Musings, Road Trip, The World A to Z, Travel

Ya Gotta Love Texas

Editor’s Note:  A year ago, Greg posted the following on his Facebook feed as we wrapped our cross-country trip to our new home in Arizona. When it popped-up as a memory yesterday, we were both struck by the humor and thought it would be fun to share here. CAUTION: Strong language.

Caution, rant ahead (but in a good way…sorta).

Will this road ever end? (Photo © 2020 Judy Romano)

Let’s talk about Texas. It’s a big f’in state. So big that we spent 9-1/2 hours getting from the CENTER of the state (Waco) to the western border (El Paso). We can see New Mexico (and frankly, Mexico) outside our hotel window, but we’re still in Texas. Shit (or as they say here, “Sheeee-it”). We went from tree-lined streets and roads through the vast nothingness of west Texas. We drove through a town that on its “welcome to” billboard praised its band. I guess their football time was such a west Texas embarrassment that the band got top billing. That’s not a bad thing…when I was in high school, people came to games to see MY award-winning, kick-ass, LA All City Champion, take-on-all-comers high school band. But I’m sure they don’t talk about it in the diner in this west Texas town. Heck, the Sheriff at the gas station didn’t even give me crap about my foreign sports car with the Virginia tags…probably out of embarrassment for their football team.

But I digress. Let’s talk about the bad things about Texas. From Beaumont to Waco, we collected more bugs on the front of the Spider than a fly strip in a dairy farm. We collected an equal amount between Waco and the aforementioned embarrassed by its football team west Texas town. There, the bugs were replaced by a hellacious wind straight on the nose that lowered our gas mileage into ’70s American muscle car territory (okay, that’s exaggeration but it was pretty sucky for us) and stirred up dust reminiscent of Los Angeles smog in the late 60s. We skirted a few dust devils that looked like they could suck up the Spider like Dorothy’s tornado sucked-up the wicked witch of the west on her bike.

Speaking of driving, the roads SUCK. They’re not smooth in any way. I think they lay down tar by pushing it through a potato peeler. When you drive a two-seat sports car, you feel every bump and the performance tires complain. When the road is no smoother than a cheese grater, you long for smooth interstates, but alas, even there the road surface was akin to the Sea of Tranquility on the moon. No wonder everyone there drives a big truck or SUV…lots of suspension to soak up the crappy roads.

But here’s the good thing about Texas roads…speed limits. In Texas, they assume you’re not a candy-assed driver. They have two-lane roads with speed limits set at 75 mph. You read that right. Seventy-five f’in miles per hour on a two lane rural road with driveways and tractors and animals of all kinds. I’ve heard that armadillos, in particular, can take out a suspension…of course, by the looks of it, a Ford F250 can take out an armadillo pretty well, too. In most states, brand new four-lane highways still have speed limits topping 55 mph. Texas says screw that! If you can’t handle driving that fast on a rural road or drive 80 on the Interstate, stay out of our state….pansy.

Home … and away from Texas. (Photo © 2020 Judy Romano)

Finally, there’s one other good thing about Texas…the people are creepily nice. I didn’t meet a soul who didn’t say good morning/afternoon/evening, offer a tip on a good restaurant, hold the door for you, or let in a driver into traffic (okay there were the two a-holes that cut in front of me thinking they could accelerate their POS Toyota pick-up to 75 in five seconds flat, but at least they weren’t pansies). They smile, say ma’am, sir and thank y’all and simply dare you to dislike them. But it’s just not possible.

So thank you, Texas, for being, well, Texas. You still need to remember that you are part of the U.S. of A. and not your own damned country. But we’re happy to have you — God knows, we don’t want you against us — and happy that you continue to show us that not giving a damn has its merits.

Rant over. That is all.

© The World A to Z, LLC 2020

Road Trip, Route 66

Getting Ready to Drive The Mother Road

We’re getting ready to drive the “Mother Road.” We are picking up something big in Los Angeles (too big to ship home) and are using it as a reason to take a classic road trip.

As children of the 60s, some of our earliest memories are of family long-distance road trips and this is a chance to recreate a vacation from our youths. What better route than Route 66?

