Mar 08

The Great Country of Texas

I finally had some time to sit down and recap our time in the Great Country of Texas.  It’s a long one with lots of pictures, so enjoy! 

I know there is a lot of joking about Texas being its own country, but after visiting, I totally get it. They are definitely their own entity.  From the “Texas Secession” bumper stickers to the Texas flag EVERYWHERE to “God Bless America” being immediately followed by “And God Bless Texas”, they are unique.  I’ve never heard anyone say “God Bless Michigan” before.


We flew into Texas Wednesday evening and were met by Jeff and Annie, our awesome hosts for the weekend.  After dropping off our bags at their house, we headed to Chachi’s for some Mexican food.  In true Texas fashion, I had my first Shiner Bock and Jennie got a margarita.  We needed something to calm the nerves after a rough flight.  The first leg of our flight from GR to Chicago was the roughest flight I have ever been on.  We were getting tossed around the entire time. Not fun.


Thursday started off with a run around the neighborhood.  Jeff and I had 5 miles scheduled so we just wound around the various streets to log the miles.  Holy crap was it hot and humid! Nothing that I hadn’t run in before during Michigan summers but it certainly was a shock to the system for March.  Thankfully a cool front came through before race day.

The plan was to meet Annie for lunch, but we had some time to kill so we drove around and looked at some of the house for sale in the high rent district.  There was actually one that had an open house so we checked it out. Holy cow! We would have to sell our house just to furnish this house it was so big.  Let’s just say that it was on sale for $125,000 OFF.

After meeting Annie for lunch, the three of us headed off to the rodeo.  Yes, we went to a rodeo.  When in Texas, right?

The rodeo was absolutely crazy.  It encompassed multiple buildings and included a full blown carnival.

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There was meat EVERYWHERE. Turkey legs, ribs, sausage on a stick.  With the upcoming race, we just drooled over it and took in the glorious smells.

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And the fried food… fried cookie dough, fried snickers, fried Oreos, fried cheesecake.  If it exists, Texas will try and deep fry it and put it on a stick.  However, like the meat, we avoided it as to not tempt the digestion gods.

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Of course, when two Ironmen find the treadmill display at the rodeo, we just had to check it out. Shockingly, we seemed to be the only ones interested in them.  They were pretty cool treadmills that were hooked up to TVs for a virtual running environment.

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We had to find the bunny exhibit for Jennie.  They had a couple out of the cages.  They had even more in the cages. Have you ever seen a 20lb bunny?? I have. Everything is bigger in Texas.

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There were lots of incubators as well with chicks in various stages of development – from eggs, to freshly hatched (like the fellow above), to crazy energized babies.  I wish we were allowed to have some chickens. Maybe the city will get their heads out of their asses and overturn the ordinance, but I’m not getting my hopes up.

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We eventually decided to find some food. We ended up getting a Nacolupa (basically an open face taco) and a curly fry loaf.  Actually, we got HALF a curly fry loaf so the full order is double what you see.  It is basically curly fries cooked into a rectangular pan so that it is shaped like a solid mass of fries.  It was delicious!

After finishing up dinner, it was time for the actual rodeo.  We really didn’t know what to expect.  When I think rodeo, I think bull riding.  And while there was some of that, there was a whole lot more; roping, riding, racing and more. 

I have to say my favorite event was the Calf Scramble.  Think of it as musical chairs Texas style.  They basically have 30 kids and 20 or so calves.  The calves are released and the kids have to wrangle them up.  Once the kids wrangle a calf back into the center ring, they get to keep it.  Sure beats winning a gold fish at the carnival!

Coming in at a close second as my favorite event is Mutton Busting.  Unfortunately we were on the opposite side of the arena from the Mutton Busting so we didn’t get any good pictures or video, but this event is basically kids riding sheep.

(Not for the Houston Rodeo, but you get the idea)

A little girl (probably 7 years old) was the winner.  They interviewed her afterwards and asked how she got so good at it.  Her reply, “It’s all about the practice.” How true is that?

