I was returning to Austin from Las Vegas and a work event, and happy to be home. Only one day of what was otherwise a few days conference.

Meanwhile, I had an errand to run upon arrival in the south end of Austin later but that meant I had time on my hands for a just bit – and for a change, my flight was on time – and all I’d had earlier in the day was some breakfast around 7 in Las Vegas. So… I was also hungry. Two hour time change and all.

It’s been a [very long] while since I’ve made my way to Winebelly on Oltorf just off south 1st street but for someone returning from the airport it wasn’t far off the beaten path and I’ve been meaning to try the place again. I pulled in around 5 and not surprisingly I had my choice of places to sit. It was a welcome respite from dealing with rush hour.

A few things:

First, the choices by the glass at Winebelly are excellent. I’ll be back to try again. I found Prieto Pricudo by the glass and it’s surprising I found it at all in my opinion. It was a ‘wine find’ during my summer visit to northern Spain this year and I’d never heard of it before that.

Snacks at that hour included Truffle Fries… come on… gotta have some of those fries. And I did.

The other pics here are of Ryan Fulmer, General Manager (based only on my reading) about Winebelly.

In the course of chatting, Ryan recounted a harrowing story of his son in the military recently in Afghanistan. While I won’t elaborate based on the personal accounting, it was a riveting story and no doubt he’s [still] breathing a sigh of relief that fate worked in his favor.

I only stayed the one night in La Vid. The next morning I headed north to the coast and San Sebastián.

The weather was pretty nasty that day. On and off again rain. Even so, the drive up to San Sebastián was quite pretty. In fact, the roads were fantastic and with all the tunnels they’ve cut through the hills, it’s really an easy drive.

I didn’t have much of an itinerary planned for San Sebastián. It’s a city with a beautiful beach and lots of great food. That’s reason enough to go, right? My hotel was steps from both.

As you can see from the couple of photos I’ve posted here, the city and its beach are beautiful from just about any angle. I think the cloudy weather that day only added to the beauty. I took the opportunity to walk around quite a bit that afternoon, including up to the summit of Monte Urgull. From that high point, you get spectacular views of the city – and it’s a nice little workout before heading back into the ‘old town’ to munch on tapas.

The tapas in San Sebastián (and throughout the Basque country) are referred to as Pintxos. Click through for a nice explanation but what’s really cool about San Sebastián is the old town is simply stacked with little bars filled with Pintxos and local wine. Walking through the narrow streets of that part of the city there are dozens and dozens of places.

The wine of San Sebastián is Txakoli. It’s a light, low alcohol, effervescent white wine made and served in this part of Spain. The way it’s served is also a form of entertainment by the folks working in the Pintxos bars. The wine glass is placed on the bar, and the bartender raises the bottle above their head and then pours. Since it’s a slightly sparkling wine, there’s a lot of fizz and splashing. It can be a fun mess. It’s also pretty tasty. Click thru the link above to see an example.

Only one night in San Sebastián. From there, back south and into wine country.

In a perfect world I would have written my notes on my recent visit to Spain while I was visiting. But as I’ve discovered on previous trips, that can be difficult. You want to explore the place instead of sit at the keyboard. So now, a couple months later, I’m taking a bit of time to jot down some memories. It would have been sooner, but it’s a busy time of year at work. (I’ve back dated these posts to the time when they actually happened.)

So where do I start? Madrid, that’s where. But I wasn’t there for long. I wanted to check out some of the wine regions of Spain. From Austin I flew to Madrid but immediately got a car at the airport and had made plans to head north. So with the Garmin affixed to the windshield, I headed to the northern parts of Spain and the Ribera del Duero, San Sebastian and La Rioja.

But that’s a LONG way to drive after a such a long flight and I knew I’d be tired. Flights to Europe often arrive in the morning and this was no exception but trying to get some solid shuteye in ‘economy’ class rarely pans out very well for me. So I had made plans to find a place to stay along the way.

I’m a planner and I rarely leave it to chance where I’ll be staying. So I had done some searching earlier in the year on TripAdvisor and happened across what turned out to be a great little place to stay in the little town of La Vid, Spain.

As a fan of good wine, what else could be better as a first stop than a little inn that’s also a winery with a great little restaurant? The place is called El Lagar de Isilla, and it was a great little waypoint to recharge after the long trip.

