Run the Turkey Trot

One of our family’s newer traditions is to run the Turkey Trot on the morning of Thanksgiving.  What better way to spend a day dedicated to eating and thanks, then to burn some calories!  No guilt eating two slices of pie later that evening!

I have run this race for years, but only in the last few years has my family joined me.

For anyone going this year, here are some tips that I have picked up over the years:

* First thing to know:  this race is 5 miles, not 5k.  Every year, I pass people at the 3 mile mark who look confused because they think the race should be over! It is actually quite entertaining ;o)

* You do not need to be a runner to do this race.  Or even a jogger.  All ages, sizes and shapes run or walk this race. 

* If you are a runner, don’t expect to get a PR.  This is a race about fun and families. Think lots of crowds.  Save your PR goal for 3M :o)

* Bring turkey paraphernalia.  One of the highlights of the event is watching all of the creative turkey head gear.

* Getting there — the traffic down Barton Springs is **crazy**.  Find an alternate route, if you can.  Looking at my notes from last year, we should have left our home in South Austin by 8am in order to have a comfortable time getting there by 9:30am.  Of course, we didn’t.  Last year I just happened to have my bike in the car, and wound up jumping out and leaving the family in the car, so we could get our packets on time!  It actually worked out pretty well!

* Parking — There is plenty of parking at the Long Center, but it took us an hour to get out of the parking garage on the trip home.  Again, an earlier start might have meant a better parking spot! Or an alternate parking area!

* Finishing the race.  As I mentioned, there are a lot of people.  It always helps to pick a meet up place after the race, in case everyone gets separated.  An easy location to pick is the packet pick up booths in front of the Long Center.

* Getting home – You should be headed home by 11:30am.  For the last few years, my boys have walked this race with friends, while my husband and I have run it.  Even with them taking a somewhat leisurely pace, we are still packed and in the car headed home around 11:30am.  So if you’re cooking the turkey, plan for a slightly later meal.  If you’re going over someone else’s house, plenty of time to chill the wine ;o) 

Have fun and keep warm!

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Big Top Candy

So, it turns out that the statement, “like a kid in a candy store” has some actual meaning here in Austin!  

Since we were downtown visiting the State Capitol, we decided to finish off the day at Big Top Candy, located on nearby South Congress.

This place is amazing!  

It carries over 300 types of bulk candy and over 2,000 varieties of wrapped candy.  

If you’ve eaten it, I’m betting they have it here!  On a previous visit, my husband was thrilled to see Charleston Chews from his childhood!

They also sell a $50 5 pound Hershey chocolate bar. Well, I assume they sell it, because when we visited, the sign was there, but the bar missing.  So I’m guessing someone actually bought it???

They also have all sorts of candy that I’m not sure who would eat.  

Sour Cream and Onion Crickets (no joke, look on the ingredient list and the top one is Crickets!)  right beside the ‘traditional’ lollypop scorpions.

And a plate of Double Bacon Chocolate Bars. Based on the number of people who purchased these while we were waiting in line, I’m guessing they’re good?

They have a large bulk section priced at $1.37 per 1/4 pound.  So for a couple of dollars, you can get a cavity filling ;o)  

But perhaps even better is than the overwhelming display of candy is the old-fashioned soda fountain.  

They have dozens of varieties of soda and ice cream, so they can serve just about any concoction you can dream up!

The boys and I each ordered up a float and scored a stool watching the traffic (human and otherwise) flow down South Congress!  

Truly an Austin Top 50 experience!

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Dinosaur Tracks in Leander

River Update 5/29/16:  According to a visitor below, the tracks are hard to get to due to slippery rocks and under water right now. But because the water is clear, the tracks are visible.

If you’ve been to the tracks recently, please leave a comment below and let us know if the tracks are underwater with all the rain!  Thx!

Also, big thank you to Wes for leaving the GPS coordinates in the comments below.

About a half mile west from the 183 bridge that crosses the South Fork of the San Gabriel River is a truly amazing sight!  Approximately 12 (maybe 11) dinosaur footprints are embedded in the rock of the river bed.  

If you haven’t taken the time to hike down there, they are really worth seeing!

