August in Austin

Pecan GroveMost folks with any knowledge of Texas weather wouldn’t dream of traveling to Austin in the middle of August for a camp-out, even under the towering trees at Pecan Grove RV Park. But Cliff’s attendance at a work-related conference necessitated a three-day stay, so wE decided to make a week of it. Doing so gave us the opportunity to immerse ourselves in to Cloud 9, 2.0, and to test every system over a longer time period. It also gave us the chance to enjoy some quality time with old friends and treasured relatives, despite triple-digit temperatures and high humidity.

We arrived on Saturday afternoon and set up camp just before a summer storm brought torrential rains. Our site quickly flooded, making it impossible to even step outside. So we hunkered down for the duration. The rains continued through the next morning, providing a perfect excuse to stay inside and read. Eventually, we made a pilgrimage to Franklin Barbecue, an Austin landmark and Food Network favorite, where we enjoyed some of the finest smoked brisket we’ve ever had. To testify to Franklin’s popularity, we sat next to a couple who was visiting the United States from Australia and had set Franklin as one of their Texas destinations.

On Monday, we met up with an old friend of Cliff’s from his seminary days. Now a prominent pastor at a nearby parish, he met us at Cloud 9 for cocktails and conversation before taking us on a tour of his recently built multimillion-dollar church and rectory. Yowza! Highlights included the church’s dome and its mosaics (spectacular), and the rectory kitchen (a chef’s delight). We then went to dinner at Botticellis, one of Austin’s best  Italian restaurants, where Jon enjoyed the lasagna special and Cliff had the tagliatelle con bolognese. Afterwards, we returned to Cloud 9 for a little more wine and conversation that lasted well into the early morning hours.

Tuesday was a day of relaxation and preparation, as Cliff made ready for the big conference. We ended the day by watching “Red Sparrow,” a 2018 spy thriller starring Jennifer Lawrence. Despite her committed performance, the thin characters and convoluted story made the film laborious and lugubrious.

Cliff headed to his conference on Wednesday at the JW Marrott Hotel downtown while Jon stayed behind to do laundry. After the opening session, Cliff returned to Cloud 9 to pick up Jon for dinner with his colleagues at Iron Cactus, a Mexican grill and margarita bar, where we enjoyed top-shelf margaritas and fajitas for two.

While Cliff conferenced on Thursday, Jon stayed at Cloud 9 to do a few work-related tasks, and eventually met up with an old friend from the Heart of Texas Camping Unit. After touring Cloud 9 and taking in the recent modifications, she offered to move in with us and do our laundry. We declined, but instead accepted her invitation to drop by for drinks and snacks at her rig later in the day. For lunch that day, Jon dined on caprese bruschetta and spaghetti bolognese at Juliet Italian Kitchen, conveniently located next to Pecan Grove.

Friday was Cliff’s third and final conference day, so Jon lunched at Uncle Billy’s Brewery and Smokehouse, just a stone’s throw from Pecan Grove, where the brisket, the beer, and even the vodka are all house-made. Jon’s take on the brisket: Franklin’s is tastier, Lockhart‘s has better bark, but Uncle Billy’s is by far the tenderest. Friday’s Date Night steak, grilled Eisenhower-style, was, as usual, the highlight of the week.

On Saturday, Cliff and Jon joined Cliff’s aunt Lucy and a few other relatives for lunch at Second Bar + Kitchen, in the new Domain Northside development. We both enjoyed the Congress burger with fries, while Cliff had a Hops and Grain Zoe lager and Jon had an Austin Beerworks Pearl Snap pilsner. Afterwards, all returned to Aunt Lucy’s for homemade pies and conversation. Later that evening, Cliff and Jon sat down to a supper of roast beef and veggies, thanks to the crock pot Cliff had prepared earlier in the day.

On Sunday, we joined Aunt Lucy and Cousin Tobi for brunch at the Balcones Country Club before returning to Aunt Lucy’s for an afternoon of family stories and fiddling with her new Ring doorbell. Before long it was time to head back to Cloud 9 to break camp and return to Dallas to begin preparing for the next big adventure: The Mighty Five!