Aside from El Lagar de Isilla, there isn’t much going on in La Vid. Across from the inn/bodega is the monastery Santa María de La Vid that is pretty interesting to walk around but otherwise obviously pretty quiet.

The photo included below is inside the winery part of the inn. There’s a little wine shop and the photo is of the larger tasting room. At the time I was there, I was the only one doing a wine tasting and they held it in the shop.

El Lagar de Isilla is in the heart of Ribera del Duero and their wines were excellent. I’d come a long way, so I got their “best” flight. Favorite for me was their Gran Reserva.

Dinner and then later the next morning, breakfast, at the hotel were both great. The place is only a couple years old and everything still looked pretty new. If you’re passing through, check the place out.

With summer arriving I’m back on the road and this time back to Spain. I’ve been one other time but that was to Mallorca and to the Costa Brava. Like that trip, this one is largely about cycling, though not in the first week.

At 4am the bike cases were set out on the porch and ready for a shuttle ride to the airport. A long journey awaits. Like last year’s visit to Italy, this year’s trip routes through Washington’s Dulles airport. Unlike last year though, I went out of my way to avoid arranging for a 3rd leg of air travel. I’ll be going from Washington to Madrid and then from there renting a car and heading north. Last year I went from Dulles to Frankfurt Germany and had to sprint through the airport to make my connection after a delay in the international flight. My luggage was unable to sprint.

This year I planned to be delayed out of both Austin and out of Washington. It’s sad that we have to plan to be delayed, but that is the norm with airline travel for me. If it’s not for you, consider yourself lucky.

My flight from Austin to Washington was in fact a normal one and essentially on time. Fantastic. So, I had hours to kill at Dulles. I spent most of it in the United lounge. One of the few perks of having an “Explorer” card from United is that they give you a couple of lounge passes a year. I don’t generally care or have time for one but this time I had hours of time. So I hung out there. The photo below is from there. Clearly others had plenty of time to kill there as well.

The international flight to Spain boarded as expected on time and with little fanfare. And yet, no surprise, this year’s international flight was also delayed in leaving. And even more than last year. There was some kind of oxygen thing in the cockpit, followed by some kind of snafu with the oven in the galley in the rear of the plane. All tolled we sat there at the gate for about an hour.

And yet, somehow 7 to 8 hours later we essentially arrived in Spain on time. Hmm… sometimes I wonder if ‘maint’ issues are manufactured so that a plane can arrive as planned give the weather conditions of the day. Clearly we must have had some pretty good prevailing winds. We made up nearly an hour of delay.

I was on the road again over Memorial Day and while I finally have a few minutes to do so I wanted to post at least a couple of notes and a photo. For family and friends I visited, I’ll share (or have shared) photos elsewhere. And also, thanks mom for the visit home! It was an excellent time. It was great to get back to home territory for just a short weekend visit. Iowa was green and beautiful in late springtime. As you can see by the photo here, it wasn’t long after planting that I visited. The corn was just getting started. It had rained recently and I pulled off highway 61 near Welton to take this photo. They used to say “knee high by the fourth”… but that was even long before my time and by now I have to believe that corn is way higher than knee high.

With spring weather comes great cycling in Texas. Two of my favorite organized bike tours are the LBJ 100 and the Easter Hill Country tour.

Finishing the LBJ 100

Both of the rides have come and gone at this point but I thought I’d jot a few notes and a couple photos.

LBJ 100 Ride

This will be my 5th LBJ ride if I’m counting right. The ride starts at the LBJ ranch. I’ve written before about the logistics of this ride and this year things were just as well organized. There was once again a bit of speechifying at the beginning but not much and we were soon on our way.

Price for registration was again $50 ($55 last min) though this year they didn’t even include the shirt for that. At least not at the packet pickup I did at REI. Thankfully there’s good support on this ride and good food/beer after but I’ll note once again it seems like an expensive ride despite the charity nature of it.

Ride attendance was very good. I don’t know the count but it seemed like a thousand people were at the start. Maybe it was only hundreds but sure seemed like a lot. You can see a photo here of the group at the start.

You can also see in that photo at the start that the weather was picture perfect. Temp was also great. I was cool enough to be wearing leggings and a long sleeve but that wouldn’t last long. It was going to warm up.

It didn’t take more than 5 miles from the start to also realize that wind was going to be a factor. Wind was stiff coming out of the southwest. That meant you were either going into it or had it as a cross wind for much of the ride. There was of course a few miles near the apex of the loop ride where you got a tail wind and that was fantastic. But the last 20 miles was into the wind. I counted ourselves lucky the temp was so good and it was otherwise a beautiful day.

