Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Traveling with Pets-On the road with the 4 Pound Wonder

I'm all packed and ready to go!
I've been thinking lately about the logistics of traveling with a pet. As some of you may know the Dining Companion and I adopted a little dog in the past year. The 4 Pound Wonder has been a wonderful addition to the family and so far she's been a pretty good traveler.

We've taken one multi-state road trip and a few weekends away and she's been great.

A place in the sun
While I've traveled with my pets in the past it's always been more out of need or necessity. The Dining Companion and I had, at one time, three dogs and two cats. During that time we had pet sitters come in and take care of the gang when we hit the road for vacation. Now with just the one little dog we've made the decision to take her with us on our travels.

It does take an extra effort to make this work but in the end we think it's worth it. I have a few tips on making things a little easier when on the road or at your destination.

There is a lot of good info online about traveling with pets. One of the better websites I've found is Bring Fido. There you'll find a list of hotels and restaurants in various cities that are pet friendly. There's also Trips With Pets.
They also have a list of hotels by chain that can accommodate you and your pet. One thing to keep in mind is that most hotels charge a pet fee. This can range anywhere from $75-$150 per stay. Not an insignificant expense but when compared to the cost of a pet sitter or boarding not out of reason in my opinion. Most of the bigger chains have a least one or two properties that are pet friendly. Don't forget to check B&B's and boutique hotels as well. Some of them also welcome pets.

Packing for your pet is no different than packing for yourself. I make a packing list of things that she will need on the road and once we arrive at our destination. This list usually includes the following:

  • Rabies certificate & tag and/or veterinary health certificate (make extra copies)
  • ID tags (best is to have your pet micro-chipped as well)
  • A crate or travel carrier (some place your pet feels safe and can sleep) 
  • Leash and collar or harness (we keep back-ups in the car at all times)
  • Food and water bowls
  • A favorite blanket and toy
  • Favorite food and treats
  • Bags for scooping and wee wee pads 
 Those are the basics. I pack a bag for her when I pack my bag and check things off the list as I go.

The next big test for us will be air travel within the US and at some point, international travel.

One of the biggest unknowns is how our pets will take to travel. Not all of them are cut out for it. A good indicator is how they behave in the car. Are they calm? Do they enjoy the experience? Chances are if your pet is jumpy and nervous in the car they may not be the best travelers. One way to help is to try and make sure all car trips don't end at the vet or the groomer. A trip to the park or another favorite place once in a while may take away some of the anxiety of being in the car.

Air travel will be different of course; it's an anxious time for all of us. It doesn't have to be trying. A comfortable travel carrier with a favorite blanket goes a long way to keep things calm. The important thing to remember is that each airline has it's own set of travel criteria for pets. Check with your airline to insure that you're in compliance with their policies. Most publish these criteria online at their websites. We are lucky in that our dog is small and can travel in the cabin with us. Pets over a certain size must travel in the planes hold. Again, check with your carrier to determine what is required.

A travel health certificate, proof of rabies vaccine and a microchip are usually the minimum things necessary. Some information on international travel can be found here (Pets and International Travel).

Traveling with your pets may not be for everyone but if you think your pet will enjoy being on the road with you give it a try. Maybe a quick trip to grandma's house or a weekend trip to a nearby town. You'll never know how it'll go until you do it. It may turn out to be a fun time for all of you.

I'll revisit this topic from time to time with updates on specific hotels, restaurants and destinations that we have good luck with.

Happy travels to you and your favorite furry companion!

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

The Nature of Things

Most people who know me know that I am not the outdoorsy type. Not at all. I'm on record as saying that sleeping under the stars is fine as long as there are at least five of them. I may be heard uttering the phrase "I hate nature" if I feel that there's too much of it around me; you know, trees, grass, bugs, nature-y things.

I do, however, love nature through the lens of my camera, through the windows that surround me, from a distance. I try to capture the feel of the places that we visit when we travel and part of that is a places flora and fauna. I may hate it up close and in person but I can't deny its beauty.

 Sometimes the beauty of the landscape is in its starkness.


While I'll never love it, I will continue to capture the natural beauty that surrounds us.

Sometimes it's the unexpected that catches the eye

How could I deny The 4 Pound Wonder her enjoyment of all things outdoors

I'll never be a fan of the untamed outdoors but I have learned to appreciate it. As long as it doesn't get to close to me because no, just no.

Happy traveling!

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Frito Pie

There are a few things you should know about Texas. First, everything is bigger in Texas. Second, the barbecue. And third but not least, turns out one of my favorite snacks is from Texas, Fritos Corn Chips. Fritos were born in the 1930's in San Antonio, TX. I can only imagine that not too much later we got the best way to eat a Frito known to mankind, the Frito Pie.

Some of you may be familiar with the version of Frito Pie that involves a small bag of Fritos, a scoop of chili and a handful of cheese. That is the version I got when I ordered it at Fox Brothers BBQ in Atlanta. Not bad at all.

