On the Road Again

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I’ve always loved to travel.

It doesn’t matter by what mode of transportation, as it usually leads to a thrilling adventure, a reunion of some sorts with people you love, or vacation. Even when the reasons aren’t so happy and ideal, traveling may lead to familial and friendly support, a temporary escape, or ultimate closure.

Last weekend, it was a trip to Austin, Texas, to see my significant other for Valentine’s Day. It was the first time that I’ve really actually gotten into V-Day, and well, the first time I’ve had the chance to take a girl out for it. As she pointed out, who would have thought it would have been in San Antonio.

I sure didn’t.

It was a romantic weekend. We decided to go down to San Antonio to eat dinner at a nice restaurant on the Riverwalk. It was a picturesque perfection that I can only hope we can top as we continue to be together, despite the persistent chilly breeze that made us cold and a wobbly table. Our first official Valentine’s. Unforgettable.

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Today, it’s another reunion for me. I write from seat 6A on my Southwest flight to Chicago. There I will catch my connection to Omaha, Nebraska. It’s been nine months since I’ve seen my closest friends from Notre Dame. It will be wonderful to see them again and spend the little time that we’ll have together.

I guess it wasn’t until these past few weeks I’ve realized how much I enjoy flying. We know there are certain stresses that come with flying, such as worrying about finding overhead space for bags, getting through security with your belongings and dignity intact, and hoping you make connecting flights. But once you meet these challenges, you’re free. And you’re on a non-stop flight to the future.

Oh the freedom of flight.

For those few hours, you are free of the modern day ball and chain- the cell phone and the internet. Sure, people still know where you are. You’re on a flight! But there is no waiting for the next email or text or phone call. It can’t even be on.

It’s just you, your complimentary 6 ounces of your favorite Coke product, and fellow passengers.

Of course, even now there are business men and women typing away on their computers trying to meet deadlines. But we are free, if only temporarily, from the grasp the world has on us. Those 30,000 feet make all the difference. You can sit and take a breather from life almost, while peering down on it. It’s marvelous isn’t it? The countryside, the cities, the oceans. God’s partnership with mankind produces some wonders.

So anytime that you heapsters are on the road again, remember to enjoy those precious moments of tranquility. It’s only a matter of time until you arrive at the Future, where you’ll activate again your social shackles getting to where you have to go and doing what you have to do.

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The Trashman Chronicles III: Austin Adventures Part 2 – Dinner and a Movie, REAL Tacos, and Swimming in a Spring

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After battling Austin traffic and disputing the sneaky directions of my ancient GPS, we finally made it back to the apartment. I was pretty spent after all of that, so we just relaxed a little bit. It was then time to leave for the first movie we had seen together in two months! We love seeing movies together, (It was like our first technical outing… oh that Cloverfield 😉 ) so naturally we wanted to do that. We had both been salivating over Righteous Kill, starring Robert De Niro and Al Pacino. I love movies about “the streets” I guess you could say, particularly when it involves interesting moral dilemmas such as what was presented in the movie (Don’t worry heapsters, a full review is coming soon!).

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But we didn’t just go to any regular old movie theater. Nooo, we went to this place called Alamo Drafthouse, an integral part of the unique Austin experience. So of course, the name itself suggests the presence of beer. I’m sure most big towns have a theater that serves alcohol these days. But this place was amazingly different. They had some of the greatest domestic and foreign beers on tap! I HAD to jump on the Paulaner Hefeweizen! Now what really takes the cake is that you are served dinner before and during the movie! It’s not just some weak menu either… the selection was superb, having anything from salads and appetizers to burgers and sandwiches to delicious oven baked pizzas. We shared queso and chips with some baked potato bites. So good. For dinner, we decided on the “Raging Bull” pizza, which is essentially a “meat lovers” pizza. There were giant slices of sausage and pepperoni, and needless to say that we utterly devoured it all.

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Just so you get a sense of it, just picture your typical “stadium style” seating arrangement, and then add convenient tables and menus! It was such an amazing experience! And of course, being with her and seeing a great movie wasn’t that shabby either!