The photo at the very top was at the end of the ride heading back into the LBJ ranch. The Live Oaks there on the drive in are beautiful and their shade covers the road.

Post ride there were tacos this year – and some tasty beer. Can’t recall what the beer was but it hit the spot as you can see by my goofy grin in the pic here. It was refreshing.

Easter Hill Country Tour

I’ve been doing the EHCT on and off since the 90’s. The bike tour has been around a long time. It’s still based out of Kerrville and for whatever reason, this year it seemed to have a bigger crowd than last year, at least judging by the number of cars in the parking lots. It’s otherwise hard to tell how many people are doing the ride because there is no mass start. There are 3 days of riding – though I generally do just the Fri and Sat rides – and people take off whenever they’re ready.

On both days I chose to alter our routes a bit from the published ones. The problem with cycling in the Kerrville area in my opinion is the roads have more traffic than the remote roads up around Fredericksburg. So the Friday ride in particular had a long stretch on the return leg of the loop ride on RR 783. Not my favorite. It’s heavily traveled. So instead, we got the same amount of mileage in by simply making the ride an out and back. By contrast, Zenner-Ahrens Rd is a quiet country road with loose livestock and lots of cattle guards. Almost no traffic – ‘cept bikes and cows.

On Saturday Peter and Bryan joined Tony and me for a longer 55 miler. It too was a hybrid route because I refuse to ride on Hwy 27 for anything but a short distance. Way too much traffic going 70+ mph. Instead, we took Wilson Creek. The photo of the three guys below was taken on Wilson Creek. Obviously you can see you don’t have to worry about traffic on that road. It’s a great road to bike.

The other photo is of me and Tony coming into the little town of Comfort. As you can see the weather was still cool enough we had plenty of gear on. And obviously Tony noticed that Bryan was taking the photo and I was oblivious. Or, I knew the rest stop was just ahead and was making a bee line for the snacks.

Wind was a factor on that Saturday ride. We slogged against it all morning to Comfort and then a good portion of the ride back from Comfort. Winds were out of the NE so it wasn’t until we were well past the apex of the ride and practically 10-15 miles out that we picked up some of the tailwind. That last section of the route from Comfort back to Kerrville is quite hilly though so the tail wind was only so valuable.

All in all, good rides both Fri and Sat. And we lucked out with no rain. Just some drizzle on Fri.

This one last photo of the wagon was taken on the drive back to Austin from Kerrville. Actually, on the road – Ranch Road 473 – between Comfort and Blanco.

Wagon in the Texas Bluebonnets

Work-related travel recently took me to Seattle and I always enjoy visiting Seattle – at least downtown Seattle. I don’t know much about the rest of the city. Our office there is downtown and there’s plenty to do within walking distance. So on this occasion I went up a couple days early.

As has become somewhat typical of a weekend visit such as this one I didn’t have much of an agenda planned in advance. Like the recent trip to San Francisco, I know Seattle is a very walkable city and so with camera in tow, I mainly planned to just choose a direction and see what I found.

Of course I also like to find interesting restaurants so I did actually google around ahead of time and read a few reviews and arrange some places I planned to seek out. Read on for more about them in the ‘Food & Wine’ section below.

So where to stay … I didn’t want to stay at the same place I planned to be at for the work-related visit. I wanted to try some place new. In the past I’ve had good luck visiting Seattle on a weekend using Priceline and this was no exception. I picked ‘downtown’ and rolled the dice. Ended up finding The Edgewater.

The Edgewater

I flew in Friday evening and cabbed it into the city. The cabbie gave the Edgewater high praise — particularly the restaurant — but we’ll see.

The bar/restaurant at the hotel is called Six Seven and on a Friday evening the place was hopping. So often a hotel bar is a depressing and boring thing that one day had high hopes but ends up being some place a few people sit around and watch the ball game. Six Seven was packed and there was a band playing. Oh, and they had a good wine list and you could still order some great snacks from the restaurant. I had some lettuce wraps – and they were good.

I got a better look at the rest of the hotel the next day. I didn’t hang around long but the lobby is inviting. The place is very lodge-like. You can sit by a big fireplace and since you’re literally right on the water you can watch the ferry boats and ships slowly sail by.

