Four Days, Nine Miles, and Loads of Texas Fun

So as previously blogged famed football Lou Holtz was one of the many highlights of this week’s trip down South. I’d never been to Texas, and whilst I was down there for a technical conference, I was all the more determined to make the most of it in terms of enjoying the trip. And that I did and then some. Make a lot of friends, had a lot of great food, and hell yes, I got my 9 miles in, under the beaming sun and over the rolling hills of San Antonio’s hill country. You can’t beat that.

I had taken a very early morning flight Sunday so that I could steal some time to take a stroll along the Riverwalk and hit the Alamo. I picked up the rental car promptly and shot straight down 281 downtown. Made a right on Commerce and boom, there I was. So easy to get there. Yes the Riverwalk is a tourist trap, but being it’s my first time down there, dammit I just had to do the area once. And that I did, all whilst chowing down on a sandwich and soaking up the sun.

Kept on strolling…

(Note: Click on the pics to enlarge. There are so many I made thumbnails.)

San Antonio's Riverwalk. 17 Oct 2010.

San Antonio's Riverwalk. 17 Oct 2010.

San Antonio's Riverwalk. 17 Oct 2010.

San Antonio's Riverwalk. 17 Oct 2010.

Yes there were even ducks there.

Ducks on the Riverwalk. 17 Oct 2010.

For that matter, once I was through with the Riverwalk, I strolled across Commerce Street to Alamo Boulevard, where the Alamo was. Yes, with all the touristy shops, it reeked of tourist trapism. Didn’t care though. The sun was beating down mercilessly, so I snapped a few, and went right in.

Alamo, front entrance. 17 Oct 2010.

Alamo, front entrance. 17 Oct 2010.

Alamo, rear entrance. 17 Oct 2010.

Alamo's fountain in the garden. 17 Oct 2010.

And yes, you can tell I haven’t seen a cactus in ages.

Alamo's garden. 17 Oct 2010.

Pretty soon, though, my colleague called me to pick him up from the airport – he had taken a later flight. Some time passed as we got ready for the evening festivities, namely a networking event and dinner at the resort the conference was to take place at. Amongst the many fun activities was the availability of caricaturists, that is artists who draw comically distorted portraits of their human subjects. Here’s what mine did:

Caricature that a local artist drew of me on the first night of networking events. 17 Oct 2010.

The next day, was the conference kickoff. The VP of the main sponsor also happened to be the MC, and in showing off his off-the-wall personality, I just had to take a snap of this one, his “grand” entrance into the main ballroom riding – I am NOT kidding here – a bull. I can’t believe he pulled this off.

Conference sponsor's VP rides in on a bull. Outrageously funny! 18 Oct 2010.

After the opening remarks, Lou Holtz made his mark on the conference and then some with his speech. Having already posted on this, I’ll just defer to my previous post.

Finally, the first full day of conference ended a bit early for me, which allowed me to steal about an hour’s worth of time for running my 6 miles in the Cibolo Canyons. The red, radiant sky, the rolling hills, and the wind at my back in 80 degree weather. Holy cow, I could not have asked for anything better. Pure bliss in every sense of the word.

Chilling during break. 19 Oct 2010.

Best part was meeting up with others from the 1200-strong participant core who also took the extra time to steal some miles. Met another guy from Basking Ridge, NJ, who exchanged running tips with me, and also is an avid fan of running the infamously humid early May NJ Marathon series in Long Branch.

Once I had showered and pulled myself together though, we headed down to a ranch for that evening. It was a 1000+ acre privately owned ranch, the conference organisers somehow paid the ranch owners more than enough dough to not only rent out the place for the evening but have the hotel cooks cook our dinner for us on the ranch. Unbelievable.

Knibbe Ranch. 18 Oct 2010.

More incredible food, hayrides, a rodeo, and several pictures posing with cowboys.

All decked out on a hayride. 18 Oct 2010.

Posing with a cowboy. 18 Oct 2010.

Cowboy on the Knibbe Ranch. 18 Oct 2010.

Concert at Knibbe Ranch. 18 Oct 2010.

Yep, killer food, complete with line dancing and a band playing. Yes, did I mention killer food? I will admit as much food as we all ate, I think the running helped, I still managed somehow to lose three pounds. Christ. That was definitely one element everyone was talking about, the food. There were definitely times I was cringing with the relative lack of vegetarian options during some meals, but I was able to get by with some reasonable substitutions. Of course, being the South, where meat and hearty portions is king, it was quite an adjustment for someone like me.

On Tuesday, they really started to ramp it up. Here’s what I got a whiff of in terms of shots (and the likeliness of my replicating such delicacies…):

Poached egg with shredded sweet potatoes and Hollandaise sauce. 18 Oct 2010.

Mini flan with mango pieces and cream. 19 Oct 2010.

Cutest flan in the world. Oh but the fun didn’t end there, because it only got better with a party in the resort’s back garden. Caught in another 3 miles on the Cibolo plains before I headed back to the resort for yet more networking, food and fun. For dinner, well most of what I captured:

Seabass with lobster risotto. 19 Oct 2010.

Butternut squash ravoli with mushrooms sprinkled with asaigo cheese. 19 Oct 2010.

Hamburger! 19 Oct 2010.

Picnic cake, most of this is frosting! 19 Oct 2010.

Now being the health conscious eater I am, I did not eat any of the cake. Had some flambeau, peaches and cream and some raspberry cheesecake instead. But I still couldn’t help admiring the piece of work the bakers put together.

Other things to do at this afterparty? There was a giant telescope towards the palladium where we could see the stars. And yes, a table with two tattoo artists that gave us temporary airbrush tattoos, which apparently last for about a week, unless you rub them with alcohol.

Now personally, I will NEVER get a permanent tattoo, but as my own colleagues from other regional offices were getting done, I decided to cower in and get a dainty design on my ankle, which mind you, I flashed tonight during my 7 mile run in Philly.

Temporary airbrush tattoo I got for the hell of it. 19 Oct 2010.

Tat's still going strong sans glitter. 20 Oct 2010.

Networking event on the conference's final night. 19 Oct 2010.

And more networking with friends made it all the more fun.

More networking with friends. 19 Oct 2010.

Final night of networking with friends. 19 Oct 2010.

Unfortunately the fun had to end. The host company promised us a YouTube clip of the conference social events in full – if that goes up, I will most certainly link it here.

I didn’t want to leave San Antonio, learnt a lot from the training and the forum, and we had a hell of a time during the networking part. Scary enough, I made loads of friends.

Intrigued by the monorail about Dallas' airport, not seen one like it here in the NE. 20 Oct 2010.

Unfortunately all good things must come to an end, and Wednesday night around 9pm EDT, I landed in Philadelphia. Back to reality I suppose, but no regrets in the least. I’m hoping I will be fortunate to go back to this forum next year, as I had pulled a lot from it both socially and educationally.


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