February 28, 2015

2015 Austin and Dallas trip

Love and War in Texas Lisa and Alan Austin Guacamole sampler Texas State Capital Alan and Austin Mounted Police Texas Capital specific door hinges Texas State Capital Rotunda Texas State Capital Rotunda Texas State Capital
At the end of January, I attended the AAAI conference in Austin, TX. Since my father lives in Dallas, it was a great chance to bring the family and take a bit of a vacation. So, we all flew out from Tokyo to Dallas, about a 12 hour flight. That is quite a bit longer than the 9 or so that we are used to when going to the West coast, but because the flight we were on was direct NRT -> DFW, and the plane left late Alan slept most of the way, and it wasn't really all that bad.

We arrived at Dallas, rented a car, and drove to my dad's place. That first night we had dinner at Love and War in Texas. Lisa got the large beer, and it was very, very large. The steaks were also quite large. That turned out to be a theme all through our stay at Texas, lots of food. Lots of good food.

On Monday we drove down to Austin, a nice four hour drive. We stopped at one of the nice rest areas on the way, and it had a really nice park with a neat playground for Alan to play on. We were on a relaxed schedule and didn't get in to Austin until the evening. I'm not going to talk about the conference - it was a nice conference, and had a lot of NLP that was relevant to work. Interestingly it also had a few robots on display, and Alan really liked watching them. There was a robocup soccer game that Alan thought was great. Robots! Playing soccer!

The next day for lunch I met up with Lisa and Alan, and we walked across the river to 2nd street. We had lunch at La Condessa who had a great guacamole sampler. Lisa and Alan went to Zilker Park once when I was at the conference, and I have photographic evidence that they also went to the Capital building.

One evening we went out and visited from friends who live down by the Whole Foods. We stopped there once or twice over the week, and got some snacks / dinner / breakfast. It is a nice Whole Foods.

Another evening we went out for Ramen. That was certainly and experience. The ramen was pretty good, but the atmosphere was very different from what you get in Tokyo. More like a club with upbeat music and lots of open seating, as opposed to the small, cramped counter-only seating you usually get in Tokyo. It was also a very Austin college crowd. It made me feel old. The ramen was good though.

Midway Food Park Midway Food Park Louie Mueller Barbecue Louie Mueller Barbecue Louie Mueller Barbecue
Another day for lunch we all went out to Midway Food Park, a neat little place where there are a bunch of food trucks hanging out in a park. It was pretty cool. They also had a nice playground that Alan spent some time at.

On the drive back to Texas we detoured a bit and swung by Taylor, Texas to eat a late lunch at Louie Mueller BBQ. That was a great meal - paper for plates, great sauce, really good bbq, nice pickles, really great pulled pork (excellent when you made a little sandwich with the pickles and bread.) The place has had some great reviews, and makes the Texas Monthly list of top 10 BBQs in the state. It was definitely worth the extra 40 minutes or so to head off the highway. The town it is in is also a small, cute country town. Lots of open country on the drive around there too.

TV is corrupting our youth Space Pirates Welcome to America, Texas Style Welcome to Texas Doggy facilities at DFW
Once we got back to Dallas things started to get interesting. Both my twin and younger sisters flew out, and my twin brought her two kids with her. Also, a friend of ours came with her child, and two of Lisa's friends from Japan came for a week. Two of Dad's friends came as well, so there were lots of people in the house. Usually there is only one person there, but at one point there were 14 people staying there!

Alan and his cousin really get along well - his cousin is about a year older, and very active. Alan always enjoys running around with him. On this trip they had lots of fun playing in a spaceship (cardboard box) with their Space Ninja helmets (modified cardboard boxes.) Alan's cousin doesn't watch too much TV at his house (because they don't have a TV) so we probably exposed him to too much of that.

On Superbowl Sunday Lisa's friends arrived. We drove out to DFW and welcomed them to the USA in an appropriate way - with balloons and a US Flag. DFW has an interesting doggy potty facility in the parking garage. We also had a party at Dad's place. I think only one person watched the superbowl - which is probably a record for Texas parties on Superbowl Sunday.

DART to Downtown Mavs Express American Airlines Center Mavs Games Alan and Dave at the Game Three Generations of Evans at the Mavs game Lisa and Alan at the Mavs Game Alan and Lisa at Mavs Game Alan, Lisa, and Dave at the Mavs Game
On Monday February 2nd, I took cousin Scout, Lisa, Alan, Lisa's two friends, and dad to the Mavericks game. They were playing the Minnesota Timberwolves. We took the DART from Plano down into downtown Dallas, and before the game had dinner at the West End Hoffbrau Steak House. I used to really like the place back when they had the Cow Bus that ran from the Steak House over to Reunion Area for the games. I would take mom there every once in a while and we would go to a game together. Anyway, we all went out to the Steak House, and it was good, but unfortunately one of their specialties was out for the night. Still, good food, and they had nice play mats for Scout and Alan to draw on while the adult ate.

