Archives For Fort Worth

taxas thang

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Day 22 was a driving day. Mtuseni had said months earlier that he wanted to see Texas. So we headed south from Memphis to Fort Worth — and at some point, after three weeks of being on the road, crossed the mid-point of the country!

Speeding through Dallas, Mtuseni marveled at the skyline. I considered taking an extra half day to check out the city and see the book depository and grassy knoll where JFK was shot. But I figured he’d think that two assassination sites in a row was weird — and I wanted to avoid any Texas-sized traffic jams leaving Dallas. 

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mtu lobby

The lobby of the H3 Ranch seemed like a scene out of Gunsmoke.

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My mother told me to check out Billy Bob’s, the world’s largest honky tonk. (My father had worked near Fort Worth for a couple years.) But it was closed that night for a private party. (I’m the king of shit timing.) So we had dinner at the H3 Ranch, where uber-carnivore Mtuseni was in heaven. Compared to the brash colors and crowds of Beale Street, historic downtown Fort Worth felt mellow and sweet with its sprinkling of neon and quiet pubs.  I could hear The Eagles’ “Desperado” in my head. 

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ft worth night

A mellow late summer night in historic Fort Worth.

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The next morning, Day 23 of our road trip, we set out to see the famous cattle drive at the stockyards. Turning around on a side street after a GPS mishap, we came upon the Fort Worth Aviation Museum. A strange little place: probably 50 different military aircraft parked on a grassy lot. It was closed so we looked at everything through the chain link fence. I’m not a big military person, but it was pretty cool to see planes and jets and choppers from different eras up close. It would have been really neat to go inside.

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mtu plane sign

Unfortunately you can’t touch the warbirds at the Fort Worth Aviation Museum if it’s not open.

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nm jet

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Back at the stockyards, we stood on the sidewalk and watched about 14 docile longhorn steer be led down the street by cowboys on horseback. I wasn’t expecting a cinematic stampede of 5,000 cattle, but for all the build-up for the daily cattle drive — and the dire warnings of being gored — it was pretty laughable. I imagined the cattle punching out after the show and heading to their second gig at a petting zoo.

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rodeo hall of fame

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Mtuseni did manage to get in some Texas rancher experience. I’d watched the (cute!) cowboy with the photo-op steer collect money from people all morning. He didn’t ask me for money. Either he was being nice to Mtuseni or he just forgot. (If it’s the latter, I owe you five bucks, pardner!)

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mtu longhorn

No, I did not get on this thing…

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mtu longhorn cowboy

…but I definitely would have gone out with the cowboy!

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stockyards pair

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After the cattle show we poked around the shops at the stockyards. It was pretty quiet — a Monday in mid-September. It’s likely busier at the height of summer. 

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mtu hat

Didn’t make the souvenir collection. No way that thing would survive all the way back to Johannesburg!

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ft worth plates

I can imagine some of these on beat-up old pickups barreling across a muddy ranch.

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I love vintage radios. This looks like it’s from one of my favorite movies, The Last Picture Show, playing some melancholy cowboy ballad on a scarred kitchen table, flypaper swinging in a hot breeze. 

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radio

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horse ride

Never seen one of these at a full gallop! I guess soft Northeastern Yankee kids get a more sedate version.

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We did return to Billy Bob’s for lunch — but aside from the size, the place lacks something when it’s almost empty. It must be a blast on a busy night with all the bars, stage, dance floors, gaming — there’s even a rodeo ring inside!

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billy bobs

Billy Bob’s by day — the world’s biggest, and emptiest, honky tonk!

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Mtuseni kicked my butt in a game of pool. (Actually, a third grader could. I’m just not into it.) He’s good! When I asked where he learned to play, he said at college. Hmm… so that’s where my tuition money went. (I shouldn’t talk. I learned much worse in my college days!)

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pool hall

Can’t remember if Mtuseni is grinning with anticipation over kicking my butt in pool here — or savoring his victory.

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We left Fort Worth and headed to our stopover in Lubbock. We were headed to New Mexico but you can’t do that drive in half a day. Damn, Texas is big! 

This turned out to be one of my favorite drives of the trip. I love the Southwest. The starkness, the heat, the space. It just seems to vibrate with some type of energy or spirits. This was the part of the trip I was most looking forward to. It’s so different from the Northeast. 

I had tried to explain the concept of “big sky” to Mtuseni early in the trip, but he didn’t get it. In West Texas, he did. You really have to be out there and experience the overwhelming feeling of sky all around and above you to understand. It’s breathtaking and humbling and inspiring.

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texas sky

Now… finally… wide-open country!

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I was surprised to see that our last leg into Lubbock was just a two-lane road. We watched a huge thunderstorm move across the far horizon — ominous black clouds and lightning bolts hovering over the grassy plain. It was gorgeous. Cinematic. With an acoustic soundtrack playing on my iPod, I  was in road trip bliss.

Of course, we caught up to the storm after half an hour or so — and continued into Lubbock in the dark in a driving, treacherous rain. But it didn’t dampen my spirits from the long drive under the West Texas sun. The magnificent, magical Southwest awaited! 

 

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