Austin Trip

Here it is, the low down from my trip to Austin, TX:

The phrase I picked up on upon arrival is “Keep Austin Weird”.  It’s a quirky town that’s got it going on.  Since there is so much in Austin I’ll need to break this post into multiple sections for you interjunkies.

Good Eats:

The food was probably the biggest surprise to me.  There is awesome food on every corner in Austin.  The rage in Austin’s food scene are the food trailers.  They offer everything from exotic bratwursts to blingin’ tex mex.  The food is cooked fresh and won’t break your bank account.  Usually you’ll find the trailers in small groups of two or three all offering different types of food.  After you scarf down some tacos and you’re craving something sweet you’re still in luck.  There are dessert trailers such as “Gourdoughs” that have specialty donuts to die for. For sit-down style restaurants we ate at an authentic tex-mex joint called “Curra’s” where I had the best carnitas of my life.  Cade and Mark went to “Rudy’s” which is a legit bbq place.  If you enjoy awesome food (and who doesn’t?) Austin is worth checking out.

Bars/Music:

There is something for everyone downtown.  Whether you enjoy a low key bar with good beer or a head banging with some emo’s, Austin is the place to be.  We checked out a venue called “Emo’s” and listened to some hard rock/drone/metal which was sweeet.  We also went to a bar called “Gingerman” which hosts a impressive lineup of good brews in draught (60+) and bottled form.  If you want a local brew check out anything from Live Oak, they are a solid brewery.  In general I’d say North Carolina has a better selection of tasty brews (ex.  No Bell’s in TX, wtf??).  The scene is downtown is pretty rad and you can walk everywhere.  Crime doesn’t seem to be an issue in this blue dot surrounded by a sea of red.  Last note; beware or embrace the hipsters, they are everywhere.

Biking:

Austin is a very bike-friendly city.  There are bike lanes/bridges all over the city that cater to cyclists.  Anywhere you want to go downtown seems like it would be very manageable on a bike.  I’m not sure how the traffic is but there are tons of bikes roaming the streets of Austin.  If you’d rather ride on dirt there you’re still in the right place.  The are plenty of bike stores if you need to rent a bike or buy that accessory you’ve been saving for.  You can ride on most of the greenbelt (which runs right next to downtown).  Warning –it’s rocky as hell!  I’m not talking about a rock garden here or there…I’m saying the entire trail seems more like a rock quarry.  Plus, it’s easy to get off the trail due to the lack of trail marking or signs.  Locals say that the best place to ride is Walnut Creek for fast & smooth singletrack.

Climbing:

Last but not (well…maybe) least is the rock climbing.  Now I must say upfront that there are two sides to every story and this is one’s not exempt.  First off, if you happen to score a job in Austin or enjoy the occasional day of climbing it’s pretty damn sweet.  You can be at a crag in 5-10 minutes from the middle of downtown.  I hear there is some pretty decent bouldering around but I can’t speak for that.  I went sport climbing for a couple days around the greenbelt area (check out a local map here).  The crags I visited were “Seismic (or Maggie’s Wall)”, “Gus Fruh” and the “New Wall”.  These are 30-40 ft limestone cliffs that are scattered around downtown Austin.  It’s all bolted with each climb reppin’ 3-4 bolts with bolted anchors at the top.  To it’s defense, all of the hardware was new and well kept.  The downside to the climbing is that the routes are short, non-sustained and very well polished.  The rock is good for the most part and offers one to two cool moves followed by a big rest of some sort.  From my experience the routes were fun and super convenient but it’s definitely not a climbing destination.  That being said, there are some decent crags worth driving to.   Enchanted Rock (E-Rock) is about 1.5 hours and features some trad lines with nice cracks.  Reimer’s Ranch is a sport crag with hundreds of routes that’s about 45 minutes from Austin.  I’ve heard it’s pretty sweet.  There is some craggin’ right on the border of Texas/Mexico that is supposed to be pretty good.  For longer drives you can be at El Potrero in about 7 hours or Hueco Tanks within 9 hours.

