Tag Archives: Austin

AUSTIN. Not all Texas cities are created equal

43. Probably one of the most irrelevant and insignificant ages in a person’s life. It’s right up there with 22 and 37; but, any birthday, any year is GREAT when you live in Austin, Texas.

Greetings from AUSTIN - Capitol of Texas
Greetings from AUSTIN – Capitol of Texas

Ever since I was old enough to say “I’m not going to work on my birthday”, I haven’t worked on my birthday, and this year was no different. I threw my kick ass Crumpler camera bag over my shoulder and decided to explore my city while I waited on my friends from Lubbock and Houston to arrive in town. Let’s just say… “Not all Texas cities are created equal” and leave it at that.

Austin GlobeTrekker 2013
Austin GlobeTrekker 2013

If your travel plans involve an Excel spreadsheet of what you’re doing each day, each hour, where you’re eating, what time you’re having coffee, and how long you’re going to stand in front of X statue, or visit Y museum, then you and I my friend will have some “challenges” as travel partners. I think I’ve mentioned multiple times… I just need to know WHERE I’m sleeping each night. 2 words… MADRID. Yeah, I know that’s just one word. Add !@#$%&! in front of it, and you’ll get the idea. It was 2003, and I really need to let it go; But, I digress. I needed COFFEE and Jo’s Coffee was my 1st stop.

Jo's Coffee - South Congress Ave [Austin, TX]
Jo’s Coffee – South Congress Ave [Austin, TX]
Cup of joe at Jo's [South Congress Ave - Austin, TX]
Cup of joe at Jo’s [South Congress Ave – Austin, TX]
So once again… my plan for the day… I’m going to act like a tourist and SEE the city of Austin! Yeah, I pretty much made it to Jo’s Coffee Shop on South Congress Ave (SoCo). If you want to waste away a morning with no care in the world… SoCo is your place. Reminds me of a story (here comes the random irrelevant travel tangent). My wife Anna and I accidentally stumbled into a little Italian run coffee shop in the beautiful town of Füssen, Bavaria (aka Germany) a few years ago, and almost didn’t make it to Neuschwanstein Castle. OK, that’s a bit of an exaggeration and partially my fault. Actually, it was ALL of my fault. I accidentally put Falkenstein Castle in the GPS instead of Neuschwanstein Castle, and next thing you know… we’re lost in the middle of the Bavarian Alps (which was AWESOME by the way!). We eventually saw the castle that inspired Walt Disney; but, between the town of Füssen and my GPS incompetence, we kinda got sidetracked by more than a few hours that day. Which was perfectly cool, because that’s how great unexpected travel stories are created. Wrote a blog about it which you can read here: BAVARIA. Get Lost! Besides… We knew we were sleeping in Salzburg that night. That’s all I needed to know.

Neuschwanstein Castle - Bavarian Alps [May 2011]
Neuschwanstein Castle – Bavarian Alps [May 2011]
Füssen, Germany – Bavarian Alps [May 2011]
Wait… How the heck did I get off on a tangent about Bavaria? OK, back to Austin. 68 F and Sunny (the weather, not me). I’m sitting on an outdoor bench at Jo’s Coffee, sippin’ on a perfectly crafted mocha, legs kicked up on the chair across from me, reading my Facebook birthday greetings and trying to “like” and/or respond to every single one of them. Finally, I did what every smart person should do at least one day per week, and I put away my iPhone and decided to be still. calm. quiet. And appreciate the world of South Congress Avenue passing in front of me. What a magnificent birthday treat!

Jo's - The Best Coffee in Town [South Congress Ave. - Austin, TX]
Jo’s – The Best Coffee in Town [South Congress Ave. – Austin, TX]
Jo's Coffee - http://www.joscoffee.com/ 1300 South Congress Ave. - Austin, TX]
Jo’s Coffee – http://www.joscoffee.com/ 1300 South Congress Ave. [Austin, TX]
I’m telling you people… If “People Watching” was an Olympic sport, I’d be a 5 time reigning Olympic Gold Medalist. Some people call it lazy… I call it observant and patient. I couldn’t tell you how long I was sitting at Jo’s “People Watching”; however, without a purpose or cue, I removed myself from my perch, and decided to capture my SoCo surroundings on camera. ONE CITY BLOCK my friends! That’s how much of my city I saw that morning, and it was fantastic! Thanks Jo’s Coffee!

People Watching on South Congress Ave [Austin, TX]
People Watching on South Congress Ave [Austin, TX]
Something as simple as the green side wall infused with red spray paint at Jo’s that says… “I Love You So Much”. My first thought… These punk kids with their graffiti!!! Just kidding. My first thought… Anna (my wife). I snapped a photo and sent it to her via text. Her response: “Did you write that?”. It crossed my mind ever so briefly to take credit for this simplistic and beautiful message; but, I gave the fine folks at Jo’s all the credit.

"i love you so much" - Jo's Coffee Shop [South Congress Ave - Austin, TX]
“i love you so much” – Jo’s Coffee Shop [South Congress Ave – Austin, TX]
Right next door to Jo’s… Snack Bar Diner – Lounge. Even the sign is cool! “Food! We’ve Got It!”. Yes they do! Organic local produce all wrapped into a cool vibe. A piece of art mounted on the back wall of the parking lot shows favor to the quirkiness of Austin’s SoCo. I’m also a sucker for vehicles that look like they shouldn’t be running; yet, somehow their soul is revived as a reminder of how things used to be. And I like that.

Snack Bar Diner. Lounge. [South Congress Ave - Austin, TX]
Snack Bar Diner. Lounge. [South Congress Ave – Austin, TX]
Old... but, running (I think) - Snack Bar Diner. Lounge. [South Congress Ave - Austin, TX]
Old… but, running (I think) – Snack Bar Diner. Lounge. [South Congress Ave – Austin, TX]
Look up, and you can’t help but see the landmark Austin Motel in front of you.  “No Additives. No Preservatives. Corporate Free Since 1938”. Yeah, there’s also NO VACANCY. Hit the end of the block and turn back, and there’s a 2nd message from Austin Motel. “So Close. Yet So Far Out”. It’s South Congress baby!

AUSTIN MOTEL - No Additives. No Preservatives. No Corporate Free Since 1938
AUSTIN MOTEL – No Additives. No Preservatives. Corporate Free Since 1938

AUSTIN MOTEL - So Close. Yet So Far Out. [South Congress Ave - Austin, TX]
AUSTIN MOTEL – So Close. Yet So Far Out. [South Congress Ave – Austin, TX]
The block was lined with unique storefronts filled with quirky artifacts, clothing, boots, and furniture. Not that I was out to shop; but, more or less to proudly appreciate the focus on supporting local businesses. Places like El Tezontle Gallery, Heritage Boot Company (handmade fancy boots), Stella Blue Boutique & Salon, and Blackmail Boutique and Atelier. Just cool. VERY cool.

El Tezontle Gallery [South Congress Ave - Austin, TX]
El Tezontle Gallery [South Congress Ave – Austin, TX]
Heritage Boot Company - Handmade Fancy Boots. [South Congress Ave - Austin, TX]
Heritage Boot Company – Handmade Fancy Boots. [South Congress Ave – Austin, TX]
Blackmail. Stella Blue. [South Congress Ave - Austin, TX]
Blackmail. Stella Blue. [South Congress Ave – Austin, TX]
As I made my way back towards Jo’s, I thought I heard live music. We’re living in the Music Capitol of The World, so of course you’re going to hear music; But, how often do you hear live music from a guy named “Guitar Shawn” rockin’ out on the top of his van on South Congress Ave in front of the Austin famous Continental Club? Well… probably more often than one would think. CLASSIC! I tipped brother Shawn, he gestured a “Thank You Brother!” and just kept on jammin’ with his circa 1987 hair and Texas Lone Star State flag blowin’ in the wind. Right on! #Guitar_Shawn

"Guitar Shawn" - rockin' on South Congress Ave [Austin, TX]
“Guitar Shawn” – rockin’ on South Congress Ave [Austin, TX]
"Guitar Shawn" - South Congress Ave [Austin, TX]
#Guitar_Shawn [South Congress Ave – Austin, TX]
I just had coffee. Listened to Guitar Shawn. And now, I’m sitting on yet another bench, moderating a conversation (albeit argument) between 3 young ladies trying to figure out has the best ice cream in Austin, which then escalated quickly to the State of Texas. Did I mention I was right outside Amy’s Ice Cream? Look no further young ladies! AMY’S ICE CREAM is the answer! Is it the best ice cream in town? Perhaps. How about the best in Texas? It’s debatable. I’m a true Texas fan of Blue Bell Ice Cream (Brenham, TX); however, last time I bought a pint of homemade vanilla at HEB Grocery Store, I don’t recall any servers performing a magic show as they infuse gummy bears and half a Snicker’s Bar into a delicious mound of Belgian Chocolate ice cream that is then flipped into a waffle bowl. Amy’s is about the entertainment and the delivery! These dudes (and fabulous ladies) are like Wizards of Frozen Dairy! And oh yeah… it’s that goooooood!

