Wed. Dec. 13, 2017:
Austin to San Antonio, TX:
I woke up really early, around 7am. I had slept poorly again, mostly because of my cold and the ridiculously small pillows we had in our hotel room. We left our backpacks with the concierge. We were in search of the best BBQ, which made the 7am wakeup not so bad. The weather report said it was 4 degrees out so I bundled up and grabbed a coffee from our room (it was nice because for once they had actually cream instead of that powdered gross stuff). I was under the assumption that as it got warmer I would just peel the layers off. Turns out I did not have enough layers on. It was damn cold outside. It was a 30-minute walk to Franklin Barbecue and it was mostly through an industrial area, not that scenic.
We got there just after 8 and there were only about 25-30 minutes. After standing for a bit we realized that people had not brought their own camping chairs, they were getting them from a spot under the stairs. The restaurant had provided chairs for people waiting in line! We settled in and got cozy. It was still unbelievably cold and I was glad I had grabbed my headband and left my gloves in my coat pocket. I fell asleep in the chair for at least half an hour. I woke up and it still had not warmed up. What was going on? I was actually starting to shiver. I went inside to use the bathroom, but mostly it was an excuse to momentarily warm up. I guess I could’ve gotten a cup of coffee but I was too tired to go looking. I was tempted to get a drink, they had started serving alcohol at 9 but I thought better of it. The young university guys in front of us were getting increasingly more annoying. I walked to the CVS just down the street. Again, to warm up, but also to stock up on more throat lozenges and cold meds. By chance I found a relaxation water fountain for really cheap, the perfect Christmas present for Camilla. I also grabbed some Reese’s versions of Turtles chocolates for later.
Even though I was cold the whole time, it felt like the wait went by fast as I listened to podcasts and played games on my iPod. Once we were inside, but still in line, the kids in front of us somehow got even more irritating, I did not think it was possible. The door was closed behind us, we had just made the cut-off of the first round of people inside. On the way in the guy holding the door open high-fived us. Earlier in line we had been advised how much to order. The staff at Franklin Barbecue were awesome. We passed the time in line trying to figure out if we would get a table indoors or have to sit outside. It worked out that by the time we had ordered the first people in line were finishing up their meals. The staff even gently corralled them if they lingered by coming by and asking if anything needed to be wrapped up to go, implying you’re done, free up a table. Or so it seemed to me anyways. I needed a distraction from the annoying kids.
We ordered ¼ lb pulled pork, ½ lb beef brisket, ½ lb pork ribs, a single serving of coleslaw and a slice of pecan pie (for later). It was a lot of food but I was glad I had the coleslaw in between bites of meat. The bread also helped. On the side I had a Dublin Dr Pepper, complete with destroyed bottle cap. The brisket was amazing, it was the best I had ever had. We had a mix of the lean and the fatty and it was incredible, it just melted in your mouth in meaty, fatty goodness. When the guy was prepping our food, he had noticed Brent’s Toronto Blue Jays hat and asked if we had ever been to Adamson’s Barbecue and we were so surprised that THE Texas barbecue place knew about Toronto’s equivalent. It made me feel like such a foodie, having now been to both. The pork ribs were hands down the best ribs I have ever had. They had a really good rub and were well spiced and the ribs were very meaty. The pulled pork was also good, but compared to the brisket and ribs it just didn’t stand up as well. Even with the bread, coleslaw and Dr Pepper to even out my bites, it was becoming too much meat. Yet I still get going back for more bites of brisket, despite how full and even nauseous I was starting to feel.
I never did warm up. Walking back to the hotel I was still feeling cold. However I was unsure if it was because it was still cold outside or if my core temperature was still low. Who can say. From the hotel we walked to the car rental place. It was a super small car rental, they didn’t even have an on-site gas station and the guy had to drive to the nearest one to fill up the tank. They also did not have GPSs for rental.
We drove to the Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Centre. I had left my jacket in the car and all I had was my scarf. Turns out the day was not warming up by much. I ended up using my scarf as a shawl, draped over my shoulders and it worked just fine. There were no flowers but it was still peaceful and relaxing to walk the gardens. We also walked through the oak tree mini-forest they had created. There were some wacky oak trees, including one that had fallen over and continued growing. We joked that the holly tree had it in the Latin name not to eat it: vomitus.
Up next we drove to the town of Gruene where we would have gone tubing on the river had it been warmer, as was in the original plans. On the way we passed by an In N Out Burger but I was still so full. I wish I had known that there was In N Out Burger in Texas. We walked down to the river to see it, the river was nice and calm and would have been great to go tubing down. The place might not even have been open, as the parking lot was empty. We stopped in at Gruene Hall for a drink. Good thing we hadn’t gone with the original plans (to have lunch there) as they did not appear to serve food. It was just a bar with a giant dining hall and concert stage in back. I ordered a sangria because there were no ciders and the selection was limited. There were a few people in the bar wearing cowboy hats. We talked to the bartender for a few minutes until some other people came up to order drinks, allowing us to disappear and check out the dining hall and concert area. On the way back to the car we stopped in at the general store and I got a bottle of Big Red soda, mostly for the bottle cap.
By the time we got to our hotel in San Antonio my head was hurting and it felt hot. I had a cup of tea, took some DayQuil and laid down for a bit. By then it had gotten dark outside which was perfect. We went down to the River Walk (our hotel was on the river) to see it all decked out and lit up for Christmas. It did not disappoint, even the tour barges were lit up. There were carolling barges and even one featuring a dinner- all while cruising down the canals. It was a very cheery and festive walk but at the same time it was weird- there were no carols playing over speakers, no signs of anyone selling hot chocolate.
We still had time before dinner, I got comfy in bed drinking my Big Red and flipping between Full House and Floribama. We were having dinner at the hotel restaurant but neither of us was that hungry. We were mostly going there for the view of the river and for our free drinks. Alas the drinks were only at the hotel bar, somehow separate and in another part of the hotel. I ordered the corn chowder with crab and it hit the spot. I had never been so happy to eat warm bread and butter (the anti-meat) was I was that night. Brent had ordered the gnocchi with veggies but it came with parmesan sauce which was so rich and thick that it was just too much. I tried to help and eat as much as I could but it was too heavy. The whole experience was rife with oddity. One of the lady’s working there was weird. She asked how we were, when we asked her she said great now that we were there. She gave us bread and whipped butter. Said we wouldn’t believe it but it’s butter. This was followed by an awkward laugh, at her own joke, and then she told us she was delighted to serve us bread. There was a weird lady at the table behind us. She asked if she could take a menu home. The server mentioned that he could email it to her. She clarified that she collects menus, she already had 3 and she wanted this one because it was so nice. She did not want just the paper menu, she wanted the entire thing. The server then told them that the Rare Eagle they had ordered was not yet in the system, so he could not charge them for it. When he walked by our table Brent jokingly tried to order two glasses of it and the guy laughed. He also laughed at us when we said we had barbecue for lunch and were still full. There was no way we were going to order dessert.
At the bar I tried to choose the best cocktails to remedy our colds (yes, Brent seemed to have caught my cold) from the Christmas-themed list of twelve cocktails. Mine had gin, Elderflower liqueur, pureed cranberries and lemon juice. Brent’s had grapefruit and sage. I was so tired by the end of the night and it was barely 9pm.