Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Selah Ranch Lakeside Course – Talco, TX

I had already played one round of challenging disc golf in the Texas heat (at the Creekside Course), but I was there to play the #1 and #2 courses in the world – BOTH of them. I hopped in my all-terrain golf cart and went to the first tee.

I laughed because there’s a giant animal trap near the first tee. I think it’s probably for wolves or hyenas or coyotes or some sort of larger animal. Maybe even a mountain lion or something. I just hoped I didn’t see whatever it was out on the course. Intimidating. But still, I’m always more worried about fire ants in Texas than cougars.

At almost 700 feet, this hole is an awesome opening to a pretty monumental course. The rule for this hole is don’t hit any trees, or you won’t even have a chance at the posted par 5. Remember, these courses should not be played using traditional everything-is-a-par-3 method. Use the posted pars to save yourself from blowing a gasket on the course (or at least that’s what I told myself about every three shots). From the tee, hit one of the gaps in the trees and throw out into the open landing area. Then take a couple of big shots to a basket that sits right next to the huge lake (from the course namesake). Challenging hole – really enjoyable.

I should also point out that this is the first time I noticed there were distance markers implanted in the ground (like at ball golf courses). This way you can tell if you’re 100, 150, or 200 feet out, depending on the color. This is a brilliant idea. It’s pretty cheap and good for course management.

Hole 2 is a big out-over-the-water shot, whether you’re a lefty or a righty. There is a tricky set of trees RIGHT where you want to land your drive. If you can throw it 400+, then try to land past the trees, but otherwise, you can decide if you want to throw less than 300 feet to a safer landing spot. The basket is 528 feet ahead on top of the berm that serves as an access road to the rest of the course. This hole makes you think from the tee, and then again when you’re going for the basket that’s on a fast green.

Hole 3 is a short 244-foot shot, followed by hole 4 at 837 feet. It’s got lots of placement shots along the bank, and then a final tricky approach to the green over the edge of the lake. Amazing golf, this hole. Well designed. I only took one photo of this one, from the green, looking back over the little water-filled inlet I threw over to get here. I’m guessing I was sweating to death in the heat and too lazy to make any additional body movements like taking my camera phone out. Hahaha

Hole 5 is a challenging 581 feet curving to the right from the tee. It isn’t narrow, but it definitely isn’t wide open. Need to keep this one on the fairway. I know it’s obvious, but if you keep it in the fairway, you can get the 4 strokes you need to make par. Fun hole.

Then, hole 6 is a narrow, short 250 feet through a generous tunnel of trees to a picturesque tree-covered green. If I played here a lot, my score would range from 2 to 8 – I just know it.

Hole 7 is 890 feet constantly out over the water on your left. Now the right-handed folks get to understand what most courses are like for left-handed players. You either need a reliable turn-over disc or need to know where your forehand shot is going to land. Seriously, every shot you throw is in danger of hitting the drink. I love this hole, all the way to an amazing island green with a bridge going out to it. I played this hole like garbage and loved every second of it.

Hole 9 is a 500-footer with a very narrow fairway that you really need to hit. It doesn’t matter how far down that fairway you get, but you need to be on that fairway. If you aren’t, then you get off into some serious rough. And that rough has billions of spider living in it. This isn’t a great photo of the cyclone shaped web, but these things are all over the place. Be ready!

Hole 10 is 555 feet with a generous fairway (that you need to stay on) and a nice realistic up-shot to the green. Hole 11 is a 213-foot shorty for right-handers with some elevation to play with. Holes 12 and 13 are 300-ish and narrow, but drive-able. Fun little holes that you need to capitalize on. I didn’t, of course.

Hole 14 is one of those poke-and-hope holes. 426 feet isn't a terrible distance until you take away a realistic fairway. The tee sign is what I like to politely call “bullshit”. If you draw enough lines on it, you can pretend there’s a fairway. There isn’t. You throw into the trees and then try to figure out where your second shot will be thrown through the trees until you take your third shot (now uphill) which will be thrown through the trees to a green that’s just past the tree line (with a few trees surrounding it, just to be a pain in the ass). I didn’t play this hole as poorly as I expected to, thankfully. Here’s a view from the tee so you can see the weird uphill angle you throw your first shot through. Tricky hole.

