The Great CT - Community Thread


Even my henchmen think I'm crazy.
Austin, day 1

- I had never flown commercially before. The thought of doing 575 mph while you're 7 miles in the sky in a tube does not comfort me. I hate heights.
- I drank 2 Wild Turkeys to stay somewhat level. Takeoff is the worst part, but I never got to a point of enjoying it.
- Austin probably isn't what your mind's eye conjures. There is a growing section, not so much naturally connected to downtown, but sewn on, that houses "new" Austin. It's an uncanny valley sort of thing. I knew I was in Texas, but I could have been in Washington or New York.
- Alex tells me this is a sort of real estate developer dream. They're crafting a new town alongside the old one.
- There are tap rooms that basically exist as a brag. "Yes, we have 100 beers on tap." It's like Spinal Tap, with hops.
- Alex and his brother are amazingly gracious hosts. I'm here for a motorcycle race, but this feels less like a vacation, and more like an overdue reconnecting.
- I felt oddly like I was still on the east coast. But day two showed me the real Texas.


"A nice guy, but looks like a f'n Jedi!"
I don't post much about my life here (I will soon), but right now all I'm saying is @EvilTw1n is visiting me and bois and girls, good times will be had. Ramen will be slurped. Brisket will be savored. Burgers will be demolished. Tacos will be held properly, with the index and ring fingers on one side, and the thumb in the other.
Y'all should make a trip out to Houston this weekend.


Even my henchmen think I'm crazy.
Austin, day 2

- This was pilgrimage day.
- There are serpentine concrete monoliths surrounding Austin. These are the road system, whose job isn't to separate old from new, but might as well be.
- The topography of Texas finally shows up past the overpasses. It. Is. Flat. I'm an east coaster; it's kinda disconcerting to see the land stretch on forever, unbroken by hills.
- It turns out my idea of Austin was really my idea of Lockhart. It is, depending on who you talk to, the beating heart of Texas barbecue.
- Black's Barbecue in Lockhart is special. I have eaten a lot of barbecue, but nothing else like this. You know that flavor you get from the char/bark? Imagine an entire slab of brisket that tastes like that the whole way through.
- The drive back was low key, save for one iffy traffic light (seriously, why put traffic lights on a 70 mph highway?), and the barbecue hitting my friend and travel companion Brian hard. A barbecue coma exists, friends.
- To decompress back at the apartment, I played Dark Souls on Alex's honking big projector. Beat the gargoyles on my second try.
- The end of the day was a trip downtown to actual Austin, to see a band at Antone's, the legendary music bar.
- Before getting there, we hit a mezcal bar. Which happened to have the best tacos I've ever eaten.
- Antone's is half hole-in-the-wall dive bar, half respectable. The music was exceptional: a quartet playing a sparse samba-folk music with extraordinary harmonies, then a larger Latin-jazz band.
- Stupidly, after a pair of mezcal cocktails, and a pair of beers at Antone's, I thought I'd cap the night with an Old Fashioned. It was the stiffest, most potent drink I've had in a long time.
- That drunk pushed me into two or three other bars (although my stumbling kept us out of one), where I stuck to water. This drunk lasted through the bus ride home. And through my sleep. But fuck it, man, I got to go to Antone's.


Even my henchmen think I'm crazy.
Austin, day 3

- A.K.A. "the hangover day"
- That Old Fashioned didn't wreck me entirely, but it changed my plans. I could have otherwise gotten up to do something, even go to work if I had to. But listen to loud motorcycles in the Austin sun? Nope. Had to sit out the practice sessions.
- Instead, Alex introduced me to Torchy's tacos, and they make perhaps the greatest hangover food of all time: Trailer Park Hillbilly style. And I quote:

Fried chicken, chorizo, chopped bacon, green chilies, green chile queso, shredded cheese, pico de gallo, and poblano ranch on the side. Served on a flour tortilla.

- You want this, my friends. You need this.
- This led to a long conversation between how much "authentic" food counts. The best traditions will live on (I had a fantastic, more traditional pulled-pork taco at Torchy's, too), but places like this make new traditions.
- Austin has a couple of cool arcades. We went to one that was a neat mix of old and new, from wifreframe classics to Nintendo apparently holding out on us during the Wii U years (there was a new Cruis'n game we never heard about?).
- Met up with my buddy BP, who did make it to the practice sessions. He was a little sunburnt, and literally turned his shoe insoles into ragged pieces of detritus. We went to Lucy's for fried chicken. Like a moron, I got a smoked chicken sandwich, which was merely OK. BP got the fried chicken, which was awesome.
- Night cap with 'Lex at a pub. I couldn't dehydrate much, given that I'd be in the sun very soon.


