Tag Archives: Texas

Searsucker in Austin

Searsucker in Austin

Austin, Chef Brian Malarkey, friends, New American, photography, restaurants, Searsucker, small plates, Texas, The Taste, Top Chef, travel, Warehouse District

It’s so cool when online friendships become offline meet-ups, particularly when they happen in fabulous new places. Our Twitter pilot friend PJ just happened to be flying from his home town of Houston to Austin to see Alton Brown when we were in the area. PJ suggested we have dinner at Searsucker.

Austin, Chef Brian Malarkey, friends, New American, photography, restaurants, Searsucker, small plates, Texas, The Taste, Top Chef, travel, Warehouse District

Austin, Chef Brian Malarkey, friends, New American, photography, restaurants, Searsucker, small plates, Texas, The Taste, Top Chef, travel, Warehouse District

Searsucker is one of the newer eateries in the Warehouse District, and the 7,000-square-foot space fits in beautifully with the other eclectic offerings.  The decor is vintage Americana meets Anthropologie, and I just wanted to move right in. I’m already figuring out how I can translate the style to our RV!

Austin, Chef Brian Malarkey, friends, New American, photography, restaurants, Searsucker, small plates, Texas, The Taste, Top Chef, travel, Warehouse District

Austin, Chef Brian Malarkey, friends, New American, photography, restaurants, Searsucker, small plates, Texas, The Taste, Top Chef, travel, Warehouse District

Our small plate selections included Lobster Mac & Cheese and Spicy Shrimp & Cheddar Bacon Grits.

Chef Brian Malarkey is a “Top Chef “finalist and is currently a judge/mentor on ABC’s new cooking competition show “The Taste” along with Anthony Bourdain, Nigella Lawson and Ludo Lefebvre. His New American menu at Searsucker is innovative and interesting. The “small” plates are actually full-size meals, something PJ and I wished we realized before we ordered four of them! (Mike, a less adventurous eater, stuck with steak and potatoes.) Everything was delicious, and the service was attentive and friendly.

Austin, Chef Brian Malarkey, friends, New American, photography, restaurants, Searsucker, small plates, Texas, The Taste, Top Chef, travel, Warehouse District

Dessert was the King Sundae. We skipped the caramelized bacon but thoroughly enjoyed the PB Cup ice cream, bruleed bananas, whipped cream, and Cracker Jack bits.

Austin, Chef Brian Malarkey, friends, New American, photography, restaurants, Searsucker, small plates, Texas, The Taste, Top Chef, travel, Warehouse District

PJ was super excited when Chef Malarkey strolled by our table. He’s apparently not always in the house. We asked our waitress if we could meet Chef, and he came out soon after our request, shaking hands and posing graciously for pictures. PJ was thrilled! Between meeting Chef Malarkey and seeing Alton Brown later in the evening, it was quite a night for him! We were glad to part of the whole thing, especially getting to know PJ in person and enjoying an amazing dinner in an amazing city.

Sunrise at The Vineyards

Sunrise at The Vineyards

 Grapevine, photography, sunrise, Texas, The Vineyards Campground, travel, water views, marina

In between our stay in Austin and our return to Milwaukee, we spent a couple more days at The Vineyards in Grapevine, Texas. It now officially qualifies as one our favorite campgrounds, and we haven’t even been there in the nice season when we could take advantage of all the cool stuff to do! One of the reasons we love it? The views out the RV window. I took these pics the morning we left. The stunning sunrise made it that much harder to go.

 Grapevine, photography, sunrise, Texas, The Vineyards Campground, travel, water views, marina

A walk through Memorial Park

A walk through Memorial Park

Memorial Park, Round Rock, Texas, dog walking, memorials, history, WWII, Vietnam, Brushy Creek, river walk, stairs, workout, outdoors, dogs, exercise,

We’re back in Milwaukee this week, in the middle of a snowstorm, so my jaunt through Memorial Park in Round Rock, Texas, a couple of weeks ago seems like a dream. Thank heavens for photographic evidence!

