Sunday, October 16, 2011

A Weekend in Water Valley, Texas: Or, How to De-Skunk a Dog

We have just returned to Dallas after a weekend of rest and adventure at the Double D Game Ranch in Water Valley, Texas.

Double D is a beautiful place notable for its rough terrain and abundance of game. The ranch house could comfortably sleep at least 20 people and is brilliantly functional. From porch sitting to shuffleboard to watching the Rangers take the pennant, the house treated us well. Of course, the outdoors is why we came. In addition to beautiful white tail bucks (who clearly knew November had not yet arrived), we spotted red stag, black bucks, axis, yaks, and exotic sheep. It reminded me of being on safari without the 30 hour flight and intestinal ailments. All in all, a great anniversary weekend, as Megan and I celebrated our fifth and George and Laura celebrated their third. Some human fun below:

Reloading the Judge

George and Laura, the trusty Mule in the background

Megan at the blind known on the ranch as the Playboy Mansion. Easily the most comfortable blind I've ever been in.

George invites some friends to dinner.

Some enormous Pere David deer I watched from the front porch this morning:

Dogs on the Ranch

As much fun as we had, I'm fairly sure Harper and Lady enjoyed themselves more. With open spaces, a muddy stock tank, and deer to chase, they never ran short on entertainment. In fact, I am pretty sure labs and golden retrievers are bred with places like the Double D in mind.

Having witnessed Harper's adventures in Red River and in Brenham, we expected a certain degree of mischief. However, new levels of mischief were achieved.

As it turns out, a ranch that specializes in professional hunts produces a fair amount of exotic bones, skulls, hides, and other odds and ends. These left-over bits provide immediate interest to vultures but long term interest to certain dogs hardwired to find things and bring them back to their owners. By time we left, we had retrieved 15 such items from our beloved retriever. A few examples below:

Last night, after a long day of hunting and deer cleaning, George and I contemplated the fire pit, which would soon provide us with delicious axis deer filets to join the mashed potatoes and quinoa salad Megan and Laura had prepared. Enjoying a cold beer and warm fire, I briefly forgot to check up on my pup. After a while, I heard a low growl coming from some nearby scrub. I recognized the growl as Harper's and my heart sunk--I was convinced he'd come across some wild hogs. I expected him to be gouged at any moment, and my nearest firearm, the Judge, was loaded with 7 1/2 birdshot . . . not enough shot to even mildly annoy a hog. George ran to the Mule and swung the headlights around in just enough time to spot a skunk. But by then, we were too late.

My fragrant friend came running back towards us, so proud of himself for acquiring yet another layer of exquisite wild scent (layered over perfume de stock tank). I assessed our options and settled on tying him up until morning.

Unfortunately we had no tomato juice, but I had spotted some unique soap in the shower. Designed to take the human scent away from deer hunting humans, Scent Killer seemed promising. Megan read the bottle and discovered it actually breaks down proteins. Between that and our alternative--a half bottle of Ragu, which was as close as we could come to tomato juice--I went with Scent Killer.

The washing process was brutal. Harper squirmed, and the scent was overwhelming. Fortunately, the soap worked, and we were able to drive back to Dallas with a skunk-free dog . . . a dog who is now taking the longest nap of all time.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Fox and the Bird

Live in the Dallas Arts District on a gorgeous day. Any band with a guitar, uke, banjo, and mandolin has to be great. These folks are particularly good. I predict a bright future.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Red River

This is what happens when Harper turns a 6 mile hike into a 20 mile run. Sleep well, pup. We are headed to the Motherload.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Red River

Two days of swimming in rivers and chasing deer have left this guy pretty tired. Five more to go, Harper. Better rest up.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Morning harvest

Spicy food for spicy weather. Also check out one of Megan's new mugs. Her work just gets better and better.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Belize: Heading Home

I find myself with a couple of free hours in the Belize City airport before I head back to the real world. Like everything in Belize, the airport has its own laid back qualities. No lines. Just six gates. And, at Jet's Bar, perhaps the best rum punch around. Not a bad place to begin the arduous process of adjusting my mind for the return.

My return trip caps off six awesome days in Placencia with Megan's family. I hope to get pictures up soon, but the highlights included a trip to the Monkey River, where we found ourselves surrounded by trees bearing screaming howler monkeys. As impressive as the howlers were the many crocodiles we spotted up and down the river. Yesterday we took a snorkel trip to Laughing Bird Caye, a small strip of beach surrounded by gorgeous reefs teeming with fish.

Perhaps the best part of the trip was the food. The food quality was greatly improved at every meal by the availability of Marie Sharp's hot sauces. The company is apparently a national treasure, and I am convinced that Marie Sharp should receive a Nobel nomination for her contribution to the science of salsa. Her habanero sauces turned the Belizean staple of chicken, beans, and rice into some of the best food around. Our own culinary experiments turned out delicious (with the prize going to Megan for a mango salsa she added to chicken marinaded in Belizean spice rub . . . another amazing product), but my trip was capped off with a meal cooked by Natasha, manager of Los Porticos Villas. She steamed grouper on the grill, and I can't remember better tasting fish. Of course, the One Barrel rum was a great accompaniment to every meal.

Megan and the crew get a few more days down here. I'm told they will be taking a sunset sailing trip this evening before enjoying the first day of lobster season. I'm a bit jealous.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Made it to Belize

From the front porch. I think we could get used to this.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Belize in 30 Hours

Not that I am counting or anything, but Megan and I will be in Belize in about 30 hours. We are joining Megan's family for some beachy delight in celebration of her brother's high school graduation (and not just graduation, he closed it all out with a truly stellar academic performance).

