Posts Tagged ‘texas’

Springtime 2015

I guess I’ve been in a funk or something, but I’ve had little desire this year to write about what I’ve been up to.  Like in years past, I’m losing the details of my life for lack of keeping a journal.  With one exception — I have Facebook, so even if I’m not writing much, Facebook is recording the places where I’ve eaten, short snippets about my activities and the photos I’ve been taking when I’m out and about.  Today I’ve been doing a little maintenance on this blog, taking passwords from most of my entries, so I decided I should write something….

First of all — for the first time this year, I’m working in town instead of traveling.  Most of the year I’ve been moving around the southern part of the country, in Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas and Florida.  But I have been to Utah, Colorado, Wyoming, DC, New York and Vermont.

At the end of February, I was working in Las Vegas, so at the end of my trip, decided to take a vacation and stay there.  Five days later I was driving to Arizona for another workweek.

Last month I took another vacation, driving from my home to Washington State and back.  LONG trip, but enjoyable.  There are a couple of things from that trip worth writing about.

I cut my hair and shaved when the weather turned warm, as you can see in the picture.  My hair is getting long again, but I’m still clean-shaven.  Thinking about getting one more haircut before fall, when I’ll start going all Grizzly Adams again.

The power switch on my GPS unit stopped working, so I bought another.  Can’t neglect one of my most-important tools for improving my life!

Finally got around to replacing my car’s windshield, which had been cracked by a rock, only to get hit by another rock on my most recent vacation.  Need to get that taken care of before the chip turns into another big crack.  Anyone who’s seen my car might have noticed I keep little bumper stickers/decals on my rear passenger wing windows to help me find my car in a crowded lot.  My “Life Is Good” stickers became faded, so I replaced them with the Futurama Hypno-Toad and a souvenir sticker from the Ben & Jerry’s factory.

Finally went out to dinner with someone for the first time since being divorced.  Had fun!

Visited with family and friends in Colorado and Washington during vacation.  Had fun!

Sightseeing stops this spring have included Boulder Dam, Picacho Peak, President Eisenhower’s Library, Fort Hays, Cripple Creek, Devil’s Slide, Snake River Canyon, Little Bighorn, Deadwood, Wall Drug, Lake Champlain and the Ben & Jerry’s factory.  Had fun!

Yesterday, my work rotation started.  Up at 2:30am (because I can never sleep well the night before I travel), out the door at 4, and at the airport at 4:45 for a 7am flight to Houston.  Once in Houston, I found my connecting flight to McAllen, Texas had been delayed for 45 minutes for maintenance.  That gave me time for “breakfast” at one of my favorite Texas places — Whataburger!

TX Houston Whataburger

Well, I finally made it to McAllen, then drove to Roma, Texas to fix a robot.  I received a call while there, telling my I’d need to fly to Salt Lake City in the morning.  Ended up with like — a 15-hour workday.

This morning I woke up and went back to the McAllen airport.  I arrived two hours before my flight, waited until the boarding time on my ticket and heard an announcement the flight was delayed at least a half hour because of a mechanical issue with the plane.  Two hours later, we passengers were finally allowed to board.  A smooth ride, but I missed my connection.  I’d been rebooked onto a later flight, so when I arrived, I had lunch at Saltlick Barbecue.  Anyone who keeps up with my Facebook posts knows I’m into barbecue.

Connecting flight left on time.  I noticed we must have been on an old plane, because of this.

TX Houston Old Plane

Smoking on planes hasn’t been allowed for quite some time, but built into the lavatory door was an ashtray.