Breakfast at the restaurant there was good – though pricey at $20 for eggs, taters, bacon and coffee. It would have been even better had the weather been nicer. While the view of Puget Sound is good even when the windows aren’t open, they clearly all opened to a set of, in this case unoccupied, tables. Maybe someday when the weather is great I’ll make a return visit.

Wandering About

Saturday morning there was a steady rain coming down but I had brought clothes and rain jacket for the occasion so no worries. I struck out up Alaskan Way with the idea to ride the ferry boat over to Bainbridge Island. No particular destination in mind over there. In some ways it was just an excuse to get out on the water and see things from a different point of view.

On a Saturday morning the ferry leaves fairly often so it didn’t take long before the next one came along. Round trip: $8 for a pedestrian.

It takes about 35 minutes to make the trip over. The little town on the other side is very walkable and if you like to window shop for an hour or two it’s an interesting visit. I grabbed a sandwich mid day at the Hitchcock Deli and then later after walking around some more and a leisurely coffee at Pegasus Coffee I headed back to the ferry. But first, along the way I found Classic Cycle. It’s a very cool bike shop that has a lot of vintage bikes hanging on the wall. You can see one of them in the photos I’ve posted here. That bike is said to have gone 80mph.

The ferry ride back was uneventful. In fact, I napped most of it. Surprising considering I’d loaded up on coffee before making the return trip.

Most of the rest of Saturday afternoon was spent poking around the Pike Place Market. The place is always buzzing with people and interesting sights. That day was no exception. A heavy rain for part of the afternoon meant it was even more jammed. The b&w photo posted here of the couple with the dog was one I snapped when miraculously the throng of people parted and they were there alone. They were just waiting out the rain it seemed.

Skipping to Sunday, I stuck close to the downtown area. I walked out to Seattle Center. It’s not hard to find. Just locate the Space Needle and it’s all of the area and buildings around and near the base of the needle. The primary draw for me was a visit to the Chihuly Garden and Glass. It’s an amazing exhibit of glasswork done by Dale Chihuly. You can see a photo of one of the room sized pieces posted here. Even at the $20 ticket price, if you enjoy art glass it’s worth a visit.

Food & Wine & Coffee

Half the fun of visiting a city like Seattle is to find some cool places to eat and drink. Here are some I visited and liked:

Matt’s In The Market

Matt’s In The Market is a place I’ve visited once but it was many years ago. Since then I’ve tried to drop in on other visits but it’s a small and very popular place so my advice is to get a reservation. Even though I was traveling solo I got one this time and I’m glad I did. I ended up with a table with a great location that overlooked the Market. I snagged the photo posted here at right from the window by my table. Despite the touristy location the food is excellent. I had a salad to start but for the main had the ‘bacon wrapped rabbit’. Very tasty. It came with spiced red cabbage, lentils, carrots, parsnips, mustard seed, and some “rabbit jus”. And to enjoy with, they had a favorite Oregon Pinot Noir by the class from Stoller.


As someone doing the town on foot, at 10th Ave, Lark is a bit of a hike. But not that bad. First, I have to say I enjoyed the wine menu. As a fan of Italian wines and a recent visit, I was happy to find selections from Piedmont. I started with a glass of Roero Arneis. Then moved on to Langhe Nebbiolo. Meanwhile, they also have some great cheese selections here. I stuck with the Italian choices. A Tuscan Pecorino and a 2nd from Piedmont.

Purple Cafe and Wine Bar

While out on Bainbridge Island, I wandered the shops and one was a wine shop. I didn’t buy anything but I chatted up the guy working there and I asked him what wine bar should I visit in Seattle. His immediate reply was Purple. So, I pulled in for a visit. The place is huge. Gymnasium sized, with a circular tower of a wine rack in the middle of it. The draw of this place in my opinion were the wines by the glass. Huge selection. And wine flights too. I had an Italian White wine flight, followed by their “Tour de France” selection of 3 great French reds. The photo posted above of the solo glass of wine was taken at Purple.

Moore Coffeeshop

Last but not least, what visit to Seattle would be complete without some great coffee. I’ve tried many places there but I still really love the coffee at Moore’s Coffeeshop. This is coffee artistry. Both in taste and in the latte art they manage to pour into your cup. The place is really tiny but they also have some seating these days so it’s not just a ‘to-go’ place. I parked there for a bit and snagged this photo of the wall and my fellow patrons.


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