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Saturday, January 31, 2009

SA Stock Show & Rodeo BBQ Cook-Off Report...

Some time ago, apparently my wife had joined this on-line radio station club sponsored by KJ-97, one of the local country stations here.The next thing you know, well, technically not really the next thing since it had been at least a year or so; we get a phone call from the station telling us to come pick up our prize! In fact, better than a fra-gee-lay leg lamp, these are tickets to the San Antonio Stock Show and Rodeo BBQ Cook-off out at Fiesta Texas.

Not even a day later, I get an e-mail from long time reader Rick, who has tried to get us to come taste his good BBQ in the past, and it turns out he and his brother Mark will be among the contestants at the BBQ Cook-off. Do we need any more encouragement? Not even!

We got to the entrance of Fiesta Texas and had no idea how huge this whole event really was. In fact, the Cowboy Breakfast I went to Friday morning was a mere coffee clutch compared to this shin-dig. Just getting in to park could have been an ordeal had most of the drivers not already been a bit lubed, if you know what I mean.
You go from about four or five lanes all funneled into a single line without the benefit of a police officer or least a parking attendant to make people behave. Thankfully, Texans on a Saturday afternoon are generally good-natured folk, and we try to help one another by being courteous.Oh, I have to fast forward just a second to the end of our visit just to show you two things in the parking lot. First, there was this home made roll bar on some guys truck. That gave me a chuckle. I know, spend $25K on a truck then skimp on the roll bar by throwing together a few chunks of wood you found on the side of the road. I like it.The second thing was what we came out to after our time in the cook-off. Speaking of being courteous, a real Eagle Scout parked his truck over the line and so close to our little baby truck that I had to pull out just to let my wife get in. I wouldn't have mentioned it, but my wife insisted that I use the power of the Internet to remind people not to be assholes. Appreciate that.

So anyway, if you have never been to a serious BBQ cook-off like this one with hundreds of different teams, you will, like us probably be overwhelmed with the sight of all the different cooking rigs. People come complete with RV's and trailers full of perfect wood, huge grills and in some cases, entire buildings in order to make the event special.

It was evident that most teams have sponsors in order to offset the cost of the event (the meat is not free, the cost of the team space and of course, the incidentals such as spices, beer, sauces, beer, ice, beer, and... well, you get the point). It isn't cheap, but these folks seem to have lots of fun.

We made our way to "Those Two Guys", Rick and Mark, and you could just smell the goodness coming from their grill. We were just in time for the team to pull some ribs from the grill to present to the judges.
I have to tell you, I love me some ribs, and these were pretty special. Rick tells me that this was the first time he had used this particular seasoning mixture in a contest and he was sort of kicking himself over the whole thing. Turns out they normally use a habanero-pineapple concoction he made up several years ago (which they have been very successful with in cook-offs) but he opted to go with this new taste. The texture of the ribs was simply melt in your mouth good, and the taste was great. I was trying to be polite by sharing a rib with my wife and she gave me the look that said, "get you own, chump!"Turns out these two brothers have been cooking out for a long time but got started with the BBQ cook-off circuit about five years ago. They heard of a contest sponsored by 99.5 KISS and on the first outing took first place. Ya gotta like that. Rick said that later contests would not be as easy, but they continue to do well participating in about eight cook-offs a year.As we walked around the grounds, it is obvious that a lot of serious money goes into these events. I'm guessing that a good many of the teams are made up of catering companies or restaurants. In the case of Those Two Guys, Rick and Mark have been able to gather the support of sponsors who have seen them in action over the years. I chatted with folks from Grapevine Graphics, one of their sponsors, and it turns out one of the owners is an original Silver Creek resident. Rick's employer, APPCO is a big sponsor of the team and he tells me that Fiesta Spices and Browning Construction have been big supporters as well.

I suppose this is like NASCAR where you have to be able to have some up front cash to get into the game. But in spite of all the really spiffy looking BBQ rigs and special effects people had, Rick told me about a cook off in Helotes where a guy showed up in a pick-up truck with a 55-gallon grill in the bed. The man put some charcoal in the pit - still in the bed of the truck, cooked his meat and won first place - then simply drove away. So it isn't always about the big show; there has to be some good eats to back it up.
And in case you are wondering - no question about it - my wife and I were both in full thumbs up mode on Those Two Guys. Tasty Treats, for sure!

