Monday, July 30, 2012

Austin, Home Sweet Home!

We're back!

We set out on our "Great American" road trip June 21, 2011 and officially arrived home July 26, 2012.

After visiting 42 states (some multiple times), 7 Canadian provinces, and driving nearly 30,000 miles, we're finally home...
and still married!

This chapter of our travels is done but we'll be continuing to blog about the trip, our budget (we came in under budget!), favorite places, and future travel plans.  We have successfully scratched the "epic road trip itch," for now, but it might be spreading into a rash... in a good rash sort of way... uh, if there is such a thing... y'all know what we mean!
Stay tuned for more adventures!

For now, we're in our lovely city of Austin for the foreseeable future and look forward to reconnecting with everyone and becoming contributing members of society again!  We visited some incredible places and have returned with a fresh perspective about our home and how much we love it here.  It's good to be back.

Now we just need jobs!

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Days 115 - 117: Big Fun in "Big D"!

After a fantastic time at "pig roast," it was time to turn towards home.  My high school buddy, Christopher, tracked me down a while back when he was visiting Austin and invited us to drop by for a visit when we passed thru Dallas.  So we did!

His kids are great and really rolled out the red carpet for us.  This greeting was on the driveway when we arrived and Carson was nice enough to let us borrow his bedroom!

After a hot, 6-hour drive, the first thing we did was jump in the pool with Mercy, Carson, and Meadow!

Kipper made an instant friend with the neighbor's dog, Lacey.

Christopher and Jamie live across from a great park.  This is their sunset every night.

After some delicious burgers for dinner, we relaxed and caught up on what's been going on the last 20 years or so.

Following morning, we took a walk in the park with the neighbor, Scott, and his son, Logan...

and afterwards went over to the Dallas Arboretum where there was a glass sculpture exhibit.

The sculptor is Dale Chihuly, whose work we also saw when we visited Tacoma.
Full circle!

The glass sculptures were all over the Arboretum...

in fountains...

...and flower beds

 ...and in canoes.
Thanks to Christopher for getting us in with his family pass!

Speaking of sculpture... We didn't go to the zoo but we saw their giraffe statue from the highway.  The sculptor is the same artist that created City Museum in St. Louis.
Full circle!

We had lunch at Rusty Taco, which is the first TexMex we've had since we left Austin in April.
The fish tacos were awesome!

Christopher took me on a little tour of some of our old haunts, such as lower Greenville...

...and then we met up with everyone for dinner at Fireside Pies.  Yummy pizza!
It was a great meal and great company.  Thanks, Christopher, Carson, Mercy, Jamie, Meadow (being shy), Paige (that's a reflection, she does not have a mohawk, although that'd be cool), Scott, and Logan.

Christopher had been wanting to visit the "Sixth Floor Museum" in the old Texas School Book Depository building so Angie and I joined him.  The museum chronicles JFK's assassination  and is very well done.  Photos are not allowed inside but here's the exterior.  Oswald was at the corner window...

Some other interesting Dallas history.  The town started as a trading post.

After the museum, we met up with another old friend of ours, Bo, (who I hadn't seen in a looong time) for a bite to eat at Snuffers Hamburgers!  We had a great lunch, caught up on what each of us has been doing, and had some belly laughs about the trouble, near-death experiences, and fun we had together as teenagers.

It's nice to have friends that you can not talk to for a decade (or more) and just pick up where you left off!

Thanks to Christopher, Jamie, Bo, and everyone for a great visit.

Come see us in Austin!

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Days 110 - 114: Pig Roast 2012! Beaver Lake, Arkansas

From Memphis it was a fairly easy drive to our next destination...

Beaver Lake, Arkansas!
There's a family cabin on Beaver Lake but it's not our family's.  Angie's oldest friend, Jessica, is the connection.  Every summer, her family has a big party where they roast a whole pig! Unfortunately, Jess couldn't make it this year.

We made sure it was OK with her peeps and went anyway!
Her step-mom's family has had this place for 40+ years.

And what a fantastic place it is!

Definitely dog-friendly...

...but not pig-friendly.
That's M.A. collecting little piggy from the friendly butcher (thanks for procuring it, Val!).

I liked the butcher shop right away!

"Pig Roast" started about 10 or so years ago and has been an annual tradition ever since.  Angie has been a couple of times and I'd been once.  It's a blast!
For a few years, the pig was roasted over an open fire on a spit, later luau-style in a pit, and this year they tried a "Cajun Microwave."  Basically a wooden box insulated with metal flashing with the coals placed underneath.

Hal built it from scratch and, in another stroke of genius, reversed the shop vac into a blower to speed up the charcoal.
Rob is impressed.

The box worked beautifully!  Pig was done after 6 hours or so.  Corey, resident chef, checks the temperature to make sure it's done.

This is a family affair and they start 'em young.  Jeremy, Kellie, and baby Lucas doing some quality control.
(Thanks for the photo, Val!)

Dig in!

It was also M.A.'s birthday and she even prepared her own cake!
Yummy cheesecake, mmmm

After dinner, everyone retired to the living room.  Some suffered from post-pig stuper...

