Thursday, December 27, 2012

Road Trip Days 12-15 :The Southwest Crossing and California

After accomplishing the business in San Antonio and completing all the visits to friends that I had scheduled, it was time to start the adventure.  I poked around the Alamo and Riverwalk before leaving town.  I didn't spend too much time there because I got the feeling I would be moving to San Antonio soon enough.  The trip was less than half over and the only things I knew were the cities that I wanted to visit and that I would be home for Christmas.  The details would be filled in as I went along.

Day 12:  Tuesday Dec. 13.  After checking out of my hotel, it was time to head through West Texas.  It was a strange feeling seeing the GPS say that the next city was over 500 miles away.  I stopped by the Dog and Pony ( in Boerne, Texas.  I got fries and an Eagle Burger, which was essentially a "royale" style burger with an egg and bacon on top.  It was a substantial meal, perfect for the long haul to Las Cruces.  While searching for a place to refuel I drove around what turned out to be a historical stagecoach route (there were some info placards).  I read through them and was back on my way. The drive proved to be pretty lonely and boring, but the way the setting sun's light played off the cirrus and cirrocumulus clouds more than made up for it.  I made it to El Paso after nightfall, and decided to stop for dinner.  I made a quick stop at BJ's Brewhouse (http://www.bjsbrewhouse.comfor a sandwich and  a beer.  The Piranha Pale Ale was pretty good, but not particularly remarkable.  After stopping to eat and look over at the lights of Juarez, it was time to get to Las Cruces, New Mexico where I was staying with my brother's father-in-law for the night.

Day 13:  When I woke up, Dr. Hoover had already gone to work.  He had left some food for me to eat for breakfast, which I appreciated greatly.  My older brother had recommended that I poke around Mesilla for a while, so I decided to listen.  It seemed like a nice little town, but I wasn't particularly in the mood to look at antiques or crafts, so I tracked down some food.  I walked over to La Posta De Mesilla (http://www.laposta-de-mesilla.comfor a leisurely lunch.  The place was empty and I enjoyed it thoroughly. As was my growing trend, I got some green enchiladas...I didn't opt for the fried egg to top it off though.  After chowing down, I walked over to the square to take a few pictures of the Basilica of San Albino, the historic church.  Further on down the road I made a short side-trip to the Fort Bowie historic site.  I hiked around for a little while, but the sun was setting, so I packed it in and left.  Hitting the road and continuing West, I made it as far as Yuma, AZ where I slept in my car at a rest stop.  The night got much colder than anticipated so I put on an extra pair of socks before dozing off.

Day 14:  I woke up early, just after dawn, and started driving again.  This day ended up being chock-full of side-trips.  Luckily I woke up with a good deal of energy and a lot of daylight, so I saw more than I could have ever predicted.  I traveled to Mount Laguna, and drove around for a while.  There was some light snow and the crisp mountain air was refreshing.  Continuing on to San Diego, I tried to contact some friends I had there but failed.  I ended up poking around Coronado for a while, then picked up a souvenir from the Hard Rock Cafe for my brother and continued on to LA.  I stopped in Laguna Beach for lunch and got some local seafood.  I stayed in an overpriced motel in Hollywood full of sketchy people.

Day 15:  I woke up, checked out of the motel, and tried to see as much of LA as possible.  I drove around the UCLA campus before heading to Santa Monica for some lunch.  I didn't have much of an itinerary, so I basically just drove around and checked things out as I came upon them.  The highlight of the day was Griffith Observatory.  I spent a few hours looking at the exhibits, taking pictures of the city, and exploring the park.  The motel where I spent the night was much nicer, and I went downtown to check out the nightlife.    

Beauty in isolation, West Texas

Las Cruces, NM

Basilica of San Albino, Mesilla, NM

Fort Bowie Historic Site, AZ

Approximations from Google Maps:

Total Mileage:  3,605 miles
Driving Time: 60 hours

Monday, May 7, 2012

Road Trip 2011 Days 6-11

After leaving Tuscaloosa, it was time to head to Texas.  I was pretty excited to finally visit Texas since it was the original destination for the trip.  My goals for the vacation were to see as many states I'd never been to before, sample local foods, visit old friends, and generally indulge my adventurous spirit.  This leg was somewhat more relaxed than the long drives at the beginning and end of the trip.

Day 6:  Thursday Dec 8  Left Tuscaloosa early in the morning, headed to New Orleans for lunch.  I had Creole shrimp at Buffa's (  Unfortunately I was unable to stay for long, since I was trying to make it to Austin before it got too late.  I snapped a few pictures of Lake Pontchartrain, the skyline, and the Superdome.  NOLA seemed like an interesting town for sure.  Definite vacation material, but not a place I could see myself calling home.  A tried to make a side-trip to the Tabasco factory at Avery Island, LA, but it was too late by the time I got into town.

