Trippin Out

A Collection of Day Trips: Texas Hill Country

The patio area is a very popular spot at Moontower Saloon. Photo by Courtney Sellers

Ask anyone who knows me where my favorite place on earth is, and they will tell you it’s the Texas Hill Country. There’s nothing like it. Sure, people migrate to Houston for the opportunity, the culture, and the aggressive melting pot that is this diverse city; but they go to the hill country to get away from everything that makes Houston Houston.

A “day trip” to Austin is difficult — it’s easily three hours away from central Houston and traffic is never good going in or out of our fair city or Austin, so just getting there can be a struggle. Generally, I would take I10 to Highway 71, but on this trip we decided to take 290. Additionally, this post serves less as an appeal for you to visit Austin the city (because truly there are thousands of articles that do this very thing), as it does to implore you to go to Moontower Saloon while you’re there.

Moontower Saloon was so unique that we spent several hours on the way home trying to figure out if we’ve ever been to a bar anything like it in Houston. First of all, they’ve completely changed the game by checking your ID BEFORE you even pull into the parking lot. That’s right; they have you pull it out when you are coming in. This is genius — four to five guys’ sole job is to ensure everyone in a car is 21, instead of the bartender or one single bouncer having this responsibility so the flow isn’t interrupted at any point. There isn’t a huge line of people getting their ID checked by a single, apathetic bouncer and it removes the burden from an already busy bartender. I love it.

Once you park you start to realize how utterly immense this bar is, but it isn’t until you’re inside that it actually hits you. Moontower Saloon is humongous. As you walk up, there are people sort of milling about enjoying drinks. A bar inside has the familiar feel. People are playing pool or sitting at tables enjoying pitchers of beer. They’ve got a wide range of domestic, imports and craft beers — I was happy to see several Houston beers on tap! We ordered a pitcher, and started looking for a table to sit at. There were no available tables inside, despite it being enormous, so we ventured to the immense outdoor patio. The patio area is what sets Moontower Saloon apart. There was a folksy band playing acoustic covers of familiar songs. Several large fire pits were occupied by young people chatting. At a large open space with no tables, a group of about 25 people were having a conversation in sign language. “The people watching here is glorious” I thought as we walked around looking for a place to sit. Two food trucks offered tacos or burgers and, shockingly the lines weren’t too long. We ordered burgers, fried pickle spears, and loaded chili/cheese fries and posted up shop at the one remaining picnic table. Despite how busy it was, the vibe at Moontower was still relaxed. No need to shout to hear people, and we could still hear the soft humming of the music.

We stayed at the bar for about three hours and spent probably $40 on pitchers of beer and food together. The cost wasn’t too high that you wouldn’t go back, perfectly on par with what you’d expect for a casual night out. I recommend this bar to anyone visiting Austin!

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The media has mixed feelings about the James Harden trade. Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

James Harden was 100-percent exactly right earlier this week when he said the Houston Rockets were "just not good enough."

How could they be? Not when their moody superstar scorer, who makes about half a million dollars per game, shows up chubby, looking like a kielbasa about to explode in the microwave. Hey, some people eat when they're unhappy, it's a defense mechanism. In Harden's case, the only defense he's exhibited this season. At least he had a good excuse for missing pre-season training camp and alienating his teammates - he was busy partying with Cinnamon and Cherish in Atlanta and Vegas without a mask. Worst of all, he went into the tank his last four games in a Rockets uniform, standing around, arms folded, scoring fewer than 20 points each time, all Rockets losses. Fans in the front row were asking him to move, he was blocking their view of players who cared about winning. James Harden sabotaged his own team, a team that offered him $50 million a year to stay. Something that crazy could only happen in professional sports these days.

There's a saying that drives the American labor movement: "a fair day's wage for a fair day's work." It's the motto of the American Federation of Labor. The National Basketball Players Association is not a member. Harden's sulking on the court, cheating the Rockets and their fans, was unforgivable.

Harden, sitting out games while somehow being on the court, forced the Rockets to trade him - and quick - to Brooklyn. The trade, when you ignore the fine print and unindicted co-conspirators Cleveland and Indiana, sent Harden to Brooklyn in exchange for Caris LeVert (immediately flipped for Victor Oladipo), Jarrett Allen, three first-round draft picks and four swapped first-rounders. It's true, when you trade a superstar, you never get back equal value. The other team wins.

If it makes Rockets fans feel any better, the media in New York already has problems with their new problem child. I should say newest problem child. Kyrie Irving plays for the Nets.

"They (the Nets) gave up everybody! There's nothing left now. I just want to cry, It's awful," weeped WFAN Radio talk host Evan Roberts. For those who don't subscribe to weekly Arbitron ratings reports, WFAN is the most powerful, top-rated sports talk station in the Apple.

"You're leading down the road of doom. Harden and Durant could be gone in a year and a half. I'm not convinced this gives them a better chance to win a title. I'm living a nightmare again. They better freaking win."

Circle March 3 on your Rockets schedule. That's when the Brooklyn Nets, with their Big 3 of Kevin Durant, James Harden and possibly Kyrie Irving visit Toyota Center. I hear talk radio salivating over the record jeers that will cascade over Harden's name, although I'm not buying it. Fans don't think like the media does. I'm thinking that Rockets fans will welcome Harden back - one night only - with cheers.

Toyota Center public address announcer Matt Thomas: "Usually when former Rockets come to town for the first time since leaving, I give them a positive introduction. It's up to the fans how to react."

James Harden spent eight seasons with the Rockets. He is a spectacular player who watched other NBA players engineer trades so they could compete for a title. Harden didn't think the Rockets were good enough, and he's right. So he wanted out. We've all been there, a job we didn't like for a company we didn't like, for a boss we didn't respect. Harden wanting to be traded is understandable. How he went about it was deplorable. He hurt his co-workers.

Houston will make Harden pay for his disrespectful departure. He has an upscale restaurant set to open here. The name of the steakhouse will be "13." Harden's business partners may want to change that number ... before the restaurant's telephone number is disconnected. There are plenty of other restaurants in Houston. Rich people who can afford steakhouse prices hold grudges.

Rockets fans searching for a silver lining say, "We got two decent players and a whole bunch of precious first-round picks" for a malcontent who would rather be anywhere (except maybe Sacramento) than Houston." Yes, a bunch of first-round picks does bode well for the future. Anywhere, except maybe Houston.

Houston's draft war room isn't the most successful operation in the NBA. Over the past decade prior to 2000, under the direction of general manager Daryl Morey, the Rockets made 16 draft picks. Not one of them is still in a Rockets uniform, many of them have sought employment outside of America, some outside of basketball. Among their first-round whiffs: Nikola Mirotic, Terrence Jones, Sam Dekker - all out of the league. Best of all, Royce White, who played three whole games in his NBA career and finished with a scoring average of 0.00 points per game.

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