The 2014 running trip is here, and after months of planning and a lackluster effort to get back into running shape, it’s go time. My last trip occurred in early 2013, so it’s felt like years since I was back on the road doing my running thing. Like past years, I’ve spent the last few months raising money for Phi Delta Theta’s Iron Phi program, and the fundraising effort was a success! Over the next seven days, I have the pleasure of thanking individuals who have made nearly 100 donations to my effort. I’ve raised $3,000+ for this year’s trip (still accepting donations!), and I have a lot of work to do to thank these individuals along the way! But that’s the fun part…
This year’s trip began in Austin, Texas, accompany my wife Tillie to the Iowa State vs. Texas football game. Each year, her office (Iowa State Alumni Association) travels to one away game to host fellow alumni. So after twisting my arm in joining her, I decided that Austin would be my launch city with San Antonio, Houston, New Orleans, Mobile, Pensacola and Baton Rouge to follow. Warm weather!!
So let’s talk about Austin, Texas. There is something simply magical about this city, and it’s no wonder that it is one of the most popular cities in this country. Being yourself (and being proud of your quirks) is a principle that is true to my heart, and Austin facilitates one’s natural tendencies to be who they are and be proud of it. Whether it’s how you live, how you express yourself, what you believe in, or who you want to be, Austin captures this for each individual who steps foot in the city.
After arriving on Friday morning, Tillie and I made our way to the office of the Austin Marathon & Half Marathon. Gina and the kind folks there were gracious enough to equip the two of us with a bit of running gear for our Austin run. Their generosity reflects that of Austin’s people, and wearing their marks was a fun addition to being here. We felt like locals!
Speaking of locals, I had the opportunity to have a few drinks and dinner with a fellow Phi Delt who lives in Austin. The absolute best part about my job is meeting the Fraternity’s members across the world, learning about them, hearing their stories and being inspired by them. Tony Logan is a Phi Delt from the University of Missouri, a long-time Dell employee, a fellow runner and an Iron Phi. This year, Tony has raised $16,500+ for the program and is currently our second ranked fundraiser. As the manager of the program, there’s nothing better than seeing others accept the Iron Phi challenge and use it to both do something great individually and rekindle relationships with those who they met through Phi Delta Theta in the process. Tony embodies this, and it was great to finally meet him. Tony represented Iron Phi on the field a few months back with the Fraternity gave Josh Hamilton of the Los Angeles Angels the Lou Gehrig Memorial Award. It was great to see pics of him on the field!
By the way, if you ever need a great watering hole in downtown Austin, look no further than The Ginger Man. What a place!
Later that evening, I was able to link up with one of my great friends Mario Villa. Mario and I started at Phi Delt at the same time, and he has been a great friend ever since. Mario represents Austin, Texas for me as he is a huge advocate of the city, bleeds UT burnt orange and works on campus. We met at Craft Pride on Rainey Street and later met Tillie and another friend and Iowa Stater Jay Lettow. The Rainey Street district in Austin is amazing. It is comprised of old houses that have been transformed into bars. They are probably the most relaxed bars you’ve ever been to. Back patios, food trucks, great beer, dogs everywhere, music, etc. A little slice of heaven. Here, I thanked my friend and former colleague Keith Wysocki for his donation. Killer recommendation Keith!
The next morning, Tillie and I decided to do the Austin run. I had initially planned to run on Sunday, but with a late night Saturday football game in front of us, running on Saturday was a great decision. We started on South 1st St at the Greetings From Austin mural. As a mural guy, Austin doesn’t disappoint. They. Are. Everywhere. Here, I thanked Neil & Suzanne Alexander, and it was only fitting to start my running thanking them. I met the Alexanders following a donation that they made during my first running trip. I had never met them, but I’m glad that I did. Neil is battling ALS, and when I say battling, I mean punching it in its face. He has become an inspiration for me (and countless others) through the work he is doing with his LiveLikeLou organization. Neil is a major reason behind why I continue the annual run. As a writer, my favorite piece that I’ve ever written was about Neil.
I couldn’t pass posting this fantastic Bill Murray mural.
