Benjamin Stahl

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Day 80

Posted by Benjamin Stahl on March 19, 2016 at 12:00 AM Comments comments (0)

 

After a good night of sleep we got up and made some coffee and had breakfast. We then played outside with the two oldest boys while Dave and Alicia prepared for their family trip to Disney World. Eventually it was time for them to head to the airport and for us to venture over to stay with Sarah and Paul. We said our goodbyes and thanked Dave and Alicia for such amazing and generous hospitality. We then drove over to the temporary apartment that Paul, Sarah, and their kids are staying in while they wait to move into their new home. They graciously welcomed us and we got to meet their kids after they woke up from napping. It was great to see everyone and we spent a few hours visiting before Dar and I went out for the evening. Our plan for the night was to go to a famous Nashville music venue called the Bluebird Cafe. We had no idea of how big a deal this place was until we arrived about two hours before the music started, thinking we'd beat the line if there even was one. By the time we got there, there was a huge line. We were informed that we probably wouldn't get in, but that there was a small chance if we waited. We decided we would wait for a bit to see how things looked, and to see if we might get a chance to go in. Long story short, we waited the full two hours and were fortunate enough to get in. We were the last people in line that did, everyone else behind us didn't and could either wait for a later show or try another night. We fealt very lucky to get in, and in hindsight I'm so glad we got to go. The music was amazing. I had no idea of what to expect, but it was four songwriters who took turns performing their songs. What we didn't realize until we started listening is that some of these songwriters had written big time hits for country music stars like Tim McGraw, and many others. It was amazing to listen to these artists in such an intimate setting, and if I ever have the chance I would love to go again.After the music ended, we headed back to Sarah and Paul's. We arrived and found them and the kids still awake so we all hung out for a while. It was a great time, and I loved being about to catch up a lot with Paul and Sarah.

Day 79

Posted by Benjamin Stahl on March 18, 2016 at 12:00 AM Comments comments (0)

Our morning ritual was quite similar to the day before; coffee, breakfast, and then out to do stuff in Nashville. Our acitivity for the day was the Country Music Hall of Fame. On the way we stopped for gas, and I must say I was outraged at the price.Dar washing the windshield did help a little though. We had a great time at the Hall of Fame. Though it was a little spendy, the exhibits were cool and it was awesome to see so many parts of musical history. The architecture and layout of the building was also very nice.After the museum we met Dave, Alicia, and their boys for dinner at a burger place near their home. We had a great time there; the food was really good, and it was great to visit with Dave and Alicia and play with the kids. After dinner, we all met back at the house and hung out for a while. Eventually, Dar and I went down and called it a night. Another great day in Nashville.

Day 78

Posted by Benjamin Stahl on March 17, 2016 at 12:00 AM Comments comments (0)

We woke up well rested and happy. We made use of the coffee maker in our kitchen before heading upstairs to grab some breakfast from the main kitchen. We enjoyed seeing David, Alicia, and two of their sons while there. Then we went into town, with our first stop being at the only full size replica of the Parthenon in the world. It is part of a beautiful city park in Nashville, and pretty amazing to behold in person.After the park, we drove downtown and parked so we could walk around.When we were done walking around we ran a couple errands and then went to meet up with Dave, Alicia, and Sarah at an Irish pub to celebrate St. Patrick's day. We had a great time hanging with them and shouting over the loud music.Afterwards, Dar and I grabbed a bite to eat at an Indian restaurant and then went back to Dave and Alicia's house. Shortly after getting there we retired down to our apartment and watched some Breaking Bad before calling it a night.

Day 77

Posted by Benjamin Stahl on March 16, 2016 at 12:00 AM Comments comments (0)

After waking up, we packed and left the apartment. We grabbed a quick bite to eat at IHOP, and then went to the National Civil Rights Museum at the Lorraine Motel (where MLK was assasinated). If we'd had another day in Memphis, we would have gone back because the museum was so well done and we didn't have enough time to see it all. I would highly recommend it to anyone visitng the area, as it is a powerful and eye-opening place.After leaving, we got on the road towards Nashville to stay with my cousin, David and his family. The ride was beautiful, and took us through quite a bit of Tennesse.We arrived at David and Alicia's house at the same time as my cousin, Sarah, who just moved to Nashville with her family. We all went in and visited. I got to meet Dave and Alicia's sons for the first time and then after they went to bed, us adults had dinner together. We were so happy to be with family, and so grateful to Dave and Alicia for offering us a place to stay in their beautiful home during our visit. After dinner, they showed us to their guest apartment. We were blown away by the luxury of our accomodations; easily the nicest and most comfortable place that we've stayed so far. We slept well, and were just so happy where we were.