And I took a little video so you can see the trees. Keep in mind that I veered left from the tee, so even though you think I’m driving down a clear road, that road isn’t in line with the flight path/basket. Good luck on this one.

Hole 15 is a glorious 831-foot hole down a small hill that you need to throw clean. Then take an upshot to a landing area that you need to be left on. Then you can navigate some elevation over a small hillock to the basket. I really liked this par 5 a lot. It’s solid golf. You’ll want to keep throwing this one until you figure it out. If I wasn’t playing on the surface of the sun for 6 hours already, I’d have played it multiple times.

Hole 16 is a slight incline, up 555 feet. You have a couple of fairways to hit, but the basket is directly behind that grove of trees you can see at the end of the fairway. Very fair, but tough hole.

Hole 17 is a drive-able 318 feet around some trees. I’m guessing once you figure out how far to throw his hole (for regulars), it’s probably mostly a deuce.

I was feeling good about how I had played this course (both courses actually). Only one lost disc for the day. So I got cocky on hole 18. It’s 600 feet with the lake on the left and an extremely narrow landing strip along the bank for the first 400 feet. I threw my best turn-over driver flat and just as it leaned back in to the right, the wind took it out to the middle of the lake. I grabbed another turn-over driver and put more angle on it, and the wind died so it landed on its edge and rolled into the lake. Then, I got mad and grabbed whatever disc I grabbed first and threw that way out into the lake. So now, I’m throwing 7 from the tee – fuming. Hahaha. Classic Chad. I was prepared to empty my bag out into the lake if I needed to. So I threw an angry forehand out over the water and it ended up crashing into all those trees on the right – but a long way up there. I managed to get out fairly well – well enough to throw my 9th shot up by the basket for a whopping TEN on the final hole, and down four discs for the day. Oh well!!!

Even though my blood pressure and body temperature were sky high, I loved this course. It’s brutal, but still fair. I’d go back here and play anytime I get to Dallas. I’d recommend it to all my friends who play, and if I ever see the first guy that recommended this course to me, I’ll thank him profusely. It’s top-notch golf and I’m really glad I took the whole day to play here. I’d definitely consider staying overnight here sometime and playing both courses over two days. Again, get the golf cart – you’ll need it.

I’ll be honest, it’s a toss-up which course is “better”. I think they’re equally challenging and play a little bit different. I’m guessing my preference would change every time I played these courses. They’re both wonderful. And it doesn’t matter which order you play them in, either. There’s decent tree-cover on both of them, so it isn’t like one will be more shady in the afternoon or anything. Flip a coin and play what the disc golf gods tell you to play first!

Thank you, John Houck, for designing such an amazing course and to the owners of Selah ranch for sharing it with the public. Having played it, I wouldn’t question the cost at all. It was all worth it.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Selah Ranch Creekside Course – Talco, TX

When I knew I was going to head to Dallas for the weekend, I asked around to some friends who play disc golf, “If I can only play one or two courses in the area, where should I go?” All of them said to play Selah Ranch. This disc golf country club has the #1 and #2-rated courses in the world. Both of the courses on site are designed by John Houck, who is somewhat of a legend in disc golf course design. I don’t love all of his courses, but I like most of them. He’s very creative and likes to challenge golfers.

I got a little lost trying to find this place, so be sure to use a combination of GPS, the PDGA course page directions, and the Selah Ranch page. It’s a two hour drive from Dallas, but not an unpleasant drive. 
It’s on a HUGE plot of land that includes a huge barn with golf carts and a pro shop, a large barn that looks like a banquet facility, a LARGE multi-room house that is sort of the club-house and guest rooms, and then a bunch of smaller cabins for guests to stay in. When I pulled up to the pro shop to check in, there wasn’t anyone there. There was a number on the door to call if no one was there, but someone just happened to pull up to the place and he told me to drive back to the main house and interrupt the guy cutting grass – he’s the owner and he’ll get me all set up. And he did.

The greens fees are the most I’ve ever paid (but you won’t regret it), and I heard from a number of people that you really need to get a cart (which I was suspicious of, but again you won’t regret it). It was the most money I’ve ever laid out to play disc golf for a casual round or two. I’m jumping ahead, but it’s the best money I’ve spent on disc golf ever – just shut up and pay the man.