Memorial Park is home to the rock that gave Round Rock, Texas, its name.  The park is right off of I-35. Brushy Creek runs through the middle of it, and a pedestrian bridge under the highway connects both sides. There’s a playground on one side and the Sunset Strip apartment complex on the other. It’s a very pretty park although a little bit seedy.

Memorial Park, Round Rock, Texas, dog walking, memorials, history, WWII, Vietnam, Brushy Creek, river walk, stairs, workout, outdoors, dogs, exercise,

I stopped there with the dogs after I saw the park off the highway when I was dropping Mike off for work. I had no idea that the famous rock was there, so I missed it entirely. I guess I was close, though. From what I’ve read, if you want to see the rock, you need to walk over the low water crossing near the parking lot and go along the north side of the creek.

Memorial Park, Round Rock, Texas, dog walking, memorials, history, WWII, Vietnam, Brushy Creek, river walk, stairs, workout, outdoors, dogs, exercise,

I strolled in that direction but got sidetracked by the granite stadium stairs by the softball field. I just had to climb ’em! I did two sets with the dogs, but then Sadie refused to do any more. I wasn’t going to let our little diva hold me back, so I parked the bark babies in the Jeep and did another 13 sets for a total of 15.

Memorial Park, Round Rock, Texas, dog walking, memorials, history, WWII, Vietnam, Brushy Creek, river walk, stairs, workout, outdoors, dogs, exercise,

The rock isn’t the only cool piece of history in the park. There’s also a Vietnam War memorial and a commemorative WWII torpedo to honor Round Rock residents who fought on behalf of their town and country.

What a fun outing to remind me that there’s more to life than the deep freeze!

Neighbors

Neighbors

white pelicans, The Vineyards Campground, Grapevine, Texas, travel, photography, water, marina, views

As I sit comfortably in the recliner, working and writing blog posts on my laptop, with blueberry green tea in the cup holder and a view of the marina out the window, I glance up to see our new neighbors arrive. They’re a little loud but awfully nice to look at. A small smile crosses my face as I turn back to the keyboard.  This is what RVing is all about.

Hey Cupcake!

Hey Cupcake!

cupcakery, Hey Cupcake, Austin, Texas, cake, frosting, finger food, travel, photography

When we saw this super cute cupcake trailer on the side of the road, we had to stop. How could we resist a sweet treat from an Airstream-esque bakery on wheels?!?!

cupcakery, Hey Cupcake, Austin, Texas, cake, frosting, finger food, travel, photography

The irreverent sense of fun didn’t stop there; the flavor combos were hilarious. A Michael Jackson, anyone?? Mike went with plain vanilla (of course!) while I noshed on a Sweetberry.  This mobile cupcakery isn’t far from our campground on the outskirts of Austin, so I have a sneaking suspicion we’ll be back!

cupcakery, Hey Cupcake, Austin, Texas, cake, frosting, finger food, travel, photography

Riverview Campground (Waco, Texas)

Riverview Campground (Waco, Texas)

RiverviewCampground3

Riverview Campground seems to be out in the boonies when you transition from the highway to the back roads that take you to it.  But it’s actually  just 15 minutes from downtown Waco and the dealership where Mike was working. Be careful driving those rural routes, though.  You might have to navigate around roosters in the middle of the road like we did!

RiverviewCampground5

RiverviewCampground6

Riverview is a lovely park with pull-throughs, full hook-ups, and paved sites.  We paid $30 a day for our 50-amp, full hook-up, pull-through spot that included Wi-Fi.

RiverviewCampground4

RiverviewCampground2

Amenities include a brand new laundry room/shower building and a small play area for the kids. The property has three different club houses for large or small RV clubs.  Next to an in-ground, salt water swimming pool is a large dog run with a park bench and a couple of trees to provide shade from the sun.

DCIM100GOPRO

DCIM100GOPRO

We celebrated our six-month anniversary of being on the road while we were there in early January.  Most of the trees were bare.  We figure it’d be beautiful in the spring, summer and fall when the leaves and flowers are in full bloom.

