Three weeks down, five to go. [How we’re just over a month away from returning to Louisville is beyond me.] We’ve been in Texas for just shy of a month now and we are thoroughly enjoying it. We’re staying in an apartment on Rainey Street right in the heart of downtown. While the apartment building is more “frat house” than we’re used, the location couldn’t be more ideal – we’ve got food trucks and restaurants galore within a block of our apartment, we’re right on Lady Bird Lake (aka the Colorado River), and are a quick 1-2 mile walk from East Austin and South Congress.
The weather has been nothing short of amazing. While the rest of the country has been getting their first snows of the year, we’ve been soaking up the sun and 80 degree days. Working from home certainly has its perks when you can take a meeting in a bathing suit at the rooftop pool! Matt was able to work remotely these last few weeks (sadly he’s back on the road now, in Chicago, no less), which has been great.
The city is so colorful due in no small part to all the street art adorning walls everywhere. Another thing we really love is the abundance of food trucks; Austin might even give Portland a run for its money with how many there are. It’s nice to have no shortage of food options around every turn. We’ve eaten our fair share of TexMex and barbecue washed down with margaritas and beer; there are plenty of breweries and we’re slowly making the rounds. We’ve done lots of “urban hiking” to explore the city, went trail running in Hill Country, and to visit some of Matt’s relatives near Dallas. There’s still so much more to do, see, and eat and we’re going to squeeze in as much as we can in our last month here!
After being months behind on our food and beer calendar, we finally caught up right before we left Minneapolis. October’s beer and food pairing was a bock and pretzel. We’ve enjoyed the more snack type pairings this year over last year’s heavier meals, and we can’t turn down a carb.
For the beer, we went with the tried and true Shiner Bock – hearkening to our impending move to the Lonestar State. The beer is lightly hopped and finishes smooth. A perfect complement to the salty pretzels. We simply chose a highly rated pretzel recipe from Allrecipes.com, and it’s listed below if you’d like to give it a try. The pretzels are best right out of the oven; they will keep for a while but definitely lose that “fresh baked” deliciousness after a day or two.
1 (.25 oz) package active dry yeast [or 2 1/4 t of bulk yeast]
2 T brown sugar
1 1/8 t salt
1 1/2 C warm water
3 C all-purpose flour
1 C bread flour [can just sub all-purpose; in this recipe I used whole wheat because we ran out of all-purpose and it turned out just fine]
2 C warm water
2 T baking soda
2 T butter, melted
Coarse kosher salt
Dissolve the yeast and brown sugar in 1 1/2 C warm water and let stand until frothy (~10 min.). Add salt and flour and knead on a lightly floured surface until dough is smooth and elastic (~8 min.). Place in a greased bowl, turn to coat, and let rise until doubled in size (~1 hour).
Combine 2C of warm water and baking soda in a dish. Once dough has risen, punch down and divide into 12 pieces. Roll each piece into a 3-ft rope, about pencil thin, and twist into a pretzel shape. Dip into the baking soda/water mixture and place on baking sheet. Allow to rise for 20-30 minutes.
Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Bake in preheated oven for 8-10 minutes until golden brown. Brush with melted butter, sprinkle with salt, and enjoy!
Minneapolis came and went, but before we drown ourselves in Tex Mex and finish out the year we want to give it an appropriate send off.
Minneapolis Report Card
Minneapolis was completely unplanned, but turned out to be a really solid experience. We arrived at the end of August when it was still hot and humid and swarming with mosquitoes and left at the end of October when the leaves had mostly fallen from the trees and there was more than a slight chill in the air. Having an actual season change was very welcome and it was even nicer knowing we wouldn’t be sticking around when the temperatures dropped below zero.
We were pleasantly surprised with the food options; coming to the midwest we didn’t have high expectations but we were blown away with the abundance of different food options and happily ate our fair share of food. A favorite of ours was Lotus, which happened to be right across the street from our apartment, but we also enjoyed the Brewer’s Table at Surly and World Street Kitchen (get the Korean rice bowl and thank us later) to name a few. We didn’t partake in as many breweries as we would’ve liked, but Fulton, Dangerous Man, and Sisyphus all had excellent brews – though we’d advise skipping Lakes and Legends unless you’re really into Belgians, which we are not. And if you find yourself in Menomonie, WI Lucette Brewing is worth a stop for some pies and pints.