Day 7:  First day in Austin.  Since I ended up getting in to Austin so late, and Sadie had class in the morning, I slept in.  Keeping with my trend of "picking random shit to do via GPS," I tracked down a place to eat lunch. Matt's El Rancho ( checked out with my AAA book, so I headed over there.  It was a pretty relaxed environment, with enough back-story to be interesting but not overwhelming.  After about 11 bucks, my stomach was full of delicious enchiladas (with salsa verde).  I drove around for a little while to get my bearings and see a little of the city before going back to Sadie's apartment.

Later that night, Sadie and I headed to the legendary 6th street bars.  We started at Maggie Mae's, looked around the Driskill bar, and eventually moved on to the Library.  I had never seen so many bars in such a small area before in my life.  There seemed to be somewhere for every type of drinker, and I naturally gravitated to the place.  I would certainly like to revisit 6th Street at some point.

Day 8: Second day in Austin.  Feeling somewhat under the weather, we headed to IHOP.  Once we were feeling better we headed back to her place. She worked on her project, and I watched TV and napped off and on.  Later on, we went to the Christmas party for her lab group.  I enjoyed the free drinks and finger foods.  It was also good for some quirky fun when they presented the flying helium-filled shark to their boss.

Day 9:  Last day in Austin.  Since Sadie had finished most of her work the previous day, we had a little free time to kill.  I asked her if she could show me around campus.  We walked around for an hour or so.  I took some good pictures (they're on my facebook page).  After the tour, we headed to Pok-E-Jo's BBQ for lunch.  I had a two-meat plate with coleslaw and baked potato casserole.  Before heading out of town, Sadie insisted that we get some ice cream at Amy's.  Then we said our goodbyes and I headed on to San Antonio.

Day 10:  I had decided to get in to San Antonio a day earlier than my scheduled campus tour at UTSA to scope out the town.  I checked in at a Super 8 and unloaded my stuff, and researched things to do.  I neglected to realize that it was Sunday, so not much was going on downtown.  I still managed to track down a watering hole to chat with some locals.  The Liquid Monkey Lounge was nearly empty, so I had a chance to actually talk to the few people sitting at the bar.  Among other advice about San Antonio attractions, one guy told me to visit South Padre Island, because that's where "all the bad bitches" were.  It seemed like solid advice.

Day 11:  I was somewhat nervous for my campus tour and meeting with my potential advisor.  The campus was much larger than I had expected, but I was pretty impressed.  The meeting went well, and the potential advisor seemed quite receptive.  We talked for a few hours and I toured his lab and some of the instrumentation rooms.  Overall, I was pretty excited that it went well.  Now I just need to finalize the application and wait to hear back.  I walked around town for a while; went to the Alamo and the Riverwalk, and headed back to the hotel.

In the morning I headed on west towards Las Cruces...

The Superdome, New Orleans, LA

Capitol view from UT Campus, Austin, TX

UT Bell Tower, Austin, TX

UTSA campus, San Antonio, TX

UTSA campus, San Antonio, TX

UTSA campus, San Antonio, TX

UTSA campus, San Antonio, TX

Christmas Tree, Alamo Plaza, San Antonio, TX

Obligatory Alamo picture, San Antonio, TX

The River Walk, San Antonio, TX

Interesting trees, San Antonio, TX

Approximations from Google Maps

Total Mileage:  2,202
Driving Time: 38 hours

Thursday, February 23, 2012

FrankenAA, Introduction

This is a project update post.  As some of you may know, I recently purchased an Atomic Absorption spectrophotometer.  Most of my friends are scientists, so they are familiar with the method, but for the layperson it sounds like a bunch of nonsense.  Simply put, it passes a sample through a flame and measures the effect it has on light passing through it.  By measuring the difference between the source and the light that travels through the sample to the detector, it is possible to determine concentrations of specific atoms based on their absorption spectrum (which is unique for each element).

I plan on refurbishing/modernizing this particular one (Perkin Elmer 5000, built in 1979) for water quality analysis and support of my brewing hobby.  Since the water will most likely be analyzed to determine its suitability for brewing, I'm going to have to acquire lamps and standards for, at the very least, calcium and copper.

Project cost to date:
Spectrophotometer $75
Shipping $298
Total: $373

Friday, December 16, 2011

Road Trip 2011 Days 1-5

The trip began after Stephanie and David were done with classes on Friday.  We drove up to the University of Michigan to visit the local AXE chapter for initiation, as well as some other friends we had in town.  I met Kristin and her boyfriend for dinner at Grizzly Peak Brewing Co. for dinner.  The Reuben was pretty tasty and went well with the beer.

On Saturday we helped our brothers with their initiation after getting some burritos at Big Ten Burrito (BTB). The food was reminiscent of QDoba, but a little cheaper and lower quality.  Either way, it was satisfying and helped me get through the long day.  I met up with an old friend of mine out at the bars later that evening for a few beers and to catch up.  After that I headed to the after-party...

The partying went on into the morning and we got a late start out of Ann Arbor, but it was worth it to see old friends and make some new ones.  We grabbed lunch at an Indian restaurant, the name of which I cannot recall.  I grabbed some paneer, which helped ease the hangover a little.  Around noon Dave began the trip home, as I was feeling a little under the weather (it was one of those nights).