I got a super bad-ass all-terrain golf cart. Never even seen a golf cart like this! But, as it turns out, you’ll need both the crazy suspension, the huge grippy tires, and the roof to get through this course. This cart was as big as the Kia Soul I rented at the airport.

I didn’t leave without putting on some sunscreen, either. Got to keep my skin baby soft, you know.

This course is long. Really long. People told me to forget the usual scoring system where everything is a par three. This is not the case at this course – you’ll go crazy if you don’t play the course pars, as marked. If it says it’s a par four, then you’re going to be lucky to get a four on it. If it says it’s a par 5, then you’re going to be happy with a five. Really happy. I decided to play Creekside first and save the Lakeside Course for the afternoon.

The first hole at Creekside is 630 feet, and really tricky. Over the creek, but between two sets of dense trees, with a dog-leg right. I felt like I crushed it, but still had a huge upshot with lots of trees to get anywhere near the basket. Which I didn’t. hahaha.

The third hole is 607 feet, over the corner of the pond to a landing area, and then water all along the left hand side to the basket. John Houck’s signature “risk vs. reward” shot. You can totally go for your three, but you’d better hit the landing area the basket sits on, or your disc is gone. LOVE IT!

Four is a shorty through a narrow opening, with a hidden basket that sits next to the water. You can play a safe straight show, or you can play the dog-leg and hope you don’t carry even a little bit too far.

Five’s basket also sits ten feet from the water – go for it if you want. It’s only 215 feet. I played safe, and then missed my putt. Story of my life.

Hole 6 is a tunnel shot with some elevation to maneuver. This course doesn’t have a ton of elevation, but when there IS some, they use it very well. Smart design, Mr. Houck.

Hole 8 is a monster 1019 feet. Lots of trees to hit along the left side, and if you don’t hit them, it’s out of bounds just on the other side of them. This hole is par 5, without question. Brutal.

Hole 9 is 644, but then hole 10 is another crusher: 930 feet, with dense trees to throw through or around. I played around and managed to get lucky on this one. I added some distance, but took some trees out of the equation.

Hole 13 is a little shorty (280’) with a small landing area along the bank of the pond. It was here that I noticed many of the quotes on the tee signs. Lots of biblical quotes, some billy graham quotes, Ben Franklin quotes, and whatever seemed appropriate at the time, while standing on the tee.

Hole 14 is 594 feet, bending to the right, through some well-placed trees. One just off the tee stops you from getting too wide and then, you’ve got a few more to navigate before throwing to a basket under a huge tree.

Hole 15 is a shorty with another well placed (and unique) tree right in the flight path. You can play it out wide if you want, or you can thread the needle. Multiple options from the tee makes for a really fun hole.

Hole 16, at 777 feet, has a hilarious quote from Miss Piggy on the tee sign. “Never eat more than you can lift.” It’s even funnier, since I got a little aggressive from the tee and threw one into the water. This is a fantastic hole with multiple risk/reward shots. A great landing pad on the upshot and looming out-of-bounds behind the basket makes for a tricky shot to the green. I love it (even though I lost one of my favorite discs).

Hole 17 is another water hole – short enough to drive to the basket, as long as you make it out of the few trees right off the tee. Risky landing area (that I actually found from the tee) – great hole.

Hole 18 is a reallllly tricky water hole. It’s a peninsula green with water in front of, behind, and to the right of the basket. You really have to land it on this little narrow thumb of grass to stay out of the water. Forget about landing it close to the basket – just keep it dry. This hole decides whether you go back to the car angry or elated.

I played fairly well at this course and I would highly recommend playing this course. I’m overjoyed that I got to play this course and I’d love to come back here and donate more plastic to the various water features of this course. I headed back to my car to get some additional Gatorade and sunscreen, and then I headed off to play the OTHER amazing course. – The Lakeside Course.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Rah’MN – St. Paul, MN

My friend GingerMcInjure and I heard about this new ramen place in St. Paul and thought we’d check it out. It’s not in a really restaurant-y part of town, but the GPS took me right to it. The inside is small with about ten tables to sit at. It’s one of those places that I hope gets some better “wayfinding” signage inside so you know what to do when you walk in the door for the first time – just a pet peeve of mine.