Smooth flight until we were above the mountains in Utah.  The plane started buffeting, so I held onto my drink.  Then the plane began bouncing in the updrafts from the clouds over the mountains.  Things were tossed around (but for my drink).  While folks were beginning to freak out, including the flight attendant, a smile crept up on my face.  I was actually getting a thrill from the turbulence.  I saw the flight attendant’s look of fear as she bounced toward her seat to strap in, and hoped she didn’t think I was laughing at her.  I was amazed by my calmness, but I supposed it was because I didn’t have anyone waiting for me to come home.  If I were to crash and burn, I’d have one heck of a ride, but the world wouldn’t miss me too much.  I found that thought scarier that the turbulence.  The ride remained too rough for the flight attendants to gather up the trash before landing, but we landed.

I drove about 30 miles to work on another robot, and ended up with another 15-hour workday.

I’ll be staying in Utah another day, then flying to Chicago to work an install for three days.  Then I’ll fly home.

I don’t like flying (I’d rather drive), but the more flights I’m on, the higher level I attain in the frequent flyer programs.  For American Airlines/US Airways, I already have enough flights to get me on planes in the first group to board, and some free upgrades to First Class (now that I like!).

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First Day of Vacation:  Did a little sightseeing near home.

First Day of Vacation: Did a little sightseeing near home.

Most people want to go somewhere warm and exotic for spring break, or some decide to hit the slopes for some last skiing.  Where did I go this year?  Iowa.  For the second or third or fourth year in a row (I don’t remember).  I use spring break to take my daughter to visit relatives.

But I digress.  I need to talk about my last work rotation, which started in Garden City, Kansas and ended up in Texas.  I flew from Garden City to Corpus Christi, spent a couple of days there, then drove to Hebbronville, then to Roma.  After finishing up in Roma, I drove back to Corpus Christi via Harlingen.  The weather in Garden City sucked (12 degrees and snowing sideways when I left).  The weather in Texas was awesome (50’s and 60’s and mostly sunny).  If I hadn’t been working, Texas would have been a great spring break.  I ate at three barbecue restaurants.  Two were good (Miller’s and Rudy’s) and one was so-so (Bill Miller).  I ate at a restaurant in Hebbronville called Peppers, which had awesome pork chops and served so much food on the plate, I couldn’t even eat half of when they gave me.  I felt so inadequate.  The night before leaving Texas, I got to visit with my uncles and aunt who winter down there, and I got o meet a friendly little Yorkie named Dexter.

Kayla and Her Lucky Dad

Kayla and Her Lucky Dad

Now, about spring break —— Took my daughter Kayla to Iowa.  She spent the first night with her grandma and the second with her sister.  The next day, we got together with my cousin Kim and her family for pictures.  the day after that, Saint Patrick’s Day, we didn’t wear green, and we went to the movies and walked around a mall (I found a place that sold second-hand clothes, selling Hawaiian shirts for $6 — kinda wish I still wore them).  Kayla and I returned home on Tuesday.  We’ve hung out at my apartment for the rest of the week, until today when I took her back to her mom’s house.  During our spring break, it snowed three times (not much accumulation, though).  We saw two movies at the theater and a whole slew on Netflix.  We walked around a retail mall and an antique mall.  We went to church.  We ate out 14 or 15 times.  Since I started traveling for work, I haven’t been stocking food in my apartment, and yet we managed to go to Hy-Vee and Wal-Mart about a half-dozen times.  Well, maybe we ate out less often than I thought.  I managed to work out a few times (but not enough).  And I slept in every morning.  And Kayla got up earlier than usual so she could message her friends on Facebook before noon.

Now Kayla’s back at the house.  She goes back to school tomorrow morning.  But I still have two more days of vacation left.  I’m going to sleep in until I go back to work.  I’ll go see the new Muppet movie.  I’ll do laundry.

I’ve already found out I’m scheduled to be working in Oklahoma on April 1st, so I’m hoping my entire next rotation will be there.  I like Oklahoma — I’ve eaten at a few good barbecue places and diners there.

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So I took my daughter to Chicago for New Year’s Day….

We arrived on New Year’s Eve, and it started snowing about the moment our plane landed at Midway Airport.  It was Chicago, so it was cold and windy, too.  We decided to stay indoors and watch TV that night.  At midnight, the snow had let up enough we could watch about half a dozen fireworks displays from our hotel room window.