Sunday was a pretty brutal travel day, but I managed to pull through the poor weather conditions and the nearly 18 hours in a car.  The trip almost never got started, and I learned an important lesson.  There aren't many gas stations between Lafayette and Terre Haute.  I almost ran out of fuel and would have been stranded, in Indiana, thousands of miles away from my destination.

I decided to forgo staying in Memphis and just head to Tuscaloosa.  I don't remember the name of the town, but I quickly remembered something my older brother had told me about the South.  Services don't stay open as late as they do up here.  I found my self staring at a gas station that had closed while sitting in its parking lot.  I fired up the GPS and looked for the next nearest station and decided to risk it.  Luckily, fortune favored the bold and I was able to fill up and get on my way.  At one point, I decided that I needed to change out of the clothes that I had sweating in for the better part of a day.  I was somewhere in the woods of Alabama, so I did a quick survey to make sure no one was watching.  I quickly changed clothes under the cover of darkness and continued on.  I rolled into T-Town around 6am local time.  Since my phone had died a number of hours earlier I needed to track down a mobile charger.  Luckily there was a Walmart that was open and nearby Chelsea's apartment.

I slept for the first part of Monday (Day 4) because I was exhausted for the overnight drive and Chelsea had to go to class anyway.  I woke up when one of my headhunters called about a phone interview for my next contract.  When Chelsea got home from class we went to dinner at the Cypress Inn.  I really enjoyed the seafood pasta that I ordered, even if it was a bit pricey.  We went back to her place and started thinking of things to do that night while watching movies and drinking whiskey and Coke.  We eventually went to Wilhagan's, a local pub.  I don't recall the exact beer that I tried, but everything was good and cheap.  It was good to finally get to hang out with my old friend for a while.

Tuesday was my last day in T-Town.  I decided to wander around Tuscaloosa for a while.  I took some pictures of the government center, then grabbed a beer at Mugshots since it was a little chilly outside.  After that I went a little further down the road to take pictures of the university.

On Wednesday morning I woke up to see frost on my car.  After clearing the window frost, it was time to say goodbye and head to New Orleans.

Here are a few of my favorites from Tuscaloosa (the more complete set is on Facebook)

Approximations from Google Maps:

Total Mileage:  1280
Total Driving Time: 22.5 hours

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Meat Pie Experiment

I was thinking of new food creations to try, and I decided that I'd attempt one of my all-time favorite foods.  Meat pie.  I felt pretty confident that I would have been able to pull off the classic recipe using ground beef, but I was feeling adventurous.  I came up with two variants:  one with mushrooms and one with pulled pork.  I used pre-made pie crusts, Lloyd's BBQ pork, and Pennsylvania Dutchman canned mushrooms.

They turned out much better than anticipated and were quite easy to prepare.  I'm posting the recipes in case anyone wants to try them out.

Other than these pies, I've been working on finishing my work space for the brewing projects, bottling the first batch of beer, and using a slow cooker to make some bean soup.  The results will have to wait for the next post though.

On a completely unrelated note, I tried Johnnie Walker Blue Label for the first time last night.  It was good, but it wasn't "$25 a shot" good.  I wouldn't recommend it unless you have a lot of money to spend on it.

Pulled pork:

2 Russet potatoes, diced
1/4 pound baby carrots, quartered
1 tub (18 oz) Pulled Pork

Boil the vegetables until tender (about 15 minutes)
Drain and rinse the vegetables
Add the vegetables to a pie crust
Cover the vegetables with the pulled pork
Bake at 400 degrees for 15 minutes or until the crust is golden brown

Cost: $6.21


2 Russet potatoes, diced
1/4 pound baby carrots, quartered
1 can (4 oz) sliced mushrooms
Pepperjack cheese to cover vegetables

Boil the vegetables until tender (about 15 minutes)
Drain and rinse the vegetables
Add the vegetables to a pie crust
Cover the vegetables with the pepperjack cheese
Bake at 400 degrees for 15 minutes or until the crust is golden brown
(Season with Red Pepper)

Cost: $3.05

Wednesday, November 9, 2011


Hello everyone,

I'm new to this whole "blogging" thing.  I plan to use this platform to catalog certain experiences and projects as they materialize.  Hopefully someone will derive some sort of entertainment or practical knowledge from it.

I was lazy today and slept in for the first time in a very long time.  Having recently completed my contract at Tate & Lyle as a QC technician, I've been looking for things to occupy my time until my next job.  I have been considering military service, pursuing an advanced degree, or finding a job in either the food or chemical industries.

My recent endeavor has been brewing beer, and I'm currently listening to the bubbles evolve from the airlock on my fermenter.  The batch of brown ale is fermenting, and I'm going to start the Scottish ale once I'm done with this post.

The Beersmith software that I purchased looks promising in terms of its catalog of ingredients and recipe development functionality.  At $28, I consider it to be quite valuable.  Eventually I want to evaluate the possibility of commercializing the hobby, but that will be some time down the road.  I'm focusing on fundamentals for now.