There is something amazing about looking down and seeing a trail of dinosaur footprints that are over 100 million years old!  

At this site there are no fences, no signs, nothing but a trail of prints on a dry riverbed.  

You can walk alongside them and get a feel for the large size of the dino that walked there before you. 

Based on the shape of the three toed prints, scientists believe they may have belonged to a carnivore called the Acrocanthosaurus. There are also supposed to be some Brontosaur tracks closer to the bridge.  These prints are supposed to look like big circles… but I have never been able to find them.  

Regardless, it is a nice hike on the river bed. Although there isn’t a whole lot of water in the river these days, there is still enough for frogs and fish and all sorts of creatures to enjoy.

Tips and Thoughts

* Although there are no fences or signs prohibiting access, please do not step into the dino tracks or they will deteriorate over time, and our next generation will not be able to enjoy them!

* To find these prints, go to Google maps and search for where the South San Gabriel River crosses 183 a little north of Leander. You can also use the approximate address: 601 S Gabriel Dr, Leander, TX 78641.  This will take you to the parking spot (not the dino tracks!)

*To access the prints, you can park right off of 183.  There appears to be two parking areas on the south side of the bridge: you can either park in a small grassy lot in front of a fenced off electrical maintenance area on the south east corner.  There is a path down to the river between 183 and the electrical maintenance area. Or it looks like you can park in the median just south of the river, between the north and south bound road in 183.  Access to the river seems very easy here as well.

* Once you are on the river bed, head west.  The tracks are about (and this is a rough estimate) a half mile west of 183.  When looking back, if you can still see the 183 bridge, you have not gone far enough.  The tracks are on the left hand side of the riverbank.  

* This is a river bed… if it ever rains in Texas again, the river could potentially fill and the tracks would be unavailable.  I’m not convinced we will ever be out a drought, but it could happen.  So keep this in mind!  Note added 1/15/2015: I took my father over the Christmas break.  There was water in the river, but the tracks were on a higher ledge and they were dry. It would have to be a lot of recent rain, I think, to cover these tracks.

* This is not a park, nor a formal location.  This is just a random spot in the river.  So don’t look for any signs, expect any restrooms or depend on any water fountains.  But the river is state land, so access is permitted along the river bed.

If you visit and have some additional information to provide, please feel free to leave a comment!

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Labels: FreeHike

Lakeway Pool

As summer creeps on, the temperatures creep higher and kids start becoming bored with the same old routine.  

To spice it up, try out a different pool in Austin!

We recently visited the Lakeway pool, located in… you guessed it, Lakeway :o)

This pool is perfect for the wee ones.  In addition to its standard lap pool, this swim center has a graduated beach area with a fun frog sliding board.

For the kids 48 inches and taller there are the two tall slides as well as a lilly pad crossing area.  The lilly pads area was fun to watch, as the kdis attempted to cross in any manner than the expected – rarely touching the rope conveniently hung across the top to assist!

And another draw to this unique pool is the giant chess board.  What better way to exercise the mind after exercising the body!

Tips and Thoughts

* The pool is closed on Monday and does not open until noon on the other days

* Entrance to the pool for non-residents is $5 for children and $6 for adults

* There is a snack bar with light food available.  There are also some shaded picnic tables if you choose to bring your own

* Children must be 48 inches to go down the slide and must be able to touch the rope on the lily pads.  We saw at least one little tike turned away with tears as he wasn’t tall enough.  So if you have wee ones, you might want to forewarn them!

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Labels: Swimming

Day Trip to the Witte Museum in San Antonio

Last week we headed down to San Antonio to visit one of our favorite museums, the Witte Museum.  The museum itself is almost a piece of history; built in the 1920s in Brackenridge Park, it was the first public museum in San Antonio.

Walking past the mummy and fossil displays and the wildlife dioramas, you can almost feel the thousands of previous spectators that have walked the halls.

But the old museum is only part of the entire experience; there is so much more! 

Currently at the Witte (through the end of August) is the Dinosaurs Unearthed display. 

If you are a dinosaur lover, you will enjoy this exhibit.  

Walk among a dozen or so life sized dinosaurs; watch them move and hear them roar!  

Interestingly enough, each station is set up with at least one interactive iPad display that provides additional information.

