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 Bluebonnets, Bats, and Beaucoup Barbecue

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Ralph Melton

Re:Bluebonnets, Bats, and Beaucoup Barbecue Thu, 06/13/13 11:42 AM (permalink)
Billyboy, I think we'll take you up on that offer some time. I've loved the reports you've posted of your NYC tours. I know that Lori would like to revisit New York, and if we do, I'd love to dedicate a day to foodery.
    ann peeples

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    • Location: West Allis, Wisconsin
    Re:Bluebonnets, Bats, and Beaucoup Barbecue Thu, 06/13/13 11:48 AM (permalink)
    Don't know how I missed this, Ralph! Awesome report....

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      Re:Bluebonnets, Bats, and Beaucoup Barbecue Thu, 06/13/13 5:57 PM (permalink)
      Ralph and Lori -
      Your report thus far rivals BB's epic Burger trip with Cousin Johnny.  I love your descriptions of the places and the food.  The animation on the queen of pies was quite cute.  You have truly hit some deeeelishus spots and looking forward to your lockhart section.
      Unfortunately you just never know where TTM will show up next (you know we love you steve), and to enjoy Chris & Amy's presence too, you are batting .1000.

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        Re:Bluebonnets, Bats, and Beaucoup Barbecue Thu, 06/13/13 6:38 PM (permalink)
        I missed this one also, Great Report!
          Ralph Melton

          Re:Bluebonnets, Bats, and Beaucoup Barbecue Mon, 06/17/13 10:33 PM (permalink)
          Monday was the day that most embodied the title of this report.

          We started with a request from Amy: she was keen to visit Summermoon Coffee, because they offered coffee that was roasted with a wood fire. I don't drink coffee often, so the sips I took just tasted like coffee to me; perhaps Amy can contribute an opinion of whether this makes a perceptible difference.

          I've added this table card to my collection of Roadfood signage because of the edit that was made; one small edit can make a great deal of difference to the implications of a sentence. (Though "toy" more accurately represented what I saw.)

          Our breakfast destination was one that Chris had particularly asked for: Gourdough's donuts. I'd rescheduled this trip from Saturday morning because of Chris and Amy's late arrival, but when I had rescheduled it, I hadn't checked my notes for their opening times. I remembered that they opened at 8, but I had forgotten that they only opened at 8 on Saturday. So we arrived at 9:40 to find that Gourdough's opened at 10am. (They are open until midnight on most days and 3am on weekends - many food trucks seem to cater to night owls.)

          So with a bit of time to kill, we turned to the adjacent taco truck, Mellizoz Tacos. This was just as well, because Chris and Amy hadn't yet had a chance to eat a great breakfast taco.

          We ordered the 04, which included eggs, bacon, avocado, beans, and cotija cheese. This was amazing, and the picture does not do it justice. The avocado and cheese made it very rich and luscious, and the bacon helped make it super flavorful. This was definitely the best breakfast taco of our trip, and this is the taco whose memory makes me salivate two months later.
          It was also very messy, though - through some trick of geometry I haven't wholly figured out, a tortilla that is large enough to contain a taco's worth of fillings cannot be cut into two half-tortillas large enough to contain a half-taco's worth of fillings. 

          As we finished that taco, Gourdough's had put out their menu board:

          We ordered two donuts and split them each four ways. I was tempted to order more because there were so many interesting flavors, but this was a good choice - one taco and two donuts were more than enough to keep us full for quite a while.

          The Miss Shortcake was topped with cream cheese icing and fresh strawberries, and by my lights, anything with that many strawberries has got to be good. But it was much better than I expected, because under a pile of frosting and strawberries the size of my face, there was a really light, crisp donut. A lesser donut such as one from Krispy Kreme would have gotten crushed under the toppings; this was capable of playing off the toppings to make a really delicious combination of tastes and textures.

          The Flying Pig ("bacon with maple syrup icing") was a great success as well. I tend to be suspicious of layering bacon with donuts because of the problem of layersquish. If you layer a soft donut (again, think Krispy Kreme) with a piece of bacon that requires a bit of gnawing or sawing to sever, the donut will be crushed and tattered by the process of cutting the bacon. But the Flying Pig soared over that trap - the bacon was crisp enough to break easily with a fork, and the donut was strong enough that it was easy to get all three flavors in every bite.