Fox Brother's BBQ Frito Pie

I recently had the chance to try a local Texas version of this wonderful dish. I was having lunch at a place called Kelley's Country Cookin'. That bit right there should tell you all you need to know about Kelley's. There's a section on the menu called J.W.'s Chili Favorites. Two things stood out: the Texas Special for the Real Texan (how could a person NOT order that?) and Kelley's Chili Pie. What follows may not be pretty, may seem way over the top and unhealthful in the extreme. Yes, yes, it's all of those things but, oh my is it good. So, so good, and awful and wonderful. A plate full of guilt and hard arteries and awesomeness.

Kelley's Chili Pie

Texas Special for the Real Texan

A big plate of delicious

In case I haven't made it clear, I love this stuff. Really. It's a guilty pleasure I just can't quit. So, while I can't in good conscience tell you to, you know, go out and try it, let me state for the record that if you do, IF you do, you won't be sorry. At least not right away.

Happy dining!

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Killen's Barbecue - Pearland, Texas

There's a big stir happening in the local barbecue scene. Ronnie Killen is/was most  known for his fine dining steakhouse. (A place that is on our short list to visit) A while back Mr. Killen started offering barbecue at his steakhouse. He ran it as a pop-up and served on the weekends. Word spread, like it does when good food is in the mix, and before you know it Killen's Barbecue was underway. To appease the BBQ hoards Ronnie started serving BBQ at the site of the new restaurant on weekends. People came from all over, lines formed, barbecue was served.

Finally the actual restaurant was opened. People came from all over, the lines were long. 

A little bit ago the Dining Companion, the 4 Pound Wonder and I headed to Pearland to see what all the fuss was about. We got in line about 10:30am and were served at about noon give or take. On my way to the counter I had the chance to check the place out.

Dining room awaiting the hungry masses
There's also an outdoor dining area. Or the start of one at least. I hope it gets a nice cover before the south Texas summer rolls in.

As I headed toward the counter I passed the menu board (scroll down for menu).
(Sorry no pic, it was hand written on a piece of brown butcher paper and showed meats and sides for the day)

Ronnie Killen carving brisket

Brisket ready for the lunch crowds
I made my way to the counter and placed our order. We decided on the brisket, beef rib, pork ribs, and sausage. No sides. I'm sure the sides are fine but given our druthers we usually just stick with the main event, the barbecue.

That's a serious beef rib
Sausage, Brisket, Pork Rib, Beef Rib (L-R)

The food was good. The brisket was moist and tender, well smoked. The sausage was great, it was my favorite item. The beef rib, while good, brought home to me once again that I am just not a fan. If you like a "pot roast" like flavor the beef rib is for you. It is melt in your mouth tender and has that certain something that brings to mind a Sunday roast. The pork ribs had good flavor but were just a shade off of being perfectly cooked. A little too much chew and not quite coming off the bone.

Barbecue sauce is available but you really won't need it. All I remember about the sauces are that one is a bit sweet, one is a bit spicy and one tastes like coffee.

If you're in the Houston area and don't want to, or can't, make the 3 hour plus drive to Austin, by all means, give this place a try. You'll have good barbecue and the fun(!) and excitement of waiting on line with several other BBQ enthusiast. The food is good, maybe on its way to being great, but, for my money, if you want to experience the best barbecue the state has to offer, Austin is still the place to be. 

Happy dining!

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Rudy's Country Store and BBQ - Webster, TX

There's a lot of BBQ in Texas. Everything from mom and pop joints to more widely available chains. Rudy's is one of those chains. I know what you might be thinking; a chain, how good can it be? Well, as it turns out, surprisingly good for a place that also sells gas. Rudy's started life as a gas station and grocery store located in the Texas Hill Country town of Leon Springs. They added barbecue in 1989 and the rest as they say is history. Rudy's has expanded from its small town origins and now locations can be found all over the southwestern United States.

Rudy's is set up as what I've come to know as a typical "meat market" style barbecue spot. You stand in a snaky line and wait for your turn at the ordering counter. You then order the meats you want by the half pound or on a sandwich. (The menus are posted on the walls)

We ended up ordering some pork loin, turkey and links of sausage. There was also prime rib available the day we were there so we grabbed some of that.

The only side we got was Rudy's Green Chili Stew. The stew is a blend of chilies, potatoes, carrots and pork. I think it's pork anyway; full of flavor in any case. They offer several different sides and desserts too.

Green Chili Stew
We've been to Rudy's a few times and I have no doubt that we'll be going back. Ice cold beer and good barbecue, it doesn't get much better than that. If you're in Texas or the southwest don't hesitate to give Rudy's a try. It's the real deal.

Happy dining!

Note: A new BBQ place has opened nearby that is being compared to Franklin Barbeque in Austin. As some of you may have read here Franklin has the best BBQ we've ever had. We'll be heading to the new spot to see for ourselves. Stay tuned for the results.