On New Year’s Day, it was snowing again.  We took the L out toward the waterfront.  Our stop was still a ways from the Field Museum and Shedd Aquarium, our destinations for the day, so we walked.  The temperature had taken a dip, and the wind was even stronger than the day before.  I don’t think my daughter had believed me about how cold it would be.  I’d stressed she needed to dress warm, but found out later she’d had gloves with her but didn’t feel a need to bring them along.  Our walk to the museums was miserable for her.  And the snow kept falling, and the temperature kept falling, and the wind kept blowing.

IL Chicago Field Museum

In the Field Museum, we walked around, looked at a few exhibits and a 3-D movie about the T-Rex, Sue.  I’d bought CityPasses for us, to see as many sights as we could in the two days we’d be in town.  But I was quickly aware I could have saved some money and just paid admission to each museum, because we could have spent the whole day in the Field Museum and probably not have seen everything.  Same with Shedd Aquarium.  We only saw a few exhibits and shows, but could have spent the whole day there.

IL Chicago Shedd Aquarium

After we were finished at the Shedd Aquarium, we had to walk back to the L station.  By then, over a foot of snow lay on the ground.  Luckily, the wind was blowing in from Lake Michigan, so the wind was at our backs.  But it was a fairly miserable walk.  Normally I would be walking around town, looking for some local place where we could have dinner, but neither of us were in the mood for exploring.  I figured we’d just have dinner at the hotel.  We’d be seeing the hotel’s restaurant a lot, this trip.

The plan for the next day had been to visit the Chicago Art Institute and take in the views from the Hancock Building and the Willis (Sears) Tower.  But, it was still snowing, and the clouds hung down below the tops of the skyscrapers, and it was even colder.  I knew we wouldn’t be able to see anything from the buildings, so I gave my daughter the choice of going to the Art Institute or stay in the room and watch movies.  She opted to stay warm and watch movies.  I didn’t argue.  And, we had our meals at the hotel restaurant.

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The next day, we were to fly home.  The sky had finally cleared, but the storm from the previous two days had moved east, and was dumping snow on airports back there.  Southwest cancelled our flight before I even checked out of the hotel.  Southwest’s website said we should still go to the airport because it would still be possible to get a plane.  I should have stayed at the hotel.  Making my biggest travel mistake ever, I followed Southwest’s advice.  However, I did have the foresight to reserve another room, expecting to spend another night in Chicago.

Midway Airport was a mess.  The line in front of the ticket counters curled back and forth several times, then curled around into a hallway behind the counters, stretching from one end of the terminal to the other.  We waited in that hallway for three hours.  I’d tried calling Southwest to get new tickets, and after waiting on hold for over an hour and finally getting to speak to someone, my cell phone battery died in the middle of our conversation.  If I weren’t a paragon of self-control, I’d have thrown my phone on the floor and started stomping on it!  When we finally got out to the line in front of the ticket counters,  I could see just as many people curling back and forth as had been in the hallway.  I decided to go back to the hotel, plug in my phone and try calling again.  If I had to spend another hour on the phone, at least I would still be saving two more hours standing in line.

We stayed in the room watching movies and ate at the hotel restaurant a couple more times.  The next day, we went to the airport, but it started snowing again.  When we checked in for our flight, the flight was already delayed 45 minutes.  While we waited at the gate, our departure time was changed several times until we finally left at after 11pm.  We arrived back at our home airport around 2am, where it was snowing even harder than it had been in Chicago.  Six inches of snow covered the roads, which hadn’t yet been plowed.  I couldn’t see the lanes, so I just steered to stay in the middle of the roads and hoped for the best.  We finally made it home around 3am, a day and a half later than originally planned.  I’ll never make the mistake of going to Chicago for a winter vacation again.