          Everything we ate that morning was fabulous, and I'm so glad that there were four of us to share everything - Gourdough's donuts are so massive and filling that I don't think I could have done justice to more than one if it had been only Lori and I eating.

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            Re:Bluebonnets, Bats, and Beaucoup Barbecue Tue, 06/18/13 4:54 PM (permalink)
            MY GAWD I am in love with those donuts THEY ARE HUGE
            well probably not because you were in TEXAS and EVERYTHING is bigger in TX.

              Re:Bluebonnets, Bats, and Beaucoup Barbecue Tue, 06/18/13 5:20 PM (permalink)
              Beautiful doughnuts with strawberries.  Double outstanding but you have to understand that folks in the south really love their Krispy Kreme.  A great write and very good pics.  Not a issue but the bacon did not look crispy although you indicated it was.  Must have been superb cooking.
              Paul E. Smith
              Knoxville, TN

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                • Location: Pittsburgh, PA
                Re:Bluebonnets, Bats, and Beaucoup Barbecue Tue, 06/18/13 9:29 PM (permalink)
                I admit, when I saw the Gordough's creations, my eyes just about popped out of my head! They were ginormous!  I am sure that one would have been more than enough for Ralph and me on our own. But, we had good people to share them with.
                Summermoon coffee was really lovely. I don't drink enough coffee to talk about the specifics, but I really enjoyed my latte. 

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                  Re:Bluebonnets, Bats, and Beaucoup Barbecue Tue, 06/18/13 9:46 PM (permalink)
                  I can practically smell that frying dough from the trailer.  Wooooo!!!  What a treat you had there.
                    Ralph Melton

                    Re:Bluebonnets, Bats, and Beaucoup Barbecue Wed, 06/19/13 10:49 AM (permalink)

                    Beautiful doughnuts with strawberries.  Double outstanding but you have to understand that folks in the south really love their Krispy Kreme.  A great write and very good pics.  Not a issue but the bacon did not look crispy although you indicated it was.  Must have been superb cooking.

                    I enjoy Krispy Kreme myself, but it's on the soft and squishy end of the donut spectrum. It would be the wrong sort of donut for a heavily-topped donut like this. 
                    I also thought that the bacon did not look cooked enough to be crispy. It was a pleasant surprise.
                      Ralph Melton

                      Re:Bluebonnets, Bats, and Beaucoup Barbecue Sun, 06/23/13 9:18 AM (permalink)
                      After Gourdough's, we took a break from food for a trip to the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

                      I had high hopes for the Wildfower Center; it was my last best hope for broad fields of Texas wildflowers. These hopes didn't quite come true. There were some very nice flowers, but they came in portions that were garden-sized instead of field-sized. I found myself acutely conscious that it wasn't quite measuring up to my hopes, and hoping that Chris and Amy weren't too disappointed.

                      I have tried to research just who was responsible for the name "Horse-Crippler Cactus", with no success. This means that I can neither confirm nor deny my idea that it was named by an botanist who carried a grudge. (It is apparently also called "Candy Cactus", which carries much less bitterness.)

                      The color garden did offer some swaths of flowers, but they didn't extend as far as the eye could see.


                      California poppies apparently grow in Texas too. I love their intense orange.

                      In a little building at the far end of the gardens, there was an exhibit of some very beautiful art made in pressed paper. Unfortunately, photographs were prohibited.

                      Indian blanket is one of the wildflowers I expect to see along Texas highways.

                      Yellow and pink primrose complete the set I expect to see on the roads.

                      The lily pond showed a bit of wildlife in the form of snakes and turtles.

                      This is the variety of honeysuckle that grew on the neighbor's fence when I was a child.. We used to pluck the blossoms, bite the bases off, and suck out the nectar inside.

                      My mother fought against trumpet vine for many years.


                      Yes, I have an inner fifteen-year-old snickering at this.

                      We took one of their walks among the fields outside the more cultivated part of the center. It did have patches of bluebonnets.

                      And from the top of the tower, you could get a real sense of Austin landscape.

                      (We took many more pictures there, but I tried to present just my favorites. I invite you to click through and look at my Flickr collection.)