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Afterward, we drove aimlessly around “IH-35” trying to find a mythological Wal-Mart, because I needed to buy a charger for my phone, and we came back to the apartment to sleep, since Angel had to go to class on Friday.

I was awoken by a demanding kitten who wanted me to take her to school. What nerve! So we made that little drive to UT Law school. I went driving around for a little bit, and I stumbled upon this chain called Fiesta. It was like a Mexican supermarket. They had like a bakery making tortillas (a tortilleria), and so many other delicacies and sweets, not to mention the hardcore market style carniceria. I was blown away. I bought some stuff to make a quick breakfast sandwich, and waited to pick her up from school.

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By the time I picked her up, it was time for lunch! SO after a scenic drive by of UT’s football stadium and other landmarks on the way to lunch, we finally pull up to Torchy’s, a hole in the wall taco joint. I was pumped, and the line out the door only fueled my unkempt desire for authentic Mexican. Looking around, the tacos looked delicious. So we glance at the MENU, and I decided on the “Brushfire Taco”

Jamaican jerk chicken, grilled jalapenos, mango, Sour cream, and cilantro served on a flour tortilla with Diablo sauce.

I love jerk flavoring and anything that is devastatingly spicy. The sweetness of the mango definitely added a tasty contrast to the heat! That diablo sauce is also exquisite! I wish I could get a bottle of that stuff! I also had the “Trailer Park” Taco.

Fried chicken, green chili’s, lettuce, pico, and Cheese served on a flour tortilla with poblano ranch.
Get it trashy! Take off the lettuce and add queso!

Needless to say I had it dirty, and it was delicious. By far the best tacos I had ever had! Next time I want to try the “Dirty Sanchez” taco. I don’t even care whats in it, I just want to try it for the namesake.

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We drove back to the apartment and we changed into our bathing suits. We were going on our second adventure, swimming at Barton Springs! According to my research, various sources state that the spring remains a cool 68F! Let me tell you, you feel it when you jump in for the first time! You definitely have to move around to get some semblance of sensation back! We had a blast! Angel’s not the biggest fan of water, but that’s what makes her great 🙂 She brought us juuuust because I’d enjoy it! But she knows she had a good time. No where else in the vicinity can you swim, lay out in the sun, almost get pooped on by a bird AND smell like algae for the rest of the day!

We dried up and headed to the Barton Creek Mall to walk around and mostly do some window shopping, though I did happen to find a great shirt at Express. Well actually, she found it after a 10 minute sifting through the clearance shirts! The mall was really nice and pretty big. I was impressed. Our time at the mall ended with an hour long stop at a nail parlor… for some reason, it took them 1 hour… maybe even more, just to pull her tips off! I’m sure it was just retaliation for not having something else done like eyebrows or a pedicure.

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Finally after a long day, we needed some dinner. We ate at a place called Shady Grove, which amounted to be what I described as a homestyle restaurant with Texan and Mexican influence. It’s pretty sweet, as most of the seating is outside under trees with a nice bar in a shack. There’s also a giant screen, giving it a drive is sort of feel. The bathrooms were really unique because they were located in an Airstream Trailer! We ate inside since we were outside for so long today, and because it was shorter. It took maybe 15 minutes to be seated. We opened the menu and we immediately knew what we wanted. We actually ordered the same thing… Chicken Fried Chicken! We placed our orders and asked for some waters… which came in giant 1 L cups. They don’t mess around in Texas. They brought out our salads, which were excellent. We seriously waited maybe or 10 minutes for our food to come out! I mean I wasn’t even done with the salad! And again, they DON’T mess around in Texas. I mean, this piece of chicken was massive, not to mention delicious! They have this rice there… some of the best tasting rice I’ve ever had.

So, after that we just made our way back and watched some TV before we went to sleep. We had to rest up for our trip to San Antonio!

