Monday, January 21, 2013

Amazing Weekend in Austin

I’m flying home right now from an incredible weekend spent in Austin, Texas with our best friends Adam and Amber-Rose Zimel and their five great kids. Brace yourself for a pretty long entry - this is a long flight and I have some time to kill. 

Many moons ago (more than 10 years ago now), the Zimels and we were all living around Portland and we were introduced through mutual friends.  The Zimels were similar to us in that they they were young parents with a baby boy who were trying to balance many different obligations – work, school, family, etc.  

To say the least, much has happened since our initial introduction.  Our friendship with the Zimels deepened when we were all living in Portland and we would see each other multiple times per week. Adam and I started a men’s group together (which would ultimately form the group of guys who participate in our annual “Guys’Weekend"), and Missi and Amber-Rose would meet frequently.  We ate together, played together, vacationed together, figured out how to parent together, and worked on home improvement projects together.  

Our friendship grew and deepened, so you can imagine how devastated we were when they packed up their RV – literally – and headed out for Florida They made it to Jacksonville Beach, Florida, but decided that they enjoyed Austin, Texas more, so they turned back around and settled in Austin

Although we live far apart, we still consider the Zimels to be our closest and best friends, as we have lived so much life together and our families are so similar. Thankfully, this friendship hasn't waned despite the many miles between us.  Since that time we have lived in Eugene, and now Seattle, but we still try to see each other at least once or twice per year.

A few weeks ago Amber-Rose contacted me and said that Adam is turning the big 3-0 this year, and so she wanted to do something special for him.  She asked me if I would be interested in coming out to Austin for a special birthday weekend.  It took me about 0.8 seconds to determine that I would do what ever it took to make it Austin for this special event.  And Amber-Rose generously offered to buy my plane ticket to come out to Austin for the celebration!

And one of the best things about this whole weekend was that Adam had no idea I was coming.  I took a redeye flight from Seattle on Thursday night and landed in Austin about 8:30 on Friday.  After going back to the Zimel’s house and playing with the kids a bit, I headed over to Adam’s officer for the big “reveal.”  Here are a few photos of the kids enjoying a few of the gifts I brought from Seattle. 

I had previously set up a phone call with Adam to discuss “some really important” things with him. When  we connected on the phone, I asked Adam if he could go down to the coffee shop located below his office so we could talk. When he came down from his office to have “the call,” I was waiting at the coffee shop.  Here we are just a minute or two after the surprise:

One of Adam’s passions in life besides his faith, family, and work is basketball, and to celebrate his birthday we had a full weekend of basketball.  On Friday night we traveled with several of Adam’s friends to attend a San Antonio Spurs game.  Before the game we ate dinner at a nice place along the San Antonio Riverwalk The game was lots of fun and the home crowd went home happy with a Spurs win.  

View of the San Antonio RiverWalk

Another shot of the RiverWalk

Not the most flattering picture of Adam, but you can't fault the guy for enjoying his birthday dessert. I think we should have told him that he couldn't eat the candle. 

The Spurs' NBA championship trophies.

View from our seats at the Spurs game.

Another shot from our seats at the game. 

On the drive back to Austin after the game I was able to experience  Buc-ee’s for the first time.  Buc-ee's is apparently a real Texas institution, and it did not disappoint. Think of a really nice convenience store on steroids (like they say, everything is bigger in Texas).  This place was pretty incredible. Side note: Buc-ee's is incredibly proud of its bathrooms. They are immaculate, and they have a full-time employee inside the bathroom cleaning them continuously. The guys told me that I had to check them out, and I'll admit that they were the nicest public restrooms I've ever seen. 

Here is Buc-ee's in all its Texas-sized glory.

Buc-ee's has a full deli case of beef and turkey jerky, and they offer samples of any type you want. I think we spent about 15 minutes trying about a half-dozen different types of jerky. 

Buc-ee's is apparently famous for their "Beaver Nuggets" and "Buc-ee's Nug-ees." These are essentially flavored air, and I'm sure made of 100% organic ingredients. The Nug-ee's are the spicy/savory variety, and the Beaver Nuggets are sugary.  We bought a bag of the Beaver Nuggets and I had a handful. They were pretty tasty but I felt the symptoms of early-onset diabetes after I ate them. 

Kind of a strange thing to be proud of, but probably well-deserved. 