Just last year a new section of the museum opened, the South Texas Heritage Center.  

This spacious building is filled with interactive displays about ranchers, Indians, cowboys, oilmen and more.  

Try sitting in a saddle and learn about the differences.

See how much water you can move with the old fashioned pump

Or try and get your ball to the train station and a large skeeball sort of display.  

This new museum is a lot of fun for all ages!

The last time we were here, the River Alive section held my kids attention for over an hour.  At first glance, it is a long outdoor table with a small stream recreated in it.  Not much to do.  But visitors are encouraged to look under rocks and leaves to find all sorts of small creatures living in the area.  Once you start finding and identifying damselfly larvae or small fish, you realize there is a lot more going on in a river than you ever realized!

But, by far, the favorite section of the museum for kids (of all ages) is the Science Treehouse.  Hands on exhibits demonstrate the power of pulleys, Bernullil’s effect and sound waves.  

Ride a bike across a tightrope to learn the benefits of a counter balance!

An outdoor exhibit allows you to experiment with an Archimede’s screw to move water through a water wheel!

There are hours of hands on fun (and learning shhh!) here in the Science Treehouse!

Tips and Thoughts
* Entrance to the museum is $10 for adults and $7 for children plus an additional $5 for the dinosaur exhibit.  If you are looking to save a few dollars, there is a $2 off/per person coupon available on their website.  If you are looking to save a little more, there is currently a groupon for half off.  And if you are looking to save a lot, the museum is free on Tuesdays after 3pm!

* Plan for a minimum three hour visit to the museum.  However, there are enough activities for an entire day here, if you have it!

* Given the long drive, we headed out early and packed a lunch.  There are plenty of shade trees with tables in the courtyard outside or you can find a seat near the river!  There are vending machines near the Treehouse, but no real food option on campus.

* The dinosaur exhibit is an extra $5 fee.  Considering my youngest learned the word for Stegosaur before donkey, we couldn’t pass this exhibit up. However, it is probably geared more toward the younger crowd.

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Labels: Day Trip

An evening trip to Krause Springs

We have been to Krause Springs before (link) but this week we tried a slightly different approach.  Dave couldn’t take the day off, so instead of heading out first thing in the morning, we left mid-day and arrived around 4pm on a Monday. 

Krause Springs is located in Spicewood, Texas, about a half an hour west of Austin.  It is a privately opened swimming hole with multiple freshwater springs on the property.

Their sign says they close at dusk; the woman behind the desk told me around 8pm they close the camp to all but the campers.

It turns out, this is a really nice way to do Krause.  Many of the day trippers were leaving right around the time we arrived, so the place wasn’t crowded at all!

We love the rope swings at Krause.  And all the boys enjoyed taking their turn at jumping off — and I mean all of the boys, big and small!  :o)

Dave proving that back surgery a year ago isn’t going to stop him!

And this time, we tried something new:  jumping off the cliffs.  Maybe not the smartest idea, and my ears are still ringing, but it was a lot of fun :o)  When we went, the water at the bottom was about 12 feet deep, so our feet would lightly sink into the bottom, but there was plenty of water to buffet our fall. As always check the depth of any water before jumping into it!!!

After we had all cooled off in the springs for two hours, we headed up to the picnic area for some dinner.

Krause has a great picnic area, with lots of grills and picnic tables, all shaded by the huge cypress trees.  And the freezing cold pool is right there, if you get too hot!  

As you can see from the photos, due to the late hour, we had the place mostly to ourselves!

We enjoyed relaxing in our chairs with the sounds of dusk falling around. Around 8pm, we packed up and headed home.  Another benefit to the late hour was that we trekked out in the cooler evening, instead of the hot mid-day sun!

Tips and Thoughts 

* Krause does not allow pets

* Krause does not allow glass – so make sure whatever you bring comes in a can or plastic bottle!

* Krause only accepts cash, so stop at the ATM beforehand!

* As I mentioned in my previous post, this place is a lot more fun if you bring some floats to hang around in!

* There are essentially three levels to Krause, the entrance and butterfly garden, the pool and picnic area, and the springs.  So, it can be a bit of a haul up and down the hill if you have a bunch of stuff. Bring a rolling cooler and leave it at the picnic area; just carry the necessities (drinks and tubes) down to the spring area!