No one was immune, even the dogs were wiped out.
Kipper and Augie became good buddies. All six dogs got along great!

Thatcher and Isabella are adept with the smart phones.

When we weren't preparing food or eating it, we were usually in the lake...

mixing drinks...
(Thanks for the photo, Val!)

in the lake...
(Thanks for the photo, Val!)

or hangin' in the house keeping cool with Corey, Isabella, and Jen...
(Thanks for the photo, Val!)

back in the lake...

or sippin' wine, pettin' a dog(s)...
(Thanks for the photo, Val!)

or in the lake...
(Thanks for the photo, Val!)

or climbing on Uncle Jeremy...
(Thanks for the photo, Val!)

swappin' stories...

or on the boat for a sunset cruise with Karen, Hal, Jarret, and M.A. (and Bimmer)

Thatcher got some fishing tips from Hal... serious business, just look at that concentration.

Thanks to the whole family for including us in y'all's celebration!!
A great time was had by all!
Except the pig...

Next: A walk down memory lane in Big D...

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Days 108 - 109: Graceland - Memphis, TN

After enjoying our time in St. Louis, we headed south to Memphis to visit...

Elvis was only 22 when he purchased the colonial style mansion and the surrounding acres from a doctor and his wife for $100,000 in 1957.
The property was originally "Graceland Farms."

Elvis's last major remodel was in the early 70's and it shows.
We had heard that the house would be pretty tacky but we didn't think it was that bad.  The interior just reflects the time period and a guy that could decorate his house any way he liked. It was actually pretty homey.

The formal dining room.  Only the first floor and basement is open to visitors. The second floor has been kept private to honor Elvis's wishes.

The kitchen is dated, of course, but I'm sure it was state-of-the-art for the time. 

Nothing says the 70's like carpet in the kitchen!
Note the security camera monitors.  He had them in his bedroom as well.

The TV room, down in the basement, was supposedly one of Elvis's favorite places to spend time.  The tour guide did mention that this was done by a professional decorator.  He had three TVs so he could watch all three networks simultaneously, like the president! Note the creepy monkey...

The pool room, also a well-used room.  The walls and ceiling are covered in a pleated fabric.  The pool table obviously had lots of use. You can see the torn felt on the top right corner that happened when a buddy of Elvis tried a trick shot.

Back on the first floor, the infamous "jungle room."  Yeah, this is pretty tacky but whatever.  There's the rest of the monkey set under the window.  Who hasn't wanted a waterfall wall and a carpeted ceiling?

Not to mention a fake fur couch with carved dragon arms?  Go Elvis!  The audio tour mentioned that he loved Hawaii and wanted to incorporate that into his house.
This room (probably because of the carpeted ceiling) had good acoustics so Elvis recorded his last two records here.

Did you know Elvis went through a gun phase?

There's a converted garage out back that had his father, Vernon's, office and this shooting range.  Elvis also had horses and a fleet of golf carts and other motorized toys for everyone to race around on.  He liked to have a good time.

"The Gold Hall"
Elvis got every kind of award ever conceived.
He was also very charitable and did a lot for the city of Memphis and countless organizations and individuals.

This is his leather outfit from the 1968 comeback special on NBC. He hadn't had a #1 song since '62 and was super nervous about doing a live televised performance. It was a smash hit.

And, of course, his jumpsuits are on display.

This was his racket-ball court!  Now converted for the display of all his gold records, awards, and...

...more jumpsuits!

Another iconic costume is this gold lame suit.  Supposedly this cost $10,000 to make!

You could even have your very own Elvis jumpsuit! 

Hmmm, maybe not.  LeTigre cost less than that!

The Meditation Garden...

and Elvis' resting place.
He's interred here with his parents and grandmother.  There's also a marker for his twin brother who died at birth.
Flowers still arrive daily for Elvis, even 35 years after his death.

Elvis liked to live in style and travel in it as well...

Everything's covered to preserve it.  The seat belts are 24k gold plated!
There's a lounge, a dining room, and...

a bedroom at the rear of the plane.  There're also two bathrooms. 

Elvis' TCB logo:
"Takin' Care of Business, in a Flash!"

For shorter jaunts, he also had this Lockheed Jetstar.

Certainly more basic but still colorful.

The audio tour mentioned that when Elvis found out Lisa Marie had never seen snow, he immediately flew her out to Colorado, played in the snow, and flew back that day!

And, of course, he had cars.  Elvis loved cars and loved giving them away too.  I could dedicate an entire blog to his Cadillacs, Lincolns, and Rolls Royces but I'll limit this to his favorite, a 1973 Stutz Blackhawk.

Elvis was driving this car when he passed thru the gates of Graceland for the last time on August 16, 1977.
He died that night at the age of 42.

So, overall, we really enjoyed Graceland and left with a better appreciation of the King. He was quite a guy: talented, likable, smart, generous, and.... imperfect.  Certainly, and aren't we all?  Our only negative observation is the rampant commercialism of his name.  We passed thru no less than 10 gift shops filled with everything imaginable with Elvis' image and signature on it.
That's the tacky part of Graceland.

 I'd take a powder blue jumpsuit though.

Next: Crashin' another party...