Another Austin and STAPLE!

The annual trip to Austin and STAPLE! a couple weeks back — this time, though, we flew out of the Santa Fe Airport.

Excitement and exhaustion started the night before, on Thursday. A bit late at work to get wrapped up; off to the dogsitters' where, though Cheyenne had met the new canine resident, we stuck around to make sure all three houndies would be fine. To the grocery store, where I ran into a friend who had tons of news and wanted to share. Then, pulling out on to Alameda, two dogs darting into the road. One got away and headed west, determined to go somewhere. But Soul was easier to bribe with sandwich meat; got the phone number on her tag, alerted her owner: "they're with my housemate … ohhhh." Luckily, the other one had also been found by the time they met us in the parking lot to gather Soul. So it was a late night, by the time everything was settled, arranged, and packed, and an early morning to catch the 8:15 to Dallas.

A municipal airport, built in the '50s; recently, mostly used for private aviation and one Denver flight that was suspended years ago. But with runway upgrades, prairie dog relocation, it's ready for commercial flights. Just over 15 minutes there, pull into the dirt parking lot (actually, I scored a spot in the paved area), stuff the $3 a day into an envelope for parking, and into the terminal. We'd actually scoped it out a couple weeks ago, so we knew what to expect. It's small. Walk in, check-in to the left. A dozen steps to the right, in the line for security to the one gate. A restaurant, but we brought bagels — plus, the seats were filling up at the gate, so through security (where one TSA agent described what they were doing as "extreme multitasking"). A brief wait, then outside and onto the little Embraer for a steep takeoff and uneventful flight.

Played it too safe with the connections, so we sat too long at DFW, but still got into Austin by 2:00-ish. Bright gray out, which seems to be how I remember most of our arrivals. Time to head downtown to the South Congress Street area, recommended by Design*Sponge as a design-y way to spend some time. And get cupcakes.

Seems to be a trend in some of the hip, real cities, where folks start a food business out of some Airstream or Airstream-like thing, focusing on one cuisine. Hey Cupcake! was actually in a park area alongside a bunch of others, but we were there for the sugar and chocolate. Mmmmmm. And then strolling the area, the shops and galleries, scoping out the restaurants. In touch with our friend and Austin resident Rob to set up dinner plans for the night, then to the hotel and time to rest.

And Rob had to cancel because of a family emergency (that, ultimately worked out fine, but it did throw him for a couple days). We were going to take his recommendation about where to go, but absent that, back to County Line Barbecue for ribs. And, stuffed, to Austin Books and Comics for the pre-party.

I think my lack of mingling skills is pretty well known — and, I have to say, probably shared by the other comics creators there, so a brief stop to scope out the insanely large selection, then back for the night. I recall a lot of procedurals on cable over the course of the weekend.

I'm beginning to think there's a mindset that creeps in around the third time at a convention — first one's all new and exciting and confusing; second one's a rush, but there's also the excitement of having a plan; by the third, well, a routine creeps in. Becoming jaded is a concern and, while I wouldn't say that's the case with us at STAPLE!, we know enough to understand that the 11:00 start time isn't a real deadline. Time for sleeping in, a leisurely breakfast at Elsi's, where I sampled the local specialty: breakfast tacos. I knew they were a thing, but it's become clear what a phenomenon they are when the NYT had a primer for those going to SXSW. Too late for me to consult, but I was happy with our choice; lessons learned: next time, fewer tacos, more ingredients on each. And the arrival at the show around 10:40, visit with Rob, and ready to go sometime around 11:10 worked out just fine.

Almost in the same spot as last year. On one side, Rob's friend François, who was interesting and fun to swap stories with. On the other side, a guy with minicomics and another with longboxes of back issues who didn't even introduce themselves (full disclosure: we didn't really try to engage them, either); at some point, they just started playing Scrabble behind their table. Sales were respectable — though down noticeably from last year, and it felt like the crowd was smaller. But it was a good one, with some repeat customers, a couple who knew us from one Web site or another, and new folks. Others in the same room were echoing our thoughts; those in the other room were claiming superior traffic, but I dunno. It still passed in a blur, and then we were done. For the first time, STAPLE! organized a post-con, pre-party dinner.

At Franklin Barbecue, another Airstream restaurant kind of thing. In the parking lot of a coffee shop, through a residential neighborhood, just by the I-35 overpass. Ordinarily closed in the evenings, but available to us (and, by the looks of things, a few lucky passersby). Wait in line, up to the counter; brisket for Monica, so he carved a bunch of pieces off some there; ribs for me. For that, he had to go to the metal shed next door which housed the smoker.

All so good and the espresso sauce made it transcendent; we were dumping the stuff on the slices of white bread we got. Seating was at picnic tables, after being outcasts for a bit, wound up with a group of Dallas cartoonists who all knew each other; an entertaining bunch to pass the evening with. Coming down from the momentum, we opted out of the STAPLE! party and called it a night.

Sunday came, bright gray again. Again, per Web recommendations, back to South Congress Street to the South Congress Café. A happening place for Sunday brunch, good food. Then, because I've never quite researched things to do in Austin beyond what we did on our first trip (and I'm pretty sure there are), off to IKEA; because sales were good enough, we had room for a new kitchen rug.

Rob wound up being available for some catch-up, so headed back into town and visited at Kick Butt Coffee for a while, then headed west to Carol and Doug's. Arriving around 4:00, Doug was still out in the vineyards, fertilizing the vines.

He had a ways to go, so we jumped in and helped — getting us all out of the vines and into the grapes a bit sooner. And with time to check out the winery and cellar construction.

Saralee, recently relocated to the area, joined us for dinner. Tenderloin, plenty of good wine.

Extended the usual trip by a day to enjoy ourselves out in the Hill Country. After a slow morning and big breakfast, per Doug's recommendation, off to Fredericksburg. A pretty, hour-long drive, mostly on ranch roads. The town, originally settled by Germans and still retaining that influence, a local tourist spot. Also the birthplace of Admiral Chester Nimitz, which explains all the Pacific/nautical stuff in this very inland town (he's notable to me for the belt buckle I still have from my godfather's visit to the eponymous aircraft carrier 30+ years ago). Stroll along Main Street, a big lunch that we probably didn't need but couldn't pass up at the Fredericksburg Brewery, and then an unsuccessful attempt to get to a bakery; in retrospect, it makes perfect sense that they close in the early afternoon.

The drive home took us by the Lyndon Johnson National Historical Park, and the weather was finally clearing, so checked it out. Stopped by the state portion, a living history museum with structures from the 1700s and 1800s, pigs, sheep who glared at me, and other livestock, along with some reenactors who, among other things, had been putting up bacon in lard. The National Park portion was mostly a driving tour, accompanied by narration on CD; tours of the "Western White House" available, but it was getting late. And there was shepherd's pie for us back at the ranch.

Easy trip home, got our baggage, being right at the car and right in town was especially welcome. Sunny and clear, but for going back to work, awoke to this:


Stacy said...

Gee I enjoyed that little trip

dori said...

great post! miss you guys.

one of these years I'm going to sxsw, maybe just for the breakfast tacos.