College and Cholesterol - Counting Down the Days (Redneck Wonderland Part 2) | Australian Frequent Flyer
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College and Cholesterol - Counting Down the Days (Redneck Wonderland Part 2)

Noel Mugavin

Active Member
Joined
Sep 5, 2010
Messages
785
Still more than a few weeks out, but getting a bit antsy about not having contributed for a while and eager to start the report. Off again to visit the young fella at college, his senior year and the last opportunity I will get to watch him play. Team schedule hasn't been kind to me for the time frame I am able to visit, so a more rushed 2 weeks than I would have liked.

Will start with a red eye from Perth to Sydney, then fly into:

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A short (hopefully) transit and off to the first stop of:

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Couple of days there, another short hop to:

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2 more days here, transit through:

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In a hire car and a couple of days in:

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A short, and expensive, hop to watch the young bloke play:

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2 days, then another plane to take a bite:

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3 days, 2 nights, then off again to:

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Then a day in:

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before heading home.

16 days, 13 nights, 11 flights, 8 cities, lots of ribs, fried chicken and cobbler. Have put the upgrade requests in and stocking up on Tim Tams, Vegemite and BBQ Shapes for the young bloke.
 

moa999

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Wow indeed. What position does the young man play?
An amazing opportunity if you succeed but a very high turnover and unforgiving industry.
 

kermatu

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Looking forward to this.

Kid is a punter IIRC.
 
Last edited:

Noel Mugavin

Active Member
Joined
Sep 5, 2010
Messages
785
Just under 3 weeks to go and have had contact with the Head of Football Operations at Arkansas State. His email to me pretty much says 'Noel, you're welcome to visit us any time and you have open access to all areas, coaches, team and player meetings for the time you are here'.
Extremely grateful for the access they give me but also a sign that nothing much really happens in Jonesboro.

So the plan. Red eye Perth - Sydney, fortunately have a lounge pass for a shower and a bit of a relax before the long haul to Dallas. Quick hop and get in to Houston late Saturday afternoon.

In Houston for the Texans/Panthers game on the Sunday and hopefully both Deshaun Watson and Cam Newton are up and running.

Monday morning short hop on South West Austin for 2 days; was thinking 1 day in Austin and 1 day in San Antonio before I had to put an end to the madness and slow down a bit.

Early Wednesday morning, another South West from Austin to Memphis, via Dallas, hire car and the 1 hour drive to Jonesboro and Arkansas State University.
2 days in Jonesboro to visit the young bloke and the spend some time in the football department.
Much has changed since my last visit. 9 of the 11 coaches from last year have been moved on, or have moved on; the department have moved in to their new complex; and the head coach is currently on a leave of absence as tragically his wife passed away 2 or so weeks ago after a battle with breast cancer.

After my time in Jonesboro, again a drive to Memphis and on to a Delta Mad Dog for the short hop to Atlanta, where Arkansas State will be playing Georgia State at the 1996 Olympic Stadium, which has since been used by the Atlanta Braves until they moved out and now Georgia State University has been progressively turning it in to a Football Stadium.

2 short days in Atlanta, then up to New York on the Sunday, again on Delta. Giants have a game early afternoon and if all things went well it was within the realms of possibility that I would be able to get there to see that game. Unfortunately, Delta had other ideas and have rescheduled my flight for about an hour and a half later, so absolutely no chance now of it being worthwhile to get to the game.
2 and a half days in New York which is not nearly enough, but you play with the hand you're dealt and I've only got a small window to work in.

Evening flight to LA with American, shuttle to Anaheim and 2 days at Disneyland. Couple of things I need to cross off that I missed out on from my previous visit in 2015. Another big lure is the new Star Wars area. Not that I care much for Star Wars, but I do have a few geeky friends who are big Star Wars freaks and them just knowing I am there and me not really caring 2 hoots for it, really fills me with a lot of pleasure,

Will get a shuttle back to LA early Friday morning, store my bags with one of the storage companies at LAX and have a day exploring LA before heading home late Friday night.
 

