Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Visitors Brave the Heat

My parents and grandma braved the intense Texas summer to come visit us two weeks ago.  They drove down so they could stop and see family in Oklahoma and the next day we put them back in the car to drive back up to Austin.

We hit up IKEA in the morning for supplies for a fantastic trundle bed I'll show you how to make very soon.  Then we headed for the famous Salt Lick restaurant for BBQ.

The food was delicious.  We shared a combo platter with a bit of each of their types of open-pit cooked meats and the special - a brisket burger smothered in queso and roasted peppers. Messy, but oh so good.  Grandma, in her white shirt, spilled not a drop of sauce.  The rest of us were not so neat.

After lunch, we headed to the LBJ Presidential library which had quite a bit of biographical information, but also a great exhibit of the radical movements of the '60s.  It is on the University of Texas campus and free to visit so I highly recommend a stop if you are in the area.

The next stop of our jam-packed day was the Collings guitar factory outside of Austin.  They only offer tours on Friday afternoons, but if you can make it there, it is incredible.

Each guitar takes about three months to make, not including the careful drying and rehumidifying of the wood.  One very experienced man matches the front and back boards based on their sound quality before the blanks are cut. Just prior to final assembly, the pieces are returned to him for "voicing" and he shaves off minute layers from the inside of the guitar top.

In addition to making just 1200 guitars each year, the factory produces 600 mandolins.  The craftsmanship is easy to appreciate even for someone like me who knows nothing about guitars.

While we were finishing up the tour, Grandma was out in the lobby chatting with Bill Collings.  The owner was waiting to see how our tour went.

After dinner, we headed for the Congress Avenue bridge to see more than a million bats emerging to feast on the plentiful South Texas insects.  This spectacle goes on for the better part of half an hour.  If you have never seen this, I can't recommend it highly enough.  It is a bit surreal.

As I watched the ribbon of bats wind across the sky, I couldn't help but wonder what it would take to install a colony in our backyard to deal with the mosquitoes.  Saturday and Sunday, we took it a bit easier with trips to the farmer's market, cool projects around the house, and dinner with Mike and Veronica.   

On Monday, we visited the Witte Museum to check out their Amazon exhibit.  The focus was on the many dangers of the Amazon River.

Mom was so scared  of the piranhas that she headed back to land-locked Kansas the very next day!

The trip was short but lots of fun.  It was a great reminder to play tourist in our own town more often!

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