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As the rodeo finished up, it wound right into a concert.  Each night of the rodeo (it goes on for 3 weeks) features a different performer.  Tonight’s performer was Lady Antebellum. Jennie knew a couple of their songs, but I only knew one of them – Need You Now.  Even not knowing the songs, it was a great concert.  It was accented by a group of 3 drunk college students in our section who danced throughout the entire performance.  These guys were an absolute riot.  At first we thought they were doing it a mocking sort of fashion, but they actually knew ALL the songs and were singing along.  Some up tight security guard eventually ushered them out because they weren’t sitting in their actual seats – buzz kill.  Even so, after the concert, all sorts of people were walking up to them, shaking their hands, and talking with them.

Before we left the concert, we just had to get picture of both Jeff and I rocking our Hokas at a rodeo.  We were definitely in the minority not wearing cowboy boots.

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On Friday morning, we headed out on another run.  Jeff, Annie and I got in 4 miles while Jennie did some grocery shopping.  Jennie’s training plan actually had a proper taper that didn’t include much race week running unlike the crazy ass plan Jeff and I were following.

After the run, we got cleaned up, grabbed some lunch, and headed to the race expo.  It was a good sized expo with about 40 vendors.  Clif had a nice display as they were the on course nutrition and gel provider.  I liked this because I got to sample what was going to be on the course.  Nothing like waiting until the last minute to figure out my plan.  I decided that the Clif drink would be OK but decided to carry all my own Gu because the Clif gels were way too sweet for my liking.

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The swag for this race was top notch.  All of our stuff came in a nice drawstring bag rather than a plastic bag.  Not that we really need more drawstring bags but at least it is something we can reuse.  We also got nice hats in our packets.  One of my favorite things about this race is how well each event was coordinated.  The marathon was the red event and everything (bibs, bags, accents colors on hat/shirt) were all red. The half marathon was purple and the 5k and relay had their own colors.  It was a great way to make each of the distances seem like their own event.

After the expo, we headed back to the Irvin’s.  Jason was there waiting for us.  This guy is freaking awesome.  Such an awesome personality and I am glad we got to meet him.  He came down to Houston to cheer/spectate/Sherpa for us and then to ride part of the Ironman Texas course on Sunday.

We did dinner at Zios with a whole group of people.  A couple of Jeff and Annie’s friends who were also racing joined us for an early bird dinner.  Yes, we were actually eating while the blue hairs were still arriving.  It is always risky eating at a new place pre race but Jeff and Annie vouched for it and it was perfect.  Delicious food with good friends.  Doesn’t get much better than that.


Saturday was race day.  You can read about that here.

After the race, we didn’t do a whole lot.  We basically vegged out on the couch and watched TV.  Some pizza and beer for lunch and watching The Help was the perfect post race recovery.  We did pry ourselves off the couch long enough to take the pugs for a short walk and to stretch our legs.

For dinner we went to Bill’s Cafe, a little hole in the wall burger joint.  This place was great.  Definitely the kind of place that you have to know the locals to find out about.

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More beer and burgers and fries really hit the spot.

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The funniest part of the night was when Jason (a vegetarian) checked in on Four Square to be told that it was his “first burger joint visit in 11 months.” haha.


Sunday started out with Annie making us some delicious waffles. Jeff had been building these up all week and we were not disappointed.

The entire day was pretty laid back with lots of chilling on the couches and drinking beer.  We did get ourselves off the couch long enough to go to a shopping center to appease the women.  It was nice for Jeff and I just to walk around a bit and work out some of the kinks.  We eventually found our way into a pub called 221B Baker Street (Sherlock Holmes anyone?) while we waited for the women to finish up.

We ended up Sharky’s for lunch and had some nice greasy food.  The absolute best part of Sharky’s was the fact that they had Kona Brewing Co beer on tap!

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I have never been able to find Kona Brewing Co outside of Hawaii so I was geeked (as was Annie).  I couldn’t pass up the opportunity for a large serving of Longboard Lager.