We had to quickly catch the DART for one or two stops to get from the West End to Victory Station, but that wasn't too tough. I was really excited to meet Dad at the American Airlines Center because then we had three generations of Evans men watching basketball together! That was great! Alan was excited to watch because I often watch the Mavs back at home, so he recognized the floor there. I was a bit worried that the area would be too loud for Scout, but he had a good time.

The Mavs won, but I don't think that was what was important to Alan and Scout. I think they enjoyed the timeout entertainment as much as anything else, and walking around the arena was fun too. A month later Alan still talks about it - we were up high, "like a tree". They also really liked the popcorn. I'm surprised anyone could eat anything after the large dinner, but we somehow finished off an order of popcorn. I think Lisa's friends enjoyed it too, although I doubt they had ever watched a basketball game before. By the time we got home, Alan and Scout were both exhausted, which made things a bit difficult, but we all managed. It was lots of fun, and I'm sure I'll remember that night for a long time.

Kids at the piano Perot Museum of Nature and Science Perot Museum of Nature and Science Downtown Dallas El Fenix
The next day we took a trip out to the Perot Museum of Nature and Science. It is a really interesting building downtown. The museum was nice. They had an interactive exhibit / ride about shale gas drilling, which was interesting, although it really seemed like they have an agenda to promote there.

After the museum we stopped off at the El Fenix across the street for lunch. Which was great. And there was too much of it.

Panda Nigiri
For dinner Lisa's friends made a vegetarian soup and lots of sushi. One of the cute ones was this panda.
Cooper's Old Time Pit Bar B Que Fort Worth Stockyars Lots of strollers Buggy ride Buggy ride Buggy ride Cattle drive Cattle drive Cattle drive Cattle drive Cattle drive Cowboy Cowboy
The next day was a long drive out to Fort Worth for the Stockyards and the Cattle Drive. It was very nice. I think the weekends would be better, but weekdays there aren't many people so there are benefits either way. The vintage steam railroad wasn't running unfortunately, because Alan would really have loved that. That only runs on the weekend.

This highlight was certainly the cattle drive. Alan and Scout both liked that. I was amazed at how large the horns were on the Texas Longhorns. They are called that for a reason. There are a lot of cattle too. I wonder how much cattle business still goes on there - I know it isn't a small amount.

We didn't have dinner there, but we did have lunch before heading to the Stockyards. We had BBQ at Cooper's Old Time BBQ. It was pretty good, not the best I've had, but pretty good for sure. You could tell that there were a lot of locals there too, just from how they dressed. Seemed like a nice working class place with a bit of a tourist crowd, so more legit that straight up tourist places.

Japanese Facial masks Japanese facial masks Japanese facial masks
Watch the above video first. Then watch the one below. The video below is of us watching the video above and trying to do the Youkai Watch dance.
One evening Lisa's friends passed out some facial masks, which had a bunch of strange patterns on them. Actually, I think Lisa might have picked those up at Tokyo Hands come to think of it. We all put on those. I think they made us more beautiful. One of the things we did with the crazy masks on (besides taking crazy face pictures - it was very late at night) was to do the dance to the Youkai Watch "Youkai Exercise" video. I linked to a video of an English translation of the Youkai Watch exercise video. Youkai Watch is a kid's TV show, basically an updated version of Pokemon with a kid who can see Japanese monsters that are invisible to everyone else in Tokyo. The kid goes around and battles them or something and somehow his watch is involved, I don't really know. It is very popular here. With kids. Anyway, there is a song called "Monster Exercise" and it has an associated dance with it. We tried the dance. There are all sorts of crazy videos on Youtube if you search for "youkai taisou" so try it out some time. Also, try the translation of the video I posted, it is really funny. We had a blast trying to dance to it with monster facial masks on.
Clean Room Alan SMU Cafeteria SMU Wave SMU Meadows Museum

Group photo Family Photo Family Photo Funny photo Group Photo Family Dinner Lots of guests Going back to Japan
Finally, on one of our last days we stopped by Southern Methodist University where I went as an undergrad (along with both my sisters) and where my father still teaches. We stopped by his building, and did a quick tour of the clean room. We also met up with a photographer who took our pictures. Unfortunately, it was raining, but she was great and we came away with some really nice group shots. Since we only get together maybe once every few years i really like that the last time or two we have had professional photo shoots done.

We met up with even more family at the Red Lobster for dinner, and had a great time there. On our last day we all headed to the airport and started the long trek back home to Japan. It was a really great trip to Dallas, and lots of fun to see family. Alan is still talking about all the fun he had with cousin Scout and his Aunts, as well as Lisa's friends who were just great with the kids. We try to facetime with family on the weekends, but nothing replaces actually being there.



Comments

Provide your email address when commenting and Gravatar will provide general portable avatars, and if you haven't signed up with them, a cute procedural avatar with their implementation of Shamus Young's Wavatars.

Comments have now been turned off for this post