The Vineyards Campground (Grapevine, Texas)

The Vineyards Campground (Grapevine, Texas)

 campgrounds, full hook-ups, Grapevine, iPhoneography, photography, pull-throughs, rv parks, Texas, The Vineyards Campground, travel

We stopped for a couple of days in Grapevine, Texas, to visit our friend Jim before heading to work in Waco.  The Vineyards Campground was lovely even in the bareness of winter. Our “gold” spot right on the lake was just $75 for a two-day stay, and it came with a complimentary wine tasting. A sweet perk! We had a spacious, circular pull-through site with full hook-ups and our own private deck overlooking the water.

 campgrounds, full hook-ups, Grapevine, iPhoneography, photography, pull-throughs, rv parks, Texas, The Vineyards Campground, travel

 campgrounds, full hook-ups, Grapevine, iPhoneography, photography, pull-throughs, rv parks, Texas, The Vineyards Campground, travel

We made good use of the complimentary Wi-Fi and cable, and our first day was warm enough that we gave the RV a much-needed bath.  Unfortunately, the temps dropped significantly after that so we didn’t get to enjoy the extensive amenities at the park:

  • Bicycle rentals
  • Boat ramp
  • Children’s playground
  • Courtesy docks
  • Regular activity programs
  • Family swim beach
  • Fishing pier
  • Golf cart rentals
  • Group pavilion
  • Horseshoe pit
  • Kayak rentals
  • Nature trail
  • Paddle boat rentals
  • Basketball
  • Volleyball
  • Disc Golf
  • Board games
  • Complimentary coffee/popcorn while supplies last each day

 campgrounds, full hook-ups, Grapevine, iPhoneography, photography, pull-throughs, rv parks, Texas, The Vineyards Campground, travel

 campgrounds, full hook-ups, Grapevine, iPhoneography, photography, pull-throughs, rv parks, Texas, The Vineyards Campground, travel

A pack of geese roamed among the rigs every day, and I discovered that these birds can be aggressive!  As I was snapping pics of them with my iPhone, one came rushing toward me, necked extended, loud honks coming from it’s open beak.  I guess he wasn’t a fan of the paparazzi!

 campgrounds, full hook-ups, Grapevine, iPhoneography, photography, pull-throughs, rv parks, Texas, The Vineyards Campground, travel

Donkey Tails

Donkey Tails

food, Grapevine, Texas, travel, photography, iPhoneography, hot dogs, appetizers, Tolberts, Main Street, finger food

If you’re ever in Historic Downtown Grapevine, Texas, be sure to stop for lunch at Tolbert’s on Main Street and have an order of Donkey Tails: two all-beef hot dogs, stuffed with cheddar cheese, wrapped in flour tortillas, lightly fried and served with Tolbert’s salsa and mustard sauce.  Yum-o!

6 months on the road!

6 months on the road!
travel, photography, Waco, Texas, RVing, full-time, full-timing, living on the road, Riverview Campground

The whole fam on a rainy morning at Riverview Campground in Waco, Texas, on our six-month anniversary of full-time RVing

Today is our six-month anniversary of full-timing.  Woohoo!  We bought the rig on May 21st, spent several VERY hot weeks clearing out our rental home and rehabbing the rig, and ultimately left Vegas on July 8th.  It’s been a quite an adventure ever since.

Highlights:

  • Cheapest campground (with full hook-ups): $16 a day at Main Street Station (would be $14 but they charge $1 per dog)
  • Most expensive campground (with full hook-ups): approximately $70 a day (can’t remember which one exactly; gotta keep better records of that)
  • Average stay in one spot: 1 week
  • Longest time spent in one spot so far: Milwaukee for five weeks
  • Miles driven: 13,467
  • States: 28
  • Most epic commute: driving over 2000 miles in 3 days from Milwaukee to Vegas in late December through snow, sleet and ice storms
  • Easiest commute: driving from Brookline, New Hampshire, to Stowe, Vermont, in late November under clear skies and light traffic
  • Sweetest moment: There have been so many sweet moments!  But if we had to choose, it’s been seeing all three of Mike’s daughters in the same year.  (That hadn’t happened since our wedding in 2009!)
  • Toughest moment: Leaving Vegas for the second time after visiting over Christmas

Work

Mike’s business as a technical trainer was already going well before we left Vegas.  The constant travel involved was what prompted us to hit the road in the RV in the first place.  Transitioning to the RV lifestyle has opened up other work opportunities for him.  This summer, during his normally slow period, he had the chance to work as a mechanic on Harley-Davidson’s demo fleet.  And now there’s a brand new, very exciting gig he’ll be doing for Harley, starting in a couple of weeks.  Those two opportunities would not have happened if we hadn’t been mobile.  And there’s the prospect of more cool stuff on the horizon.