We stood around long enough that a couple of nice guys behind the counter asked us if we needed help. They told us to think of it “like a Subway for ramen”. I’m sure if their boss heard them describe it like that, they’d go crazy, but I get it. You can either order one of the few ramen soups or salads from the board, or you can build your own with all their super fresh ingredients (way better than Subway, I assure you).

You can choose the type of noodles you want (traditional ramen noodle or rice noodles) and they drop it in the boiling water to cook them. Then, you pick what kind of greens you want (kale, arugula, or spinach). Then, you’ve got a boatload of vegetables and garnishes you can add to your bowl. I got a couple of fun things. You can add various oils and sauces to your bowl and then you pick a protein, if you want. Finally, you can add broth to you bowl, including shoyu pork broth, white miso-mushroom broth, or spicy miso. I went with the spicy miso for mine and GingerMcInjure went with the shoyu pork broth. And we BOTH got pork with our bowls.

They also have a few beers in cans, which is a nice touch, if you’re into that sort of thing.

The meat itself had a great flavor, but honestly, the broths are where this place shines. They really nail it. They’re not too salty, which is sometimes a problem, and the flavor actually has some depth to it. I thought it might not, since it’s sort of a fast-casual sort of place. All of the vegetables were really fresh and the serving size is appropriate for this setting and price point.

I really like this place a lot. More than I expected to. It isn’t fancy ramen (for whatever that’s worth), which I also kind of liked, but you don’t notice any lower quality than the fancy places. Great work! (Now, get your staff to quit referencing Subway when they describe it – hahaha).

Monday, October 30, 2017

El Patron – Winona, MN

The guys and I headed to Southeastern Minnesota for a little disc golf road trip. We popped into El Patron for a lunch break and got a little liquored up. Well, *I* did, since I got a giant margarita.

I opted for the Twin Chimis lunch special. It was a chicken and a beef chimichanga cut into four pieces and covered with cheese and enchilada sauce. It showed up pretty quickly, but what did I care? I had a giant margarita.

The chimichangas were surprisingly good. I don’t know why I was surprised, but I am usually surprised when I get good Mexican food in Minnesota. I tried to figure out which one of these chimis I liked better, but I liked them both the same. It wasn’t swimming in cheese nor enchilada sauce, which was nice. The tortilla shell was fried perfectly and not greasy. Really, there’s not much more to ask for with this. The server was nice and the margarita was delicious.

I’d go back if I was in this part of the state again. Without question.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Andale – Richfield, MN

First off, this place is pronounced like “on duh lay”, NOT Anne-Dail. Come on, people.

I met a couple of coworkers here for lunch, after hearing a lot of people raving about this place. It gets pretty lively around the lunch hour, so you need to be prepared to park across the street at the Menard’s or hope you are lucky enough to find a spot in the small parking lot.

Andale has to entrances – one for the small Mexican market they have and another entrance for the restaurant. There was a line coming out the door when I got there, so I got in line and held a spot for my tardy friends. Thankfully, it gave me a while to check out the VAST menu of food items they have.

I finally decided on the Alambres with carnitas. It’s a whole bunch of corn tortillas covered in peppers and onions, carnitas, and cheese. It’s one of my favorite Mexican dishes ever. We all forgot to get drinks, so one of our guys ran into the market and grabbed a couple of random sodas. Whew – good thinking.

The food here is great – REALLY fantastic. It’s very authentic and there are a lot of Latino people eating here, just to prove it. The serving sizes are generous without being insane, and the prices aren’t bad at all. The food didn’t take a long time to prepare, but you can tell they’re making almost everything to order and things aren’t being microwaved. The food is really fresh and flavorful. I can’t wait to go back here again. It isn’t very close to my work, so I’m checking now to see when my boss is on vacation next...

Great showing Andale!

Monday, October 23, 2017

Xstream Cuisine – St. Paul, MN

I went to check out the Rummage MN event at the Minnesota State Fairgrounds. I had walked around a while and was getting hungry, so I popped into Xstream Cuisine food truck for some lunch. The line wasn’t terribly long, but I could see that a few menu items had tape over them and appeared to be sold out. Thankfully, there was a jerk chicken wrap still available. I ordered one of those when I got to the front of the line. The woman working wasn’t the nicest person in the world and appeared frustrated when I ordered a jerk chicken wrap. She told me that there was a batch of jerk chicken in the oven, but she told it to me in such a way as if I should try to order something else. I told her very nicely I didn’t mind and I’d wait for the chicken. She sighed loudly, muttered under her breath and rung me up. She wasn’t having a great day.