Day 76

Posted by Benjamin Stahl on March 15, 2016 at 12:00 AM Comments comments (0)

Both Erin and her roommate were up and out of the house at ungodly hours due to their jobs. Once Dar and I got up we made some breakfast and enjoyed the view from their porch.Then we left to go for a little hike that Erin had recommended. We parked by a lake in a state park north of town and then caught the trailhead from there.On the trail, we enjoyed seeing the dense trees and lushness. The recent heavy rains made things pretty muddy as well, but that's just more fun in our books.The last picture above is of a spring, just below the center of the photo one can see the water seeping up from the ground. After finishing our hike, we stopped by the nature center near where we were parked. There, the had a hawk and an owl in cages. It was amazing to see these majestic animals up close, yet also sad that they aren't free to do as they would.After leaving the park, our next destination was to Graceland for a little drive by; had the prices been more reasonable we would have stopped for a tour of Elvis Presley's residence and airplanes, but something like $40 a piece just seemed to steep. Afterwards, we went to downtown Memphis to check out the Gibson factory and shop. It was very cool, and if time had permitted I would have loved to have taken a tour.Next, it was time for some Memphis BBQ. We went to Rendezvous, arguably the most famous BBQ restaurant in Memphis. To say it was good would be an understatement. It was mind-blowingly good, easily the best BBQ I've ever had. We both enjoyed our meals immensely, and by the time we left to go back to the apartment I was stuffed.Back at the apartment, we got into a game of Scrabble with Erin on the deck.It was a great time. We said our goodbyes to Erin and her roommate before going to bed, knowing they'd be up much earlier than us, and then we settled in for bed.

 

Day 75

Posted by Benjamin Stahl on March 14, 2016 at 12:00 AM Comments comments (0)

We woke up and checked out of the hotel quickly in the morning. Our first stop was back to the river where we had gone before to do another walk. One of the sites to see along the river is an old Navy submarine that was in service during WWII. Unfortunately, it wasn't open for tours at the time of our visit, but it was still quite cool to see.After our walk, we hit the road en route to Memphis. The drive was pretty mellow and before long we found ourselves crossing into Tennessee.Keen eyes will pick out the pyramid in the previous picture. Seeing it as we drove into Memphis and knowing that we had some time to kill before meeing up with our friend, Erin, we decided to stop and check it out. It was none other than a Bass Pro Shops 'resort', for lack of a better word. I will let the pictures tell the story for the most part, but I'll just say that this place had it all; ponds stocked with fish, live alligators, restaurants (including one at the very top of the pyramid), a hotel, and of course all the outdoor supplies one could ever want. It was amazing. I want to take a vacation there.Afterwards we went to a little coffee shop near the Mississippi river and hung out for a bit before walking along the river. It was beautiful, and we were also blessed with excellent weather.By the time we were done walking, we drove over to our friend, Erin's house to meet up with her. We caught up with her for a little while and met her roommate, then the four of us went out to dinner. After dinner, we went back to their apartment and hung out for a while drinking wine.Overall, a great day!

Day 74

Posted by Benjamin Stahl on March 13, 2016 at 12:00 AM Comments comments (0)

After waking up in the hotel, we ate some breakfast and then checked out. The rain had let up for a little while so we decided to go for a walk along the river. It was nice to walk along and see the downtown area of Little Rock on the other side as well.Afterwards, we went and got a few groceries and some coffee and then made our way to another hotel. Shortly after checking in, the weather forecast made good on its prediction of heavy rain, leading to thunder and lightning. As early evening crept up, the rain grew heavier and a few tornado warnings were broadcast for our area. Luckily, nothing touched down nearby, but it was a pretty new experience for both of us. Once it got dark out, the rain was accompanied by incredible thunder and lightning. Truly, it was the biggest thunderstorm I have ever experienced; the lightning would arc across the entire sky and the thunder was loud enough to shake the building we were in. Dar and I went outside to a covered area to watch it for a little while, and were both so awed by the intensity of the storm. We spent the rest of the evening relaxing in our hotel room, listening to the storm and looking forward to a clear forecast for the coming days.