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The Trashman Chronicles III: Austin Adventures Part 1 – Rental Car Ridiculousness

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Finally, our latest installment of The Trashman Chronicles is here! No creepy and shady pyramid schemes this time (though I keep seeing the company trying to take over job fairs!). Today I’ll finally start talking about my trip to Austin, Texas, to visit the one and only Angel Leal! So you’ll get to see what I was up to instead of devoutly writing for my legions of faithful readers.

So our story begins the morning of September 18, a Thursday. I woke up and was waiting for Dad to pick me up to take me to the airport. My flight to Austin wasn’t until 9:30 or so, but since I live about 20 minutes away from the airport and the infamous Tampa morning traffic, that trip turned into a wonderful 1 hour bumper to bumper romp through the heart of the city to TIA. I checked in and checked my bag, went through security rather painlessly, bought myself a ridiculously overpriced sandwich, and sat down by the gate, waiting to board. I checked everything like 5 times, like my boarding pass and my rental car reservation. So I boarded, we took off and I passed the two hours watching The Office Season 1!

The flight was relaxing and peaceful, no turbulence or anything. I got into the airport at about 11 AM Central and I made some calls to tell everyone I made it. The Austin airport was unexpectedly small, but was really nice. Tons of food places and bars. It was squeeky clean! So down the escalator I went with my laptop bag and my Rays hat in hand to baggage claim to wait for my bag. After picking it up, it was time to find the Advantage Rental desk to pick up my reserved car. The layout of the bottom floor had rental companies to the extreme left and right. I first looked to the right, seeing Avis, Dollar, and Hertz signs. Ok, I’ll go left, I thought. After walking all the way down, past Thrifty, Budget and a local company, I was like, uhhh I’m pretty sure Advantage is AT the airport! So I walk all the way across the concourse again to the right side, and there it was, hidden behind the giant signs of the other rental companies! And the sign wasn’t illuminated! Not a good sign… and certainly a foreshadowing clue of the events which would transpire.

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So I walk up to the line, I was next… only one person ahead of me at the desk with the agent. Then apparently there was an issue… they were there for like 20 minutes figuring things out! I looked over at Enterprise… 2 agents… Dollar? 2 Agents… Avis? 4! So I guess they were understaffed. That’s ok I guess. Good thing I was next. By the time it was my turn, the line behind me was about 7 deep. Poor souls. I handed my reservation info to the agent… who just so happened to be an Asian woman… so for future reference we’ll call her Tricia Takanawa.

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Tricia seemed nice enough, she had a nice smile and she began to type away furiously, asking typical rental questions, options, upgrade, waiver… blah blah blah. So finally, it came time to pay. I had PLENTY of money on my debit card, and I had about 200 dollars of credit on my Visa, so I wasn’t worried. Oh… but let the surprises begin! At the time of the reservation online, my quote was for a compact car for about 95 dollars for 4 days! Unheard of cheap! So I was really excited and I decided to reserve it. My total when I came up to the counter? 215 dollars.

WHAT!?!

Apparently there was an underage fee of 25 dollars a day! so, 100 dollars!!! plus taxes. My goodness. But I had the money, and Angel and I really planned for a car so I was just like, ok sure, let’s do this. Then an even bigger surprise- Tricia tells me: Oh, is that a debit card? Yeah, that’s another 300 safety deposit. It’s refunded when you return the car. So my debit card was going to be charged 515 dollars. I could do nothing but shake my head. But like I said, we needed the car. Swipe.

DENIED.

Really? So I’m like ok so if it’s my credit card, no 300 deposit right? Tricia said that was the case. Ok, well, here, try my credit card. Swipe.

DENIED.