I waited a pretty long time for my food, but so did everyone else, who were also probably waiting on the jerk chicken wrap – one of the only things that they weren’t sold out of. I eventually got my wrap and went and sat down. I heard the food truck lady snap at someone who asked about sauces, so I knew to go to the condiment table and figure it out myself. I got some sauce and napkins and sat back down.

The wrap wasn’t big, and was mostly rice. I had two small pieces of chicken in the whole wrap. Thankfully, the flavor of the rice was pretty delicious. But the chicken was hard to tell I had some because the pieces were so small and it was actually overwhelmed by the jerk rice flavor.  It was a pretty uneventful jerk chicken wrap, in all honesty.

I probably won’t go back to this food truck again, even if they have more items that aren’t sold out.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Hard Eight BBQ – Dallas, TX

When you’re in Texas, you need to eat as much BBQ as you can. And I did.

One of our friends recommended Hard Eight. It popped up on a few of the “best bbq in Dallas” lists I looked at, so that was all the vetting I did. We showed up and could find the entrance to the place. Someone literally snuck us in a plastic flap behind the stage where a band was tearing down equipment. We went through every door we could find and kept discovering we were still not in the right place, but we eventually made our way to the front. And then waited in line for a while.

But, the waiting in line at a BBQ place isn’t like a normal wait in line at a restaurant. It gives you tie to really decide what you want to eat. See what other people are getting. See what they’re running out of. See what you don’t recognize, but are sure you need to try. This snake-y line walked you past the grills multiple times, so it really helped you get dialed into what you wanted to eat. They also had a manager standing near the line asking if people were first-timers and needed help with how things work here. SUPER smart. If you want a steak, you can bypass the standard line and get one cooked to order. Otherwise, things in this line are generally by the pound. So you tell them you want a half pound of X, and a quarter pound of Y, and a third of a pound of Z. Simple.

Well, it’s only simple if you don’t want everything. Hahaha. I got half slab of ribs, a quarter pound of brisket, and some chicken poppers. Then I headed inside to pick up the sides I wanted. They give you some white bread if you want it, and you can pour your own sauce. Inside, there’s a sort of cafeteria line with all kinds of crazy sides. Potato salad, cole slaw, corn bread, mac and cheese, onion rings, jalapeno sweet corn, and a bunch of other stuff. I had my eye on that mac and cheese, so I picked some up.

We paid for our food and then headed to the dining room. Near the fountain sodas, there’s a HUGE pot of baked beans where you can scoop as many as you want, as many times as you want. I’m a bean fan, so I got myself a dish.

The ribs here are fantastic. Seriously great. The meat, like most Texas joints, is served dry, so you can sauce it or not. I like it both ways, so I was pretty pleased with that. The ribs were extremely tender with just a little bite to them, and pretty good bark. Great actual smoke flavor, as well. The sauce is a welcome addition, but definitely not necessary. I was glad I tried it, but it definitely isn’t a crutch like at some places.

The brisket was also good – actually, quite good. Really moist with good marbling throughout, without being gristle-y.

The chicken poppers are like little pieces of chicken wrapped in bacon. I thought they’ve have some sort of jalapeno or cream cheese aspect to the, but they didn’t. They were fine, and tasty, but I don’t think I’d get them next time – just to save on stomach real estate.

The mac and cheese was some of the best I’ve had in Texas, however. Everyone at the table was raving about it and for good reason. It wasn’t from a box or from frozen. It had multiple cheeses in it and was cooked really perfectly – not always easy in such huge quantities. Totally worth getting this again.

Overall, this place was fantastic. I like the winding line where you keep changing your mind on what you’re going to get, but you can see it all being cooked in front of you (and you smell like BBQ, which is always a win). They have a lot of sides, and the staff are actually really helpful here. I’ll be back, if I’m in Dallas again. Great work, Hard Eight!