Amy's Ice Cream - The Wizards of Frozen Dairy [South Congress Ave - Austin, TX]
Amy’s Ice Cream – The Wizards of Frozen Dairy [South Congress Ave – Austin, TX]
As I was making my way back to the car, I found myself stopping outside of Hotel San Jose. A great place for date night, friends in town, afternoon or late night drink; but, although I live here in Austin… it’s a goal of mine to actually STAY a night at Hotel San Jose. Just an iconic hotel residence to call your home for a night (or two) in Austin, Texas.

Hotel San Jose - [South Congress Ave - Austin, TX]
Hotel San Jose – [South Congress Ave – Austin, TX]
Entrance to Hotel San Jose [South Congress Ave - Austin, TX]
Entrance to Hotel San Jose [South Congress Ave – Austin, TX]
My friends called. Lubbock and Houston had arrived. That was my 43rd Birthday morning. Unscripted. No purpose or cause. And it was spectacular! Maybe next time I’ll try to do more than just peruse ONE CITY BLOCK. Perhaps see 2 or 3 blocks of South Congress Avenue, or even venture (dare I say) to OTHER cool and hip parts of A U S T I N. Like I said… Not all Texas cities are created equal.

A  U  S  T  I  N  .  T  E  X  A  S

SXSW 2013: Austin. TX. Music. Beer. Bacon. sat·is·fac·tion.

I LOVE travel; but, when you can’t travel for whatever reason (time, fear of clowns, money, stuck cooking a rack of lamb), the most satisfying remedy is a “staycation”. Call it snobbery. Call it a blessing. Call it lucky. Call it True (or False?). Call it whatever you want; BUT… I’m calling Austin, Texas one of my Top 10 Favorite Cities in the World! And, if you haven’t already guessed by the title of this blog (Austin GlobeTrekker), I live here and I’m LOVING every minute of it! By the way… is “snobbery” a real word? Or did I just make that up? Well, it’s a word now.

Austin, TX - City Skyline from Mt Bonnell
Austin, TX – City skyline from Mt Bonnell

The funny thing about Austin, is that you rarely actually meet somebody who was born and raised here. When you do… trust me, they’ll proudly let you know. And why not? The rest of us got here and stayed. My parents moved to Austin in 1991 while I was in college. I moved here in 2000. I think that gives me the right to call Austin my “home town”. You see, there are levels of “PRIDE”. Level 1 – PROUD to be an American. Level 2 – Proud to be from Texas. And then there’s Level 3 – Mach 5 with your hair on fire yelling and screaming while jumping out of an airplane strapped to the back of a great white shark – PROUD to live in Austin, TX!

T E X A S  2 0 1 3
T E X A S 2 0 1 3

I’ve recently discovered (thanks to Lesley CarterThe Most Interesting Travel Woman in the World!) that there are a LOT of people around the globe probably reading my blog for the 1st time who may (or may not) know anything about Austin, TX. For those of you who dare to venture deep into the heart of Texas – Austin Photo Book answers that ever looming question… Why do people LOVE Austin so much? (photography by my friend Peter Tsai @supertsai).

Austin Photo Book - photography by Peter Tsai
Austin Photo Book – photography by Peter Tsai

Last year, I wrote a blog called SXSW 2012: I LOVE Austin, TX! (Please… don’t move here!). And to steal some sentences from myself (well, I guess it’s not plagiarizing if I wrote them) I especially love Austin during the month of March, when Spring Break comes to town, and South by Southwest (SXSW) showcases the best in indie film, music and interactive from around the world. Last year’s highlight was spending time with my friend Kate (aka Cinnamon, aka K-Bone) and discovering artists like – Of Monsters and Men (Iceland), Team Me (Norway) and Ed Sheeran (England). Did I mention I also saw Jay-Z at Austin City Limits Moody Theater earlier that same week? But, I digress. The fact of the matter, it was GREAT to be in Austin, Texas! I remember thinking… I’m really happy I live here. If my memory serves me well, I think the night I dropped Kate off at her house, she turned from her front porch and yelled towards the car “Hey! Same time next year?”. Oh hail to the yeah! The only question was… How are we going to top 2012? That’s the beauty of Austin, Texas. You just never know!

SXSW 2013: Breakfast @KerbeyLane with Kate - The "tradition" begins!
SXSW 2013: Breakfast @KerbeyLane with Kate – The “tradition” begins!
Kerbey Lane Cafe - Austin, Texas USA. When you've just gotta have a good breakfast!
Kerbey Lane Cafe – Austin, Texas USA

I’m not sure if doing something for 2 years in a row is considered a “tradition”; but, for argument’s sake, let’s say that Kate and I have started a “tradition” because our 2013 Friday SXSW Experience began the same as our 2012 Friday SXSW Experience, with breakfast at an Austin culinary staple – the original Kerbey Lane Cafe on Kerbey Lane. Now don’t be fooled. There are other Kerbey Lane cafe’s; but, they’re not actually ON Kerbey Lane, so in my book… you’re not really at Kerbey Lane. Ok, that’s enough Shameless Free Advertising about Kerbey Lane. Go to the original. You’ll thank me later. I highly recommend the french toast with bacon. Cuz everything’s better with bacon. In the movie business, that would be called a “teaser”.

SXSW 2013: Tumblr + Gap's SXSW FILTER On Rainey Showcase [Friday, March 15, 2013]
SXSW 2013: Tumblr + Gap’s SXSW FILTER On Rainey Showcase [Friday, March 15, 2013]
Tumblr + Gap's SXSW FILTER On Rainey Showcase
Tumblr + Gap’s SXSW FILTER On Rainey Showcase

We really only had one requirement for SXSW 2013. Get to Rainey Street and enjoy the day of live music with our friends from Filter Magazine Showcase. They served us well last year, so keeping with tradition, that was our assignment. Mission Accomplished. I’m not sure what time it is socially acceptable to consume alcohol; but, let’s just say that when we hit our 1st venue on Rainey Street, we were the only souls at Craft Pride that didn’t actually work at Craft Pride. So what is this place? Well, the name says it all. Craft Pride is a local Austin bar that proudly (and exclusively) serves craft beers made and brewed in the State of Texas. I think “made” and “brewed” is the same thing; but, let’s just leave it alone. One of the coolest aspects of Craft Pride is that 90% of the interior’s wood was reclaimed after knocking down the previous establishment. I was feeling that Texas Pride!

Craft Pride - SXSW 2013 in Austin, TX
Craft Pride – SXSW 2013 in Austin, TX

Beer Flight @Craft Pride - Austin, TX [SXSW 2913]
Beer Flight @Craft Pride – Austin, TX [SXSW 2913]
Craft Pride # 61 Rainey Street in Austin, TX [SXSW 2013]
Craft Pride # 61 Rainey Street in Austin, TX [SXSW 2013]
I’m absolutely God awful about picking out wine, and unless I use Google, I couldn’t tell you a merlot from a pinot, or chardonnay. I thought I knew beer. Boy, was I wrong! Craft Pride has 50+ Texas brewed beers on tap. Stouts, lager, Scottish Ale, and my favorite… IPAs. The thing I loved most… as soon as time permitted for us to legally be served, they took the time and courtesy to truly educate us on their selections. You can’t help but fall in love with delectable talents of a well made beer. I would highly recommend 667 Neighbor of the Beast IPA, Deep Ellum Brewing IPA, Thirsty Goat Amber, and Jester King’s Wytchmayker  IPA. Sister Kate tasted a few; but, I think she was a fan of Texas Honey Ale, and of course 667 Neighbor of the Beast and Devil’s Backbone Brewery.We started out the day the right way! So, if you’re ever in Austin, TX head on down to Craft Pride at the Southernmost end of Austin’s historic Rainey Street, ask for Russell, and tell him Cookie sent ya!