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                        • Location: Park Ridge, NJ
                        Re:Bluebonnets, Bats, and Beaucoup Barbecue Sun, 06/23/13 11:07 AM (permalink)
                        Outstanding pictures! I love your honeysuckle memory, I used to do the same thing as a kid!

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                          Re:Bluebonnets, Bats, and Beaucoup Barbecue Sun, 06/23/13 11:22 AM (permalink)
                          Damn, I love Texas! As they say, I wasn't born in Texas but, I got here as soon as I could (1963). 
                          A most fantastic, Texas sized report with great pictures. Thank you!

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                            Re:Bluebonnets, Bats, and Beaucoup Barbecue Sun, 06/23/13 12:39 PM (permalink)
                            Some great photography here...thanks so much.

                              Re:Bluebonnets, Bats, and Beaucoup Barbecue Sun, 06/23/13 12:54 PM (permalink)
                              Ralph, I personally thought the gardens were beautiful.  They appeared small enough to be maintained which is difficult to do with the Texas weather.
                              I also have seen fields of beautiful Texas wildflowers but they were seasonal.  The gardens seem to have a wide variety that has something interesting going on about all year.
                              One of the better displays of native Texas wildflowers was driving into the entrance of DFW but those were maintained with lotsa water and fertilizer and monies from the many fliers of DFW that contribute to the airlines that contribute to DFW.
                              Paul E. Smith
                              Knoxville, TN
                                Ralph Melton

                                Re:Bluebonnets, Bats, and Beaucoup Barbecue Sat, 07/20/13 3:15 PM (permalink)
                                "We had the sky up there, all speckled with stars, and we used to lay on our backs and look up at them, and discuss about whether they was made or only just happened.." —The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

                                In Lockhart, we visited Kreuz Market (pronounced "krites") and Smitty's, two of the restaurants that have earned Lockhart the title of "The Barbecue Capital of Texas". (I didn't put Black's on the itinerary, because the one time I visited Black's, I had a severe allergic reaction a few hours later. I don't know that one caused the other, but I didn't want to take the chance. And though I offered in complete sincerity to take the rest of our party to Black's, I knew that I would be very likely to say to myself "well, just a nibble probably wouldn't be too risky" - if I think I should abstain, it's easiest for me to not even step inside.)

                                Kreuz Market and Smitty's are closely related. Smitty's location is the original location of Kreuz Market. But when the patriarch of the Schmidt family died, his son Rick Schmidt owned the business, but his daughter Nina inherited the building, and Nina's terms for rent were unacceptable to Rick. (My source for this is an interview with Rick at . Rick said very clearly that there was no feud between him and Nina, but I suspect that there were at least a few stern looks.) So Rick moved Kreuz Market to a big new building north of town, and Nina established Smitty's in the old building.

                                The biggest difference between the buildings is that Kreuz Market looks like a building that was crafted as a barbecue parlor, but Smitty's looks like a place that "just happened". I've experienced a handful of other restaurants with that uncrafted quality - and a slew of restaurants that try to imitate it. For example, T.G.I. Friday's and a bunch of other chain restaurants try to imitate the "junk on the walls" quality of a place like Chiodo's - but the junk on the walls at Friday's feels deliberately chosen and placed, whereas no curator's hand ever guided the selection of the brassieres thrown to the ceiling at Chiodo's.

                                Another example: there is a company named The Irish Pub Company that specializes in the design and manufacture of Irish pubs around the world. I'm sure they have done their homework, they know what makes an Irish pub work, and they try to create an Irish pub experience as authentically as possible - but I've been to several Irish pubs in the US that felt like I could turn them over and see a "made by the Irish Pub Company" stamp on the bottom.

                                And in the same way, Kreuz Market's building looks like what you would get if you contacted the hypothetical Genuine Texas Barbecue Joint Company and said, "I'd like the extra-large economy size, please." There's no doubt that the creators knew exactly what sort of place they were recreating, and I would not say that Kreuz's is not authentic. But Kreuz's tables have never had knives chained to them in lieu of other cutlery. Kreuz's walls have not accumulated the geologic layers of carbon that Smitty's has acquired from decades of smoking. And the sign in Kreuz Market that said "No forks - they are at the end of your arm" seems to me to be a sign of a restaurant that is explaining itself to tourists instead of catering to locals who know how it works. This isn't a bad thing in itself, but it is a crafted thing, and I tend to prefer uncrafted places simply because those are harder to find.