Of course, there are so many more pictures to see. Why not check them out on the Flickr page?

Friday, January 30, 2009

Cowboy Breakfast Report: Brrr....

For years, I have been just like you on my drive in to work, listening to the radio hearing reports about the big Cowboy Breakfast. It is an annual tradition here in San Antonio to mark the beginning of Rodeo, and because of the need to work, I have never joined the thousands of people all duded up in cowboy gear to get free breakfast tacos, biscuits and gravy, and of course, hot coffee.Today, because I had to take the morning off for a service call at the house, I decided to find out what all the excitement of the cowboy breakfast was, first hand. Oh, my wife was glad to simply observe the event via the local morning news, and while I headed out into the 30 degree weather at 6AM, she was safely snuggled in the bed, no doubt laughing at me and the other suckers attempting to set a record for the most cups of free coffee served.

By the way, I never could get it straight as to what the number was supposed to be. I heard people saying things like 4,000 cups and I heard others saying 40,000 cups. I don't want to sound like a party-pooper, but wouldn't it be reasonable to assume that the Red Cross would easily serve 4,000 cups of coffee during any hurricane event?

Anyway, I got to The Rim without a lot of traffic or fanfare. In all honesty, I was expecting serious traffic issues, but really, there was no more traffic (in my mind anyway) than a normal visit to the same shopping center during Christmas.One of my main goals was to take pictures of the KENS-5 TV folks broadcasting from the CB. That was a big fat FAIL. As it turned out, I simply could not get to where they were at, apparently behind some sort of long line that involved the free tacos and biscuits and such. Honestly, I could not find them, even though I did see several different people they had interviewed earlier in the morning. Oh well.

The CB had two big stages with bands playing. My fingers were so freakin' cold, I could not for the life of me understand how these artists could play guitar. Maybe they had some blow torch like heaters up on the stages that I couldn't see.
As I looked at the lines of people trying to get their free food, I came across our police chief, Bill McManus. He was nice enough to pose for me twice. The first picture I took was really blurry so I just said, "Wow, that came out really blurry", and by God, he stood there until I could get it right.His public information officer didn't wait for the better picture. And now look at him.The CB wasn't just full of important people either. I came across this guy standing in front of a radio station booth, MIX 96.1, and I'm not sure if he was just there hanging out or if he was one of the random characters on the show. Anyway, he needed a hug because it was cold. I offered him the flash of my camera, but not much more. I think he had hugged quite a few people though because to be honest, he smelled a little.Then there was the chick with blue hair. It turns out that a new magazine was being launched called Stash, and she was passing out copies of the mag and taking pictures with people. I don't know the two guys posing with her; they just happened to be there when I was snapping pictures.I have to tell you, I spent probably 45 minutes walking around the place and never once even considered standing in line to get the tacos, the biscuits or the free coffee so I could be part of the big record. Because of all the news and fanfare it gets every year, attending was actually a let down. I was hoping to see people getting liquored up and doing crazy things (all before work, mind you) but for the most part, it just seemed like a bunch of really cold people waiting in long lines for food they could have easily paid a buck for in a drive-thru somewhere. And what a mess!Speaking of messes... one bright spot for me was on my way back to my vehicle. I spotted this gem in the lot parked just a row over from me. Egad! Perhaps these people were trying to get a start on the Cowboy Breakfast clean-up by tossing crap in the back of their car.

Giddy up! See all the pictures over on Flickr.

Update: Here is a small video I made before my camcorder ran out of tape...

Monday, January 26, 2009

Important TV Viewing Report: PINK, Chelsea, Howie...

I mentioned not too far back that I was using Hulu via my laptop to keep my mind occupied while I walk on the treadmill. This has opened up an opportunity to consider some new shows worthy of a gander, a few minutes at a time.

The way it works is (as if you people didn't know this years ago), you go through the web page looking for shows or clips or full movies and such, then you add them to your queue. So, aside from a few commercials, the shows you select play one right after another.

