Tag Archives: Texas

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.

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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Follow me on Twitter: @jcooke7austin

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.


Join the conversation! TRAVEL | EXPLORE | DREAM | DISCOVER

Sometimes… a picture says 1,000 words

The first time I saw Shamu… I was 4o years old. The first time my 3.5yr old saw Shamu… he was 2. Every week since then, he asks us when we can go back to SeaWorld San Antonio again and again… and again. We’ve been back probably 4-5 times over the past 18mos. The only other question that trumps Shamu in frequency asked is “Daddy… Can we go to the beach?”. “Soon Cameron… Soon”. That’s my cliche answer. My wife often gives me that look that silently… but oh, so blatantly says “you’ve gotta do better than that!”. Hey, I was able to fool him a few times by telling him Lake Travis and Lake Austin Spa Resort were the ocean; but, he’s watched Finding Nemo and one too many episodes of Hawaii 5-0 to know that his father is a liar.

Happy July 4th - 100+yr old USA Flag - Woodstock, VT

Living in Texas, we have the luxury of not being a land-locked state, so we actually have a coastline. The challenge with Texas is that everything is BIGGER in Texas. Sounds like a cheesy t-shirt some 38DD Texas gal or a 6ft 9 350lb offensive lineman everybody calls “Tiny” would sport during Spring Break on Panama City Beach, Florida; but, I’m not kidding. Texas is BIG! Story time… I had a friend from Greensboro, North Carolina who drove 9hrs across 4 states to go to school at Notre Dame (South Bend, Indiana). He was shocked when I told him I used to drive 11.5hrs from Texas A&M University in College Station, Texas to Amarillo in the Texas panhandle. In the same state! Yeah, I only went home once or twice per year, because it was too bloody far! Speed limit was 55mph back then. Now I’m having flashbacks of my driving experience on Germany’s Autobahn. 180km/h. That’s no punk. We could learn a thing or two from the Germans about highway efficiency. But, that’s a whole other topic. Lucky for me, my parents moved to Austin, Texas back in 1991 during my Junior year in college – thus the blog name – Austin GlobeTrekker.

Mustang Island, TX - July 4th Weekend 2011

So… now that the anticipation has been built, the question came from Cameron once again… “Daddy, can we go the beach?”. The answer he had been waiting for… “YES! Cameron… we CAN go to the beach!”. It’s kind of like my frequent visits to Starbuck’s. It’s not that I favor the flavor of a Starbuck’s coffee; but, more out of routine and convenience that I’ve become a regular. My drink? Tall raspberry-hazelnut mocha – no whip. It’s gotten to the point that I don’t even say anything. They just make it. I just pay for it. One day, I walked in and said “grande black coffee of the day please”. They laughed at me “ha ha ha! yeah right. We’ll have your drink ready in a minute”. But back to Cameron. When it finally registered in his fuzzy little head that I said “YES! Cameron… we CAN go to the beach“, it was as if the angels came down from the heavens, and the London Philharmonic Orchestra started playing Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Ha-lay-eee-loooooo-yah!!! For the rest of the week, he kept callin’ me Moses. A bit much if you ask me; but, I entertained the idea and responded each time politely with a “YES my son?”… in a deep Moses type biblical voice. You know… so he wouldn’t feel awkward. The staff, long grey beard and gold robe may have been a bit overboard on my end; but, I felt it was my responsibility to fit the part.

"The Bird Man" - Mustang Island, Texas

July 4th Weekend arrived, and the family loaded up in the car for our 4.5hr Texas road trip to Corpus Christi on the South Central Coastline of Texas. As we hit Gonzales, Refugio and Cuero, I kept reminding myself that I recently drove 4hrs from Lake Bled, Slovenia through Austria and Bavaria up to Munich, Germany. Similar… but different. VERY different. All eyes were closed when we reached Corpus; but, the excitement began when we pulled into our hotel at Holiday Inn Express – Corpus Christi. Really nice place for a family stay in Corpus. Clean. Friendly. Close proximity to restaurants, USS Lexington aircraft carrier, the Texas State Aquarium, and not too far from North Padre Island – Port Aransas – Rockport, Texas and the surrounding coastline. We made our way around Corpus for the 1st day; however, it was the 2nd day at Mustang Island State Park, Texas that told the story of the entire July 4th Weekend.

Sometimes... a picture says 1,000 words - Cameron at Mustang Island, TX - July 4th Weekend, 2011

Remember… I was 40 years old, the 1st time I saw Shamu. The 1st time my 3.5yr old saw Shamu… he was 2. At that point in time, I had never been so happy in my life for somebody other than myself. That was until July 3rd, 2011 when my boys – Cameron (3.5yrs) and Jordan (19mos) saw the ocean for the FIRST time in their lives. The entire experience can be summed up like one of those Mastercard commercials –

  • July 4th Weekend – Family Road Trip from Austin to Corpus Christi, Texas… 225 miles
  • 20gal tank full of premium unleaded gasoline… $75.00
  • Seeing the ocean through the eyes of your kids for the very first time… PRICELESS!

