Texas Hills Vineyard – Johnson City, TX

A very Texas-themed winery is the subject of our winery review this week. Join us on our trip to Texas Hills in Johnson City!

Texas Bite & Sip

Date Visited: 1/4/2020

Located just off of US Highway 281 North/290 West on Ranch-to-Market Road 2766 lies Texas Hills Vineyard, one of the oldest wineries in the area.  Established in 1995 by Gary and Kathy Gilstrap, this tucked away vineyard’s motto is “Wine to share with friends” (source).

The venue is well-signed, starting all the way out on the major highway intersection with a blue sign pointing you in the direction of the vineyard.  Once on RM 2766, it is very well-signed with a gate and hours of operation; you can’t miss it.  The driveway is long and leads you into a large, semi-paved (hard-packed gravel) parking lot with limited handicap parking available, and plenty of spaces close to the entrance across a short, solid wooden footbridge.  The venue is equipped with both a few stairs and a sloping ramp off to the side, for greater accessibility.

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The…

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When Bad Decisions Add Up…

I’ll be 33 in 2 months and two weeks. I’ll have been a legal adult for 15 years by that point. If I had my way, I’d have been working in the airline industry for 10 years now (minimum age to be an airline pilot is 23, and the flight time requirements to get in as a First Officer at a regional carrier were much less stringent then than they are now) and by this point I’d either be a senior Captain at said regional airline and ready to move up to a junior First Officer position at a major, if not already in a junior FO position with a major. That’s IF I had taken the course I had planned for me.

Well, as we all know that didn’t come to fruition, because at the time the FAA listed autism spectrum disorders as an automatic disqualification from airworthiness. Times have changed, and now the FAA considers them on a case-by-case basis, but it’s way too late for me. I’m shut out.

Now, I’m under no illusion that airline life is somehow all rainbows and roses. I know it ain’t. It’s a cutthroat business – busy and demanding schedules, a lot of time away from home, lots of paperwork, you name it. There’s a reason the airline industry is exempt from right-to-work laws and why in that industry you can still be forced to join a labor union in all 50 states in the US.

Anyway, being shut out of that led to a series of horrible decisions and why I’m where I’m at now in my professional life. My first intention was to get into horology (clock/watch repair). There was a little shop in Abilene that did that, the owner who called himself “The Clock Doc” was an elderly, yet very unassuming and kind man. I came close to asking him for an apprenticeship and was going to, but was pushed by family and academia into going to college instead. I should have stood my ground.

Needless to say I did not. I went to college, racked up tens of thousands in debt, graduated with a degree that’s all but worthless unless you want to teach, but that’s what I decided I would do so that didn’t much matter. Well, I did wind up a teacher – one year at the high school level followed by two years of teaching at the university level while in grad school. I was good at it, sure, but didn’t really much like it. It didn’t pay that well either.

So I left grad school, even more in debt. When you have an all but worthless degree (mathematics) AND you’re on the autism spectrum – your employment prospects are limited at best, and that showed – being either unemployed or underemployed from January 2012 thru August 2015. By some stretch of unusual luck in what has been a very unlucky life, I managed to get a start into the crane industry as a heavy lift engineer.

And that’s where I’m at today, still. I’ve changed companies once, but nothing has changed as far as my job goes. It’s not a terrible job, pays a bit better than teaching, but there’s still no excitement there.

Make no mistake –  I am not a state licensed professional engineer. My job title might have “engineer” in it but that doesn’t mean I’m a P.E. Nor can I be with my current education – my degree is in straight math, not an engineering discipline. Guess I fucked myself over even more in college too didn’t I?

Had my degree been in engineering instead of math, I could have been a P.E. by the end of August as the requirements are 5 years working under an existing P.E. and a bachelor’s degree in an engineering field. Man would that be nice – I’d make double what I’m making now.

Now, there is still one option available to me to obtain a P.E. license – I would have to go back to school and obtain 20 hours of engineering classes and work under a licensed P.E. for a total of 8 years. I’m at almost 4.5 right now. I still have 3.5 to go, scraping by on what I’m making now, and even less because now I have tuition to afford, plus balancing my full-time job on top of school, among other things. You see where this is going – it simply is not feasible, not to mention I have no desire to even go back to school. I hate school. I pretty much suck at it too – I’m a very mediocre student. I should have never gone.