Day 73

Posted by Benjamin Stahl on March 12, 2016 at 12:00 AM Comments comments (0)

We woke up and packed up pretty quickly so we could hit the road and then start our hike out to Whitaker Point. The ride to the trailhead was beautiful, and took us on some dirt roads through the country.Eventually we reached the trailhead. After packing up some snacks we embarked on the trail.The hike out was straightforward; first taking us down through the trees, then to a stream-fed waterfall, and then along a ridge with beautiful views. Once we got to the point, we immediately got why its such a big deal. The view from out on the rock was incredible.We decided to hang out on the rock and eat lunch so that we could take in the view for a while.We enjoyed a nice walk back, retracing our steps from before. Once back at the car we hit the road and started making our way towards Little Rock. We arrived in the late afternoon and ran some errands before checking into a hotel for the night. By this point we both were feeling pretty sick of staying in hotels, but with the heavy rain its almost impossible for us to stay dry otherwise. We had a mellow evening in the hotel as the rain poured down.

Day 72

Posted by Benjamin Stahl on March 11, 2016 at 12:00 AM Comments comments (0)

After waking up, we made some food in our hotel room and then checked out. The day was mostly spent traveling to get us into position to visit Whitaker Point the following day. The torrential rains of the last few days made the drive slow going, but rewarding with views of immense green and rain fueled waterfalls.Our only real destination for the day was to Mount Magazine, the highest point in the state of Arkansas. Unfortunately, we found ourselves in thick fog on the way up and at the top, so we weren't able to enjoy the views. However, there was a nice lodge that we were able to hang in and learn about the area.Afterwards, we just continued on to a little hotel that put us fairly close to the Whitaker Point hike. We were very appreciative to my parents who gave us a hotels.com gift certificate a while back; it allowed us to stay in warm, dry places during the rain without worrying too much. We checked into our hotel and had a mellow night, just hanging out and relaxing.

Day 71

Posted by Benjamin Stahl on March 10, 2016 at 12:00 AM Comments comments (0)

We woke up with the rain still coming down heavy. With such a cheap rate for clean, comfortable accomodation, we couldn't resist staying for another day. It was a nice lazy day, lounged away while the rain continued to pour the whole time. Pajama day, 'nuf said.

Day 70

Posted by Benjamin Stahl on March 9, 2016 at 12:00 AM Comments comments (0)

I woke up early in the hotel to go grab a bit of their crappy continental breakfast and then we slept a bit more before checking out. We then drove to the Crater of Diamonds State Park. For those that don't know, it was one of the only places in the world where someone can go to a known place to look for and keep diamonds that they find. On average 2 diamonds are found everyday by visitors to the park.Despite the rain, that grew increasingly intense throughout the day, we had the time of our lives sifting through the mud in our rain gear.By the end of the afternoon the downpour had turned each of the little columns into channels of flowing water. In some places the mud was so soft that our feet would sink through to the ankle. Though we didn't find any diamonds, we did find a ton of cool minerals and generally enjoyed our muddy play day. Once back in the car, we consulted the weather forecast and discovered that the rain was expected to continue through the night again. With that reality in mind, we booked another cheap hotel room on the way to the next place we wanted to see in Arkansas. We drove for about an hour through beautiful, wet country.We got a couple groceries at Wal Mart before checking into our hotel. I must say, for an out the door price of < $50, this was an INSANE value. By the far the cleanest hotel so far on the trip, and with the best service. We settled into our room, did our microwave cooking (ramen+pb+egg+sriracha=yum), and had a great night relaxing and listening to the rain outside.