Sometimes… a picture says 1,000 words. For everything else… sure, there’s probably Mastercard.


VENICE 72 – “perfect weather day”

Many years ago… In a galaxy far far away… Just kidding. But seriously. Many years ago I created a self-inflected rule to “NEVER live anywhere that gets colder than your age”. An absolutely brilliant theory if you’re 12. I’m 41, which pretty much means by the time I’m 60… I’ll be living down in Boca Raton, Florida playing bocce ball with Frank and Estelle Costanza.

Venice, Italy - "perfect weather day" - 72F - May 16, 2011

I’m really working hard (not really) to achieve a “glass is half-full” mentality; but, when it’s 8:30am on a Sunday morning in Austin, TX, with a projected high for the day of 103F (40C), and you find yourself saying (to yourself) “it’s too bloody hot to drink coffee!” then that’s a problem. For 2 reasons:

  1. You’re talking to yourself. Cuckoo! Cuckoo!
  2. It’s never too early, never too late, and there’s ALWAYS time for coffee in my world, so it sure as hell should NEVER be “too bloody hot to drink coffee”.
"perfect weather day"
VENICE, ITALY - "perfect weather day" - 72F
"The Gondolier" - Venice, Italy

If I can be random for a minute… I’ve never been a fan of bumper stickers. Just not my gig. Sure, I’ve got my Texas A&M University – Association of Former Students sticker on my back windshield; but, that’s a sticker. Plus, it looks decent. Go ahead and roundhouse kick me in the head if I ever put a “my child is better than your child” type sticker on my car, and I certainly don’t ever have the time (or energy) to advertise how much a political leader stinks. Now, after saying all that, I had to laugh out loud (LOL as the kids say) at my friend Janeen’s current Facebook profile picture. It’s the bumper sticker of my life! “DRINK COFFEE. Do Stupid Things Faster with More Energy”. Yeah, that’s me.

DRINK COFFEE: Do Stupid Things Faster with More Energy

So now that we’ve gone around the block to go next door… IT’S HOT! Not Africa hot. TEXAS hot. We’re talkin’ 103F! That’s about 40C for my friends around the world on the metric system. I could easily go off on another tangent about “why America isn’t on the metric system with the other 95% of the world” but, I’ll spare you the boredom. Plus, that would mean I’d have to actually know the answer. Which I don’t.Wait… yes I do. MONEY. Costs too much to change everything out for 300 million people. Done.

Venice Italy - "original Venice walking tour"

Getting back to the “glass is half-full” conversation… I tried to look at the positive side of life. Unlike the temporary coma conversation with the Canadians (see Archived blog entry – AUSTIN: Hometown Cravings!), this time… I was fully aware of my surroundings. Primarily due to a 3.5yr old asking me “Daddy why don’t you have hair?” and whether or not he could have pancakes for breakfast. So as I’m “listening” to the boy discuss why he’s the fastest runner in his school, and how he doesn’t care too much for the way that research is currently being conducted on sub-atomic particles, I went to a place called VENEZIA. For my fellow English speaking brothers and sisters… VENICE, ITALY.

"Blue Skies... Nothin' But Blue Skies" - St Mark's Square - Venice, Italy

May 16th, 2011. The day after our 5yr Wedding Anniversary. My wife and I drove from Lake Bled, Slovenia to Villach, Austria. 3hrs later via first class coach bus… Venezia, Italia! If you ask me – What does a “perfect weather day” look like? Without hesitation… my first answer will now always be – Venice, Italy – 72F (22C) – May 16th, 2011. Perfetto!

Anna in Venice, Italy

This is typically where I try to think of something witty and intelligent to say. I’ve got nothin’, so I’ll just shut my mouth, stop blogging, and let you enjoy the photos of what I consider my “perfect weather day” in Venice, Italy. Or as I like to call it my… “glass is half-full” Significant Achievement Award. Austin 103 – Venezia 72.  Score may not reflect it; But, today… Venice wins!

Life on the Grand Canal - Venice, Italy
Gondolas on The Grand Canal - Venice, Italy

What does a “perfect weather day” look like for you?

Check out more photos on my Flickr page – VENICE ITALY May 2011

Until then… Join the Conversation! I would LOVE to get your feedback!


The Rialto - Venice, Italy - "perfetto!"
View of Grand Canal from The Rialto Bridge - Venice, Italy
Afternoon by The Rialto - Venice, Italy
"Hidden Canals" - Venice, Italy
St Mark's Cathedral - Venice, Italy
Late Afternoon on the Grand Canal - Venice, Italy
Leaving San Marco - Venezia, Italia
Venice, Italy - May 2011
"Laundry Day" - Venice, Italy
Pasta Anyone? - Venice, Italy
Piazza San Marco (St. Mark's Square) - Venice, Italy
Venezia, Italia - "perfect weather day"
Venice, Italy - MAY 2011