* The lowest level by the springs is very slippery. Almost always, someone takes a light fall.  So make sure you bring water shoes and go slowly!  There are two sets of stairs, and the stairs furthest from the entrance may allow a bit easier access

* Take some time to look around the grounds, this is a really beautiful place!

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Fishing at Mary Moore Searight Park

Mary Searight Moore Park, located in South Austin near I-35, is a pretty fun park in Austin with something to do for everyone!  

It has a nice playground, 
a fun disc golf course, 
basketball courts, 
a one and a half mile loop for running or walking, 
and many more great trails for walking your dog (or horse!)

However, the hidden gem of this park is located in the far South corner, where Slaughter Creek runs along its edge.  This creek is supposedly known for good bass and perch fishing.

The boys and I pulled our gear out for the first time this summer, and decided to give it a try.   

We parked in the main parking lot, and then hiked the distance to get to the creek.  

While it was a nice hike, it turns out that there are some closer areas to park, if fishing is all you are interested in. 

From Decker Prairie road, the creek is less than a half mile!

We followed the paths (generally just heading south) and finally came upon the creek. 

There is a small fishing pier perfect for fishing from. 

The trail then hikes west following the creek.  

We stopped at many points along the path to try our luck!  At one point, two geese started honking at us.  

We, of course, honked back :o)

Whether you are interested in fishing or hiking, it is a really an enjoyable trail!

Heading back east along the trail, the stream has a sort of dam, and then trickles along until it runs into another spring.  

At that point, the creek widens again into another pretty pond.

While we were completely unsuccessful in catching any fish, we had a really nice hike and a good time!

Tips and Thoughts
* I did see a lot of dogs along the path.  The front half of the park was pretty populated and most dogs were on leash.  Towards the back, with fewer people, we did see a few dogs run wild

* Bring lots of water, the path is sunny and hot!

* Note the parking tip above – if you want a quick trip to the creek, you might not want to park at the main entrance, but instead try the Decker Prairie Road unofficial side entrance!

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Labels: Dog FriendlyFishingOutdoor Park

Solar Car Racing at Circuit of the Americas

Formula Sun Grand Prix

What: See solar cars compete head-to-head on the race track!
Where: 9201 Circuit of the Americas Blvd. Austin, TX, 78617
When: July 19th, 9 AM – 5 PM
Who can come: You! This event is free and open to the public.

23 universities are participating, 22 of which are using solar panels made by SunPower, one of the main event sponsors. Students built and will race the cars.

Join us at Circuit of the Americas and keep an eye out for the SunPower table, where Circular Energy will be sharing information about solar and signing up homeowners for solar assessments with a design consultant.

Our visit in 2013!!
A really fun event is occurring at the Circuit of the Americas tomorrow: the Formula Sun Grand Prix 2013 and the best part is that public entry is free!

The race – or rayce – as they call it ;o) consists of three 8 hour racing days. The objective is for the teams to complete the most laps within that time period.  The cars charge up their batteries the afternoon before and then run the entire next day on the batteries, as well as any other solar energy they soak up while racing.

Universities and colleges have sponsored teams for the last year to completely design, build and test their prototypes.  And it all culminates in these three days of racing.

According to the webpage, the last two days have been open for public viewing but we had to show the webpage to the security guard and have him talk to his manager before we were allowed in!  They were all very friendly and nice, but we were obviously the first spectators to come!

The cars take around 5 minutes to traverse the entire 3.4 mile track, and there are a maximum of ten cars entered into the race.

Although we went today, the big public viewing day is tomorrow from 9am – 5pm.  

There will be displays and talks about alternative energy as well as a workshop where kids can build a model solar car. 

The teams will be available to answer questions and for autographs!  These are a bunch of college kids, so they are really fun and easy to talk to!

It was really neat to see the various designs of solar cars and to cheer when the UT car went by!  

Here are some of the things we learned:

* An average solar car can run for around 120 miles on just a battery charge, and around 200 miles if it is running in the sun.  

* The maximum speed allowed for the cars is 65 mph, though most cars were going much slower.  The whole project is a balance of energy usage! 