I realized that I don't walk long enough to watch an entire movie, and to be honest, when I started looking at the half hour TV shows, I didn't see anything that would motivate me to walk on a treadmill for 30 minutes. Finally, I decided to start with a bunch of clips. Of course, I had to see all the Family Guy clips and the SNL Digital Shorts, but at some point, I decided to expand my horizons and find something new.

I found something called PINK. I know what you are thinking; with a name like that it must involve s-e-x! Actually, the show is about a lady who is a government hit lady. In spite of the frustratingly short webisodes (less than 5 minutes each), we learn that the lady named Nate (Natalie Cross) was brought up by her father, a former Delta operator, to be a trained killer. Pink refers to "pink mist" and who doesn't like the sight of that? If you have never watched a Web Series, this one is pretty spiffy. I especially like the production quality.

Another series of clips I have been watching are of this lady named Chelsea Handler. I know, she has been around for a while but I can't say that E Television is on my standard line-up (though I'm a long time fan of Talk Soup whenever I remember to watch it). Anyway, I doubt I would sit down and watch this lady for a full half-hour (or how ever long her show is), but I do enjoy the clips on Hulu of her closing remarks. Funny stuff. Oh, and as a bonus, she has a small Hispanic man named Chuy who is, a little person. I know it isn't right to admit it, but I think all talk shows with a little person tend to be funnier. And that is just wrong.

Finally, we have added a new show to our regular TV rotation called Howie Do It. I admit that at first, I thought it was a crappy knock-off of Candid Camera (which, of course, it is), but these hidden camera pranks are seriously funny. Okay, some of them are anyway. Of course, Howie Mandel is the star but he is not afraid to let other people run the prank. We watched one prank that had tears rolling down my cheeks from laughter. He has this man on the street sort of guy interviewing people but getting awkwardly close to them. In one scene, the interviewer is asking a huge biker dude about the economy or something while he gives him Eskimo kisses. You know, rubbing his nose on the other guy's nose. The same guy was giving another interview little kisses on the cheek and then would apologize and the guy kept saying, "It's okay." Funny, funny stuff.

Anyway, there you have it; three new shows or webisodes you may want to check out.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Bandera, TX: Cowboy Capital Trip Report...

When our kids were younger we would occasionally take a drive up Highway 16 past Helotes and into Bandera in order to go into the Dairy Queen, grab an ice cream and come back home. I know, we have numerous DQ's right here in our part of San Antonio, but the drive is just so nice. Once when my parents visited, we even went beyond the DQ and actually took a tour of the little museum they have in Bandera.Today, just on a whim, we decided to enjoy the cool weather and run up the road and maybe grab some lunch. In the end, the lunch plans didn't work out, but we did have a really enjoyable time checking out several shops and and chatting with shopkeepers. We've been several times just for the drive, but it has been a few years since we actually stopped and walked around, so of course, I took plenty of pictures. Too many to post here, but if you are interested, please check out the Flickr page here.