                                I'm presenting photos out of strict chronological order in order to compare and contrast Kreuz Market and Smitty's. Should chronology matter, we visited Kreuz Market and then Smitty's.

                                Kreuz Market is a big barn of a building by the highway - I've read that it seats 560 people, though people inside said that it only gets anywhere close to full on Friday and Saturday nights.

                                Smitty's looks like a storefront on the town square from one side, but it's more prominent on the side facing the highway.

                                The first thing we saw at Kreuz Market was actually the woodpile. We were very impressed by the sheer size of the woodpile - it's clearly designed to support a massive amount of smoking.

                                Because of that, we made sure to see the woodpile at Smitty's before we left. It also shows a dedication to smoking, but it doesn't have the immense scale of Kreuz's.

                                The menu board at Kreuz market. (I don't have a photo of a menu board at Smitty's, and I don't remember seeing one.) The name "shoulder clod" is very low on the list of fancy names for a cut of beef.

                                Kreuz Market has 8 16-foot smokers, according to the Rick Schmidt interview. Some of them line the walls of the smoking room, but some radiate out fanwise from the center like altars to some pagan god of smoked meat. (I am half joking with this description - but only half.)

                                At Smitty's, years of smoke have deposited carbon on the walls above the smokers in formations that resemble the walls of a cave.

                                (I was surprised that at both places, the fire was mostly outside the smoker. I expected that there would be more attempts to contain the smoke and focus it on the meat.) 

                                The dining area at Kreuz Market had decor, like this long rattlesnake skin and this Texas silhouette made out of rattles: 

                                The dining area at Smitty's was more spartan:

                                But what about the barbecue itself? 

                                This is what our order at Kreuz Market looked like when we received it. Texas barbecue stands at the opposite end of the spectrum from dining experiences that focus on beautiful plating. (Plating itself is a marker of a certain type of crafted dining experience.)

                                And this is what it looked like unveiled. The brisket (my notes say brisket, but perhaps this was the shoulder clod) was very smoky, but somewhat dry. The sausage, though, was lovely, with a robust flavor and a firm snap. Of all the sausage we had on this trip, this came closest to epitomizing what I think of as a Texas hot gut.

                                Kreuz Market has expanded to include some side dishes as well, and we sampled their beans. The beans had a lot of spice and sausage bits, and it added up to a great flavor.

                                This is our order from Smitty's. The brisket was paler but had a more vivid smoke ring than from Kreuz Market. It had a peppery crust and was a little juicier than Smitty's, though still on the dry side.

                                The sausage at Smitty's edged across the line from "juicy" to "greasy", but it too had a lot of flavor.

                                I should emphasize, though, that both of these briskets and sausages were very similar and very good. I look for differences because that's a way to draw out the individual character of each place, but I'm not at all sure I could distinguish them in a blind tasting, and I'd be more than happy to eat either one. And I do not know whether the differences I noted, if they're real, were due to the restaurant or to variations between different cows.

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                                  Re:Bluebonnets, Bats, and Beaucoup Barbecue Sat, 07/20/13 4:10 PM (permalink)
                                  Ralph - Their pits are designed to draw the smoke into them (with some heat too) with the fire outside like that you can control your temp and your smoke level by how big the fire is or how close to the firebox you get it.  They are masters at smoking.  It is fun to watch them in action.
                                  Your photos are wonderful I wanted to lick the screen twice.