Day 69

Posted by Benjamin Stahl on March 8, 2016 at 12:00 AM Comments comments (0)

We slept in quite a bit in the campsite, and then got out and made some breakfast and coffee. We took our time, and just enjoyed the outdoors. Eventually we rolled out of camp, heading for the town to check things out. We found ourselves driving up a steep and winding road towards a tower at the top of the hill.As we rode up, a few drops of rain started to the fall. Still, the scenery was beautiful, and the view from the top was even more impressive.Then, we turned around and set our sights upon the tower.From the two floors on the top, we had an impeccable view of our surroundings in every direction.It was quite windy, and we noticed the tower swaying in the wind; I enjoyed it, but it seemed that most of the other people up there were a little uneasy about it. Afterwards, we drove down into the town and I dropped Dar off at one of the bath houses. While she was doing the whole bath ritual, I drove around and explored the area a bit more. While I was cruising around it started to rain pretty heavily, and there was even some thunder and lightning.After picking Dar up and checking the weather, we decided to drive a ways towards our destination for the next day and then stay in a hotel. The roads were wet and rainy, but we took our time and made it to a cheap little hotel that turned out to be much nicer than expected for the price.After checking in we grabbed a bite to eat at a nearby restaurant and then went back to hang at the hotel. All through the night we heard the rain pouring down, and were thankful for our choice to stay in a hotel for the night.

Day 68

Posted by Benjamin Stahl on March 7, 2016 at 12:00 AM Comments comments (0)

After making some breakfast at the truck stop we got back on the road and made our way through Louisiana on the way towards Arkansas. Before leaving the state we stopped at a cool place with a walkway out onto a lake.After our stop we continued on our way, passing into Arkansas and heading for a town and National Park called Hot Springs. After a few hours we pulled into our campsite in Hot Springs. It was beautiful and we quickly made camp and organized things in the car while cooking dinner.After dinner we hung around at our site and chatted with a nice guy who was on an extended climbing trip on his way home. He recommended several cool places for us to visit during our travels. Eventually we crawled into the rig and called it a night. It was a great day, and we were both so happy to be camping.

Day 67

Posted by Benjamin Stahl on March 6, 2016 at 12:00 AM Comments comments (0)

After waking up, we got most of our stuff together and then took one last walk around the neighborhood, stopping at one of the nearby coffee shops for some java and a bite to eat. By the time we got eveything together and hit the road it was after 2. Though we'd miss our comfy place to stay in NO with Jazz, it was nice to back on the open road.Our original goal for the day was to make it up into Mississippi and just find somewhere to camp. What we found after a few failed attempts was the Mississippi has some very weird rules at state parks regarding sleeping in vehicles, that other publicly run campsites were incredibly sketchy, and the no overnight stays are allowed at rest stops in the state. In short, we found our camping prospects to be shitty in Mississippi and neither of us fealt the need to see more of the state, so we just drove to the top of Louisiana (on the way to Arkansas) and found a rest stop for the night.

Days 62 - 66: New Orleans

Posted by Benjamin Stahl on March 5, 2016 at 12:00 AM Comments comments (0)

As soon as we woke up we walked into the Louisiana Welcome Center, drawn by signs indicating that free coffee was inside. When we walked in we were greated warmly by the attendants and shown where the coffee was. While we drank our coffee we walked around and checked out the exhibits they had about the Louisiana plant and animal life. Outdoors, there were metal sculptures of the various animals found in Louisiana.We walked back to the rig with our coffees and made a big breakfast that we then ate at a picnic table nearby. Afterwards we packed up and hit the road, heading towards New Orleans. As we drove through Louisiana, we enjoyed the swampy scenery.After waiting in some brutal traffic, we made it to New Orleans and met up with our dear friend, Jazz at the house she is staying in. She introduced us to her housemates, Jeanne and Leigh who very generously offered us an extra room in their home to stay in during our visit. After settling in, Jazz took us out for a walk to the park to show us some scenery and give us our first introduciton to New Orleans food.The food was incredible. The three of us split jambalaya, gumbo, and red beans and rice, with beignets for dessert. Everything was so good, and different from what we're used to. We then walked back to the house and hung out for a while; I spent a lot of time in an epic massage chair that they had. At night we went to a place called Chickie Wah Wah's not too far from the house for some food and live music.The music and food (barbecue) was really good. We had a great time there and stopped at a little bar just around the corner from the house on the way back for a couple beers. It was a great night, and a good preview of New Orleans.