 Russell @Craft Pride - Austin, TX [SXSW 2913]
Russell @Craft Pride – Austin, TX [SXSW 2913]
Mmmmmm.... Beer! Craft Pride - Austin, TX [SXSW 2013]
Mmmmmm…. Beer! Craft Pride – Austin, TX [SXSW 2013]
What's on Tap? @Craft Pride - 61 Rainey Street [Austin, TX - SXSW 2013]
What’s on Tap? @Craft Pride – 61 Rainey Street [Austin, TX – SXSW 2013]
While we were at Craft Pride, we met a couple from Boston. Low and behold, they were “just visiting” Austin (because they heard it was a cool city) and had no idea it also happened to be SXSW until they arrived. Once again, I love travelers who take the time to ask for the “local recommendation”, so I helped where I could. Grab a cone at Amy’s Ice Cream; spend Sunday afternoon at Ginny’s Little Longhorn for Chicken Shit Bingo (or any of the dive bars on Burnet Road – La La’s, Buddy’s, C-Hunt’s, Poodle Dog Lounge); 2am Breakfast at Magnolia Cafe where the sign says “Sorry We’re Open”; stand under the rotunda at the State Capitol Building; check out the shops, bars, restaurants and food trucks on South Congress; Get a good view of Lake Austin and the city skyline from the top of Mt Bonnell; eat some real genuine Texas BBQ at the original Salt Lick in Driftwood, TX; take a short road trip for Sunday Jazz Brunch at Nutty Brown Cafe (Dripping Springs, TX); but, first and foremost, you’re already doing the #1 best thing you can do in Austin, TX… experiencing SXSW in the Live Music Capital of the World!

Texas State Capitol - Austin, Texas USA
Texas State Capitol – Austin, Texas USA
Texas State Capitol Bldg in Austin - "Don't Mess With Texas!"
Texas State Capitol Bldg in Austin – “Don’t Mess With Texas!”
Amy's Ice Cream - Austin, Texas - "A True Frozen Dessert Experience!"
Amy’s Ice Cream – Austin, Texas – “A True Frozen Dessert Experience!”
Magnolia Cafe - Austin, Texas - "Sorry, We're Open" - late night pancakes with my friends Robyn and Jaime
Magnolia Cafe – Austin, Texas – “Sorry, We’re Open”

I can’t remember the rest of the conversation with the Bostonians, because Kate came running back into the bar to tell me “You’ve GOT to check this out. They’ve got a BACON food truck on the back patio!”. She had me at BACON.

BACON Food Truck at Craft Pride on Rainey Street - March 15, 2013 [Austin, TX]
BACON Food Truck at Craft Pride on Rainey Street – March 15, 2013 [Austin, TX]
SXSW 2013: Javelina - 69 Rainey Street [Austin, TX]
SXSW 2013: Javelina – 69 Rainey Street [Austin, TX]
The day continued with us walking aimlessly northward on Rainey Street. As mentioned previously, our intent… attending the Filter Magazine Showcase on Rainey Street (presented by Tumblr + GAP). The afternoon at Clive Bar was filled with music by Vacationer, Ducktails, Peace, Shout Out Louds, and Ra Ra Riot. I can tell you that before that day… I had never heard of ANY of these bands; but, there’s just something special and cool about chilling with friends and music lovers from all over the world in your home town. I couldn’t of been happier. And then it happened…

SXSW 2013: See No Evil, Speak No Evil, Hear No Evil
SXSW 2013: See No Evil, Speak No Evil, Hear No Evil
SXSW 2013: Chillin' with the LA crew on Rainey Street [Austin, TX]
SXSW 2013: Chillin’ with the LA crew on Rainey Street [Austin, TX]
SXSW 2013: Without ME it's just AWESO
SXSW 2013: Without ME it’s just AWESO
SXSW 2013: Live Music in Austin, TX
SXSW 2013: Live Music in Austin, TX
SXSW 2013: Tumblr + GAP - Filter Showcase on Rainey Street
SXSW 2013: Tumblr + GAP – Filter Showcase on Rainey Street
KATE! SXSW 2013!
KATE! SXSW 2013!

I was talking with my friends, snapping pictures (like I always do), laughing and joking around with a group of folks from Los Angeles. I put the camera in my bag and slung it over my shoulder whilst turning to take my beer back from my friend Marie. During the process, I accidentally bumped into the guy behind me. I sincerely apologized with an “Oh man, I’m so sorry bro.” He said, “No worries, it’s cool”. I started making small talk with him, and then my friend Marie says to me “Errr… Jason. You know this is Usher, right?”. To the surprise of many, black people blush. Well, at least I did! I was just having a conversation with him like it was nobody’s business. He laughed, we shook hands, and then did that brotherly hug thing. He was beyond cool, calm and collected. Just enjoying Austin, Texas and listening to some live music at SXSW. It was like meeting 007. Just cool.

SXSW 2013: It's good to be the King! (or Queen)
SXSW 2013: It’s good to be the King! (or Queen)
SXSW 2013: Enjoying life w/new friends from LA
SXSW 2013: Enjoying life w/new friends from LA
SXSW 2013: The crowd is hopping!
SXSW 2013: The crowd is hopping!
SXSW 2013: Enoying the music....
SXSW 2013: Enoying the music….

We talked for maybe 5mins longer, and then he was discovered. I politely told him it was a pleasure hanging with him. Then I realized WAIT… this is Usher! Nobody will believe me! So, I asked. Can we get a picture? Because nobody will believe me. In typical Usher fashion, he said “Of course!”. Now… the problem with handing over your Nikon D7000 DSLR camera for people to take a picture of you and Usher… there’s ZERO time to give them a crash course in using the camera. Needless to say, I took what I could get which is Photo 1 with Usher blinking. Photo 2 with my head almost getting cut out of the picture; but, between the 2 photos… you get the idea. So for my “Are You Kidding Me?” award, the recipient is none other than Usher. Buy his albums, name your kid Usher, watch The Voice. I don’t care. Whatever you have to do… support that guy, because he is truly a class act and I’ll forever be a fan.

Usher & Me (Austin GlobeTrekker) - Tumblr + GAP - Filter Showcase on Rainey Street
Usher & Me (Austin GlobeTrekker) – Tumblr + GAP – Filter Showcase on Rainey Street
Usher - SXSW 2013: Austin, TX
Usher – SXSW 2013: Austin, TX

The afternoon turned to evening, and the music progressed, as did the capacity of the crowds. After a fun-filled day of excursions on Rainey Street at places like Clive Bar, Icenhauer’s, and The Bungalow, it only made sense that we venture back to where it all began at Craft Pride. It was time for a Deep Ellum IPA and a BACON sandwich (which just so happened to have a piece of grilled chicken on it).

SXSW 2013: Craft Pride - 61 Rainey Street [Austin, TX]
SXSW 2013: Craft Pride – 61 Rainey Street [Austin, TX]
Taps at Craft Beer
Taps at Craft Beer

sat·is·fac·tion (s t s-f k sh n). As we made our way out of the downtown scene, reflecting on the unlikely series of events our day unfolded, my olfactory senses were on fire with the carnival smell of funnel cakes doused with powdered sugar. My partner-in-crime launched herself from the vehicle as I sat patiently awaiting her return. As Kate jumped back into the car with a white paper plate bursting with funnel cake, we smiled (actually giggled) and I could only think of 2 words to sum up SXSW 2013. bad. ass.

SXSW 2012: I LOVE Austin, TX! (Please… don’t move here!)

Most of my friends, family, co-workers (and that dude with the sarcastic personality I see in the mirror every morning) will tell you that I complain about a LOT of things… but, living in Austin, Texas is certainly NOT one of them. I LOVE Austin, TX! (Please… don’t move here!). I especially love Austin during the month of March, when Spring Break comes to town, and South by Southwest (SXSW) showcases the best in indie film, music and interactive from around the world. In my humble opinion, this is the time of year that Austin more than lives up to its rightfully earned title of the Live Music Capital of The World. What? Don’t believe me? Come and listen for yourself.