I gave up my job as Deputy Administrator for the State of Nevada’s Housing Division to do freelance work on the road.  It’s been hard for me emotionally to shift from my identity as an accomplished professional.  Although this change is allowing me to nurture a creative career, it’s been discouraging to make a quarter of what I made before.

Freelancing is fickle and challenging, as I’m learning firsthand.  I’ve been sussing out my niche, and I think I’m on to something with Coffice Girl.  I frequently work in coffee shops and teahouses that offer free Wi-Fi, and I’ve started to profile those workspaces that I call “coffices” (cafe + office = coffice).  Over the next year, I will continue to develop Coffice Girl into my brand – focusing on my freelance writing, social media and illustration and celebrating the freelance lifestyle as well as small, local coffee and tea shops.  I am lucky in that I have consistent paying work (social media posting and strategy, writing, web design, virtual book marketing) and have had interesting, unexpected gigs (like working Harley’s 110th) come my way.  And, if we lived at Main Street Station (or someplace equally as cheap), I could even cover my own living expenses without Mike’s salary.  Still, staying positive about my new career is sometimes a struggle.

Friends & Community

When we got back to Vegas, after 5 1/2 months away, my friend Kimberly asked me, over dinner, if I’d been lonely.  I thought about it for a moment and realized that I had not been lonely, which struck me as odd initially.  I think, though, that it was because we’d seen so many people on our travels up to that point.  We saw all three of Mike’s daughters within a couple of months.  While we were on the east coast, we saw my mum and dad and their significant others, and I saw a girlfriend I hadn’t seen for seven years.  We saw my aunt and uncle while we were in North Carolina.  In Viriginia Beach, Mike was reunited with a cousin he hadn’t seen for over 20 years.  Mike’s brothers visited us in DC a few months after we left Vegas.  Then, we were back in Vegas to see all of our friends for Christmas.  I Skyped with one girlfriend a couple of times and kept up with everyone else through Facebook, e-mail, text messages and phone calls, which helped me feel connected.

Returning to Vegas and then leaving again was heartbreaking.   Being back in the nice weather, getting to see all the people I love and love to laugh with, seeing how my cherished city is blossoming was so wonderful, and I just wanted to stay.  Even Mike, who hadn’t been missing home as much as me during our first six months, felt it.  He has especially missed his North Las Vegas airport community and being able to fly regularly.

Milwaukee is as close as we come to a home base, since Mike teaches there one week a month from October through March, and thankfully, we have great friends there.  So, there is a community for us in Milwaukee, especially for Mike because he’s been working there for several years.

Health

One benefit we anticipated from moving into the RV was that Mike would get healthier.  In some ways, he has, and in some ways, he hasn’t.  The RV lifestyle is more physical than sticks-and-bricks living, so Mike’s moving more than he was.  But, he’s not eating as healthfully as we’d hoped for two reasons: 1) the tendency to nosh while driving and 2) eating out more than cooking in.

I am in my 12th year of a lifestyle change in which I lost over 100 pounds.  One of my biggest fears, going on the road, was that boredom and depression over leaving my friends and work would lead to overeating.  I am about 20 pounds heavier than I want to be right now, but I am maintaining my weight, just like I had been in Vegas over the last couple of years.  With the bad weather we’ve encountered on the road, I’ve had to change up my exercise routine.  I’ve found great workouts I can easily do in the rig (JessicaSmithTV.com), and I exercise about six days a week.  Mike bought me a FitBit Flex for Christmas, so I’m back to logging my food intake, as I did in the beginning.  Controlling my eating will always be difficult for me, but at least it hasn’t been made worse by RVing.