Our destination is Placencia, which is apparently a small community where most everything is accessible by bicycle. The plans include snorkeling, sitting on a beach, seeing monkeys, sitting on a beach, tropical cocktails, and sitting on a beach. I'm a bit excited.

We have some new, high tech gizmos that should allow us to update the blog occasionally with photos and stories. For now, an epically long day of work ahead to try to make this break happen.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Asian Cajun

Just fulfilled a two-year-old wish to eat at Asian Cajun, an icehouse on highway 105 between Brenham and Navasota. The name is descriptive--a nod to the unique menu. I sampled pork dumplings, Asian fried shrimp, crawfish etouffe, and fried crawfish. All delicious. Hopefully the first of many visits.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Ecuador: Quick Update

I got a call from Megan this evening through some sort of Google-based phone program. Despite the horrible connection, I was able to learn that she arrived in Quito safely, is having a great time, is living with a family, plans to visit the markets tomorrow, and has not yet eaten guinea pig.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Off to Ecuador

Megan began an epic journey very, very early this morning. For her first spring break on the faculty side of things, Megan was asked to be the faculty sponsor for a service-learning trip to Quito, Ecuador. Once in Ecuador, Megan and the 14 students on the trip will volunteer with an excellent organization called Ubelong. Anyone interested in following Megan's trip--or any of the other SMU service programs--can visit the SMU Adventures Blog (note: Knapp Adventure Blog predates the SMU Adventures Blog . . . I'm sure our lawyers will work out the rights at some point).

So far, the getting to Ecuador part has been the main adventure. To save limited funds, Megan and the student travelers were forced into an arduous journey. They gathered at our house for pizza and hilariously bad 70s movies dubbed in Spanish before leaving by car for Houston just before 2 AM. Of course, the hour of 2 AM did not exist last night, so they arrived in Houston shortly after 6 this morning. They are now en route to Miami for a refreshing six-hour layover before flying to Quito. Harper (world's best dog) and I are still recovering from the late night with the students, so I cannot imagine how tired they are. Fortunately, they will have some great sleep in the Andes fairly soon.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Icy Austin

Knowing I had a rehearsal dinner in Austin tonight, I came down last night before the I-35 corridor turned into an ice rink. The bridges out of Dallas were frozen, hit heavy snow from Temple to Georgetown, and reached Austin just as the light mist began falling.

The news this morning says this is the most snow since February 14, 2004, a night I remember as perhaps the best snowball fight in modern Southwestern University history.

No snowball fights for me today though. For now, I will enjoy the view and wait for the sun to show up.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Snow day in Dallas

Harper, our fragile little Golden Retriever, is a huge fan of the snow. We discovered this about a year ago, but we're thrilled for another rare opportunity to watch him go completely nuts in the white stuff. We have a pot of black beans with green chile and chorizo on the stove, so we're settled in for a great snow day.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Feliz cumpleanos

Dallas skyline from the Bar Belmont as we celebrate Megan's birthday. Great evening for a patio!

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Way Down South: Torres del Paine and Estancia Cerro Guido

I am finally ready to start posting photos. I thought I'd start south and work north. Our southernmost point was Torres del Paine National Park in Chile. During our brief visit, we stayed at a massive ranch called Estancia Cerro Guido. The ranch itself was beautiful with stunning views of the landscape (including some amazing cloud formations). The hiking pictures come from a trail near Salta Grande within the national park.

At Cerro Guido, Megan and I got the chance to see how lamb asado was prepared from beginning to delicious end. First, the lamb is "crucified," or placed on a large metal rod. The rod is then leaned next to a fire so the lamb can slow cook over a period of four or five hours. The only seasoning is a light rub of salt, an epic load of smoke, and the herbal seasoning of the grasses the lamb ate.

We hiked up a hill above the restaurant at Cerro Guido to take in the views.

The black and white shot is of the front porch of the restaurant (and, oddly enough, matches a similar picture on the Cerro Guido website--an inviting view for others too apparently). The food and service was outstanding. Best pisco sour I tasted during my time in Patagonia. The picture with the horses was taken from our breakfast table.

After leaving Cerro Guido. We headed into the national park.

Some nourishment for the road back to Argentina . . .

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Leaving Buenos Aires

We are now at the airport waiting another hour or so to board the flight home. Unlike previous trips (Africa, for example) we are not quite ready to go. Our stay here has been wonderful, but we reluctantly head back to reality. A few thoughts as we leave.

Fireworks. We assumed we would not see any on new years. During dinner, we heard of a show from a nearby plaza, so we decided we would run back to our hotel to watch the show from the roof terrace. As it turns out, nearly everyone launches fireworks, and our rooftop terrace quickly became the center of a multicolored war zone. Great fun.

Steak. We ate lots of it, and it was cheap and delicious. Ate two filets yesterday at $7 and $12 respectively, each at or over eight ounces and each very delicious. A meat eater's paradise.

Flushers. Toilets here are far from uniform, and finding where to flush was often a puzzle.

Markets. There were craft markets, antique markets, and nearly anything anyone could need or want is bought and sold in streets and plazas. Today we went to a massive antique market in a public square.

Walking. Great city for walking. We wandered yesterday with Erin and Martin. Left from the architectural wonders of the Ricoleta Cemetery and wandered through gorgeous avenues and beautiful parks as well as along the Dakar rally course. Great hosts for a beautiful trek.

Once we return we will sort through our nearly 2000 pictures and post the best online as we are able. For now 11 hours on a plane, taxi to our house, and then I head to the office before an afternoon court hearing. The vacation is now over.

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