Food and beer aside, Minneapolis had some top-notch parks which were incredibly accessible. We were able to walk all over the city to the Mississippi River and along the chain of lakes, and we were never further than 1/2 mile of a park. Being around so many natural lakes was so different than any other part of the country and, although she’s hardly a water dog, Snickers loved splashing along the banks and chasing all the migrating geese. We loved not having to drive much, especially coming from Denver where we were always in the car. The biggest drawback for us was having to adjust our expectations in regards to hiking. We sure did miss the mountains.
Would we go back? Probably not unless we were visiting friends/family – it’s just not a “vacation” city. Would we live there? Nope! While we thoroughly enjoyed our time there, we just wouldn’t be able to stomach the winters.
Coming from Oregon and Colorado we knew that we wouldn’t have access to the same level of hiking in Minnesota, but we did our best to find some places that satisfied our need to get outdoors. While we didn’t do nearly as many hikes the last few months, we were able to get our shoes muddy a handful of times.
Theodore Wirth Park
Theodore Wirth Park is located right in downtown Minneapolis. The park has an extensive mountain biking network that can also be utilized for hiking and trail running. During the week the bike traffic is lighter, which made it a great option for getting in some weekly trail runs. We typically ran the back loop, which is a great 5 mile option, but adding in loops from the front portion can easily get the mileage up in double digits.
6.2 mile (10 km) Theodore Wirth Park Trail Running loop Garmin tracks
St. Croix State Park is located about 95 miles north of Minneapolis on the St. Croix River. The drive was much longer than we anticipated, but we enjoyed our day trip north. The park has miles of trails throughout for all fitness levels. We set out to hike the Two Rivers Trail, which goes along the St. Croix and Kettle Rivers. It was overcast and a little rainy that day, so the trail was all but deserted beyond the Kettle River Overlook. The trail was single track and mostly flat so we opted to run it instead. It ended up being an easy 8 miles and afforded great views along the river.
8 mile trail running loop in the St. Croix State Park Garmin Tracks
The Ice Age Trail is located entirely in Wisconsin and runs for more than 1,000 miles along the edge of Wisconsin’s last glacier. The trail runs through more than 30 counties and is primarily used for hiking and backpacking, though some sections are also open for snowmobiling, bicycling, and cross country skiing. The two times we visited Thorp, we took some time to hike a section of this trail. The first time we did a 3 mile out and back hike with Casey and the second time we ran the same 3 mile portion. The trail is heavily wooded and passes many lakes in the few miles we traversed.
3 mile trail running out and back on the Ice Age Trail near Perkinstown, WI
This totally fell off my radar, but on our last weekend in Colorado we got out and hiked South Boulder Peak. We initially set out to hike to Bear Peak, but when we reached the saddle some other hikers told us that South Boulder was less crowded so we changed course.
We started at the Mesa Trailhead just outside of Boulder. The trail winds its way through Shadow Canyon before climbing to the saddle where you can ascend to either Bear or South Boulder Peaks. The first part of the trail was very exposed; with no tree cover the Colorado sun can be relentless. Luckily the bulk of the hike was through a relatively forested area. The trail was quite steep and littered with boulders and pine trees as it wound it’s way up. We did lose the trail a couple of times, but enjoyed scrambling up the boulders and making our own way.
Towards the top, before the saddle, there is a section of fire-scarred trail from a fire that broke out in 2012. That section was strangely eery after coming from the pine forest. The climb to the peak was relatively short – and strenuous – and the views from the top were magnificent.
Once you summit, you are offered 360 degree views of the foothills and Eastern plains. We spent some time resting, taking photos, and trying to corral our mountain pup who loves bounding up rocks and going to edges and giving her humans a heart attack.
We made our way back down the mountain and treated ourselves to some beer and grub from Avery Brewing to celebrate another successful 6 mile hike and cheers to the end of our Colorado adventures (for now).