After a great night of sleep we got up and walked to a coffee shop with Jazz. We sat there for a little bit and then walked back so Jazz could make it to work. Dar and I then drove to the French Quarter to walk around and check everything out. It was awesome; not like any place I've been before, though it reminded me of an odd mix between San Francisco and France (surprise, surprise).It was amazing to sit next the Mississippi river, watching all the activity and marveling at its sheer size. As we walked back to the car, we stumbled upon a scene for NCIS: New Orleans being filmed. Apparently, film crews and actors are a common site in the French Quarter. Once back in the car, we drove to the house and relaxed for a little while until Jazz got home. The three of us then split a bottle of wine and then went out for dinner and drinks at a place called Port of Call. Dar and Jazz got burgers, while I got a pizza. All was good, including the drinks.After finishing up at the restaurant, we headed downtown to see some music. We ended up seeing the Treme Brass Band, and had a great time. It was just the kind of show we were looking for, and the musicians were all really good.After the music we went back to the house and crashed. Our second day in New Orleans was a total success.

The next day we got up and went out to breakfast with Jazz at a little place called The Ruby Slipper.The food was incredible, and we enjoyed a nice lazy breakfast with plenty of coffee to wash it all down. Once back at the house, Jazz had to run off to work so Dar and I hung out for a while and then went for a walk around the neighborhood and park, stopping by the same place we went to on the first day for some red beans and rice.After our walk we went back to the house for a little while to relax. It was very nice to have a place to lay out and relax indoors, truly a rare luxury for us. A few hours later we went back out to Chikie Wah Wah's again for some dinner and to watch music while Jazz worked. We had a great time, feeling so lucky to be able to do what we are doing, and to be in such a beautiful place.Once we got back to the house, we just layed in bed and watched some Breaking Bad before falling asleep. Another great day!

After sleeping in and then getting ready, Dar and I went out for the day. Our first stop was to an old cemetary.It was a very interesting cemetary; we learned that most cemetaries in the area tend to keep caskets in vaults above ground because no matter how deep they bury them, they will get pushed up by the ground over time. We also learned that after a casket has been in the vault for one summer, it will be opened up and the contents pushed down a chute at the back of the vault so that the remains can be with those of of their family members. It was a cool experience to walk along the vaults, each one of which belongs to a family who can use it for generations. Afterwards we walked around the downtown area for a bit before going back to the house and relaxing while we waited for Jazz to return. Once she did, we went out to an African restaurant in the French Quarter. It was incredibly unique, yet delicious and we all enjoyed our meals immensely. Next we walked down to a bar called Pat O'Briens to get our hands on their signature drink, the Hurricane!The drink is just as gnarly as it looks and sounds, but its a NO classic and we loved it. It was also nice to sit outside while enjoying our drinks that consisted of rum with a dash of fruit punch for color. Eventually we made our way back to the house, but not without a pitstop to the bar around the corner from the house for some cheap beer and pool, followed by another pitstop to the gas station near by for some fried chicken and red beans and rice which we all proceeded to eat on Jazz's bed. After that, a little Breaking Bad was all that we needed before calling it a night.

Today (March 4) was Darla's birthday! We got some breakfast and then proceeded to the main event of the day; the National World War II Museum, which we just loved. One of the highlights for both of us was what was marketed as a '4D' film experience, where we watched a film summarizing the key events of WWII in an immersive theater with live props occasionally playing a role. Our seats were also rigged to shake during explosions and what not; all of the elements came together to make it a very exciting experience. We spent most of the day at the museum, until closing time forced us to leave. Once we left, we drove back to the house to link up with Jazz. We spent a little while just hanging and relaxing before heading out for a comedy show at the Joy Theater. It was my first comedy show, and we all had a blast. There were maybe six comics who ranged in age and experience, but who put together a cohesive performance with one leading into the other. After the show we grabbed a late dinner out and then made one of the more important stops of any visit to New Orleans.Yes, its like a 7Eleven except with more flavors and a ton of booze. We walked out with our styrofoam cups full of boozy slushies, happy as could be. We then walked a little ways to a casino. I didn't gamble at all, as the table games were too crowded and the rules not loose enough. I found that the slushy I was drinking just wouldn't quit; there always seemed to be more in my cup. Eventually I finished it, and enjoyed the boozed out sugar rush it delivered. We didn't stay long at the casino, and after a very roundabout Uber ride to the bar around the corner from the house. We enjoyed a few beers before turning it in for the night. 