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After lunch we picked up “30 Minutes or Less” from RedBox to watch.  Jennie and I wanted to see this one because the movie was primarily filmed in Grand Rapids.  The pizza shop they used is actually right around the corner from my dad’s house.  While they didn’t really portray Grand Rapids as a glamorous city, it was cool to see some of local landmarks.

The weekend was quickly coming to an end though.  And what a weekend it was.  Nothing like a great race and spending time with some great friends.

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Bright and early Monday morning, Jeff dropped us off at the airport for our flight home.

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I’m absolutely loving the iPad for travel.  Jennie and played Words With Friends and The Game of Life to pass the time.

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And check out the hottie I got seated next to on the plane ;). Always awesome to get seated next to a hottie. You know what I’m talking about don’t you Matt?

A huge thanks goes out to Jeff and Annie for putting us up (and putting up with us) for the weekend.  They are excellent hosts and from what I hear, they are always open for guests – haha.  And thank you again to Jason for making the drive from Dallas to join in no the fun.

Thanks for reading!

Permanent link to this article: http://www.ironmanbythirty.com/2012/03/08/the-great-country-of-texas


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  1. Carolina John

    Yes, Texas should be it’s own country. I didn’t like it at all the one time I went to Austin. But I’ll give them one thing, they do know their way around a steak. Glad you had such a fun trip!
    Carolina John recently posted..Bring the Speed

  2. peter takeda

    sounds like an awesome weekend

    congrats on your PR. next time you’ll get your BQ
    peter takeda recently posted..The M-Dot Tat

  3. Jeff Irvin

    Great recap! Wow, did we pack in a bunch over a short time.

    Those guys dancing at the rodeo were hysterical. Too bad we didn’t have a video when the one kid starting dancing with the very serious looking guy walking up the steps – I was waiting for serious guy to drop geeky dancing kid like a bag of bricks!

    We are back to the rodeo on March 15th – think it might be time to sample some deep fried cheesecake!

    It was great hanging with you and Jennie and we are really looking forward to doing it again in August.

    Also, glad you were able to appreciate the “Texas-ness” of Texas. Some get it, others never will, but one thing we can all agree on is that Texas is unique!
    Jeff Irvin recently posted..I am going to hell …

  4. Matt Oravec

    I am shocked you got this all in one post?!?!

    First off, I would have eaten one of EVERYTHING shown in this blog. Seriously, how did you NOT get a freaking turkey leg?!?! Epic FAIL!

    Man, you guys did it up right. The best part of the post was hearing you and Jeff laughing your asses off at the little kids getting trampled by the calves hahaha and then Jennie in the background sounding sympathetic. Hilarious.

    Glad you guys had a kick ass time down there. Jealous that everyone in the world has met Jason except for me so far… this will change soon up in MAINE… of all places haha.
    Matt Oravec recently posted..Word vomit 🙂

    1. Ironman By Thirty (Kevin)

      I totally forgot one of the best parts of the weekend. Every 5 minutes, Jeff was checking the AccuWeather forecast on his phone and analyzing the dew point, humidity, etc. It totally reminded me of your storm cell analysis during our training ride in Sandusky. The two of you should start a Triathlon Weather Report 🙂

      You are going to love Jason. I just wish Jeff and I could have joined him for his ride on Sunday.

      And like you dancing in a teal polo shirt is the most embarrassing video of you on the Internet…

  5. Matt Oravec

    Oh, and I am a bit pissed off… next time you post video of me singing and dancing in my teal blue polo at a concert, I would appreciate you asking my permission first!!!
    Matt Oravec recently posted..Word vomit 🙂

  6. Viper

    Sounds like a good trip. Great PR, despite just missing BQ. You’re almost there. Cheers!
    Viper recently posted..First Taste of Bare Feet

  7. Jason @ Cook Train Eat Race

    That was a tremendous weekend and you hit everything on the head including Jeff’s weather analysis and updates of 45.9 to 45.3 every 5 on the 5……awesome!

    You didn’t get a pic of the zombie slayer in the bike room though…….

    And I tweeted last night to you guys b/c while sitting on the couch I started laughing at Siri calling him Mr. Ironman…….f’n hilarious.