                                    Re:Bluebonnets, Bats, and Beaucoup Barbecue Sat, 07/20/13 4:21 PM (permalink)
                                    Ralph, that is the best photo's I have seen of Smitty's and Kreuz.  My personal opinion was that Smitty's had the best sausage and Kreuz had the best brisket.  I do not enjoy dry brisket or sausage.  Your description was outstanding.
                                    Paul E. Smith
                                    Knoxville, TN
                                      mayor al

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                                      Re:Bluebonnets, Bats, and Beaucoup Barbecue Sun, 07/21/13 2:04 AM (permalink)
                                      I understand your reasoning in avoiding any possible harm by a visit to Black's BBQ, however, as one who has enjoyed BBQ safely there several times, I can assure the members that BLACK'S BBQ measures up to the other two BBQ Palaces as well, and maybe better in some respects.  Here is our "Plate" of Sausages, ribs, & brisket from Blacks.
                                        Ralph Melton

                                        Re:Bluebonnets, Bats, and Beaucoup Barbecue Tue, 07/23/13 1:55 PM (permalink)
                                        Sundancer, I would have judged them the other way - though really, my judgment would be "too close to call".
                                        Al, I did enjoy Black's the time that I was there, though perhaps not as much as Smitty's. But that may be due to the circumstances of the visit as much as anything.
                                          ann peeples

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                                          • Location: West Allis, Wisconsin
                                          Re:Bluebonnets, Bats, and Beaucoup Barbecue Tue, 07/23/13 8:25 PM (permalink)
                                          Al and Janet sent me a variety of sausages from Blacks-excellent stuff.
                                            Ralph Melton

                                            Re:Bluebonnets, Bats, and Beaucoup Barbecue Wed, 07/24/13 10:55 PM (permalink)
                                            From Lockhart we drove west across flat Texas prairie to Kyle, to visit another place on Chris's short list: Texas Pie Company. The giant three-dimensional sign indicates how committed they are to their pie:

                                            The menu, too, is very pie-centric. We had a lot of trouble narrowing down our decision - many choices looked great. (We were interested in the King Ranch chicken, but didn't feel we had the appetite for it in addition to pie.)

                                            They served their pies in bowls, which made me think that they were really expecting the pie to be served with ice cream. I like the contrasting colors of the two bowls in this picture.

                                            I'm also very pleased with this picture of the almond joy pie. The pie was very good - the pie crust had some crispness, even if it was intended to accompany ice cream, and the layers of chocolate, coconut, and almond filling were excellent.

                                            A profile shot gives a better view of the under layers of filling:

                                            The strawberry-peach pie was less photogenic, but even more tasty. Lori described it as "delicious crust with sweet mellow strawberry and peach flavors".

                                            The decor of the Texas Pie Company was a cheerful hodgepodge. Since we were still thinking about crafted and uncrafted places from our trip to Lockhart, we discussed which of those two applied here, and we concluded that despite its ramshackle appearance, it nevertheless seemed crafted, as if someone had carefully chosen the mismatched tables.

                                            We would very happily return to the Texas Pie Company.

                                            It was here and now that we hit our collective wall - or at least our collective speed bump. The plan I'd drawn up called for us to visit the Cathedral of Junk that afternoon, but none of us had the oomph to do so. We sat around the table for quite a while after the pies were gone, and when we did finally leave, we returned to the hotel for a brief nap before setting out again in the evening.

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                                              Re:Bluebonnets, Bats, and Beaucoup Barbecue Thu, 07/25/13 7:27 AM (permalink)
                                              More barbeque (and pie?)?!?!  Loving this report with each entry!  Now that I've managed to leave NYC and make the trek to NM (so glad to finally meet you and Lori!) I think Texas needs to be on my short list of places to visit.  There is what I think may be decent barbeque in Gotham but I need to get some of the real deal in my belly! 

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                                                • Location: SFBay Area, CA
                                                Re:Bluebonnets, Bats, and Beaucoup Barbecue Thu, 07/25/13 8:58 AM (permalink)
                                                Lord have mercy!  That cue and pie look outrageous.  That pie place has been on my bookmark list for a long time, too--they have the best signage ever.  I've wanted to go to Kreuz Market since I saw it years ago on the Travel Channel.  Yikes.  This would be a dream trip for a lot of us!

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                                                  • Location: Austin, TX
                                                  Re:Bluebonnets, Bats, and Beaucoup Barbecue Thu, 07/25/13 10:47 AM (permalink)
                                                  I went to Smitty's when it was still Kreuz but have not been to the Kreuz as it is today. I still go to Smittys but I think I mentioned in another forum that IMO Smitty's seemed to be slipping. I am going back to the coast and plan to stop in Lockhart. I just may end up trying both. But I have been to Black's and it was acceptable. I have tried Franklin's here in Austin and I just don't get the fascination that makes people want to stand in line for two, three hours.