Noel Mugavin

Active Member
Joined
Sep 5, 2010
Messages
785
Finally on my way, the boss safely delivered to her holiday house on the beach

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No upgrade success on the Red Eye to Sydney, so a bit of an uncomfortable flight with sleep coming intermittently in 5 and 10 minute instalments.
Success for the flight to Dallas though, albeit only up to Premium Economy for about 21000 points.
In the lounge at the moment, must say quite grubby with not hell of a lot of cleaning done on the chairs or floors.
Bit of breakfast, have a shower shortly, taking off in about 4 and a half hours

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Noel Mugavin

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Joined
Sep 5, 2010
Messages
785
Been back for a few days and time to get on with the report.
Must give a well done to Qantas on the Perth - Sydney red eye for serving a gozleme as the meal, perfect for the timing of the flight.

After a shower and some breakfast had a bit of a wander and spent about 45 minutes in the American Express lounge gazing out the window. Very relaxing.

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More time wandering, bit more time in the Qantas lounge then on to the plane. As mentioned snared an upgrade to premium economy and must say as someone who could be described as vertically challenged I was extremely impressed with the comfort the seat afforded me. Meal was so-so, had a chicken dish, then after service didn't really see any of the crew until breakfast. Managed some decent sleep times for me - 30/45 minutes at a time, missed large chunks of the movie Inglourious Basterds and a Carl Barron stand up show.

Painless flight to Dallas, had a short connection but should be right. Unfortunately the queues for immigration made the connection a bit tighter than it should have been, but after a bit of a gallop and a little bit of stress made the connecting flight with about a 5 minute buffer.

Short 30 minute flight time to Goerge Bush Intercontinental, then a looong taxi to the gate, and finally out to the terminal.

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Had a shuttle booked to the hotel and a nice touch Super Shuttle had a bit of a seated waiting area inside the terminal. A short wait, host called me by name then escorted me out to the shuttle. Shuttle was a mini van, new, and room for only 4 passengers, nice change from the heaps of junk that the shuttle vans usually are.
Bush is quite a long way out from the city, so a good 20 - 30 minutes before finally got delivered to the Downtown Hyatt.

Quick check in, room on the 21st floor and of course probably furthest room away form the lifts.

Like most US hotel rooms, quite large and was a very comfortable bed.

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Shower, change of clothes and time for a bit of late afternoon exploration

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Downtown Houston was a ghost town. No one around a t all until I came to Sam Houston Park, but even then only a few people around.

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The display/village was closed foe the day, so only a few shots through a gated fence

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Another little open park next to it that had a few aged buildings in the grounds.

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That was about it for me as I was fading fast.

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The Hyatt with the outside lifts and revolving restaurant on top.

The hotel had a bagel shop inside so grabbed a turkey club for a quick dinner. Back to the room and tried to hold off sleep for as long as possible, made it til about 8 before I dropped off. Awake again at 11, but soon back to sleep and had the body clock set to US time
 

Noel Mugavin

Active Member
Joined
Sep 5, 2010
Messages
785
Up and out and about by about 7.30, Sunday morning and again almost desserted Houston streets, was the odd jogger around.

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Houston's basketball and baseball stadiums are in close proximity to each other in the downtown area and they were where I was headed.

First up, the Toyota Centre

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Houston is pretty much a concrete jungle and early morning was already uncomfortably hot, so was a nice break to walk through a bit of greenery in Discovery Green.

5 minutes away from Discovery Green is Minute Maid Park, home to the Houston Astros.

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Astro's were just commencing the playoffs and are now 1 win away from playing in the World Series, if they get there should account for the Nationals fairly comfortably.

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Union Station, now part of the stadium

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Close as I could get to the inside of the stadium

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And the plaza

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Noel Mugavin

Active Member
Joined
Sep 5, 2010
Messages
785
Poor view of the train that runs after every Astros home run

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Inside of Union Station which is the main lobby entrance to the stadium

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And finally some signs of life

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Not much happening in Main Street

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Back to the hotel for a shower and another change of shirt as it was uncomfortably hot and sweaty even though it was still early morning. On to the light rail and to the Texans/Panthers game at NRG Stadium.
Had done my research and cost for the rail was $1.25 per trip, could by tickets on the train. Alas, nowhere to buy tickets on the train, but was confident I could pull off my best dumb tourist act and couple that with an emphasis on the accent, I'd be able to talk my way out of any issue.