SXSW 2012 - Of Monsters and Men - Filter Magazine's Showdown at Cedar Street - Austin, TX USA

When I got back to work on Monday morning, a co-worker asked me a simple question… “What was your favorite part of SXSW 2012?”. Then he shoved a microphone in front of my face and told me “Smile! You’re on national television.” Then I yelled out “I LOVE BACON!” and ran screaming from the building. OK, I made that part up; but, I truly had to think about it. If you’re anything like me (if so… I’m sorry!) then your answer would be “… it depends”. Kind of like asking somebody “What is your favorite travel destination?”. I’m not good with statistics; but, probably 8 out of 10 times, you’re going to get a different answer. In case you were wondering… my favorite travel destination is New Zealand (so far). I’ll get to my favorite part of SXSW 2012 before I finish the blog. Promise.

SXSW 2012 - Frost Bank Bldg - Downtown Austin, Texas USA

I have a LOT of friends who live in Austin and say point blank “I don’t do SXSW”. I also have a LOT of friends who live in Austin, do ALL the research, know everything about every band, party, event, and can tell you when, where, why and how to be an intricate part of SXSW Culture. I am neither of these people. I don’t despise SXSW. And I don’t eat, sleep, and breathe SXSW either; But, oh mama! I do like to EXPERIENCE SXSW.

The Lone Star Flag
The Lone Star Flag - Welcome to Texas!

This year, my SXSW 2012 Experience happened by accident. My wife and I were planning a 24hr overnight break from our boys (ages 4 and 2). Hopefully, no explanation necessary; but, if you need one… sometimes folks gotta get away! Even if it’s just for 24hrs. I think you understand. Anyway, I digress. March 17th. That was the day of reckoning. Marked it on the calendar, and then came up with a GENIUS idea to take Friday, March 16th off work. Why? Because, it just seemed like the right thing to do the day before I was going out of town. I’m telling you… I REALLY need to come out from under that rock more often, because I  I quickly realized that the week of March 12-16th was Spring Break here in Austin, TX. Wait a second… the music portion of SXSW starts during this week!  Good thing I accidentally took off work for Friday, March 16th! And Oh snap! March 17th is St Patrick’s Day and I’ll be at La Cantera Resort in the San Antonio – Texas Hill Country with my wife (Anna)! Woo! Hoo!

Texas State Capitol - Austin, Texas USA

It’s unfortunate that I was too stupid to actually take the whole week off work. Nevertheless, I knew my 2012 SXSW Experience was going to be good. I just didn’t know HOW good. After exchanging texts and emails on Facebook with my friend Paul in New York the previous week, he informed me that he and the Dos Equis Team would be in Austin for SXSW interactive. They live in New York. A 20-25min drive downtown was a no brainer for me to spend time with them (again).

Amy's Ice Cream - Austin, Texas - "A True Frozen Dessert Experience!"

I was a little bit overwhelmed by the annihilation of what used to be downtown Austin, Texas; but, I have NEVER had a bad time with my friend Paul, so I put on my big boy SXSW boots and saddled up ready for the rodeo. Not literally. Just figuratively. I was ready to go with the flow and take on whatever the night had in store for us. He calmly says “well… we can grab a drink, bite to eat, walk around, or try to catch some live music somewhere.” You know me! Well… the 7 of you reading this blog really don’t know me; but, I was game for whatever. Then he nonchalantly says… “Oh wait, I forgot… we got tickets to see Jay-Z [at Austin City Limits (ACL) Moody Theater]”. I think I may have dropped a few four letter words at this point.

AMEX Synch Show Presents Jay-Z LIVE from SXSW 2012 in Austin, TX
Jay-Z LIVE at Austin City Limits (ACL) Moody Theater for SXSW 2012

If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it maybe 15 or 16 times… “The greatest surprises in life are the adventures never expected”. That’s my sarcastic way of saying “It ain’t a surprise if you already know what’s gonna happen!”, and this was certainly unexpected and definitely a great surprise. Sincere Thanks to my friends Paul, Greg, Stephen and the rest of the crew from Dos Equis for their kindness and generosity. Also, to American Express – AMEX Synch Show for bringing one of (if not THE) greatest hip-hop artists to Austin City Limits (ACL) Moody Theater. I would show you my horrible attempt to capture part of the show; but, what’s the point? AMEX put together a rebroadcast of the show which is definitely worth exploring. Song after song after song. I forgot just how many hits Jay-Z has. Heart of the City, Izzo, 99 Problems, Hard Knock Life, Where I’m From, and Public Service Announcement (just to name a few). THIS is why Jay-Z is such a great artist and global phenomenon.

As if the night couldn’t get any better (or more surprising) we eventually made our way to the infamous 6th Street for a little adrenaline rush with Dada Life – Stockholm, Sweden. You know you’re in for an adventure when a musician’s motto is… “Destroy dance music and have fun. Don’t look back in the past. Always go forward. Don’t think too much. Always follow the money. Do the Dada.” Probably one of the craziest shows I’ve ever seen in my life. Granted, I really don’t get out from under that rock a whole lot; But, when a bunch of people get on stage in banana outfits and jump around while the crowd is going bananas with glow sticks all juiced up on one too many red bull’s, it was clear that at 41… I was too old for this $@#%! But, FUN FUN FUN FUN. Dada Life was a great SXSW Experience. After all, I got to partake in my favorite pastime… PEOPLE WATCHING!

Might I remind you that this was all on a MONDAY night? Lucky for me, I had to be at work on Tuesday morning, so at almost 1am CST, I said goodbye to the Dos Equis Crew on W. 6th Street, thanked them for a wonderful time at SXSW, and called it a night. That gave me Tues, Wed, and Thurs to rest up for my Friday SXSW Experience. Knowing my wife (Anna) is Numero Uno on my list for fun and adventure, I knew she was working all day and could not partake of the festivities. Rats! That meant I had to recruit a “partner in crime”. Insert my good friend Kathryn aka Kate, aka K-Bone, aka “Cinnamon”. Fun, cool, great attitude, fellow music lover, fun, and awesome friend. Did I mention FUN? What’s not to love about Kate?

Me and My SXSW 2012 "Partner in Crime" Kate - Austin, TX

Breakfast is supposed to be the best meal of the day; therefore, Kate and I started out our Friday SXSW Experience at an Austin culinary staple – the original Kerbey Lane Cafe on Kerbey Lane. Go figure. I guess that’s why it’s the original, because the one by my house is on Highway 183. You know you’re at SXSW when a group walks in for breakfast with a film crew entourage. I have no idea who the heck they were, or why the were being filmed. Irrelevant. Besides, nobody except Kate (or maybe Beyonce) was going to distract me from eating my blackberry pancakes and bacon that morning. Dee-licious!

SXSW 2012 - Kerbey Lane Cafe - Austin, Texas USA.
When you've just gotta have a good breakfast!

When I travel and/or go to music festivities, I typically have something in mind that I MUST see/do. Everything outside of that… I’m game. For the Friday SXSW Experience, I wanted to see Iceland’s “Of Monsters and Men” at Filter Magazine’s Showdown at Cedar Street (1pm CST). That pretty much left the whole day open. We arrived just after 11am, and decided to show our love and support for my friends from Dos Equis, by paying homage with a cold and frosty Dos Equis cerveza! Yeah, I know it was only 11am; but, it was happy hour somewhere in the world. Why not Austin, Texas? Right?

SXSW 2012 - Dos Equis - "I don't always drink beer. But when I do..."

For the 7 of you who actually read my blog, you may recall that my wife (Anna) and I are planning a trip to Fjord Norway this year (2012). Ranks right up there with Patagonia (Argentina/Chile), Machu Piccu, Tibet/Nepal, Switzerland, South Pacific (Bora Bora, Fiji) and Africa (Tanzania, Mozambique, S. Africa, Kenya, Botswana) on my 1000 places to see before I die list.  So who the heck knew that I would be watching a Norwegian band on a Friday morning in Austin, Texas while drinking a Mexican beer? Not me. Enter “Team Me” from Norway.

SXSW 2012: "Team Me" from Norway

Unknown to the US… OK, that’s really not fair. Unknown to ME… They won the Norwegian Grammys for best pop group 2011, for their debut album “To the Treetops!”  My day was shaping up nicely, and for the past 3 days now, “Show Me” by “Team Me” has been occupying space on my iPod Playlist as a recurring favorite song. There’s a reason why they are a SXSW 2012 Showcasing Artist.