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                                                    Re:Bluebonnets, Bats, and Beaucoup Barbecue Mon, 07/29/13 11:59 AM (permalink)
                                                    I have to admit, I couldn't tell any of you which barbecue I liked best. It was all pretty amazing. I loved visiting Smitty's, just seeing those blackened walls and huge smokers was really neat. 
                                                    We also thought that any of the places could be "the best," and a lot of it depends on individual variables of the smoke, fire and meat each day.
                                                    I absolutely hit the wall by the time we went to the pie shop - I had to sip my diet coke to keep from falling asleep in my pie!  I'm glad that didn't was great pie and great company.

                                                      Re:Bluebonnets, Bats, and Beaucoup Barbecue Mon, 07/29/13 1:00 PM (permalink)
                                                      Ralph and Lori, this has been a truly amazing trip report.  It is wonderous just how much food, sights and activities you packed into just a few days.  And the Texas barbecue photos were some of the best I have seen on here.
                                                      There is no doubt that the pies put out by Texas Pie Company are high quality, but they never seem to have any favorites flavors of mine.  This is obviously more of a me-problem than a them-problem.  And that giant pie storefront deserved a place in the Roadfood Signage Hall of Fame.
                                                      This report has been so good, it almost makes me want to forgive you for that halushki crack on page one!

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                                                        Re:Bluebonnets, Bats, and Beaucoup Barbecue Mon, 07/29/13 2:58 PM (permalink)
                                                        Falling asleep in one's pie is NEVER good table manner's! 
                                                        On the other hand you could call it HYPERGLYCEMIA and get away with it.
                                                        I have enjoyed your trip report very much, BBQ and PIE hmmmmm
                                                          Ralph Melton

                                                          Re:Bluebonnets, Bats, and Beaucoup Barbecue Wed, 07/31/13 12:07 PM (permalink)
                                                          For what it's worth, I meant the haluski remark as a crack against me instead of haluski.
                                                          I like haluski - I consistently love the haluski at Pierogies Plus or Josza's Corner.
                                                          But mediocre haluski is very mediocre. For example, at a church fish fry that serves mediocre fish, the haluski is likely to be tasteless and boring.
                                                          And that's not an indictment of haluski; I don't think any of us would say that a food should be judged by its mediocre examples.
                                                          But here's the way I am a little bit irrational about haluski: if I go to a mediocre fish fry - even one where I've had tasteless haluski before - I will look at the menu, say "ooh, haluski!", order it, and be disappointed. Despite the fact that I have enough counterexamples that I should know better, I persist in behaving as if I'll love every haluski.
                                                          This is probably not the most irrational thing I do; this is just one of the ways that I know that I'm irrational.
                                                            Ralph Melton

                                                            Re:Bluebonnets, Bats, and Beaucoup Barbecue Sat, 08/3/13 10:26 PM (permalink)
                                                            In the early evening, we indulged one of my own Austin tourist desires: we went to see the bats emerge from under the South Congress Bridge. (There are a million or more Mexican free-tailed bats living in cracks in the underside of that bridge during the summer.)

                                                            I must acknowledge that not all of our party was as enthusiastic about seeing bats as I was; some of us were worried about close encounters with bats or guano. As a compromise, we arranged a ride on a riverboat cruise in a covered boat.

                                                            If Lady Bird Lake were set down near Pittsburgh, it would be regarded as a narrow, shallow spot in the river - all things are relative. But it's a pretty lake, with lots of people using it, running alongside, riding bicycles, and so forth.

                                                            Around sunset, we parked upstream from the bridge and waited for the bats to get active. The sunset was nicer than my iPhone could capture.

                                                            The bats emerged in a long thin stream heading east, like a trail of smoke with larger particles. The bats did not come anywhere close to us; our closest view was to see them wheeling out as we passed under the bridge to return to the dock. I found the effect oddly serene, because there were so many bats that they lost their individuality and were only comprehensible as a continuous flow. It seems that bat should be a mass noun, like sheep or deer or fish.

                                                            A brief video of the bats:

                                                            Once it became fully dark, it was impossible to see the bats, but there were some lovely views of downtown Austin.

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