigawatts of electricity required to send Marty McFly back home. What struck me as odd was how expansive this farm looked in the Engadget picture, however in reality it wasn’t quite as large in real life with only six panels in the whole lot.  What’s more, when I helped drop off my friend’s rental car I noted that most of the Avis airport rental car parking lot had the same setup but in a much larger capacity.  Oh well, the idea is still pretty cool and I hope to see more green goodness in the future from big companies like this.

As I mentioned, there seemed to be enough chain restaurants in the area to clog the arteries of a small country. Being a vegetarian I fear these joints, so I referred to my favorite site for dining suggestions – HappyCow. By the way, if you have dietary restrictions and haven’t discovered this site, you haven’t lived yet. Yelp is nice, but HappyCow is where its at for vegi fare. Using a combination of HappyCow and a cell phone GPS mapping system, my friend and I chased down several restaurant leads until we settled on a good one – Sarovar. This Indian cuisine restaurant didn’t have the appearances on the surface of being as good as it was. At one point I think that they had some really swinging disco pumping in the joint since it was set up like a 70’s night club, but now it was converted into a small restaurant. I could practically smell the polyester. Anyhow, the service was great, the staff wore simple t-shirts and the food quite simply rocked. I highly recommend spending the extra $3 and getting the Thali with your entree for the complete experience. You know the place is good when you tell the hippie waiter that the food was awesome and he responds with “hell yes it is”.

On the way back, we stumbled across this bakery on the rear corner of a somewhat abandoned strip mall. Literally, this looked like any other abandoned strip mall in America, however around the corner was a swarm of activity pretty late at night. I have an affinity for local food places that are off the beaten path and this fit the bill.  Never being ones to pass up a baked good, we headed in straight away. The place turned out to be a traditional Hispanic bakery and it was a feast for the senses.

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We performed a bit of “wine tasting” with the baked goods and packed the rest up to enjoy when we got back home this week. 

A trip to Austin just wouldn’t be complete without a trip to Mellow Johnny’s bike shop and it was certainly on our agenda.  My travelling buddy DCRainmaker promised to do a complete blog post on the shop, so I won’t steal his thunder there.  The short story on the shop is that I found it to be one of the most well thought out bike shops I have seen. Given the owner and founder I wasn’t quite sure what to expect, however the shop was pretty unpretentious and was clearly designed around the breadth of cycling needs.  Aside from a good retail selection and repair shop, there was a complete bike fit room, CompuCycle fitness room, an espresso stand and a mini-museum of some notable TDF items built right into the shop. I included some pictures below, but head over to DCRainmaker’s blog to see the good stuff.

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Where does that leave us?  Going home of course.  The journey home was interesting since the sun finally made an appearance and raised the temperature up to the 70’s (Great Scott!  Finally some gigawatts!). From the Austin airport I made my way to Denver where 18 inches of snow awaited, delaying my flight home by several hours. Quite the contrast when juxtaposed to the warm weather of Texas.  I snapped a picture from my phone while we waited on the ground for de-icing to complete.

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All that said, it was an interesting trip to Texas and I think that my time there was spent well. I can’t say when I will be back that way again (if ever), but now I feel as if I have a good sense of things if I do. BTW, no waffles were harmed in the making of this post.

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