A pure delight to hear them play LIVE. Great sound. As if my opinion of “Team Me” couldn’t get any better… we somehow ended up talking to the drummer, Bjarne. Just a fantastic person, and true representation of how taking timeout to say hello and have a conversation with a couple of new fans at SXSW in Austin, Texas gains you some supporters for life. I’ve been telling everybody about them. Bjarne probably won’t remember me to save his life; but, I told him I was already planning a trip to Fjord Norway, so would look them up and try to catch a show when we come through Oslo this year (2012). I already said it earlier in the blog; but, I’ll say it again… “The greatest surprises in life are the adventures never expected”. You heard it here… TEAM ME. BRILLIANT!

SXSW 2012 - "TEAM ME" from Norway in Austin, TX

If you’re still reading this blog, about 2hrs ago, I mentioned that my co-worker asked me a simple question… “What was your favorite part of SXSW 2012?”. Without question… listening to the Icelandic indie folk band Of Monsters and Men LIVE at Filter Magazine’s Showdown at Cedar Street. They were beyond great. There’s something to be said when you’ve watched YouTube videos of a band, and listened to live in studio recordings of them, as well as heard a few songs on iTunes, and it STILL doesn’t do them as much justice as seeing them LIVE in Austin, Texas.

"Of Monsters and Men" - Indie Folk band from Reykjavik, Iceland

They surpassed my expectations, and for that, Of Monsters and Men from Reykjavik, Iceland are my favorite part of SXSW 2012. Who would have guessed? If you don’t know them… you WILL know them soon enough.

Yelling “HEY!” with the crowd on songs like “Little Talks” and “Dirty Paws” in an electrifying LIVE setting was fantastic. I also enjoyed the melodic sounds on songs like “Lakehouse” and “King and Lionheart”. Awesome.  Although “Little Talks” is probably their most notable song, I can’t help bursting out a hearty “la-la-laaaa… la-la-la-laaaa!” while singing “Dirty Paws” numerous times throughout the day.

Of Monsters and Men. Just a REALLY great band. And Yes, I’ve already pre-ordered the US debut album “My Head Is an Animal” on iTunes (Expected Release Date Apr 3, 2012). Do yourself a favor… check them out!

SXSW 2012 - "Of Monsters and Men" from Iceland in Austin, TX

I could very well have gone home and been 100% happy with my Friday SXSW Experience; however, Kate set the expectations high by telling me about a one man band from England called Ed Sheeran. Then she described him. Small red haired white guy who can rap and play a guitar like a banshee. I really have no idea what a banshee is… but, somewhere in the world banshees are proud, because Ed Sheeran is the REAL deal.

He was pretty much amazing. Yet another surprise for my SXSW Experience. This was starting to become a habit. A good one.

SXSW 2012: Ed Sheeran @Cedar Street
SXSW 2012: Filter Magazine's Showdown @Cedar Street w/Ed Sheeran

I may have forgotten to mention that our friends Jeannie, Jeff, and Amy joined us at Cedar Street. After a great day (so far) of “Team Me” (Norway), “Of Monsters and Men” (Iceland) and “Ed Sheeran” (England), why stop there? Jeff really wanted to see a North Carolina band “Lost in the Trees”, so we took our happy smiles to Speakeasy on 4th and Congress for some more live SXSW music. I’m not even sure how to describe their sound other than “beautiful”. Something you would hear on Grey’s Anatomy, or as part of a movie soundtrack. Hopefully I won’t offend them by saying I could drink a cup of coffee and read a good book while listening to them. Very different than the Scandinavian filled live show we had just left at Cedar Street.

SXSW 2012 - Amy, Jeannie and Kate - Filter Magazine's Showdown @Cedar Street

Before “Lost in Trees” came on, we were ever so lucky to catch Irish folk singer and Academy Award Winner Glen Hansard (The Swell Season) alongside Jake Clemons on the stage at Speakeasy. A perfect St Patty’s Day Eve treat. “Low Rising” was awesome. As was “The Parting Glass” sung accapella at the end of his set. BRILLIANT! And once again… another great surprise for my Friday SXSW Experience. Seriously… next year I’m takin’ the whole week off. Geez! I’m an idiot!

I could go on for hours writing about how we watched a couple of bands on a parking garage rooftop of an advertising agency in downtown Austin. Along with free bratwurst from The Best Wurst in Austin, Texas and Shiner Bock beer; but, it’s all just too much to put in a single blog. I lost track of all the live music we heard at 96 Bar, Lustre Pearl, and Icenhauers. Nevertheless, by the time the evening made it’s way to a close, Kate and I found ourselves saying goodbye to my friends CHILL and Dina at Blackheart Bar on Rainey Street.

SXSW 2012: Bratwurst, Beer, Bands and Rooftops - Gotta Love it!
SXSW 2012 w/CHILL, Dina & Me on Rainey Street - Austin, TX

As we made the vicious hike across downtown towards my car, it was like an unspoken language of smiles across our faces that silently said… “GREAT DAY! GREAT DAY!”. That thought didn’t last long, because inevitably, how can you end a great day without great food? You can’t. We bee-lined for Austin’s finest food trucks at 3rd & Congress Ave. This wasn’t fast food. It was great food – made quickly. “I’ll have the blackened gulf red snapper poboy… and a bottle of ice cold water… Please!”. Kate had the pulled pork tacos. Dee-lish! As we humbly sat there on our cheap white plastic lawn furniture overlooking downtown Austin, Texas, it was the perfect way to end our Friday SXSW Experience.  All I could think was… SXSW 2012: I LOVE Austin, TX! (Please… don’t move here!). Bring on SXSW 2013! I’m ready!


SXSW - Food Trucks on Congress Ave - Austin, TX
"I'll have the blackened gulf red snapper poboy... Please!"
If you're visiting Austin, TX for SXSW (or any other reason) ...Read this sign!

Fredericksburg, TX: Ever need a vacation from your vacation?

Kitchen in The Basse House - Hoffman Haus, Fredericksburg, TX

It’s January 12th, 2012, and my first thought when I woke up this morning… WOW! No more corporate holidays until the end of MAY! Room spinning. Me screaming. And that eerie background music and feeling I was in an Alfred Hitchcock movie. Reference too old? Oh well. This inevitably led me to my next question… Ever need a vacation from your vacation?

Hoffman Haus - Basse Room - Fredericksburg, TX

I was off work this Holiday Season from December 24th until January 3rd and I’m exhausted. That’s a long time away from work if you live in the USA. Of course, if you live in Europe… you’re probably laughing at the absurdity of our work/life balance ratio in America. Me? I work to live. Not live to work, so I’m always feverishly trying to figure out our next travel destination. I did about 2 hours of research on Geiranger & Norway in a Nutshell last night; but, any trip to Europe isn’t going to be until at least May for us this year. Nope. I need a quick getaway. 5 days. 3 days. Heck… ONE day would be fantastic!

Old Wagon Wheel - Fredericksburg, TX (2006)
The Lone Star Flag
The Lone Star Flag - Welcome to Texas!

I started thinking back to some of my best short getaways, and it always brings me back home. Or as I like to call it… “The Staycation”. Anything within a 2 hour radius of my hometown of Austin, Texas, I consider a Staycation. So what’s my favorite Staycation? If you live in Mozambique, Thailand, or Norway, you may not have heard of  a small town called Fredericksburg in the Texas Hill Country. One of the best Bed & Breakfast communities anywhere I’ve ever been in the world. Just a 2hr drive from Austin; yet, you feel… away.

The Old Ford Tractor - Fredericksburg, TX USA (2006)
Ford Tractor for Sale - Fredericksburg, TX (2006)

It’s difficult to fathom that I had NEVER been to Fredericksburg until I was 36 years old. That was about 6 years ago. Now… we try to go at least once per year. I can’t say exactly why we like this place so much; but, relaxation, warm hospitality, fantastic cuisine would be a good start. Did I mention relaxation? Sometimes the place you lay your head at night makes all the difference as part of your travel experience. At least it does for me.