So where does that put me? Well, this job is all I really know. Well, that and teaching. I’m shoehorned into one or the other, and the latter is not palatable to me in any way. So this is my reality, unless I venture into self-employment, which is also not really feasible as I can’t bank enough to have enough capital to sink into starting one and getting a business loan is tough, not to mention then you’re in major debt to a bank. In that light, that door is also permanently closed.

Sure, I was on fire about it last year, but after I took my rose-colored glasses off I realized I was deluding myself. It will never happen. It can never happen. What the fuck was I even thinking? Holy fucking shit, I go back and read those posts I wrote at the end of March/beginning of April last year and I want to fucking vomit at my own stupidity and delusion.

Alas, I realize that there is only one person to blame for my situation. That person is myself. I fucked up hard, and I’m paying the price and will be for the rest of my life.

The only good thing to come out of my delusion? Relocation. That much I do not regret. That might be the only good decision I’ve ever made. Though I’ll never have a satisfying career, at least I found love again, and that counts for more than a job, career or business ever will.

Oh, and I’ve got my pick of wineries around here I can go to in order to drown my depression. At least I can afford some level of escape. 

 

 

Is There A Small Smartphone Left These Days?!?!?!?

Well, a little prequel to this post – my iPhone SE, which has served me well for nearly 4 years, finally gave up the ghost…on New Year’s Eve. Happy fucking New Year to me right?

So, thus starts the quest for a new (personal) phone. Luckily I’ve not had to be totally incommunicado with my family because they can still reach me via work phone (something I don’t want to do too much for too long since the clause at work says “limited personal use”). In my search, I have but one requirement – a reasonably small size.

Let me just be clear – I fucking HATE the trend of bigger and bigger phones. If I wanted a big fucking thing I’d get a tablet, not a goddamned smartphone. A smartphone has to be small enough to fit into my front pockets without the pockets protruding too far. Period. Sadly, such phones seem to be a thing of the past.

Hell, if I can’t find such a phone I might just go back to the late 1990s/early 2000s and get a dumbphone. I don’t know yet, but when the smallest phone you still have a prayer of getting is the iPhone 8 (and good luck finding a new one – all the ones I’m finding are pre-owned), you know the trend has shifted to phones that are just way too fucking big.

This is proving to be a nightmare. Wish me luck. Ugh. In the meantime, would it hurt anyone to bring back a 4″-ish phone? I can promise you I ain’t the only one who doesn’t want a big fucking thing to carry around everywhere.

 

Four Years of Ink

Four years ago today, I got my first tattoo – my little semicolon. What seemed like a small mark has proven to change my life forever. (Read last year’s post for a full recount of why I got it to begin with).

It led to the start of this blog, which started out as a personal diary to think of tattoo ideas. Starting this blog led me to meet people near and far, but above all – this blog was the vehicle for me to find love again, to fall in love again, to finally escape Hillbilly Hell (Abilene) and to start me on the journey to mend my health.

It’s amazing how the smallest of decisions can alter the courses of our lives in such huge ways isn’t it? It’s been one amazing journey to say the least.

Right now? I’m at a standstill with the ink (out of ideas) but I hope to add a couple more this year too. The itch is slowly returning, but I think I will be slowing down now as I’ve made up for lost time with my 11 current ones (and a few more sessions for add-ons to older ones). Of course I’ll catalog them as I get them.

Stay tuned.

 

Kuhlman Cellars – Stonewall, TX

Our kickoff blog features a nice, homey winery in Stonewall. Enjoy!

Texas Bite & Sip

Date Visited: 12/29/2019

Kuhlman Cellars is situated in the Texas Hill Country along US Highway 290 just outside of Stonewall (between Johnson City and Fredericksburg).  Founded by Chris and Jennifer Cobb, they opened to the public in October of 2014 and is named for Kuhlman Creek which originates on their family farm and is a feeder for the larger Pedernales River (source).  Their winemaker is from France and makes wine in the French tradition, with Texas-grown grapes of course.

When we pulled up, the winery was well-signed from the roadway – you just could not miss it.  Their hours of operation are posted right on the front gate.  We arrived a few minutes before opening, but the gates were already open so we proceeded into the non-paved yet smooth, open, and ample parking lot with logs designating parking spaces, as well as two handicap parking spots with ample…

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New Blog: Texas Bite & Sip

Hello my friends!