I am an avid obstacle racer, and traveling has both helped and hindered that.  It’s been hard to have a consistent OCR schedule because we’re not in one place.  Conversely, I’ve had the chance to do races in differenct locales that I normally never would.  It’s been easier to find running races at the last minute, so I’ve done more of those than obstacle events.  Mike has started coming along so that we “wog” (walk-jog) them together!

travel, photography, Waco, Texas, RVing, full-time, full-timing, living on the road, Riverview Campground

Expenses

We figured that Mike’s salary and the money he previously spent on airfare, rental cars and hotels would more than cover our living in the RV.  We figured right.

I used my retirement money from the State to pay for the rig in full, so we have no mortgage or rig payment.  We have no other debt, and we saved as much as we could before we hit the road to cover emergencies and lean times in Mike’s work.  We’ve had a few things go wrong mechanically like the air conditioner’s compressor seizing and snapping the fan belt and water issues, but with Mike’s ingenuity, we’ve kept moving without too much of a hit to our savings. So far, it’s all worked out beautifully.  We have money to cover our expenses and still have funds left over for dinners out and entertainment.

Our focus now is building our retirement fund and figuring out our insurance through Obamacare.

Another challenge has been reducing our Internet costs.  We currently spend $450 a month for two smart phones and 40GB of data.  About $200 of that is the data that we use for Netflix and Amazon as well as web.  We are continuing to investigate options to bring that cost down.  Thankfully, we can afford it right now, but we’d like to be as lean as possible going forward.

Pets

Traveling with two dogs and a 23-year-old cat has been, um, interesting.

Charlie, our cat, is marvelously adaptable, and it’s a delight to see him stretched out on the dash, soaking up the sun as we motor down the highway.  However, dealing with his litter has been a nightmare.  With almost no carpet and only 300 square feet of space, the crystals get EVERYWHERE.  I’m continuously appalled by where it turns up!  I simply can’t vacuum or wipe or sweep enough!  And, to put it bluntly, his stinky poops overwhelm the senses in such a small environment.  When Charlie moves on to the great cathouse in the sky, we will not get another cat.

The biggest issue we have with Meeko and Sadie, our Rat Terrier and Boston Terrier, is the lack of a doggie door.  In our house in Vegas, we had a doggie door and an enclosed back yard. So, the bark babies could dash outside to potty or sunbathe whenever they wanted to – whether we were there or not.  Now, one of us has to be up between 6 and 6:30 in the morning to take them out to do their business.  And someone has to take them out around 10 at night for their last potty of the day.  In the nice weather, it’s not that big a deal, but when it’s 5 degrees out, windy and snowing in Milwaukee, it kinda sucks.

Small Space Living

Living in 300 square feet hasn’t bothered us.  Ironically, that’s almost been the easiest thing to deal with!  We downsized a ton before we moved into the rig, and we’ve downsized even more along the way.  We’ve learned the most effective organizing techniques for our stuff.  Some things we thought would work (like silicone baking pans) haven’t, and some ideas have worked exactly as we expected.  We have a general policy that if something comes in, something else goes out.  Keeping the rooms tidy and putting items away is fairly easy – once you’ve figured out where and how to put ’em away.  And, it feels spacious when our one living room slide is out.

Decorating has been harder than anything because of the movement and things not sticking to the textured walls.

Other than that, we don’t feel cramped in our  hallway on wheels, and it’s starting to feel like home – with reflections of us and what we love scattered about.

Summing it up…

Overall, our first six months on the road have been extraordinarily wonderful.  We’ve gotten to spend every day together, a first in our seven-year relationship.  Sharing all the triumphs, the hardships and the ordinary moments has strengthened us as a couple and brought us even closer than we were before – which hard to believe since we’ve been super close from the beginning!  We’ve already seen so much of this amazing country, and we’ve done all kinds of fabulous stuff like ziplining, flying in small planes to historic places, ropes courses, shooting competitions, paddle boating, cooking classes, scenic bicycling, and much more.  We’ve visited far-flung family and friends.  We’ve explored new communities and checked out the fun and funky small businesses that give those communities their unique flavor.

When we started, we committed to a year.  I’m excited to see what the next six months brings.