Sunrise on Lake Beauvert - Jasper National Park - Alberta, Canada (May 2009)

When we went to Jasper in Alberta, Canada (2009), waking up at 6am to the silence and beauty of Lake Beauvert from the front porch of our cabin was priceless. The same can be said about walking down the steps of Villa Bled at 5:40am and feeling, smelling, hearing and seeing Sunrise on Lake Bled, Slovenia (2011). Moments you just don’t forget. At least I won’t. In fact, sometimes when I feel like taking a vacation from daily life… It takes me less than a minute to feel peace once again. I just watch this video:

Whenever we go to Fredericksburg, it’s hard to imagine staying anywhere in town besides Hoffman Haus. This elegant and sophisticated Bed & Breakfast screams comfort and “WELCOME” in so many ways. A B&B classically positioned with names like Texas Star, Calico Cottage, Bluebonnet Suite, Indian Paint Brush, and Alamo. From the unique character and decor of each room/cottage to the incredibly delicious breakfast they freshly serve in a picnic basket on your doorstep each morning, this place is a gem you will be thankful you discovered. The owner of Hoffman Haus (and now our friend) Leslie Washburn is the key ingredient for this amazing hospitality and essence of home in the Texas Hill Country.

The Basse House - Hoffman Haus - Fredericksburg, TX
Cousin Ella @Hoffman Haus - Fredericksburg, TX (Oct 2008)
Bonfire Night - Hoffman Haus - Fredericksburg, TX (Oct 2008)

We have stayed here for birthdays, anniversaries, with family members, and “just because” occasions. Such a fantastic place. I’m not alone either. Click here to see what others have to say on Trip Advisor – my travel bible for hotel / B&B stays:  Trip Advisor Reviews of Hoffman Haus. The crazy thing is that you are so secluded from noise and traffic, that you forget you’re just a short 2 block walk away from Main Street. And it doesn’t really matter what time of year you go to Fredericksburg. The quaint and charming store fronts invite you inside to browse (or buy) their crafts and goods that you just don’t get at “big box” stores in the large cities.

Fredericksburg, Texas USA

If you can bear the Texas heat, or happen to arrive in the Texas Hill Country outside of Summer, it’s almost a MUST to visit Enchanted Rock State Park. I’ve hiked in Slovenia, Scotland, England, New Zealand, Canada and Austria; but, there’s something uniquely gratifying about visiting Enchanted Rock and taking a hike right here in Central Texas.

Enchanted Rock - State Natural Area - Texas Hill Country

By the time you’ve finished either shopping around town, or hiking in Enchanted Rock State Park, I’m not sure what could be better than WINE. No, we’re not in Tuscany or Bordeaux; but, let me tell you… a wine tour at Becker Vineyards is one of the most gratifying ways to fulfill your day. And I don’t usually even drink wine! Located between Fredericksburg and Stonewall, Becker Vineyards remains one of my favorite places to visit in the Texas Hill Country. There’s just something about the character of a vineyard. From the drive through the grapevines to the various shades of vino, cabinets filled with wine selections, and then I’m just absolutely fascinated by the strategically stacked big oak barrels. I just like the atmosphere. At some point, I’ll make my way to Sonoma and the California Wine Country; but, for now… I’m incredibly satisfied to have the Texas Wine Country right smack dab in my backyard. Just a hop, skip and a jump from Austin. Down the road over yonder. OK… I’ll ease up on the Texas talk.

Wine. Wine. Wine. Becker Vineyards - Texas HIll Country (2008)
Henri De Lobbe – The best Sommelier this side of France
...more wine.
Barrels of wine. Becker Vineyards. Texas (2008)

Another great reason for visiting Fredericksburg… food and live music entertainment at Hilltop Cafe on North US Hwy 87 (about 15mi outside of Fredericksburg in the Texas Hill Country). Or as they like to say – “Inconveniently located in the middle of nowhere…”. About 3 years ago, we took my cousins and family on their Texas Family Vacation from England to Hilltop Cafe. The eclectic Texas ambiance throughout this converted gas station made for a wonderful experience filled with great cuisine, laughs, smiles, and lasting memories. To steal (or quote) Johnny & Brenda’s words…  “Most of all it’s about LOVE: love of food, music, family and friends.”

Hilltop Cafe - N US Hwy 87 - Texas. Live music. Great food!
Me. Austin GlobeTrekker - Dining at Hilltop Cafe (Sept 2008)
Mi Familia. Hilltop Cafe - (l to r) Sister Portia. Cousins Polly & Ella. Cousin Roger (Oct 2008)
Mi Familia. Hilltop Cafe - (l to r) Anna (wife). Cousin Amanda. Mom. Texas (Oct 2008)

Don’t get me wrong… there are PLENTY of other things to do, people to see, places to eat/drink in Fredericksburg and the Texas Hill Country. I just prefer to blog about what I have experienced in hopes that others may explore the same path, or even better… discover new adventures and pass along these experiences and stories to others. Find your Staycation. Or tell me/us about your favorite vacation. Because if you read my mission statement…

Austin GlobeTrekker is about creating an active, open, non-judgmental and vibrant community where my friends, friends of friends, (and even cool strangers) can share TRAVEL stories, photos and experiences with one another. In the process… hopefully discover new places, cultures, talk about food and beverages (preferably beer!), and meet new friends from around the world.

Historic American Flag - Woodstock, Vermont USA


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Amsterdam… or Austin? Decisions. Decisions.

I’ve spent the past week or so trying to figure out why I had a dream (albeit nightmare) that I was in the 80’s rock band Whitesnake’s “Still of the Night” music video. Yeah… got some great Facebook responses over that one, and NO… I was not rolling around on the hood of a Jaguar. That was actually the “Here I Go Again” video. BUT… I was shirtless – sportin’ a leather vest and a pair of acid washed Guess jeans. It wasn’t until today, the 2nd birthday of our son Jordan, that I realized exactly why.

Amsterdam, The Netherlands - May 2007

As the 7 of you who actually read this blog know… I’m a real fan of looking back at where I’ve been, so I can see where I’m going. During my Senior Class Presidential speech at graduation, I said “Remember the past. Look to the future. But always live in the present.” In Fall 2001, exactly 10 years ago, I knew where I had been, the present sucked (just had 9/11, my grandad died, and I was unemployed); therefore, the future wasn’t looking too bright either. I’m not going to bore you with my woe is me story; but, let’s just say I found myself overseas in Europe looking for jobs in London and Amsterdam. So how does a Texan wind up in Amsterdam? Good question.

I amsterdam

Kind of funny how the whole Amsterdam thing came up. In 1994, I was given the most spectacular college graduation gift ever from my college friend Andy’s father. 4 Tickets to World Cup 1994 Quarter Finals in Dallas, Texas. For those of you who are also fans of football (aka soccer), you will recall that the legendary match was The Netherlands vs Brazil. Two of the most loyal and passionate football fan bases in the WORLD. Yes, I said WORLD. There we were… sitting at the half field line, singing with the Dutch, drumming and doing the Samba with the Brazilians, pinching each other to see “is this real?”. It was at that point that I made the lifelong rewarding decision that I would become a GlobeTrekker, so I could travel the world and meet people like THIS! Given the opportunity, I knew that I MUST visit their perspective countries of The Netherlands and Brazil before my life on this planet reaches its conclusion.

Canal Boats outside Centraal Station - Amsterdam

Opportunity #1. It was 1999 and I was in London on business. My British counterpart Biggin said “Hey mate! You’ve got some time before you head back. Let’s go to Amsterdam!”. Sounded fantastic to me! That was before we met up for a “few” pints down in SOHO/West End with our crazy Irish counterpart – Rory Kelly (how’s that for an Irish name?). “To hell ya arrrr! Ya comin’ back with me tar Dublin! It’s World Rugby Championship lads!”. His words… not mine. Needless to say, we never made it to Amsterdam; however, Dublin was… EPIC! I’ll never forget that journey; but, I’ll save that mayhem story for another episode.

vacant tables in the Leidseplein - Amsterdam

Opportunity #2 pleasantly presented itself just 2 years later in December 2001. So there I was, with an appetite for travel, staying with my 1st cousin Roger and his family in Northampton, England. From time to time, I would visit other cousins and family members in Leicester, Brighton, Derby, and London; but, after being in England for about a month, I had the chance to visit my Aunt’s husband’s brother-in-law in The Netherlands. How’s that for a stretch down the family tree? A tall, blonde-haired, blue-eyed Dutchman named Tomas. I think I was closer related to my FedEx driver than I was to Tom; but, family is family, and my cousin Roger and I were up for the “challenge”. Boarding the EasyJet flight out of Luton, one of my dream trips was about to be fulfilled. But, could I live there? That was the question. We found ourselves lodging in humbled circumstances at a 2 Star rated hotel just off the Leidseplein. In the words of my cousin Rog, it was “well dodgy”. Let me tell you something… I’m by no means pompous; but, unless I’m staying in the countryside, a national park, the mountains, or camping… there better be at least 3-4 Stars for a city hotel. Especially in Europe. Doesn’t really matter, because our room basically held our suitcases. The rest of the time… we were out and about.