We woke up and spent a mellow day in town and at the house. It was nice to just take a day to rest and wind down from all the fun of New Orleans. Aside from running a few errands, Dar and I just kept things pretty mellow while Jazz worked. Truly, it was a perfect down day before leaving NO the following day.

Day 61

Posted by Benjamin Stahl on February 28, 2016 at 12:00 AM Comments comments (0)

After waking up in the rest stop, we made some coffee and hit the road. The ride through Eastern Texas treated us with beautiful weather.After putting in some miles we pulled off the interstate and went into a county park to cook some lunch. It was a beautiful place to take a break and have a meal.After eating we packed up and got back on the road. It wasn't long until we crossed over into Louisiana.As soon as we crossed over from Texas we knew that Louisiana was a gambling state because of all the casinos. We held out for a while, but eventually we just had to go check one out. We ended up at the Delta Downs, which is a casino and horse racing track. I soon found out that they didn't have any table games so I contented myself with their free coffee and soda and walked around outdoors while Dar gambled. Having never been to a real race track it was cool to see how its all laid out.After the Casino we continued on our way. We were advised that Lafayette, Louisiana has some of the best BBQ around so we stopped there to give it a try. We stopped at a place called 2Paul's Radically Urban Barbecue, aside from the service which was horrible, the food was delicious. After dinner we hit the road again and stopped at a Louisiana Welcome Center (aka truck stop) to spend the night. We pulled into a nice spot and called it a night.

Day 60

Posted by Benjamin Stahl on February 27, 2016 at 12:00 AM Comments comments (0)

We woke up just in time to pack up and check out of our hotel. After having breakfast tacos at the recruitment event, I knew that Dar had to try the awesomeness that they are so we went out to try a place called Torchy's Tacos. Unfortunately the line was out the door, so we walked a block down the street and found a nice little hole-in-the wall place for breakfast tacos. They were delicious none-the-less, and we walked out full and happy. Next we stopped at a coffee truck on the way back to the car to get some caffeine before heading out of town. There we ran into a few of the people we met at the recruitment event. After chatting for a bit we ordered our drinks (mine was a cold brew float, I'll let the readers figure out what that is) and went on our way. Our next stop was to my cousin, Lisa's house to pick up some mail and visit. We got the mail but they weren't there so we ran a few errands and then returned to say hi to Lisa and her kids. While there we got to meet their new puppy, Apollo, which they had adopted the night before. Though short, we had a nice visit and enjoyed seeing the new puppy. Afterwards we hit the road, and when we saw the state of traffic around downtown Austin we decided to scrap the plans we had and just head out of town. We drove for a while, watching the scenery change and then stopped at a Texas Roadhouse for way too much food. When we left we were both uncomfortably full. A short drive after dinner brought us to a rest stop where we decided to call it a night. We got into bed and watched some Breaking Bad there before falling asleep.

Days 58 & 59: UT Austin Open House

Posted by Benjamin Stahl on February 26, 2016 at 12:00 AM Comments comments (0)

I woke up early for my first official day at the open house for the Astronomy department at UT Austin. My grad student host picked me up and we went to campus for a breakfast with the department. Our meal was breakfast tacos, apparently an Austin classic. They were delicious, and we listened to the department chair speak while we ate. Afterwards I was off to meetings with faculty members, where I got to learn more about their research. The whole group reconvened for a pizza lunch, and then split up again for more individual meetings with faculty. Later in the afternoon I attended a colloquiem and then joined many grad students and prospective students for happy hour at a nearby restaurant. Then I was off to dinner with a few other students and a faculty member; it was nice to be in a smaller group and eat some really delicious food. After dinner we went downtown to check out a few bars and Dar joined us and got to meet some of the people I had been meeting during the day. We had a blast out with the other students and didn't get back to our hotel till late.

