Sunday, November 15, 2009


Wednesday night we made our plans official.

After dinner on Wednesday evening we were laying on the couch drinking a glass of wine and listening to Bob Marley. My back was leaning on his front. He got up and I had layed down all the way, my head resting on the arm of the couch. He knelt down behind me at the arm of the couch where my head rested, and he whispered in my ear, "I love you." The he wrapped his arms around me, set the ring in my lap and said "will you marry me?"

It was perfect. And of course, the answer was yes.

Keep your calendars open for this summer. We have not yet picked an official date, but it will be sometime this summer for sure.

We love you all!

Jay and Leah

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Jay's coat smells like charcoal and bacon...

This is going to be a long one. Lot's has happened since our last entry. Most importantly Leah's parents visited for about four days. We all had a great time. They arrived on a Thursday so Leah took a half day plus Friday off. We went out to Curra's Grill Thursday night and gave them their introduction to how incredibly easy it is to become overly full in Texas. From what I heard the three of them had a great time on Friday. I believe they went to the Capitol, for a long hike on the Greenbelt and to Taco Deli for breakfast.

That evening I think we went to the Salt Lick for dinner. It is a "real" Texas BBQ place south of town. The food is delicious and the establishment provides quite an experience. They can seat an absurdly large number of people. The parking lot weaves back into the fields for eternity. Tour buses and F450's are the vehicles of choice. The waiting area is an outdoor stone patio under live oaks with live music. The musicians were great. They appeared to be brother and sister, but that is pure speculation.

Saturday was just about a perfect day. We slept in and made blueberry pancakes for breakfast. That was followed by a walk down to Town Lake and through Zilker Botanical Gardens. The temperatures were perfect and the roses were in bloom.

Roses at Zilker.

Saturday afternoon we all laid out by the pool for a while and enjoyed the sunshine. In the evening we viewed the sunset from a highpoint near the extreme SW end of the Greenbelt.

The three Breslins basking in the sun.

Before dinner at the Eastside Cafe we threw in one more surprise walk. We had some extra time so we drove up Mt. Bonnell. It is the highest point in Austin and provides a spectacular view in the daylight. Unfortunately dusk had settled upon us and we were left with the waning rays from the west. Dinner was enjoyed by all at a very "Austiny" restaurant just east of downtown. As was becoming the standard for the weekend, the two couples retired to bed around 10:30. This might seem lame but we all received plenty of rest and didn't have to deal with dreaded wakeful tiredness.

Sunday we once again all slept in and ate a large breakfast. This time we fixed up a light breakfast of bagels, fresh fruit, scrambled eggs and creme filled donuts. Legs were getting tired and with stomachs already full the decision was made for a driving tour. Lake Travis was our destination and we made it. We took the long way around on the dam loop that crosses the bridge over the Colorado just downstream from Mansfield Dam. The most popular place to view Lake Travis is from a restaurant named "The Oasis". Leah nor I had ever visited so there we went. The view was really something. The place earned it's reputation. The food was not great nor were the drinks and the building itself was gaudily decorated and overdone, but the view was grand. That night we all went to the Bass Concert Hall on the UT campus to see the musical "Spring Awakening". It was a great performance of a very strange play.

Monday arrived quickly as I had to return to work and John and Carla met their departure date. Leah had the day off to take them to the airport and bid them farewell. From our end their first adventure in Texas was a huge success. And I think the feeling was mutual.

Jay and Leah's Excursion to "other parts of Texas" No. 2: Enchanted Rock (Fronteir Outpost), Enchanted Rock. Interpreted by Leah Breslin.

We ventured outside of Austin for Halloween weekend. The first part of that sentence should be your first clue that this is gonna be a good one.

A few weeks ago, Jay and I decided to get int the spirit of fall and book a Halloween holiday weekend out in the Texas hills. In other words, enough time had passed from the last excursion to dull the memories of shock and horror and just plain what the ???- towards life outside of Austin; and give us just enough confidence to venture out once again into the unknown in this great state.

It began with the magical combination of terrible reservation websites, a week of heavy work, sickness, and no time for preparation. Friday afterwork the car was frantically packed, two trips to Marie's ensued after we forgot the most essential of our mostly borrowed camping gear: the tent; after which we raced like banshees to get to the park before closing time while popping asprins the whole way to soothe our splitting headaches. Oh, and there was also one very essential Dairy Queen pit stop along the way.

We drive through the winding dark roads of the hill country in the middle of absolutely no where and admire the eerie night scenery, very satisfied that we are about to spend our Halloween in this enchanted place. We pull up to the campgrounds at 9:08 PM narrowly missing our check in. We sign in the late arrivals clipboard, and find our camp assignment. Yay! We made it! Let's set up a tent, start a fire and stare at the stars until we fall into our fluffy sleeping bags. Sigh of relief. Now all we have to do is park our car and find our site.