I took my daughter back to her mom’s when we got up the next day.  She had to go back to school, but because of my out-of-the-ordinary work schedule, I still had about another week and a half of vacation left.  I decided to binge-watch the Star Trek TV series.  I completed Deep Space Nine and got through three seasons of Enterprise.  I went to bed late and got used to sleeping in.

When I went back to work, I spent four days in Houston, Texas, helping install new equipment at a pharmacy.  I’d never worked on the west side before, so there was a different feel to being there.  Felt like an entirely different city, than the other times I’d been there.  As usual, I looked for local places to eat.  I’d hoped to find a few barbecue places, but only found one, Thomas Bar B Que, along I-10.  The barbecue was pretty good, and inexpensive compared to most places.

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I spent my last three days in New Mexico.  I flew into Albuquerque on Tuesday for a Wednesday morning trouble call in Santa Fe.  That meant I’d have a little extra travel time than usual, and I took advantage of that, visiting Albuquerque’s old-town area for a late lunch.  The next day in Santa Fe, I finished up my job early enough to do some sightseeing after lunch in its old-town area, mainly at the Palace of the Governors, the oldest public building still in use in the United States.  It’s now part of the state’s museum of history.  The palace had a few exhibits about the Spanish colonial period.  I found the crucifix collection especially interesting.  For lunch, I found another excellent Indian restaurant, like the one in Tupelo, Mississippi.  Funny, the unexpected places you find great ethnic foods.

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Then I flew home.  Got to spend another weekend with my wonderful daughter, and binge-watched Star Trek until I’d finished Enterprise.  At month’s end, I started Voyager.  I also began a work rotation in town, one where I worked from the office and didn’t have to travel anywhere.  There will be fewer hours and since I’m not out of town, I have to pay for my meals.  Next payday, I’ll have less money, but luckily next payday I also don’t have any large bills to pay.  Staying home has also given me the opportunity to start rearranging my apartment again, in my quest to maximize the living space in my teeny apartment.

Barbecue

 

So, here I am in Houston, Texas.

I’ve worked here once before with a previous company and I’ve driven through or been in the airport for layovers, but I think this is the first time I’ve actually stopped in Houston, working for my current company.

I haven’t really done much apart from work, while here.  Now I’m reminded why I used to seek interesting restaurants to blog about when I was on the road before.  I put in long hours during a regular workday, so there’s really only time to eat, before checking into a hotel room for the night.  True to my past eating and blogging habits, I’ve already had barbecue a few times and found a hole-in-the-wall dive to eat in.

I’m working in a hospital pharmacy right now, so I was pleasantly surprised to see barbecue served up, in the hospital cafeteria.  I had the sliced brisket and pulled pork, with beans and cole slaw.  The beans were bland (I like ‘em spicy), and the cole slaw was tasty.  The brisket was tender, with a crunchy, slightly overcooked outer surface I rarely find in the Kansas City barbecue places.  I like a little texture to the meat, so I liked this — almost reminded me of some of the roasts my mom cooked when I was a kid.  The pulled pork was very tender, and there was very little grease in the meat.  I would have been happy with this barbecue if it had come from a restaurant, so the fact it came from a hospital cafeteria made it all the better.

I don’t know how familiar you are with Pappadeux restaurants, but from what I’ve been told, the founder of that chain has a myriad of restaurants having “Pappa” in their names, each specializing in a different style of food.  One of the pharmacists where I’m working told me about this.  She mentioned there was a Pappa’s Bar-B-Que nearby.  I hadn’t really planned eating there, because I figured it probably wouldn’t be very good, being part of a chain.  As luck would have it, I drove right by Pappa’s on my way to my hotel, so I decided to stop.  I’m glad I did.  I had the mixed platter, which featured a sample of most of the meats on the menu.  For the sides, I had the beans and cucumber salad.  This time, the cucumber salad was bland (I like a little salt and vinegar in the dressing — this was kind of oily).  The beans were sweet (remember, I prefer spicy).  All of the meats were very good.  The brisket was tender all over, like in Kansas City.  Even though the rib was crusted with a sweet sauce (I prefer dry ribs), that didn’t keep me from gnawing the bone.  One feature of the restaurant I particularly liked was the salad/condiment bar.  I scooped up big servings of the jalapeno peppers and hot carrots/onions.  I was particularly impressed by the way the restaurant cut the sliced meats — not with a meat slicer, but a big, honkin’ knife.