There are dozens of books about Route 66: historical perspectives, turn-by-turn tutorials, tourism guides, etc. There are websites devoted to everything about the “Mother Road” and its attractions. It’s a veritable cornucopia of research material to make the most of the trip. I’ve spent three months digging into everything I can find to plan the trip and decide what we can’t miss, where we should stay and where we should eat.

As the trip draws closer, we’re both getting down to the nitty gritty of what to pack. That list now includes some items we need to buy once we get to LA. We’re flying out and driving back, after all, and some of what we want to have in the car is just too bulky to carry on a plane.

Maps and a camera are essential. Turn-by-turn instructions are crucial so we don’t miss any of the old road sections as they wind through towns of the west and Midwest. A picnic basket is a key piece of recapturing the “good old days” that we hope to relive. We want to be able to stop for lunch and pull out a sandwich and a drink like when we were kids.

We plan to blog the whole trip and capture images of our nation’s towns and cities. We will continue our typical style of chatting with everyone we meet along the way. We hope to enjoy foods native to every region from Santa Monica to Chicago.

Hitting the road is a great way to see things, especially when you stay off the interstate and stick to local highways. Route 66 will take us through ghost towns, struggling towns and places seeing a surge in tourism as more people opt to take a slower pace to enjoy their travels.

There is a whole world out there just waiting to be explored. This time, we’re taking back roads to do it. Stay tuned.

© The World A to Z, LLC 2017

The World A to Z

Fort Worth – A Step Back in Time

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I’m no historian, but I love to hear and read the histories of people.  That makes travel to “historical sites” challenging, as they are often too sterile to be interesting…at least to me. But a recent trip to Fort Worth, Texas, has changed my perspective a bit.

Greg had to go to Fort Worth for a conference, so I joined him. We opted to save on the rental car and just hang around the downtown area that surrounded our hotel, Sundance Square.

WHAT A TREAT! I looked up the website and it doesn’t say anything about a specific effort to make the whole area a little piece of Art Deco design, but that’s what is happening there.
Physically, the 35-block zone around a central plaza is almost like a trip back to 1920.

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Our hotel, for instance, was built in 1929. The inside of the Courtyard by Marriott Blackstone was completely modernized and looked a lot like any other nice hotel, but the outside was just like it had been when the hotel was built. Dozens of buildings in the area were that way.

There was a flat iron building that looked just like the one I had seen in Chicago.

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Bass Hall, a performance center, touted trumpeting angels on its façade.

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Around every corner I spotted another little art deco treasure.

Even the AMC theater looked like a trip back in time.

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The detail on the buildings was amazing. Brick patterns adorned the edges, copper accents gleamed in the Texas sun.

Even the business signs had that great historical feel.

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This is not some attempt to be a re-enactment city like Colonial Williamsburg or Salem, Massachusetts. Those places are historically accurate, but have a TOTALLY fake feeling. Fort Worth isn’t trying to make you experience life in the 1920s. The merchandise in the stores is modern; even the stores are modern.

There’s an Ann Taylor Loft, a White House, Black Market and other national chain stores that sell the same things as other stores in the chains, but they are set in buildings that are decidedly art deco.

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There were a couple of hints of the past in this uniquely western town.  In the front window of Leddy’s Ranch at Sundance Square, a man was shining a businessman’s cowboy boots. The buffing and polishing that happens on a shoe shine chair seems limited to airports and train stations these days.

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At Peter Brothers, a haberdasher was fixing the brim of a hat using tools from a different era. He was an interesting combination of modern and historic in his khaki shorts and a t-shirt.  

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The store still makes western hats and fedoras the same way they’ve been made for a century.

Even the Christmas decorations that were going up had a throw-back feel.
What an utter delight! As a non-historian, I never felt like someone was trying to teach me about the history of the area or, for that matter, the history of design or architecture.

Instead I just enjoyed the views, the details, the simple beauty of another era – all while I strolled and shopped with all the modern conveniences.

I had no idea this gem was there … not exactly hidden, but not very well advertised, either. I hadn’t known what to expect when I decided to spend a few days in Fort Worth with Greg, but this is why I love to travel. You never know what you’ll find that isn’t in a guide book.

So pack your bag and go somewhere. Remember: There’s a whole world out there, go see it.

© The World A to Z, LLC 2015