Winter 2018-2019 - This And That Happened

Ralph's Blog

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Hot Dog Theology

One of the nicest things about wintering in Austin (besides the lack of snow) is hanging out with our kids and grandkids. Over the past few years, daughter Raina has had several friends from Rochester move to Austin, so we have a nice little enclave of former Rochesterians down here in the Heart of Texas. There's nothing like having people who know what you're talking about when you say 'Zweigels makes the best hot dogs on the planet.'

Ironically, Zweigels calls their dogs 'Texas Hots,' but you can't get them in Texas. For the hot dog purist - at least those of us from Rochester, NY - a hot dog is pork based. None of this 'all beef' or 'made with select cuts of chicken and turkey' nonsense. This is serious stuff.

I was born and raised in Buffalo, NY and Buffalonians in my youth took it as the Word Of The Creator that Malecki made the only truly edible hotdog. A trip to Ted's Hotdogs was a family treat. A footlong, charcoal-grilled, Malecki hotdog slathered in ketchup, mustard and relish was a gourmet treat - and don't forget the hand battered onion rings!

Sadly, in 1988 Malecki's closed down. The weeping and gnashing of teeth of hotdog lovers from Orchard park to Niagara Falls knew no bounds. With no more Maleckis, Ted's switched to Salens Hot Dogs, and I have to admit it's a pretty good hotdog.

This satisfied me until I moved to Rochester and married Judy. Like any True Believer, I was loathe to abandon the Sacred Dogma of The Hotdog, but Judy was adamant that Zweigels were the best. I had to take this seriously, because Judy is Jewish and grew up on kosher, all beef hotdogs. For her to find a pork-based hotdog superior was serious stuff.

So I tried it and am born-again. Salens is still a fine hotdog and I will open my mouth and sing it's praises (after I'm done eating it, of course) but Zweigels is the best.

How this whole rant got started was by trying to tell you how our little Rochester Enclave in Austin would order ten pounds of Zweigels (part red, part white) shipped overnight in dry ice - not cheap, but worth it! When it arrived we would all gather at the swimming pool in the RV park and grill them up. Naturally we accompany them with the traditional Garbage Plate Fixings. I even found a recipe for knockoff hot sauce.

While I'm thinking of things you can't find in Texas, here a couple of other odd ones. Italian Seasoning. I suppose with BBQ the state standard in cuisine, the poor Italians have gotten lost in the shuffle. I actually had to order it from Amazon when I ran out, not a single supermarket in Austin carried Italian Seasoning. Naturally, once I had my Amazon delivery, I trekked to the not-so-local Aldi and guess what they had?

Yeah, I know - You can't win.

Some things are improving, though. Until recently it was just about impossible to find some really good extra sharp cheddar cheese. Lots of brands said they were extra sharp, but they lied! Now I can find the real deal in Old Crock from Australia and Kerrygold from Ireland. Seems silly to have to import the stuff when Cabot in New England makes some of the best, but the HEB (which dominates the supermarket trade in Texas) stopped carrying it last year. I can get Cabot at Costco in two pound blocks, but there is no way I can eat two pounds of cheddar before it goes bad.

OK, enough complaining.

New Year's Portrait

Raina and Max celebrated the new year by taking this cute picture.

San Antonio

Early January was surprisingly warm, so we took a drive to San Antonio. Naturally we visited the Alamo.

One of the nicest things to do in San Antonio is to walk along the Riverwalk.

It was fun watching he ducks swimming around and we got up close and personal with this Mama and her baby. When we stopped for lunch we were serenaded by a mariachi band. I asked them to play something from their Mexican tradition, but they played Guantanamera. Lyrics by Cuban JosÚ MartÝ and music by Pete Seeger. I suppose most Gringos wouldn't know the difference, but they were a pretty good band.

One surprise was a memorial to Charlie Goodnight.

He's a folk hero here in Texas, but I know him from the songs and stories of U. Utah Phillips. Utah had a whole raft of stories about Goodnight and his partner Oliver Loving, all certainly as true as anything Utah ever spoke. Give a listen to him telling about the Egg Setting Horse. I do have to wonder what the real Charlie Goodnight would think of this story, though.

Lockhart, TX

Taking advantage of the continuing warm weather we paid a visit to Lockhart and the nearby state park. The downtown has several funky stores and the courthouse is a genuine work of art. As usual, I read my book while Judy wandered through the stores, collecting interesting things to give as gifts next Christmas. It's never too early to go Christmas shopping.

The Town Hall in Lockhart is a really beautiful piece of architecture. Seeing the top of it as we drove by was why we detoured to find out what the rest of the building looked like.

San Antonio, Again

We went back in February with a friend, so here are some more pictures.

Cascade Caverns

There are several caves within driving distance of Austin, so this one is the Cascade Caverns. Of course I found another cute kid to add to my collection.

The Austin Crew

Grandson Franti is practicing to become a Man in Black. Note he already has his moll picked out. The other beautiful ladies are daughter Raina, Franti's mall Lilly and the up-and-coming beautiful ladies of the next generation.


On our way back from a concert we saw a little sign for the Central Texas Bonsai Exhibit. This is a really cool place with hundreds of bonsai trees to look at and to buy. They also have some very nice hand-made jewelry available. We had a very nice time talking to Chuck, the man who makes it all happen - he has a true love for the art

Just Some More Pictures

In case you can't pay your hospital bill, there's help nearby.

The Kerrville Folk Festival is one of the granddaddies of the festival scene. We spent a week there and wished we could stay for the other two weeks.

As we packed up to leave, I found we had a flat tire on the RV. Changing a tire on the RV is a pain, but I got out the 8 ton jack and crawled under the thing and started pumping the handle. All that did was drive the jack into the soft dirt, so I removed the jack, put a big hunk of wood under it and pumped once again. Eventually the tire lifted, I unbolted it and took it off to find a 2x4 with a big stinkin' nail buried deep in the tire. In all the acres we could have set up in, I had to find that nail!

Naturally, the wheel wasn't high enough to mount the inflated tire, so I had to prop the axle up, release the jack, add some more wood and pump some more. Those last couple of inches are a real pain, especially flat on your belly under an RV.

Two hours later we finally left, Perhaps the Music Gods were telling us we should have stayed longer.

And a few more miscellaneous pictures just for fun.

Fathers and sons for Father's day.

And last but not least, an all-wood trailer that stayed in our RV park for a few days.

So that catches us up on what we did in Austin over the winter. Next time we head for the Rockies.

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