Even my henchmen think I'm crazy.
Austin, day 4

- So that sun? It didn't show up that morning. After scrambling to get into Circuit of the Americas (I forgot my printed ticket, then remembered it was emailed, too), BP and I walked into a British track. Overcast, cold, and just nasty. And then the clouds opened up, we got semi-soaked, and morning practice was canceled.
- Thankfully, the storm passed. There would be no practice racing sessions, though: the riders had to go straight into qualifying. This sucked for the Moto 3 riders, who had to go out when the track was still wet. I saw a dude crash and skid into the first turn.
- Premier class MotoGP was next, with a much more dry track surface, and much faster bikes. Marc Marquez is a madman. He hit the brakes so late into turn one that I thought he was going straight into the wall.
- Marquez qualified first, but ye olde legend, Valentino Rossi, qualified second. I came to watch these two duke it out, and it looks like I won't be disappointed.
- During qualifying, the sun got ever more punishing. I said eff it, time to buy a hat. Alas, too late. Some damage had already been done. Don't mess around with the sun down here.
- After Moto2 qualifying, and half of a Moto Superbike race, we called it a day.
- Back at Lex's place, I chilled for a few. He had me play Monster Hunter World for a few minutes, and damnit man, why does it have to be this good? It really is a great refinement that still feels like MonHun.
- The weather had gotten damn windy, and u unseasonably cold, to match. A night to stay in? Nah, a night for another pilgrimage.
- Alex had talked up Ramen Tatsu-ya for years. We drove down there and were met with an hour-and-a-half line. Or, it would have been, if the hipsters didn't bail in front of us. Too cold? Not our fault you didn't come prepared.
- We met two folks in line, Anna and Nick. Nice enough, but they also sat with us. Again, nice people...but talky.
- I ordered some pork dumplings, which turned out to be unnecessary. The Ramen portions here are more than generous.
- Main event: Tonkotsu Sho-Yu. Essentially pork bone broth and pork belly. The first few bites honestly weren't fantastic. The noodles hadn't had time to loosen up and soak in that broth.
- By mid-bowl, it was pretty much perfect. The broth is utterly insane. When you think of Ramen, you think of noodles, but that ain't the point of this dish. It's all about the broth, and it is a bowl of heaven.
- The end of the bowl? Ramen past the point of reason. So much intense umami that I nearly broke into a sweat. It put me into a food coma. The good kind. Alex talked up this Ramen for like 5 years, and it delivered.
- No night cap, just watched Alex put on a show in a few rounds of Smash.


Even my henchmen think I'm crazy.
Austin, day 5

- Race day, bitches.
- Getting through all of the rain and wind made today pretty much perfect for racing.
- I missed a good deal of Moto3, because BP and I were trying to find a good spot to sit. I saw pretty much all of Moto2, which had some great racing.
- Settled on a spot with a chicane after the front straight, which had a view of the back straight in the distance, and a large screen pretty close by to see the rest of the race. It was a mix of being there and watching on TV.
- Although the temperature was perfect, the sun here is still a bastard. I ended up putting my coat over my head to keep my neck from baking.
- MotoGP start is a good one. Rossi keeps second and is on Marquez's tail. Remains there for the first three laps.
- Then Marquez decided to push really hard, really early. In the next couple of laps he starts adding about half a second each lap. The gap gets up to 4 seconds, and it looks like this will be a walk in the park for Marquez. But...
- He utterly cooked his front tire by riding so hard. Marquez backs off to cool it down, but low-side crashes. Out of the race.
- My boy Valentino takes the lead, and holds it for the next several laps. The crowd has gone full-blown apeshit. Everyone wants to see Rossi finally win here.
- Alex Rins, though, is having himself a day. He and Vale put like 8 seconds (a lifetime in racing) between themselves and the rest of the field.
- Rins takes first from Rossi.
- Rossi passes him on a short straight, but Rins takes it back in the next corner.
- Rossi freaking divebombs an inside corner to take back first.
- Rins cuts back outside to take first. Freaking great racing.
- Rins puts a few tenths on Rossi, up to about 1.5 seconds, and it looks like this is over. But...
- Rossi blitzes the next-to-final two laps. The gap is down to less than a second.
- Vale reels in Rins, but not quite enough. The race ends with Rossi back 0.4 seconds.
- Still, second place, bitches! Me and BP drink a beer in the shade. We got to see the legend race in-person, and it was freaking great.
- Back at the apartment, me and Lex go get some tacos. I will post the spread later, but holy hell, these things were top notch.
- This is the part where we have to point out this food is genuinely gourmet level. If this were a French restaurant, we would have paid and an arm and a leg. But because it's a Mexican restaurant, these amazing tacos with their homemade tortillas are $4 each, tops. Food this good being sold this cheaply is almost an insult to the cooks.
- Night cap? Local Monster Hunter. Me and 'Lex get through HR10. It was awesome, but honestly? Not that much different from playing online. Still glad to play it as it is done in the mother country, though.