We ran to the Congress Avenue bridge where we found the bat statue, a tribute to the droves of flying creatures that make the Congress Avenue bridge a great tourist attraction. Thankfully, no bats were present! Here, I thanked my pal Bret Zimmerman, a chapter brother of mine from Iowa State. I’m really proud of Zim as he’s currently living in Shanghai working with the Chinese National volleyball teams as a physical therapist. It’s been great to see his experiences, and it take a lot of guts to pick up shop and move to China for a few years. He gets back fairly often, and he always makes time to visit Ames. My dogs love him, and if you know my dogs, they don’t love many people. My theory is that they’ve seen Bret put his physical therapy to work on their old man, and any grown man who can put their father in those positions deserves a lot of respect.
We then ran to Austin’s famous sixth street, a street that this guy can no longer handle. So rather than taking a picture in front of its establishments that cause trouble, I featured the Driskill, one of Austin’s iconic hotels. It’s a place that I probably won’t ever stay in (based on my budget), but I do have no problem taking advantage of their posh restrooms for mid-run breaks. Here, I thanked Tyler Cronk, another fellow Iowa State Phi Delt. I had the pleasure of running into Tyler last weekend, as he gave my family a lift on a hayride to the Deal Family Orchard. Random encounters are always the best. Tyler has always been gracious in supporting my effort, and he is an absolute class act.
We headed west down sixth street to the Whole Foods flagship store. Austin is home for the Whole Foods headquarters and this store is amazing. While we weren’t in the mood for some delicious food, we did grab some electrolyte infused water (because regular water just isn’t good enough sometimes) and a banana. I took a moment to thank another Iowa State Phi Delt Jason Brannon who has been so gracious to support all three of my running trips. I’m not sure if they have Whole Foods in London (where Jason is living), but knowing his love for being health-conscious, I’m sure he’s a fan!
My next stop was one of my favorites. Graffiti Park is a multi-level graffiti park that allows anybody to showcase their skills to the public. It’s a happening place, always filled with people in awe. Here, I thanked my friends Brad & Lindsay Klein for their donation. I grew up with the two of them in Fort Dodge, Iowa, and they are two of my favorites. Brad had me rolling when he posted this amazing picture from his son this week. I hope to see the Klein family soon!
Graffiti Park also offers one of the best views of Austin from the top. Tillie and I had the opportunity to take it all in. Amazing view!
We then ran to the Texas State Capitol, where I was able to indulge in one of my favorite pastimes, looking into cannons. Here I thanked Riley Smith, a friend from college. Riley and I ran into each other at an airport (not really sure which one now) about a year ago, and it was a pleasant surprise!
This is Riley. You can probably tell why we get along!
There’s no better run than a run with my wife. She is the absolute best, and I have a special stop for her in New Orleans where I’ll be bragging about her much more! We setup the tripod for an awesome picture in front of the Texas State Capitol. Here, we thanked our friends Brad & Mindy Carlson for their donation. Brad was one of my best men in my wedding and is one of my favorite people in the world. Tillie and I were able to visit he and Mindy this past February when they were living in Den Haag, Netherlands. It was amazing to see their home away from home, but it’s even more amazing to have them back in Iowa. Mindy is Cal’s best friend and talks about her often. She brought him bubbles and won his heart.
From the capitol, we found the classic Hi, How Are You mural just off the University of Texas campus. It needs no description. Simply amazing. Here, I thanked my wonderful sister and brother-in-law. As I mention year-after-year on these trips, I’m a lucky guy to have such a great sister. She is a constant reminder of how important it is to stay connected with the people you love. I’m also lucky to have Don as a brother-in-law. I look up to his work ethic and passion for working on (and going all in) on the things that you love. Love you guys.
We made our way over to the University of Texas. UT is a culture, and it’s awesome (I just typed that). The school is like no other, and its people are filled with pride. I always love visiting this beautiful campus. Who wouldn’t want to go to school here? (I just typed that) The tower on campus is a source of pride, and unfortunately, it was lit up in burnt orange following their victory over my Cyclones that evening. Here, I thanked my cousins Matt & Jessi Good. Matt & Jessi are great and have been so supportive of me over the years. I had the opportunity to stay with Matt in New York during my first running trip. Jessi recently sent me a shirt from an ALS effort supporting a young man from their hometown, Ogden, Iowa. Wearing it brings a sense of pride every time I put it on.