Wow. I instantly started sweating and worrying. Angel is going to kill me. So many scenarios running in my head. But I was like. Well, let me just transfer some money into checking from savings. So I called the bank and made the transaction… and I had to wait in that 7 deep line I talked about. Tricia saw me and smiled, as she noticed I was back in line. So I waited 45 more minutes to finally get to Tricia again. I pull out my card and Tricia’s like: Nope, sorry… after a card is denied there is a 24 hour hold… sorry. I almost exploded. How could you not tell me that when you knew I was planning on transferring money, letting me wait in line all this time? Tricia’s response? Oh, my shift’s over… good luck with that. Ask other companies if they have cars. So my lovely trek began. From enterprise I went to Dollar, to Avis, to Budget, to Hertz… all 9 companies present had 0 cars to give to walk ups. UT had a game and there was a big festival in town. No cars at the airport. I went outside and just sat down in despair. What was I going to do? How could I show up with no car?

Brainstorm.

I went up to Enterprise and asked about their in town locations. They said they most likely had cars, and they were cheaper. YES! So I called Michael, and he made reservations for me online at the Enterprise closest to the airport so the taxi ride wouldn’t be TOO bad. And it actually proved to be 50 dollars cheaper than Advantage, and no stupid deposit, just around 170 dollars- 60 dollars of that being the young driver fee. I can deal with 60 dollars instead of 100.

So! NOW I could call Angel because I had a plan (I had been avoiding her impending wrath for some hours now) In the end she decided to come to the airport and meet me before we both got the car, since we had to wait 2 more hours for the car to be ready. So by now it was 2 PM, and I rounded up all my bags and… where’s my Rays hat? Could this day get any worse? I dropped it somewhere… so before going up to the bar, I went around to places I had been and I even went to lost and found! Apparently, the Rays are so hot that someone took my hat and kept it!

But at last… everything was settled. I went up to the bar and waited until Angel got to the airport. I tried this beer called Shiner Bock, exclusively from Texas. It was really, really good. I might put it ahead of Michelob Amber Bock!

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She finally got to the airport. It had been a long 2 months since I had seen her, let alone hold her. As I came down the stairs, you could see her a mile away with hit eyesore- I mean ostentatious purple backpack. After saying hi to each other, we got a cab… our cabbie was a pretty cool dude, a native Nigerian driving a tricked out Chrysler 300… nice ride. It was with him that I had my first encounter with Austin traffic

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Yikes.

WELL, after a looooong afternoon and actually not finding Enterprise the first time around (it was behind a giant Ford dealer and it looked shady…) we got to the car (30 Dollars later) and drove to Angel’s apartment! We affectionately named our Kia Rio “KIKI.” We have tons of pics of her inside, but none of her. Sad!

Next time we’ll actually get to see stuff I did in Austin, including a literal Dinner and a movie at this place called Alamo Draft House and a algae-filled swimming adventure! Stay Tuned!

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Regrettably Back Home…

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But not because I don’t want to write for you heapsters. Alas, I have returned from my trip to Austin, Texas! I had a blast, to say the least, but details will be coming the rest of this week, so forgive my brevity regarding specific details! Though the trip did leave me with quite a dilemma. I don’t really know what I love more, Angel, or Texas! Needless to say, it was QUITE the great vacation.

Unfortunately, my little hiatus left me gravely disconnected (quite literally) from the world! Our various pages have been UPDATED (Rays, Bucs, Notre Dame). Speaking of the Rays, they CLINCHED a playoff birth! Congratulations to our hometown boys, and their first venture into the post season. But of course, there is still a division to win! The magic number has been reduced to 2, meaning the Rays can potentially clinch tomorrow, if Boston loses and they Rays finish off the sweep of Baltimore. Here’s a video of the Tropicana Field Madness after clinching a playoff berth!

The Bucs also won surprisingly in OT in Chicago, while Notre Dame lost to Michigan State. The Tampa Bay Lightning have also opened training camp and have even played a few pre season games, opening the Barry Melrose Era, or the regime of the mullet. We’ll have a page for them up tomorrow probably.

So as you probably are expecting, there will be a new TTMC with stories and adventures from Texas. Also, a movie review should be up as well! And I haven’t forgotten about our sci fi list! We should wrap that up by this weekend. In addition, I always have some random, crazy stories to share that I find online! You can expect some of those too. We’ll get back to it tomorrow!

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