Ad it was, no dramas. About 15 minutes to the stadium, ticket required to enter the carpark to get through to the stadium. My case, an email showing evidence I was picking up a ticket sufficed.

Tailgating and the Astrodome

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Some interesting statues outside the stadium showing a bit of history of life in Texas.

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Had to get my angles right so I didn't include people using the bases as somewhere to sit.

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NRG Stadium

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Noel Mugavin

Active Member
Joined
Sep 5, 2010
Messages
785
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The eighth wonder of the world

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Through security and then inside the gates to pick up my ticket

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Picked up the ticket, bought a bit of gear, then more security to get inside the stadium

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Am a Texan fan and wanted to see Deshaun Watson in action, added bonus also get to see Cam Newton. Alas, no Newton as not playing due to injury. Did get to see Watson, albeit he had a very poor game.

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Noel Mugavin

Active Member
Joined
Sep 5, 2010
Messages
785
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Game was a bit of a fizzer never reaching any great heights. Texans couldn't get anything going with their time with the ball and lot of the crowd was leaving half way into the last quarter..

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Back on the light rail for a crowded, hot ride back into the downtown area. Went pass the Greyhound Station, bit of advice, if anyone is planning on taking the Greyhound into Houston - don't.

Downtown was still pretty much desserted. Around dinner time went looking for somewhere to eat, BBQ place looked promising but not open Sunday; burgher and a pizza place open, decided a bagel form the hotel would do me again.

Early night watching some football on the TV.

Houston didn't do much for me, 1 day and 2 nights isn't a great sample size though, perhaps it's too big and too spread out.

Was concious that the diet wasn't going to be great for the trip so kept an eye on the fitbit - 26 254 steps and 18.8km's for the day.
 

Noel Mugavin

Active Member
Joined
Sep 5, 2010
Messages
785
Up early for the shuttle pick up and the quick flight to Austin. Bit of a worry when my shuttle hadn't arrived about 5 minutes till the end of my 15 minute window, but check on the shuttle app gives a van location, was a couple of blocks away so all was good.

Only one in the van and a quick 15 minute trip to Hobby Airport.
Once named after Howard Hughes
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Chick Fil A for breakfast, biscuit really didn't do it for me, hash browns meh, vanilla coffee was good though

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South West country at Hobby

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Houston in the distance

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29 minute flight time, everyone got a drink and some pretzels
Took a Lyft into downtown Austin, friendly driver, wanted to visit Australia to go to the Hillsong Church. Told him not my cup of tea and we happily moved the conversation on.

La Quinta Inn, block away from the capital building on 11th Street. Older building, but did the job, no in room safe though.

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Walked into the city proper, taken by this building

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Noel Mugavin

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Joined
Sep 5, 2010
Messages
785
Down to 6th Ave, the entertainment heart of Austin. Not much going on mid Monday morning, quite few homeless around though

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Lots of scooters around, I was happy to stay on my feet though. Down Congress Ave and to the Congress Avenue Bridge and over the Colorado River.

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Nice view of the capitol building at the top of Congress Ave

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It was getting quite hot, would reach 37 later in the day, but as I was walking one of the trails on the south side of the river there were a few drops of rain. Didn't last long, no chance of a Texas Flood, kept in step as it wasn't as if i couldn't stand the weather.

Then the greatest of them all, Austin's pride and joy

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Bit peckish by now, had done my research and my goal was not far from the SRV statue

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Brisket burnt ends - devine, mac and cheese - best i've ever had; jalapeno cheese sausage - not for me; peach cobbler - so-so. Would go back to Austin just for the burnt ends.

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Quite heavy so a bit of a walk needed to burn some calories off

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Noel Mugavin

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Joined
Sep 5, 2010
Messages
785
Headed down South Congress Avenue which is the quirky and hip shopping/restaurant area of Austin. As someone who was never quirky nor hip in my younger days, a few quick singles away from raising my bat, I'm certainly no closer to being either of the two now.

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Some decent opportunities to get shots of the Capitol Building as I made my way back towards the city centre.

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Back over the river and on my way to the capitol

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An eventually to the capitol grounds

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