Even my henchmen think I'm crazy.
[Man, being back at work sucks. All the days run together. "Make that post tomorrow" becomes "oh, it's the end of the week."]

Austin, day 6

- Last day in Austin.
- This was the day when "Keep Austin weird" got somewhat weird. This was the day of seeing the Austin that isn't in travel brochures.
- My buddy BP didn't get a chance to experience Austin downtown, really, so I thought Alex and I would take him there for some tourist views, at least.
- Had lunch at a joint where "1/3-pound" burger really meant "1/2-pound burger." Beef was great, cooked well. Just needed less of it; it was sort of eating a ball of meat.
- From there, decided to hoof it to look at the state capitol building, which is truly beautiful. But why the hell did they build the heart of downtown on the only hill in the town?
- OK, so somewhere between toursiting and lunching, we walked past a dude that was completely out of it. Semi-conscious, splayed out on the sidewalk. His shoulder and arm were in the road.
- I was pretty close to calling the cops. The last time I saw a dude with this look in their eyes, they were on fucking PCP. Alex tried to help drag him out of the road, and I almost tried to stop him, because I was worried this guy might bite him or some shit.
- Didn't call the cops, because there was a cadre of homeless folks chilling on a sidewalk behind him, and I thought it would be pretty shitty of me to ruin their day; the sun is punishing and they were in the shade.
- Someone ended up calling the cops, anyway. He wasn't there when we got back.
- About 5 blocks away, there is a solid city block that is a camp of the less fortunate. I thought "well, it does seem like more than back home, but it's a much bigger place, and warmer year round." But then I considered the folks I saw dotted here and there. And the number of people who were behind PCP dude. And then I saw this from a fairly renowned motorcycle journalist who has lived in London (which is bigger than NYC, and not far off from Mexico City) for many years.
- So I read up and, yeah, this is something that is bad and may be accelerating. I hope Austin figures something out. It may not be pleasant for the neckbeard hipsters and yuppie gentrifiers to discuss, but this is part of the city now. They have to figure out how to do something to help these people. Even in April, the angle of the sun is harsh. It can be dangerous out there. You're less than 1/8 the population of London with more land, guys. Do something.
- Sobering side of Austin complete, I had to say bye to 'Lex, which sucked. Life is strange. You never know how long it'll be before you see someone again.
- The plane ride was a 2-hopper, with a layover in Dallas. Good side? Holy shit, the TSA agents are so much nicer here! One of the dudes chatted me up about my 8bitdo controller, since he saw it go through the x-ray.
- Bad side? There was a Whataburger at the Dallas Airport. After the quality food I'd been eating, it was like my stomach was utterly disappointed in me. Also, I had to actually be in Dallas for 2 hours. Fuck Dallas.
- I was almost used to flying by the time I touched down back near home. I used to hate the mere idea of flying, but now I can say I hate the act of flying, too. It isn't fun. It's doable, though.
- My ears refused to pop on the descent. Great.
- Ended up getting about 3 hours of sleep, then had to go to work.


So. That was that. Takeaways?

1) Alex and his brother are stupendous and gracious hosts.
2) You may go hard, Austin, but I was technically too drunk for you on my second night. Get on my level.
3) I do like the place. It has a distinct feel. I'm an east coaster, and I need things to be more dense, but I'd like to visit again one day.
4) The tacos and barbecue lived up to the hype. Ramen exceeded it.
5) If/when I get back, it may not be for another race at COTA. It was gnawing at me in the back of my mind, "I could have seen Rossi actually win one...he had that." But then I read that all of the riders were scared to death of the bumpiness of the track. Sure enough, I watch the playback on TV, and you don't see the suspension on the bikes moving that much from far away. But zoomed in on a TV? The track is in pretty bad shape, and I have no idea how these guys did it. The top speed of the week was 215.4 mph. Utterly mind boggling.


Alright CT. For god's sake, talk about other things.