If you are not familiar with San Antonio, it may be helpful to know that we are on the edge of what is considered the Hill Country. No, you probably won't find anyone skiing or snow boarding around here during the winter (though, I suppose it could happen), but we do like the fact that by heading just a few miles up the road, you can get a pretty enjoyable change of scenery. And of course, as an extremely fast growing part of the country, San Antonio residents as well as newcomers seem to be pushing north to enjoy the hilly landscapes and for the time being, wide open country. Don't worry, by the way, Texas is HUGE. We can easily absorb the influx of new people in terms of space, though the fact that we live in a desert may have some impact on the amount of water each new person is allowed to drink. You new people each get one Dixie cup a day.
Highway 16 takes you up a fairly smooth drive with easy curves and little traffic; it is obvious why motorcycle enthusiasts love the trip. Unlike any trip up I-35 toward Austin or Highway 281 toward Boerne and Johnson City, the trip to Bandera is not frustrating at all. Once in the town of Bandera, you'll find enough traffic to suit you. We took a drive up and down the main street then decided to park and walk for a while. We parked for free in the parking lot of a church on 11th Street that is open to the public. How neighborly. Of course first, my wife had to pee, so we went into this nice little public restroom and park with benches etc. In case you aren't sure, Cowgirls go in one side of the restroom and Cowboys go in the other. The pictures are there to help you sort it all out.After the nice visit to the restroom, I found these two little tidbits humorous. First, if the stickers on the Jeep are any indication, Bandera didn't support Obama! The other thing was, I don't generally associate Cowboys with Pizza, but who knows? Maybe these buckaroos know how to pile on the anchovies. Our first stop was Bandera General Store, a sort of gift shop and soda fountain. Lots of cool touristy things to look at and for some people, to buy. After checking out the place, we decided to sit down at the bar and get coffee. As we enjoyed the atmosphere we read the ongoing list of haunting by the General Store ghost, apparently named Henry. How quaint.As we were leaving, I noticed a few things in the window worth reporting. First, people in Bandera can get caught up in celebrity sightings just like the rest of us. Oh wait; remind me, why is Paris famous again? And the folks around Bandera have a sense of humor. Texas Hold 'em? I'll say.We stopped in a few more stores, mostly lots of crafty home decor kinda places. You know, the stuff you look at and say, damn, I could make that. But really, you probably can't.We were in a higher end place called Sassaphrazz and they had some really nice looking leather items. I confess to liking the feel of a throw pillow with real cow fur on it. I guess it isn't really fur, but you know, the hair that is on a cow. We got to talking to the ladies in there and turns out, they are attending the same Alan Jackson concert we are at the San Antonio Stock Show and Rodeo this year. In spite of the small world, we didn't find any home furnishings we couldn't live without.This is interesting. Here is a little replica of Judge Roy Bean's Jersey Lilly.And this apparently is Judge Bean's party barge.We walked by the famous 11th Street Cowboy Bar but instead moved along without partaking. Maybe when we stay the night in Bandera and can walk home.Next to it, we stopped into an antique store where my wife bought a few small items just for fun. She picked up one of those old Campbell's Soup thermoses to send my daughter and some little chicken thing to hang from her visor.After shopping, we could have easily dined at one of the many great places in Bandera, but actually, we had seen a place on the way up just north of Pipe Creek that caught our eye called Country Accents Antiques & Steak House. What?

I know, if you want to catch somebodies attention, I'm not sure I can think of a better name. Anyway, there was a lot of action taking place inside. They seemed to be remodeling or moving in or something but regardless, lots of really, really cool stuff inside, and the people were very friendly.
They had this huge dog that was standing near the back door to the place and my wife and I looked at the dog, then looked around a little more and decided that we could not find where the steak was within the shop. Finally, I asked a lady if we should let the dog out and she said sure, and we could also go out back to see the rest of the place and the little restaurant. She was telling us that everything was for sale.We found the restaraunt and believe me, she wasn't kidding; everything was for sale. The tables were made up with napkins and placemats and ready to go, but all the stuff had price tags on it. Say you really enjoyed the table they seated you at, you don't get just a doggy bag (sorry), you also can take the table, chairs and the setting with you. Unfortunately, nobody was in the restaraunt to feed us, so that pretty much killed the idea of eating there.The back yard of the place was really nice and of course, filled with all sorts of antiques to buy. I saw this tub for $175 and immediately had thoughts of painting a Texas flag on it but then I figured, what the heck would I do with that.In the end, we decided to head back toward Helotes to grab some food since we were starting to really get hungry. We stopped into Babe's since we hadn't been to the Helotes location, and munched on some seriously bacon covered bacon cheeseburgers and an order of onion rings.The new Babe's in Helotes is basically like the old Babe's on Fred Road, just newer. I had to keep all flames away from my beard as it was soaked with greasy mayonaise and bacon cheeseburger goodness, and I mean that in a good way.

By the way, I left off a few of my new wooden nickles in some of the places we stopped at today. If you found one and are visiting the blog for the first time, I hope you'll send me a note or leave a comment.

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San Antonio, TX, United States
I love to observe the odd things happening around me as I go about my day. I especially like it when I can get a picture of people being themselves. Here, I attempt to report the various people and events I have encountered in my neighborhood, and my city. I'd also love to hear from you. Feel free to e-mail your experiences and photos of life in San Antonio.

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