Climbing Scene:

First off I must say thanks to my friend Rob for taking me under his wing in Austin.  We climbed a couple days and he gave me a lot of info about Austin’s climbing scene.  Thanks man!  I think there is a pretty good scene in Austin.  I think most of the people who are serious about climbing take trips to E-Rock or Reimer’s Ranch or Mexico.  I hear there is some good bouldering in the area too but some of those areas remain “hush hush” to keep the gumbos out.  The scene around the greenbelt area is super duper gumbyville.  It’s basically a bunch of twenty year old college kids who obnoxiously spray down everybody and talk about stupid shit.  They should focus more on belaying instead of drinking beer but that’s just my opinion.  Like I said, the greenbelt offers a good pump, short walk and the convenience because it’s so close to town.  Take it for what it’s worth.

Austin, TX is a damn cool town.  Check it out of you get a chance!

Blanket Creek Mountain Bike Trails

Blanket Creek

While I was in Atlanta I went mountain biking at Blanket Creek in Northwest Atlanta.  These were by far some of the baddest trails I’ve ever been on.  I picked the two advanced trails which were called the Van Michael and the South Loop.  Both were right around 4 miles long.  The Van Michael stood out as the coolest trail.  There were some pretty gnarly climbs and quick descents.  The trail was smooth and very well groomed.  There were also some technical sections with steep embankments that kept you on your toes.  I wish I had pictures of the actual trails but I didn’t feel like stuffing my camera in my pack.  I highly recommend this trail system if you’re around ATL.

High Country Bound

So long Columbia!  Well, at least for the next week.  I’m scootin’ up to Boone to enjoy a weekend in the mountains and then heading down to Atlanta to attend some SUSE linux training.  My plan is to climb some moderate routes (preferably trad) and just take it easy in general.  I bummed I missed the Reel Rock Tour in Banner Elk last night but fortunately there is a showing in ATL next week while I’m down there.  If my finger holds up this weekend I may try to visit Stone Summet (nation’s largest climbing gym) to see what all the hype is about.  My mountain bike is packed in the truck so I may crank some gears too.

Labor Day Weekend

Here are some pictures from this past weekend in Boone.  I had a pretty good trip although I couldn’t climb much.  Heal finger, heal!!  We went to Hawksbill on Saturday and got on a few routes.  I did the two bolted 5.9’s followed by the “Jug Route”.  Erich did really well on Manifest Destiny and should send next time he goes back.  We all thought he was gonna crush it until he punted after the 3rd bolt.  I’m trying to keep my hopes high and try to prepare for fall.  I’ve been hitting the gym doing various cardio exercises to stay in shape.  It’s almost time to start mountain biking again done here.  I can’t wait to be able to enjoy the outdoors down here in the midlands.  On Monday I met up with my roommate Cade and we hit up Lake Norman State Park for some mountain biking.  We did a few trails and they were fun.  The temps were in the low 80’s which was very nice.  Enjoy the pics!

Hell of a week!

Man oh man.  Where do I start? Since last Sunday I have driven over 800 miles:

A week ago around this time I was heading up to Raleigh/Durham for some AIX (unix) training for work.  I was pretty excited to get my learn on about something I care about.  I got to my hotel around 9:30 or 10:00 and went to sleep soon there after.  The hotel was pretty sweet.  My room had 2 lcd tv’s and 2 queen beds.  I only needed one of each but I guess they wanted to make sure I had a hot swappable backup in case either one failed.  I must say that the comp breakfast was probably some of the best breakfast food I’ve eaten in a long time.  Each morning I was greeted with various flavored hashbrowns, eggs and anything else you could possibly want.  It was also quite generous that they offered free beer from 5-7pm.  I took advantage of both the breakfast and the booze.  My classes were on the IBM campus in the middle of the research triangle park.  I’d never spent much time in Raleigh but the triangle park was pretty neat.  I drove past GE Aircraft Engines and various other companies that balled out in the technology field.  I went to the local gym, Triangle Rock Club, and had a pretty good session.  It was a nice gym and I got super pumped.  I also checked out some mountain biking.  I went to this area called New Light in north Raleigh.  Big props to trianglemtb.com for having good beta on their site! I met some dudes in the parking lot that were kind enough to let me ride with them (well, at least for the first 10 minutes until they dusted me).  That trail system was freakin sweet!  I’d have to say it’s one of the best trails I’ve ever been on.  I finished up training on Thursday and high tailed it to Boone to enjoy a long weekend chillin with family and friends.

