Thursday 22nd Oct – San Antonio to Austin – 102 Miles

After three days of intensive driving and not too much else I was thankful for a more relaxed day with only a 100 miles up to Austin. After a spot of breakfast in the hotel, which again was served on paper plates with disposable cutlery. So far I have only seen a real plate once since arriving in the states. Bin bags full of paper plates, polystyrene cups and plastic cutlery must be thrown away just from just that hotel, why America? Why? Do you hate washing up that much?

Before checking out I wandered round the Alamo, the setting of a famous military defeat with about 200 Texans being killed by the Mexican army. However this inspired loads of other Texans to join up to the army and relatively quickly slaughter the previously victorious Mexicans. A small fort remains which as my friend Tim mentioned isn’t that inspiring as far as old buildings go.

Had an amusing time in Starbucks, there seemed to be a general sense of chaos behind the counter, my request for a real mug lead to a guy disappearing into the store room for a long time. Looking around the room at people who were all having the coffee in-house, they all had disposable cups, again, why America? The chap finally reappeared with a mug he said “you know last night I had a red-haired man come in and I thought he was from Scotland, I asked him and he said yes! And now you come the next day, two people from Scotland in two days. I tell you what that coffee is on the house!” Result, free coffee, which I decided was fair compensation for being called Scottish.

I had decided to stop in Lockhart, a small town with a big BBQ reputation on the way up to Austin. Much checking of reviews went into deciding which BBQ joint to visit. You can’t visit them all. In the end I went for Blacks the oldest BBQ pit in Texas.

Now, an educational moment for you. BBQ in the southern states of America is big business and there is much debate and dispute over which style is best. Different regions have different specialities, cooking techniques and serving styles, however they are all joints of meat cooked very slowly indirectly by smoke at a low temperature. It is nothing like BBQ we have in the UK which would be called grilling over year, directly over a high heat. Generally the tougher cheaper cuts of meat are used, ribs, brisket and pork butt. In Texas they use a lot of beef (brisket and short ribs) often with a simple salt and pepper rub.

Blacks wasn’t too busy as I think I arrived after the lunch rush. I loaded up on some sides (massive rookie mistake, stick to the meat!) You had the choice lean or fatty brisket, the fatty was amazing. The sausage was average, but all in all I was very happy to be there.

After a drive round the very postcard picturesque town, it just needed some white picket fences I made my way up to Austin where I had two nights. The Airbnb was great, within walking distance of a number of interesting places and only short uber to the central part of Austin.

That evening I went to the best Honky Tonk in Texas and had a very fun night at the Broken Spur. They also served world famous fried chicken steak, in my opinion not much to write home about, I’ve had better KFC’s. However the dance hall was great, I got chatting a group of Brit’s who were working at the F1 race. One of the guys was from Bedford, it’s a small world.
A lady with a microphone and a few other older Texans ran a little lesson on how to do the texan two-step and after a couple of beers most people were up and dancing to country music provided by a great quality band.

The following morning I was up and ready for one of the main events of the trip. A visit to Franklin BBQ, arguably the best BBQ in the world. Due to its reputation it only opens at lunch from 11am and is open until it sells out. It always sells out, so people queue for hours to ensure they get some. I arrived at 8:30am and there was probably already 60 people in front me. The people at the front of queue probably got there before 6am.

The atmosphere in the queue is a mixture of hopeful excitement and confused, with “what am i doing here?” being asked a lot. Most of the people near me were tourists and I got to chat with a couple of guys from Orlando who had a flight home in the afternoon. People brought chairs, music and cool box’s full of beer. During the queue one of the BBQ’s employees checks on how much you going to order and try’s to work out where they can cut the queue off so people don’t wait for no reason.

We finally got to eat just before 1 pm, I took the recommendation of the employee who recommend a kind of tasting option, with brisket, beef rib, pulled pork and a sausage. It was rubbish. Only kidding, it was fantastic. Really, really good. Everyone agreed it was worth the wait, and I had enough left for some in the evening. The two beef items were so, so tasty.

After suffering from a bad case of meat sweats I made my way to visit the State Capitol building in the afternoon. A very grand building in the centre of Austin, I said hello to Bubba.

In the evening I made my way to the infamous dirty Sixth in the centre of Austin, a road flanked by load of bars from dive to sophisticated and everything in-between. I bumped into some Irish guys and drank whiskey. It turned into quite a late night.

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