In my last post I eluded to a potential new blog for Texas eatery and winery reviews. Today, that blog was born: Texas Bite & Sip!

Texas Bite & Sip is a collaboration between myself and Laina Eartharcher. In this blog, we will visit and review a variety of Texas restaurants, wineries, dives, etc. together – each giving our own perspective. We might agree or agree-to-disagree, but we’ll give it to you straight from our respective viewpoints.

We do not pretend to be experts in this field, just everyday people like you who want a down-to-earth review. That’s what you’ll find.

If you are interested and so inclined, please visit and follow! The site is still under construction, but hopefully we’ll have our first review live in the very near future.

Holiday Fun, Some Personal Updates & A Look at 2020 Ahead

So I’m chilling in my apartment this morning resting up from a past two fun-filled days. They’ve worn me out for sure but wow has it been fun.

Our holiday fun started on Saturday the 14th when Laina and I caught up with my best friend from high school and one of her close friends for a stroll down the San Antonio Riverwalk to see the lights. They do it up in a huge way, let me tell you what! We walked down and up, stopped in for a quick bite to eat on one of the restaurants on the strip (and a couple of spicy margaritas for me – which were heavenly) and just took it in on a lovely, warm-ish December night.

Christmas Eve we went over to Laina’s BFF’s house for some fun and games as well as food and drink. Upon Laina’s BFF’s request, I made what has become my signature dish – a paleo-style Asian stir fry using spaghetti squash instead of lo mein noodles, boneless chicken thighs, sliced carrots, onions, celery, zucchini, red bell pepper, chopped portabella mushroom and diced peanut and garlic bits, with a mix of San-J (all gluten/MSG free sauces) Thai peanut and spicy Szechuan sauces. (Oh, and sliced green onions on the side for those who wanted them). Everyone seemed to love it.

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We ate, I cracked out my new Taylor 12 for awhile, then we played some Bullshit (a hilarious card game where the object is to lie like a dog and get away with it!). After having killed two full bottles of wine and some Peruvian brandy, I was in no condition to drive so we stayed the night.

Laina and I woke up at 6 AM sharp yesterday morning to run back to our places, tend to a few things and then hit the road to Abilene to see my family. We stopped in at my parents’ place first thing for some small gift exchanges and to fill up on my mom’s famous ham/pineapple before heading over to my paternal grandmother’s house for her last Christmas in her place before moving to assisted living.

Needless to say yesterday wasn’t as fun as the day before, but I made it through. I’ve always been the black sheep of my family but I felt obligated to go. After some light conversation with the group, Laina and I got right back on the road to SA (in which I promptly changed out of awful full-length jeans back into my signature Dukes – lord knows my conservative, Bible-thumping extended family would have thrown a fit over me wearing them!) and met up with Mr. Kitty for dinner and hard ciders at Flying Saucer. It was a great way to cap off the night.

As far as other personal updates, I continue to heal as my health continues to improve. I’ve lost a considerable amount of weight without even trying – no calorie counting or anything. Take this photo as a prime example. These “light wash” Dukes are one of my smaller pairs. This time last year I struggled to button them. This year, I need a belt with them!

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Now that’s progress!

Sorcha is doing well. She goes into the vet again tomorrow (Friday) for her third round of vaccines and to schedule spaying/microchipping. She’s become a little Houdini – she’s snuck out on my back deck once and out my front door once, going halfway down the stairs. Methinks she’s wanting to chase some tail (as do most female cats when they hit puberty), but the last thing I need is a litter of kittens so that’s not happening. She has stopped pissing on my bed (after switching her to a full-sized litterbox) and sleeps with me in bed at night – on my pillow behind my head!

Here’s a cute little picture I took of her exploring my wine glass. Like father, like daughter I guess!

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So, what’s on the docket for 2020 for this blog? Well, more of life in San Antonio as I continue through this major transitional step in my life, exploring a newfound love life, and some collaboration work! Laina and I have been visiting several wineries in the hill country lately (mostly on Highway 290 between Johnson City and Fredericksburg), doing like a superficial once-overs and some tastings. We are planning to launch a joint venture in which we review the wineries we’ve visited, from atmosphere, decor, staff, and of course the wine itself. As our wine palates run totally opposite (she’s into light, sweet whites/roses as well as ports whereas I’m more of a big, heavy, dry red type person) we’ll each have a different angle to approach with to give you more variety. Stay tuned, you won’t want to miss this!