On the way from Pappa’s to my hotel, I saw a little restaurant called Mama’s Oven, promising Southern-Style food.  I pledged to eat there the next night.

So, another day at the hospital pharmacy, and then dinner at Mama’s Oven.  This was a run-down joint, where a little old woman sat at the register and called everyone honey or sweetie, including me.  At the counter, I ordered the smothered pork chops, green beans and cabbage.  Sadly, the restaurant had run out of collard greens.  After I sat down at my table, a very polite server poured my Diet Coke from a can into my glass, and set two pieces of home-made cornbread in front of me, tempting me….  I watched a TV documentary about Tupac Shakir while I waited for my food, and while I ate the cornbread.  I learned a lot about him I’d never known.  The very polite and well-mannered server brought my pork chops as soon as they were ready.  They were very tender, and smothered with a delicious brown gravy.  The green beans were tastier than I expected, having bacon in the recipe.  The cabbage tasted even better than I’m used to.  I usually eat steamed cabbage — I think this was cooked in butter.  The very polite server kept checking on me while I ate (I think I was his only customer, as most of the business seemed to be take-out).  I’d written down a tip when I paid for my food at the counter, but decided to leave a second, cash tip for the server.

Last night I had dinner at Golden Corral, which is next to my hotel.  Eh — I usually like the abundance of meat, but I only had a serving of Italian sausage and two plates of vegetables and fruit.

Today, I worked in a CVS pharmacy in a nearby town, which was surrounded by fast food restaurants.  When I arrived, I’d already looked around and decided Pizza Hut would be the place for lunch because of its salad bar.  When lunch rolled around, I struck out in the heat, walking to the Pizza Hut.  Only then did I find out the Pizza Hut was one of the delivery places, with no inside seating.  Change of plans — I looked a little further down the street and saw BBQ in big red letters on the side of a building on the other side of a drainage ditch on the far edge of a vacant lot next to Pizza Hut.  OK, more walking in the sun and heat, but BBQ seemed better than any of the other choices I had.  So, I had lunch at The Brisket House.  I asked for one of the specials, which I thought was a sandwich from the description, and sat down.  After a few minutes, the server brought me ¼ pound each of two meats, three slices of bread, a big slab of cheddar cheese, a whole dill pickle and ¼ raw onion.  On butcher paper.  I’d seen butcher paper on TV shows about Texas barbecue, but this was the first I’d ever seen it in person.  The brisket was tender and smoky, and the jalapeño sausage, spicy.  I know I’m not painting a picture with my descriptions — I liked it.  In fact, I decided to go back after work, for dinner.  This time, I tried the brisket again, smoked turkey and pulled pork.

One thing I’ll say about Texas barbecue, is I like it very much.  I don’t like meat smothered in sauce, and my experiences in Texas lead me to believe the folks here are the same way.  Sauce is usually served on the side and the meat is served dry, so we can experience the meat’s real taste.

Later this evening, I decided to do laundry and work out at the hotel.  While the laundry was drying, I stepped onto the usual elliptical machine, expecting a similar workout to what I usually get at home.  However, the step motion was different on this elliptic, and working out seemed harder.  I watched my stats, and it soon became clear I WAS working harder.  I worked out for 60 minutes, like at home, but here I did 8.8 km and burned 1282 calories.  At home, I usually finish 4 miles and burn about 850 calories.  I’m pooped, now, looking forward to bed.  G’night!

I have to be back at the hospital pharmacy again tomorrow.