ROUND ROCK, Texas - This post is way overdue but the hours have been shooting past like wild-fire since we (a sizable PG contingent) landed at the Austin airport at about 7:30 Tuesday night. I didn't finally check-in to my hotel here in Round Rock until almost 9 p.m. and it left little time for exploring.
This PG contingent that I referred to is here, of course, for the WWBA South Qualifier, a tournament that guarantees a paid invitation to the WWBA World Championship Oct. 20-24. It is a grand prize, and after spending the morning looking over the South Qualifer field, the tournament promises to be a dandy with many of the top prospects from the Texas region on hand.
For almost the entire two-hour flight from Phoenix to Austin, I couldn't get a particular tune out of my head. It is called "London Homesick Blues," a song written by Texan Gary P. Nunn that was used as the introductory song to the old television music show, "Austin City Limits."
The song dealt with the trevails of a young Texan who was stranded in London and couldn't get back to Texas soon enough. To be more specific, he couldn't wait to "be home in a Texas bar."
The chorus, if memory serves, goes like this:
"I want to go home with the armadillo.
Good country music from Amarillo to Abilene.
The friendliest people and prettiest women you've ever seen."
What he said.
Despite arriving so late Tuesday night, I was able to make it next door to my hotel to a place called the Blue Oak Grill, which was just getting ready to close right before 10 p.m. The bartender was excellent, and allowed me to order a glass of beer and also an order to go from the kitchen, wich was technically already closed. I order a BLT which the Blue Oak Grill added a little spike to by putting a fried egg on top of the bacon, lettuce and tomato. It was excellent, and with a rice pilaf on the side, I walked out the place with a excellent meal for under $10. It will be a regular stop during my six days here.
As stated, I spent most of the morning doing background work on the WWBA South Qualifer. Most of the work involved finding directions to the eight or nine fields where the South Qualifier games are being held and, to be honest, the entire Austin-Round Rock area is a bit of a cluster ... oh, you know what I mean. In reality, everything is right off I-35, either north or south, but it still gets dicey. At least for me.
After finding McNeil High School in north Austin/Round Rock, where I plan to spend most of Saturday, I got back on I-35 South and headed to downtown Austin. I took the second of three exits that promised to get me to the University of Texas, which was fine except I ran smack-dab into UT's football stadium. I very carefully circumvented the gargatuan stadium - dodging hundreds of young people either walking, riding bicycles or riding motor bikes - and finally made it to the main drag, called Guadalupe. I spotted several places where I would have loved to stop, but parking was a problem. A real big problem.
As a veteran of close to 10 trips to New Orleans' French Quarter, I've learned that you need to get off the main drag, which in the French Quarter's case is Bourbon Street. If you go two, three or even four blocks either side of Bourbon, you'll find the Quarter's real gems. I decided to try that reasoning with Guadalupe, and just a couple of blocks to the west I found a parking spot and a great lunch place called "Cain and Abel's."
At the top on this seriously fantastic lunch menu, the management pointed out the place was established in 1991 on the same property that had housed eating establisments since the turn of the 20th century. "We take pride in what we are," the mission statement said. "We are a Texas establishment and that means we do things the Texas way."
I ordered a beer and an absolutely ass-kicking sandwich called the "Famous Fumbler." It was a chicken-fried steak with bacon and cheddar jack cheese smothered in jalalpenos. As a light-weight Midwesterner, I brushed the jalapenos to the side when the bartender, a very agreeable 30-something young man named Omar, wasn't looking. Omar was excellent company and knew his environmnent well. He told me he was born and raised in Corpus Christi and had just recently moved to Austin. He also seemed to know where all the great Austin music venues were located when I asked, giving me addresses and the like.
I returned to my hotel in Round Rock and quickly met up with 11-man PG contigent for Tex-Mex at a nearby Round Rock restaraunt. I'll update that debauchery on my first post Thursday a.m.