Sunday, April 01, 2007

Of travellers and bullfrogs

We have had a busy few weeks since my last post here. Three weeks ago, I went to Pensacola, Florida, for the annual International Symposium of Aviation Photography. This proved to be a blast. Three days of world-class speakers, top quality photography and a field trip to various museums and military bases. I met some really cool people and came away feeling very encouraged, and wanting to do more photography. A lot more.

Here's a military Texan 2 about to fly off on a training exercise from Pensacola Naval Air Station, one of our field trip destinations:

Pensacola itself is the land of pure white beaches on the coast of the Gulf of Mexico. There are several islands that line the edges of the mainland. Our hotel was on a place called Gulf Breeze, two islands away. It's very touristy and there's not a lot to do if you don't want to sit on the beach, but it looks nice from the air. I took this as my flight left to return to Dallas:

On arriving back, I had only a couple of days to start sorting photos out before the British Invasion Party arrived. Our friends Paul and Sarah were coming out from the UK, stopping first in Washington to see some other friends before arriving in Austin to spend 10 days with us.

Here they are in the Salt Lick, about to enjoy some quality Texas barbeque:

We gave them the whistle-stop tour of Austin eateries, bars and shopping; as much as could be fit into their time here. We went Hula Hut on Town Lake to start them off, fed them breakfast tacos, went to Manuel's on Congress for some excellent Tex Mex, got them tipsy in the Ginger Man, the Draught House and the Parlor.

They very kindly paid for us all to have a night in Fredericksburg last weekend, so off we went over there, about an hour and a half's drive west of Austin. We visited the Nimitz Museum of the Pacific War, did some shopping, and retreated into Fredericksburg Brewery where we were to spend the night. These people very civilizedly give you a free sampler of all their beers when you book a room, so we duly enjoyed some of the local produce. Sunday night in Fredericksburg is pretty quiet though and the bar shut at 7pm, so we went looking for food elsewhere, and found it at Allison's Speciality Foods which we found out had recently opened a restaurant on the side of their shop. We had a very splendid meal there.

We paid a visit to Luckenbach on the return journey, but the rain was intense and we spent the rest of the day hiding indoors. Some creatures have been enjoying the rain however - it seems to be bullfrog mating season. About four or five nights ago, the lake outside the apartment began to resound to the croaks of these frogs as they try to attract mates. These things are LOUD! The sound rings around the lake and bounces right up to our apartment windows, keeping our poor guests awake all night. There must be hundreds of frogs down there.

While Alan was at work, I took them down to San Marcos for the shopping, and to San Antonio to visit the Alamo. They took themselves into town to visit the Capitol, the LBJ and the Bob Bullock museums.

We also went to the Star of Texas Rodeo on Friday night. This is a three week long extravaganza out at the Travis County Expo Centre east of Austin. It had all the usual things you have at rodeos, such as calf roping, bareback riding, steer wrestling, bull riding etc. It was very dark in the arena though and even maxing the speed of my camera as fast as it will go, I was only able to get a very few shots that weren't completely blurred. Here's a lady rider in the barrel racing competition:

We said 'later, dudes' to Paul and Sarah on Saturday morning, when the sun finally shone for the firt time since their arrival. Paul is a rain god - this is the man who filled reservoirs in Australia for the first time in 60 years during their visit there - and he brought the (much-needed) rains to Austin, too! Damn shame for them, really. Anyway, it was lovely to see them; we had a great 10 days and we hope they did too.

The rain has really brought on all the Spring vegetation around the area, and with this being wildflower season, the flowers have been coming up all over town. They're really very impressive. Here's a field of bluebonnets and prickly pear cacti near Buda:

Saturday afternoon saw Alan and I back out at the Expo Centre to see the Lone Star Rod and Kustom Round Up, a huge gathering of hot rods and wild cars from all over the country. Paul, Sarah and I had gone to Jo's Cafe on South Congress for lunch on Friday, and found the street to be crawling with these cars, so of course I had to wield my bigger camera in their direction. The show was really quite large, with all kinds of 50's cars which had been modified, chopped, slammed and painted in bright colours (apart from the rat rods, which are made of rust). Photos are a-comin' but here's one to kick off:

Today is Sunday, during which we have been roasted by some blazing sunshine (sorry, Paul and Sarah!) and visited the Wildflower Centre, before enjoying a couple of cold tins back home.

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