*Teams run from around 15 persons to as large as 100, though most of these teams seemed around the 15-20 person mark.

*Yesterdays winning car completed a total of 66 laps or 224 miles!

Even if you aren’t all that into cars, this is a really fun race to see.  

And a great opportunity to see the Circuit of the Americas at its lowest cost: free! 

Although we didn’t make it up there, they do offer tower tours for $15 per adult, and $12.50 per child, which sounds like a lot of fun, and a great view!

Check it out!!

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Labels: EventFree

Natural Bridge Wildlife Ranch in San Antonio

This week, we visited Natural Bridge Wildlife Ranch just north of San Antonio and we had a fantastic time!!

The start of the tour began while waiting in line to purchase our tickets and enter the park.  Off to the left, we saw the giraffes!   The boys couldn’t wait, and jumped out of the car to see them before we had even paid :o)

This May, Natural Bridge experienced a wonderful and unusual event!  Twin giraffes were born and survived.  

This is a rare occurrence, as mothers carrying twins frequently abort or one of the twins doesn’t make it. In fact, this pair is the only set of twins currently living in the US and one of only two twin giraffes ever born in the US!  

They were born on May 10th, so they were just over a month and a half old. 

The  boy giraffe was clumsily cute.  At one point, he actually tripped over his long legs trying to move toward the fence!  

And watching the mama giraffe care for her young was really special!

If you get a chance to go out and see them, it is well worth the trip!

After we had parked the car and checked out the giraffes, we took a tour of the facilities.  There are some gibbon monkeys, parrots, lemurs and a variety of other animals in cages. 

But the true excitement comes during the safari drive!

I was really not sure what to expect.  

I had read reviews of visitors only seeing two animals in their whole trip, so in the first few hundred feet, I feared that would be our case.  

But almost immediately, we found all sorts of creatures roaming the prairie.  

As it was early morning, many of the animals came directly up to the car to be fed.  While the official rules state that you should not feed the animals directly from your hands, we were told that is more of a ‘technicality’.  And most of the animals were very accustomed to approaching the car looking for a handout!

In the case of this ostrich, he came a little too close ;o)  That beak looked mighty sharp!

One of our favorites were the miniature donkeys.  (I’m sure they have some different and much fancier name, but that’s what they looked like to us!)  In trying to reach the food, they would curl their lips back into a hilarious grin!

As it turns out, late spring or early summer is a great time to visit the ranch.  

There were all sorts of baby animals along the way. 

While the babies rarely approach the car, you can see them just slightly off the road.  

Above is a cute one we caught halfway through the trip.

After we completed the tour, we wound up back at the main barn.  

We discovered, in addition to the caged animals, a small petting zoo with many goats.  

The kids had a great time getting up close and personal with all the animals!

Tips and Thoughts

* The key to having a great time is to go *early*.  We arrived right around 10am, about an hour after they had opened.  The day was still cool, and the animals mostly unfed, so we had a great experience.  I’d bet we wouldn’t have seen so many animals had we arrived much later!

* The ranch gives you one free bag of food with your purchase, and then sells additional bags for $1 each.  We purchased an additional bag for each rider, and that was dollars well invested!  There is no place to purchase food along the route, so once you run out, you’re out.  So make sure you purchase enough to last the whole trip!  (And as further proof of the previous point – with seven riders, we fed a whole lot of beasts before we exited – I would bet that after noon, most animals are no longer hungry!)

*  The driving tour probably took us around an hour and a half.  We went slowly and took our time.  Generally, we only moved on when a line had formed behind us.  I’m sure we could have made it through quicker – but that’s not really the point. ;o)  This didn’t include time in the petting zoo, checking out the giraffes, or lunch. All told, our total visit was probably around 3 hours.

* The entrance fee includes unlimited trips around the park for the entire day.  We were tired and hot, and didn’t make it around a second time, but keep in mind that it is an option!

* The ranch’s main area has a cafe with a variety of fairly reasonably priced fast food.  There is also a nice covered pavilion if you choose to bring a picnic lunch.

* If you’re looking to save a few dollars, there is a $2 off coupon floating around the web that is good until the end of this year.  I think it might even be available on their webpage.