I went in a little earlier the second day to meet with a specific professor, and then joined the rest of the prospective students for coffee and pastries during a presentation from several members of the department. Next, we all went on a tour of the campus with a stop at the 3D visualization lab. There, one of the astronomers showed us visualizaitons of some of his simulations; it was very cool. Afterwards we all went out ot lunch at a burger place in town; it was nice to able to meet and chat with some students that i hadn't yet spoken with. Upon getting back to campus I went to a few more meetings with faculty. After finishing up with the meetings I went with two grad students and another prospective student to the Texas Capitol building for a tour. It was quite the building and I learned some interesting things about Texas during the tour.After the tour, the four of us went to a place called the Hope Outdoor Gallery. I think the pictures will be self explanatory.After the Hope Gallery, my grad student host and I went and picked up Dar and then drove to a party for all of the prospective students at a faculty members house in the Austin suburbs. We had a great time there meeting more of the faculty and grad students, and eating and drinking a bunch. When the party was ending we went downtown with some of the grad and prospective students; it was a lot of fun and we got to check out a few bars in a part of town that we hadn't seen yet. Eventually we decided to go back to the hotel and said our goodbyes to all of the people that we had met. We got back late and relaxed a bit before going to bed.

All in all, my experience at the recruitment event was very positive; a good mix of seriousness and fun. I learned a lot about what's going in the department and what the faculty are all about, and I liked it a lot. The grad students seem happy, and to have a good relationship with their superiors. We'll see what my perspective is of the other schools after I visit them, but Austin is certainly an exciting prospect for me.

Day 57

Posted by Benjamin Stahl on February 24, 2016 at 12:00 AM Comments comments (0)

We woke up a bit earlier than usual and grabbed some of the crappy continental breakfast at the hotel before checking out. Our first stop of the day was to meet with a realtor in Austin; given that we may be moving to Austin, we wanted to see what sort of homes might be available at a reasonable price. The realtor was very relaxed and knowledgeable, and showed us three different homes to give us a feel of what different amounts of money can get in Austin right now. I loved checking out the homes and seeing how much more affordable it is in Austin than in California. Afterwards, Dar and I got some BBQ and then parked near downtown to walk along the river.After getting back to the car, we checked into the hotel that UT Austin had put us in for the coming three nights. We relaxed for a little while and then I was picked up by my grad student host to go out to dinner. We went to a BBQ place and met up with a few other grad students and their prospective student visitors. It was nice to meet with everyone and get to hear their stories. After dinner we went to a local place that reminded me quite a bit of Cafe Pergolesi in Santa Cruz. There we participated in their trivia night and drank some beer; it was a good time. Once I got back to the hotel, Dar and I hung for a while before going to bed. It was nice to be back in Austin.

Day 56

Posted by Benjamin Stahl on February 23, 2016 at 12:00 AM Comments comments (0)

After another great night of sleep we got up and made some coffee. We drank our coffee out on the deck with David and Shelia; I must say that I could get used to having my morning coffee with a view like they have.We proceeded to enjoy another day with David and Shelia; she again made us a ton of delicious food and we enjoyed hearing stories from both of them. Eventually it was time for us to hit the road, and we started to say our goodbyes. We would have loved to stay longer, but we had to make it back to Austin for the UT recruitment event I was going to. We absolutely loved our stay with David and Shelia in their beautiful country home.As we drove away we fealt rich with all of the good company we'd shared since the end of our time at Corpus Christi, and also rich because of all the food and coffee that Dave and Shelia sent us off with. We took country roads to the outskirts of Houston, and then got on a highway towards Austin. Eventually we stopped for a quick bite at a place called Whataburger, which I can only conclude is the Southwest's analog to In N Out (except better than In N Out, in my opinion). By the time we got to Austin it was later in the evening, and we just checked in to a hotel and called it a night.


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