We headed to Darrelll K. Royal – Texas Memorial Stadium, where the Longhorns play football. If you’re a fan of college football, the game day experience at Texas is a must. The stadium (as you can tell) is impressive. Here, I thanked Mike & Debbie Purdy. Tillie’s sister Jadee married their son Jason. I get to have dinner with them tomorrow in San Antonio!! I’m sure I’ll get to see more pictures of their new granddaughter (and my new neice!).
The next stop was the LBJ library on campus at UT. Presidential libraries are great, but I was worn out when we made it LBJ! Here I thanked Chris Hill, one of my favorite Phi Delts. There’s certain people in life who can always make you laugh, and Chris does just that. We shared a Coors at the top of the Las Vegas High Roller this summer. It was glorious.
I also thanked my Uncle Tom and Aunt Colleen Good at LBJ. I get to see these two during most Iowa State football games except when Tom is in the fields working to feed the world. One of the best parts of being in Iowa is seeing family on a constant basis. You can’t beat it. You also can’t beat Colleen’s cooking. Delightful! We’re hoping to take Cal over to ride the combine in the near future. We know that he will love it.
After our run, we rented bikes at one of Austin’s many bike share portals and rode back to our car. That evening, we attended the Iowa State game in town. My Cyclones put up a great fight and should have won that game. Ya’ll got lucky Longhorns. Matthew McConaughey and the WWE’s Undertaker were on the sidelines. You just don’t get that in Ames! As usual, the Cyclone crowd showed up in force. Our Athletic Director was even wearing black Levis and cowboy boots which caught me off guard for a bit. Here, I thanked two of my favorite Cyclone fans, my cousins Adam & Lindsey Good. I also get to see them on game days, and Adam and I generally drown our sorrows in adult beverages at halftime. Lindsey helps with the Cheer Squad and generally has the best seat in the house. It’s great to have them in Ames.
Saturday was a long day, and you can tell by my next picture. Tired Steve. Tillie and I did the best we could to sleep that evening as we aren’t used to sleeping much. On Sunday morning, we drove up to Georgetown, Texas to have breakfast at a local treat, the Monument Cafe. One awesome and delicious place! We also toured around Southwestern University a bit. At the restaurant, I thanked my Fort Dodge friend Nicole Ahrens. Nicole has supported my running trip for a few years and made a donation following her Ice Bucket Challenge this summer. I was honored. Thanks Nicole, you’re great!
One of the best things about my time in Austin is where I’m staying tonight. I linked up with Marcie and Meredith through Airbnb, and they were so gracious is hosting me for the evening. Tonight’s stay may just be my most unique of my life as I’m staying in their amazing Airstream trailer in their backyard oasis. You know it’s going to be a great night when this sign welcomes you!
Their backyard is absolutely amazing. Besides the trailer, they have another shed that hosts people, two awesome dogs (below), numerous cats and chickens and even a pot-bellied pig named Shriner! Chatting with the two of them this evening made me realize how great of people they are. Besides the numerous pets and amazing property, they also have five children. Three adopted and two foster children. I believe that fostering kids is one of the most gracious things a person can do in their life. Through hosting people on Airbnb, Marcie was able to leave her job, work on other things and spend time with the kids. They have a 90% fill rate on their property! How amazing is that. They also make a mean toffee (as I nibble on a jar full of it that they welcome people with in the trailer.) Nom, nom, nom.
So this is my Austin oasis for the evening. Doesn’t get much better than this!
A look at Tillie relaxing in the trailer. The decorations are so great!
Another look at the inside of the trailer. I need one for my backyard!
Last but definitely not least, Tillie and I had the opportunity to partake in a fine Austin tradition – chicken shit bingo at Ginny’s Little Longhorn Saloon. As it sounds, you buy a ticket for a square, and the person who has that square following the chicken doing its business wins the prize. Pure genius! Here, I thanked my favorite chicken (Kansas Jayhawk) Dustin Struble. It only made sense. Dustin is a fellow Phi and former colleague. We’ve become great friends over the years, despite his new love for the Jayhawks. I fully admit that I did not make good on a bet that I lost to Dustin. Thankfully, my daughter does not have a KU-themed name. Until next time Austin.