I was able to squeeze an evening session in at Grandmother on Thursday.  We went to the long wall and we climbed a handful of problems until the rain revoked our top-out license.  We sat it out and after a few minutes we were able to start working on a cool traverse.  The next morning I got up and decided to test one of my goals by riding up Junaluska Rd on my mountain bike.  It’s only about 1.5 miles but it’s a pretty gnarly uphill stretch (800 ft elevation gain).  I surprised myself and did it without stopping.  Turning around and flying down the mountain was exhilarating!  After that I met up with some friends and went to Thunder Hill boulders.  It was actually my first trip to Thunder Hill and I thoroughly enjoyed it.  It’s sharp!!

Saturday I went to the lake with all of my siblings and my dad.  A few friends tagged along as well.  The temperature was in the low 90’s and the water was perfect.  Because of Jesse’s courage we were able to drag the wake board behind the pontoon boat!  It was slower than molasses but super fun and a great workout.  We nicknamed my sister Page, Tread, because she was treading water like a champ!  I’m talking 45 minutes without a “life preserver” as Dad would call it.  I have to admit I’m not the biggest lake fan but I had a damn good time.

Here are some pictures from the past week:

After Work

So I just got off the phone with Erich (http://erichpurpur.blogspot.com) and we were chatting about blogs. I informed him that my life is rather boring in Columbia compared to Lake Tahoe. I mean really, he is living the life out in Tahoe and currently driving to Utah to sample some of the best powder in the country. That bastard!

Pine Wasteland

Pine Wasteland

Sandy Sandy

Sandy Sandy

I went biking after work this evening and it was pretty sweet. I went to Sesqui today which is a 6.1 mile loop. Although it’s  pretty sandy, it’s 5 minutes from work and a pretty decent workout.  There are some fun sections in the trails winding through the trees and jumping a couple roots.  I’m pretty psyched on mountain biking.  I love my new bike every time I ride it.  I’m looking forward to going up to Dark Mountain outside of Wilkesboro sometime.

On a side note, it’s days like today where I enjoy living in the armpit of the south.  It was 70 degrees with bright blue skies down here.  Although it gets super hot and humid in the summer, I’m sure as hell enjoying it right now.  The weather is perfect this time of year!  I better enjoy it while I can because pretty soon I’ll be escaping to the blue ridge as much as possible…

Mountain Bike

Cannondale F4z So I’m in the mountain bike game these days.  I got a   Cannondale F4z hardtail mountain bike.  It’s pretty rad so far.  It’s basically the F4 with upgraded components and a sweet air shock.  I didn’t ever do any mountain biking in Boone because I was too wrapped up in rock climbing.  Down here, although there are not any mountains, there are still some hills and some decent trails around.  I figure it’s a good way to stay in shape and beats the shit out of doing cardio in the gym.  I’m looking forward to taking it up to Dark Mountain in Wilkes and down to the FATS trails near Augusta.  I took it out for the first time yesterday and it was awesome.  The shifting is crazy smooth and the bike seems to be very responsive.  I’m pretty psyched about it.

Until next time, Cheers!

Sesquicentennial State Park

Sesqui State Park

Sesqui State Park

So today was a productive day minus the rock climbing. I had a bunch of stuff to do around the house so I couldn’t make it to the bald. It was a beautiful day in Columbia with sunny skies and a temperature of 65 degrees. I decided to go out mountain biking at Sesqui which is in north east Columbia. I’d never been to that trail before and was surprised how good it was. It’s known for being pretty sandy but since it’s been rainy for the past couple days, the trail was ideal. The terrain is easy to moderate in some areas with nice surroundings. I think it’s about a 6 mile loop or so.  I’m still renting bikes from the cycle center in Columbia.  They have a great deal where all of the money you spend on rentals goes towards the purchase of a bike.  They are very friendly and have a nice bike selection.  Anyways, MLK is almost over and work starts tomorrow.  It will be a while before we have another holiday :(  Good news is that it’s going to be a short week! Looking like I’ll be at the bald for adopt-a-crag this Saturday.  As of right now, the weather looks splitter.

-Matt