"...Site..103?? Where is site, 103? Wait, is that right? Do you see it on the map? This says sites, 1-45...honey?"

After a few very confused and frustrated winds aroud the campgrounds we pull back to the office and find a park ranger on his way to his car.

"Excuse me, um...where is site 103?"

A lot of bad noise ensued to find that site 103 was two miles up the mountain from us in the primitive camping section on a narrow trail hosting bugs, tigers, bears, and god knows what else. At 9:30 at night in complete darkness with a packed cooler, a car full of dissheveled assorted camping gear, one backpack, a laundry bin full of unfolded clothing, (I could go on...)...
it is needless to say that we wouldn't be um, "hiking in" tonight. Or any night. And the campground was completely full, and would be for the rest of the weekend.

In a samaritan like gesture the young Texas ranger recommended a place down the road called "Frontier Outpost" for the night. He said we could camp there and suggested we come back early in the morning to see look for a chance opening. We nodded, dumbly muttered a weak 'thank you' as we exchanged the now what? face, and pulled out of the parking lot in search of what we concluded would be the best option for tonight: this "Frontier Outpost."

About six miles up the winding road with stange pastures of cattle loose at night on either side, we find the illuminated Frontier Outpost sign with an assortment of neon beer brands strung around it. We walk into what is clearly a bar, to find one drunk man inside with a beer bottle in his hand- the owner. We ask about the camping we heard about from the park ranger.

"Uh, well, campin's not really my thing," he slurs. "You're welcome to pitch a tent out back though, I've let other people do that before. There's a little dirt road, you can find a spot back there. Oh, and if you want to make a fire, just uh- make a fire."

So, after wadded up 10 dollar bill exchanged hands, our camping adventure began. "We'll take it!" And we looked for a proper place to pitch our tent behind the outside of the bar as the onwer closed up shop and left in his truck, swerving down the road.

Alright, not so bad, let's be positive, this is fun...this place is totally better than Enchanted Rock anyway, see, look now all we have to do is make a fire. This is fantastic!

...(...About an hour goes by....probably more like 3)....

"Here, let's try putting the paper in that we got from the park. That's sure to catch...No honey wait try this lighter...put some more twigs on...blow on it... no- not too hard! ARRRRGHHHHHH MY HANDS ARE FREEZING WHAT THE HELL IS UP WITH THIS WOOD WHY CAN'T WE MAKE A DAMN FIRE????"

....(1:34 am....40 degrees cooler....)....Time for bed.

....( Fade in: the night proceeds restlessly with numb toes, waking starts to strange noises and animal cries in the distance, the occasional glance at the phone to see how much more of this awful night we have left to you think there are any hotels open at 4 am out here?...zzz...6:30 am the campers awake to frost on the ground)...

We call Enchanted Rock at 8 am like the park ranger told us to see if there is anything available. The woman on the phone says there's one spot open, but she can't hold us. First come first serve. Hurry up and get here.

We rouse from the dead and in one frenzied swoop dismantle our campsite throw it wherever it may land in the car, and race over, anticipation building...hoping...HORRAY YES WE GOT IT YAY CAMP SITE 1 WHOOOHOO!!!!

We park and run out of our car, happy and invigorated and pitch our tent in less than a minute, laugh smile, look around and start planning our breakfast on the picnic table, when we stop for a moment to find a large man in sweatpants and a turquoise embellished straw cowboy hat coming towards us. He arrives bright eyed- to inform us that we are in fact, on his camp site.

We defend our ground, and show him our reservation. Mmm mm. We aint goin no where.

He marches away to find a ranger. We wait in anticipation, while the rest of his crew moves into our campsite and creates a ciricle of lawn chairs, coolers, and huge bags of paper utensils in case there was any misunderstanding about who this campsite would belong to. Jay and I decice we've had enough humilitaion and go down the the ranger site.

There is a skinny old lady behind the counter and with a smile, says we have to move. Jay and I huff and puff and she continues to smile as she looks through and finds no openings. You can wait till 2:00, she says. We're not waiting. We demand. And so she says ok- and gives us site 44. Another lady working next to her looks at her sideways and says that campsite has been taken. She replies, well they're not here yet. It's theirs.

In this valley between the big rock and the
little rock the trees grew very well.
Leah on an incline.

So finally Jay and I set up and begin our camping adventure at Enchanted Rock. From there on out, everything was cake. (Aside from a misguided fire making venture- which turned in the end, in our favor).

Leah and I near the back of the park.
Jay up on top of a rock.

We hiked nice trails, ate great food, drank good beer and slept well. Aside from the occasional shivers at night (it got down to around freezing every night) we did fine. We loved it. Once we forget about what a nightmare the reservation system was- we'll surely go back.

Leah bright eyed in the morning.
Bacon and eggs in our new cast iron skillet.