    Bill’s Cafe – first burger joint in 11 months and probably the first time I have had white bread in years. You forgot to mention the best part of Bill’s……ordering appetizers BY THE PIECE. I’ll have 5 Fried Mushrooms and 4 Fried Pickles. Maybe just 1 Fried Cheese……that is something all restaurants should do.

    Great meeting you and I an pumped for MiTi in August.

    Don’t worry MattyO we will do it up right in Maine and the laughter will never end up there.
    Jason @ Cook Train Eat Race recently posted..Vegan Enchiladas Recipe – 100% From Scratch

    1. Ironman By Thirty (Kevin)

      From now on you are going to have to proof read my posts to make sure I don’t forget anything! haha You remembered all the good stuff that I left out. It was a such a busy and fun filled weekend I could have written a book about it.

  8. lindsay

    is there anything in GR to portray as glamorous? like you said, no one blesses michigan… 😉

    i’m glad you all had a fantastic weekend together. i wish you had taken photos of this “discounted” house you toured. i love that you went in on a house tour haha.
    lindsay recently posted..guess what…….?!?

    1. Ironman By Thirty (Kevin)

      Hey now!!! This coming from the SC girl??? Does this make you the pot or the kettle? haha

      The house was brand new. About 4000sqft with 2 master bedrooms, 2 other bed rooms, an office with domed ceiling, a stadium seating theatre w/ wet bar, and more. It was crazy. I’ll see if I can find a link for it.

  9. Christina

    This sounds like an absolute blast of a weekend. Everyone should get to have this much fun on a regular basis. Can’t believe you don’t know Lady A – fantastic group with great music. What a way to wind up a rodeo!
    Christina recently posted..Kid at Christmas

  10. Morgan

    Looks like a great time was had by all and seriously, are you going through detox now after all that BBQ?!?!?!
    Morgan recently posted..Can I Please Get a Shirt That Fits?!?!

  11. Matthew Smith

    Man, you and I have been so lucky recently with the chicks that we get sat next to on planes. Isn’t it awesome? I took mine home with me, and I bet you did too! 😉

    You guys had a blast! Rodeos are so much fun, even if you just spend a lot of the time laughing at people. That’s so cool that the kids could keep the calf if they wrangled it. And those dancers cracked me up! Thanks for all the videos. They really made this post awesome. I’m really glad you stayed away from all that crap at the fair. Fried Oreos aren’t that great. The cookie dough sounds pretty good, though!

    How are the legs feeling? Are they fully recovered? Did you hurt pretty bad on Sunday? I bet Bailey was pretty excited to see you guys. I’m glad you made it back safely!!!
    Matthew Smith recently posted..Frustration with the Future

    1. Ironman By Thirty (Kevin)

      You are darn right I took mine home with me!

      I’m actually feeling great. I had my fastest marathon recovery yet and was biking on Tuesday and running by Wednesday. Sunday and Monday were pretty brutal though as usual. Jeff and I were hobbling around like a couple of old geezers.

  12. Brent

    I’ve never been to Hawaii, but I’ve only ever seen Kona on tap a few places in NYC and Boston. I’ve never seen it here in Michigan on tap, in bottles, or otherwise.
    Brent recently posted..Sweet Hitch Hiker

  13. Jon

    Wow you guys did a lot! You gonna need a vacation from your vacation now?

    Yes, Jeff and Annie are AWESOME people!

    Texas just looks like a kick ass place to visit and eat and drink Shiner.

    You guys didn’t buy cowboy hats?
    Jon recently posted..Three Things Thursday: F-YEAH!

    1. Ironman By Thirty (Kevin)

      No kidding! I’ve been exhausted all week.

      No cowboy hats or boots. But you are right, Texas is a kick ass place to “VISIT”. haha. I need to find some Shiner in Michigan. Apparently it is available in Michigan, but they don’t say exactly where.

  14. Mandy

    Holy cow!! I am so jealous!! You guys were so busy (which is awesome) and I love all you did.

    Favorite quote “there was meat everywhere”

    What fun!! So much great stuff!
    Mandy recently posted..Breath…

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