On Saturday morning we watched Adam coach his son Elijah’s basketball team.

Coach Adam gathers the team. 

Elijah's team won easily. I love Isaac's expression in this photo (and in most photos, to be honest). 

Saturday afternoon we attended the University of Texas  men’s basketball game against the #4 ranked Kansas Jayhawks.  We watched the game from a suite with some guys from Adam’s work, and it was a really fun time.  The Longhorn’s couldn't pull off the victory, but it was a really good game.  After the game we saw former NFL quarterback (and Texas Longhorn legend) Vince Young.

At the Longhorns' basketball game. 

Me with the birthday boy. 

With Longhorn legend Vince Young. Hook 'em Horns! 

After the UT, I had the pleasure of enjoying my first taste of Chick-Fil-A.  I had never eaten there (they don’t have them in the Northwest), but I had heard so much about it. I ordered the original chicken sandwich, and it definitely lived up to the hype. We don’t eat much fast food, but I thought it was really great. 

That evening we went to a birthday party in the neighborhood for awhile and then Adam and I headed out for some fun at Dave & Buster’s and then to the movie Zero Dark Thirty (short review: we both thought it was really slow until the last 30 minutes or so).

Sunday morning we all piled in their Suburban and made our way to The Austin Stone, which has been the Zimel’s church home since moving to Austin. It was a great service and it was so easy for me to see how well-loved the Zimels are among their church family.

After church we went to Chuy’s Panaderia, a Mexican bakery and cafĂ©.  We enjoyed some delicious tacos and Mexican pastries.  

I took this picture because I couldn't understand why these cookies have a sad face. Perhaps because one of them is missing an arm? 

Trying to decide which pastry to get. They all look so good! 

Abraham was very happy with his selection. 

Samuel showing off his pastry. It was great to spend time with Samuel, and I definitely saw some of the same characteristics in him that I see in Drew. 

Elijah looks like he is enjoying his treat. 

This place had dozens and dozens of different types of pastries and donuts. 

Isaac always has the best expressions - check the next photo for an example. 

The fab five (plus a friend) up at the counter looking into the kitchen. 

Sunday afternoon Adam and I went to play basketball in a local school gym with a bunch of his buddies.  Fortunately I was able to escape Austin without breaking my foot this time!  After showering up, it was time to head to the airport so I could catch my flight back to Seattle

Mattea was very happy with the altoid I gave her! 

Love me some Hammertime! 

Another classic Isaac face.

 I love Abraham trying to photobomb this picture. 

If you're ever looking for Elijah, you can probably find him here, out in front of the house shooting hoops. I love this picture for several reasons: Elijah is wearing mismatched shoes, and there is a collection of scooters, bikes, and battery-operated cars scattered in the driveway and road.  

It was an amazing, whirlwind weekend in Austin, and I was so incredibly thankful I could be there to help celebrate my best friend’s birthday.  

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Short Trip to Whistler

Missi and I just enjoyed a few great days up in Whistler with our friends Terry and Jessica.  We became friends with Terry and Jess when they were living out in Seattle, but a job opportunity relocated them to Tulsa, Oklahoma about  a year or so after we became friends – way too soon if you ask us!  

Since they moved to Tulsa, we haven’t been able to see Terry and Jess very much, so when we heard they would be within a few hours’ drive of our house, we jumped at the chance to visit Whistler for the first time and see our good friends.  Whistler was awesome – it was very cold and there was tons of snow everywhere.  We stayed in Whistler Village at The Aava Hotel and were very happy with the accommodations.  It was fun to be right within walking distance of the lifts, tons of restaurants, and lots of shops. Terry and I snowboarded one day while the ladies explored the Village.  We also relaxed while soaking the hot tub, ate some good food (although maybe not too good for us), and played several games of Pawball (ask us about it some time).  Even though the Village was great and the snow was wonderful, the best part about the trip for Missi and I was the chance to see our friends and catch up with them.

Terry on the slopes. We had an awesome day exploring the mountain. Tons of great terrain and knee-deep powder.

 Messing around at dinner. 

This place was so good that we ended up eating dinner there three times while we were in Whistler. 

 Requisite couple photo while riding the gondola. 

See photo description above. 

Missi and Jessica

Love these guys! 

Giving us their best "blue steel." 

Love this girl!