Bicycles. Bicycles. Bicycles. Dam Square - Amsterdam 2007
What year was this bike made? 1946? Amsterdam 2007

My 2001 memories of The Netherlands… Bicycles. Bicycles. Bicycles. And then more bicycles. Good GOD those people can ride a bike! Pants. Skirt. Evening gown. Spandex. Doesn’t matter. They’ll just hop on and ride. And why are the bikes from circa 1946 post WWII? Not going to knock their preferred mode of transportation, because that’s the reason they’re all fit and healthy.

Clog Making @ Zaanse Schans - The Netherlands

I also recall watching a clog making demonstration in Zaanse Schans. Typically, not my cup of tea, and there would be nothing spectacular about this excursion, except in this particular situation… there was a Japanese tour bus that unloaded in front of us which added to the humor of the afternoon. Picture this… You have a Dutchman making clogs, while a Japanese tour guide translates Dutch into Japanese, and all the while, Tomas was translating Dutch into English for me and Roger. By the way, Tomas made up about 95% of the stuff he told us, because there’s no way clog making should be that funny. This was all before Tomas decided it would be a good idea to touch a smelly and nasty billy goat at Zaanse Schans windmills. Thus acquiring the nickname “Goat Boy”. Is it even possible for something to be smelly without being nasty? Nope? Didn’t think so.

Zaanse Schans Windmills - May 2007
Zaanse Schans - working windmills

Oh Lord, and what would an Austin GlobeTrekker blog be without me complaining about the weather? News flash… it’s colder than Christmas in The Netherlands in December. That didn’t help my probability for moving to Amsterdam. Sure, it’s better than the Texas heat; but, this is also why I don’t live in Chicago. The Winter man! the Winter! It’s just TOO cold.

Prinsengracht - Amsterdam, The Netherlands - May 2007

Self-proclaimed observation. I’m always embarrassed how few languages I know when I travel overseas. I know errrr… ONE. Pathetic I know; but, I always try to learn a few phrases. Plus, I’m a firm believer that a kind heart, friendly tone, and pleasant smile will get you quite far in a foreign land. Just watch The Amazing Race and you’ll see I’m spot on. Although, I was disturbingly surprised after asking for help to locate a cup of coffee only to be directed to a “coffee house”. Let’s just say two words and leave it at that… The Bulldog. Yeah… that wasn’t the kind of coffee I was looking for. I was thinking more like Folger’s, Starbuck’s, or a dirty NYC diner cup of joe served by a waitress named Mary Jane from West Virginia trying to get her life together in the big city. Well… “Mary Jane” was with us at The Bulldog alright. I must say though… I met some of the best people in the world that night. Three tall beautiful blonde girls from Iceland, some wicked cool girls from England, a couple of outrageously funny Scottish guys, 2 crazy ass football players from Baltimore, Maryland USA and me. Huh? Yeah, that was weird. Didn’t matter. We were living and loving life to it’s fullest! As my friend Stef recently posted on Facebook “Life is short, and it’s up to you to make it sweet” ~ Sadie Delaney. Good times. Goes down as one of the all-time greatest nights of partying. EVER.

Heinekin anyone? Amsterdam 2007
Amsterdam @ night

Before I get too boisterous about my partying prowess… It was after 3am, and I found myself being cursed by the Icelandic beauties as I threw in the towel, jumped in a cab, and told them I couldn’t go dancing with them at a local Amsterdam club. My cabbie was a kind and well-spoken gentleman from Turkey. “Where to my friend?”. And then it happened. I blanked out! All I could remember was that my hotel was on something straat. He bellowed a hearty laugh and said “My friend… ‘straat’ is like in English… errrr… the word ‘road'”. We drove around for hours in hope that I would remember the hotel name, an address, the location, something. We talked about his country of Turkey, and how he was there working to eventually bring his family over to Amsterdam. We also talked about 9/11, America, Europe, people, cultures, religions, life, everything. Sunrise, and I saw the movie theater across the street from our 2 Star hotel. The cab ride cost me 50 Euros or so for over 3 hours of drive time around the city of Amsterdam. A bargain in my book for an evening well spent, and inevitably, the night that I made the conscious decision it was time for me to return to America. More specifically, to live in Austin, Texas. 10 years later and here I am blogging about it. If you want to see a great representation of Austin, Texas and why I love this city so much, then please check out the photography of my friend Peter Tsai @SuperTsai in Austin Photo Book.

Austin Photo Book - photography by Peter Tsai

Sometimes I wonder “What IF… I had moved to Amsterdam? Or even London? What would my life have been like?”. Life isn’t made out of “What If’s”. As the great Jedi Master Yoda once said… “do or do not there is no try”. Yeah, I just referenced Star Wars. Now where was I? Oh yes. Life isn’t made of “What If’s”. For example, my childhood friend Josh (aka JR) is moving to Montana to become a fly fishing guide. That’s where JR belongs! In a river bed with a fly reel in his hands, soaking up God’s great landscape in Big Sky Country. How cool is that?

Graffiti or Art? Amsterdam 2007

It’s like my good friend Brooke (from Sweetwater, Texas).  She made the conscious decision (many years ago I might add) to move to New York City. Recently, she was here in Austin on business, and had the opportunity to combine it with a little pleasure by hanging with us – her friends. Effortless fun. As much as I’d LOVE for her to move back to Texas… she’s a New Yorker now. I’m proud of her. Happy for her. She’s exactly where she’s supposed to be. Look for an upcoming guest blog entry from Brooke on Austin GlobeTrekker soon – she’s in Iceland right now. Oh, to be a fly on the wall for THAT trip! Looking forward to hearing the adventures of the Wolfpack in Iceland. You can check out Brooke’s hysterical tales of life in New York (and beyond) on her blog  – Costly Sunglasses.

Amsterdam row house - May 2007
Amsterdam 2007. Yes... more bicycles.
Now comes the irony. May 2007. My wife(Anna) has a business trip to Amsterdam. It was during our 1st year anniversary (May 15), and she was 5 months pregnant with our first son – Cameron. I knew I could only go for 3-4 days; but, the opportunity to celebrate our anniversary together in one of my favorite cities in the world presented itself, so I was on that airplane as fast as possible. Landing at Schiphol Airport, I took the 15min train ride into Amsterdam and walked out of Centraal Station with a sense of comfort and fond memories. I walked across the street to our 4 Star lodging (Victoria Hotel) and began to tell my wife the stories of my visit in 2001.
Amsterdam, The Netherlands - May 2007

The tours of Amsterdam in 2007 were a lot different than in 2001. Sure, we checked out The Red Light District. Just one of those tourist things you have to do. But, just like Sixth Street doesn’t define Austin, Texas, neither does The Red Light District define Amsterdam. If you should find yourself heading to The Netherlands, be sure to check out Zaanse Schans for the windmills, clog museum, cheese factory, as well as touring the beautiful villages and authenticity of the Dutch Countryside. Had some of the best fish of my entire life in the fishing village of Volendam.

Drunken Sailors? Volendam, The Netherlands 2007

If you’re staying in Amsterdam, don’t be afraid to be a tourist and take a “Hop On Hop Off” canal ride around Amsterdam, witness the historical courage of Anne Frank at Anne Frank Museum, see the Van Gogh Museum, Rijksmuseum, take in Dam Square, experience The Flower Market, and eat the best pancakes in the world at The Pancake Bakery on Prinsengracht 191. YES, I said best in the world. No joke.

Anne Frank Museum - Amsterdam 2007
Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam - May 2007

And if you happen to be walking around Amsterdam on a quiet Sunday morning… make it a goal to find the Begijnhof – the only inner court in Amsterdam founded during the Middle Ages (1346). Definitely a calming and moving place. One more thing… take an afternoon or early evening stroll, and have a drink (or meal) in the really cool neighborhood of Jordaan.  Notice any similarities? Hmmm… Jordan. Jordaan. Coincidence? Me thinks not.

Begijnhof - Amsterdam 2007
Amsterdam 2007 - Begijnhof founded in 1346

As I mentioned at the beginning of the blog, I’ve spent the past week or so trying to figure out why I was in a Whitesnake video; but, it wasn’t until today, the 2nd birthday of our son Jordan, that I realized exactly why. The ever-looming answer… because that’s not where I was supposed to be. God provides the map. Use it. Or don’t. But, one way or another… you’ve got to make a decision. Right here. Right now. THIS is where I’m supposed to be. That was my decision. Austin, Texas with my wife (Anna), my boys (Cameron – 4, and Jordan – 2). You’ve just gotta find your place in this world. Literally. Mine is right here in Austin, Texas… For now. Travel well my friends! CHEERS!

watch out for that tram! Amsterdam 2007


Feliz Navidad. Jackson Hole. Movember. Huh?

Saturday, Movember 12th at approximately 7:06am I was rudely awakened by the somewhat annoying yet joyful sound of my 4yr old singing “Feliz Navidad”. My first thought was… “WOW! my 4yr old not only speaks Spanish… he sings it too! bien hecho a mi hijo!”. My 2nd and less impressive thought… “It’s Movember 12th! Can we PLEASE get through Thanksgiving first?”. My 3rd and utterly random mind-boggling contemplation… “Who invented liquid soap and why?”.

Entrance to Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming USA

In case you’re curious… William Shepphard first patented liquid soap on August 22, 1865. In 1980, the Minnetonka Corporation introduced the first modern liquid soap called SOFT SOAP brand liquid soap. Minnetonka cornered the liquid soap market by buying up the entire supply of the plastic pumps needed for the liquid soap dispensers. In 1987, the Colgate Company acquired the liquid soap business from Minnetonka. Good God! That’s some Alex Tribec share on a first date only if you don’t want a 2nd date type Jeopardy knowledge right there folks! All nice and free from our friends at About.com.

Jackson Hole, Wyoming USA

Watching my 4yr old’s excitement as he recited Jose Feliciano in Spanglish (that’s part Spanish… part English – he’s FOUR), I came to the inevitable conclusion that like it or not… Christmas is only 6 weeks away, and will be here before we know it. Thanksgiving; however, is only 2 weeks away from us stuffing our faces with turkey, mashed potatoes, gravy, and pie pie pie and more pie. Celebrated on the fourth Thursday in Movember, it’s been an annual tradition since 1863. Unless you live in Malawi, Czech Republic, Bhutan, or England. Then, it’s just Thursday, Movember 24th.

I look forward to Thanksgiving every year, because it truly is an opportunity to reflect on everything I am thankful for in my life. My wife, kids, family, friends, health (well… sorta), roof over my head, and a nice job. No, this blog is not my job. Just an opportunity to bore the 7 of you who actually read my blog to death with my MUREMindless Useless Random Entertainment.

Elk Ranch Flats - Wyoming, USA

My friends… What would an Austin GlobeTrekker blog be without me complaining about my favorite subject… the WEATHER? I know we survived an insufferable 80+ days over 100F in 2011 for one of the hottest summers EVER here in Texas; BUT… it was 82F in Austin, Texas today. I think that’s my #1 problem with preparing my mind for The Holidays. It’s hard to think of Thanksgiving, turkey, Christmas trees, mistletoe, hot chocolate by the fireplace, and Frosty the Snowman when it’s 82F outside in Movember.

cross country skiing anyone? Mount Moran - Teton Range

Where are the seasons? Northeast USA. Iceland. Switzerland. Bavarian Alps. That’s where. Not here in Texas! I think that’s why we try to take vacations to cooler locations. Because we know for a fact that we will get plenty of heat in Texas to last us for the majority of the calendar year. Plus, it’s nice to go somewhere that has seasons.

The JACKSON HOLE Project - view from Cunningham's Cabin - May 2008
Oxbow Bend - Grand Teton National Park, WY USA
Willow Flats - May 2011 - Wyoming, USA

Which leads me to today. I was listening to someone discuss the three main subatomic particles of an atom and the positions of these particles within the atom and what electric charge they carry, when I found myself drifting out of the conversation to May 2008. In reality, it was just the girl at the Starbucks asking me “whip… or no whip?”; but, she might as well have been talking Physics, because in my mind… I was in Jackson Hole, Wyoming.

South Jenny Lake - Grand Teton National Park, WY USA
Jenny Lake - Grand Teton National Park, WY USA

It was already heating up in Austin, Texas. Surprise surprise, so May 11-17, 2008 my wife Anna and I decided to take a much needed vacation to Jackson Hole, Wyoming, U.S.A. We utilized the trip to celebrate our 2nd year anniversary (May 15th). Granted, we wholeheartedly thrive on visiting foreign lands, learning about the history of various places, and enjoy engulfing ourselves within different cultures; but, since we’ve traveled all over the world, we thought… Why not stay on U.S. soil and travel within our own country for once?

Buffalo Crossing! Gross Ventre Road - Jackson Hole, WY
Eagle at Oxbow Bend - Grand Teton National Park, WY
What you lookin' at Willis?
Moose on Moose Wilson Road - Grand Teton National Park
SLOW DOWN! Wildlife on Road

We honestly did not know what to expect from our trip to Wyoming; however, we read in “1,000 Places to See Before You Die” that Grand Teton National Park and Yellowstone National Park are a MUST SEE in the United States. I am happy to report that we were definitely not disappointed. Seasons my friends! SEASONS! Winter Spring Summer Fall!

Old Faithful Geyser - Yellowstone National Park, WY USA
Cascade Canyon - Grand Tetons - May 2008
Grand Teton - May 2008 - Wyoming, USA

If the great outdoors, nature, wild life, pristine clean fresh air, mountains and beautiful rivers aren’t your kinda thing… then this is NOT the place for you. Even though in mid-May, I’m not sure it was supposed to be snowing 6-12 inches of fresh snow, Wyoming was an absolute delight for us. A spectacular experience we like to call… the JACKSON HOLE project.


Since it’s now Movember, it’s not too difficult to think back to our time in Jackson Hole and find yourself in the Christmas spirit. What’s wrong with my spell check? Why do I keep typing Movember instead of November? Who invented liquid soap and why? What IS Movember? Allow me to jump on my soapbox. See… it all comes back to William Shepphard again!

Movember 2011 - JCooke (aka Austin GlobeTrekker) http://mobro.co/heycameron

Movember (the month formerly known as November) is a moustache growing charity event held during November each year that raises funds and awareness for men’s health in the US and around the world. With their Mo’s, these men raise vital funds and awareness for men’s health, specifically prostate cancer and other cancers that affect men. We are proud to join the battle against cancer by growing Mo’s in support of “changing the face of men’s health”. Right now, I’m rockin’ a killa MO, so… PLEASE support my crazy ass MO growin’ efforts by making a DONATION at http://mobro.co/heycameron. You can also check my progress throughout the month of Movember on the Team Hey Cameron! Mo’ Page.

Austin GlobeTrekker - Wyoming USA - May 2008

Still not convinced? Here’s some MO info. Get it? MO info. Ha! Ha! Ha! Ok, that’s enough. But seriously…

The Movember Effect: Awareness & Education, Survivorship, Research
The funds raised in the US support prostate cancer and other cancers that affect men. The funds raised are directed to programs run directly by Movember and our men’s health partners, the Prostate Cancer Foundation and LIVESTRONG, the Lance Armstrong Foundation. Together, the three channels work together to ensure that Movember funds are supporting a broad range of innovative, world-class programs in line with our strategic goals in the areas of awareness and education, survivorship and research.

For more information on the programs we are funding please visit the following:
Prostate Cancer Foundation
LIVESTRONG, The Lance Armstrong Foundation
Awareness & Education
Global Action Plan

Feliz Navidad and Happy Thanksgiving my friends! CHEERS!

Sunset @ Antelope Flats - Jackson Hole, WY USA


Austin Photo Book – Photos of Austin, Texas

Austin Photo Book – Photos of Austin, Texas Austin Photo Book – Photos of Austin, Texas » Austin Photography Book – Pictures of Austin Attractions.

Austin Photo Book - photography by Peter Tsai

There’s a reason I live in Austin, Texas. Whether you’re in Malmo Sweden (shout out to my boy Michael Aberg!), Ohio (what’s up Nickerson!), Phuket (sorry, don’t know anyone in Thailand), or right here in Texas – Austin Photo Book answers the ever looming question… Why do people LOVE Austin so much?

Check out the photography of my friend Peter Tsai @supertsai.


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