Seriously though, this return trip has gotten to me. We had a relatively short trip yesterday and I could not wait to get out of the car at days’ end! I was bothered enough that I rejiggered our route so as to even out today and Thursday into nearly equal length jaunts instead of having one day close to 500 miles. I think it’s mostly a function of familiar road and too many trips back and forth rather than being an issue of physical incapacity. I just find the route uninspiring.
Of course I say that knowing that I made lots of truck trips between St. Louis and Dallas and any drive down that stretch of road is filled with memories of the past. Can’t help but remember everything from bad accidents and a drunken Indian laying down on the white line of the road one Saturday night to freakish ice storms and cars sliding into ditches. Funny how the bright sunny days don’t seem to be what I recall of US-69.
We’re getting a late start today. We have roughly 6 hours of driving and seeing as I decided to risk Dallas one more time I want to see if it makes any difference to the level of traffic in that section of road that I call — affectionately — the canyons of Dallas (the below grade section of US-75 from downtown Dallas north to North Park Center or so. That stretch seems always to be congested but I’m not sure if I’ve ever driven it late morning — so that’s my plan today. We’ll see how it goes.
Yesterday we sort of broke a personal rule about not patronizing the major food chains. We have not been to a Ruby Tuesday in years. The last time was when Peg’s dad’s lady friend wanted to take us out to lunch at a Ruby Tuesday in Toledo in 2008. I remember that only because I remember the year Frank passed away — not because the meal was all that good or that bad. Years ago we used to take in a Ruby Tuesday or two because of their salad bar and that was what called our name yesterday. Having not been inside one in 7, almost 8 years, I was happy to see that their salad bar was just as good as it used to be.
We both like to stay away from prepared meals, portion control — which often means factory produced and frozen and chemically treated for spoilage — and hidden kitchens. While buffet bars of any kind have their risks of air borne diseases and filthy customer hands and sneezes at least on a salad bar the ingredients are out there to be seen, are usually unprocessed, and you can avoid whatever gives you the willies! Adding nuts and dried fruits makes the salad more interesting, and I’ll always opt for actual blue cheese rather than some sort of “bleu cheese dressing” containing someone’s chemistry set of ingredients.
I don’t know what you do about meals when you’re on the road but we often find that multiple restaurant meals in one day are too much food for our aging stomachs. Last night, as often happens, we ended up walking to the nearby grocery for some sort of evening meal. We often find that doing so ends up with us having a rather unbalanced meal — we’ll purchase one or two items that are more than enough food for the two of us — rather than meat and carb and veg and dessert. But we feel better having had less to eat before bedtime rather than too much to eat.
This is getting easier and easier with more groceries catering to customers who don’t cook. Many more groceries have pre-cooked items — like rotisseried chickens — that aren’t as subject to preservatives and other additives. Also with proteins being as high priced as they have become in recent years we notice that packaging has shrunk the sizes of sale items so that we end up with little or no leftover product after a single meal — always a good thing when we don’t want to be carrying a cooler. Given how jammed the back of the CR-V is on this trip the idea of carrying a cooler with us for this trip would have been laughable. I REQUIRE the side view mirrors to see. The back of the car is piled high enough that the interior rearview mirror does nothing but show me the boxes in the back!!!!!! I’ll be glad to get the back of the car emptied out!
Our CR-V is now 13 years old. I know that the seating in that Honda has always been stiff, but I swear that in recent years either my butt is getting more sensitive or the stiff seating is getting downright hard. I found myself spending a good part of yesterday’s drive thinking about the longterm options for replacing this car. Once we get the Holiday Rambler sold we don’t need to keep the Honda with the Towing baseplate. We turned over 148000 miles on the odometer yesterday — add on the 20-30 thousand additional miles that don’t show up because the odometer doesn’t record when the engine isn’t turned on — and we are driving an old car. I’m due for new tires soon. The Michelin 70,000 mile rated tires have just about seen that mileage and whether I should replace the rubber on our April trip to Milwaukee for the wedding is a thought that has been in my head more than a few times on this trip. We didn’t have time this trip, and the tires have a few thousand miles before the hit the official replace depth.
Our previous thoughts about replacing the car have been leaning heavily towards good fuel mileage at the expense of size. But I’m glad for a little more comfort now — ok — there — I’ve said it! Maybe a few more creature comforts aren’t the worst thing and I also think I’m willing to admit that I may not be driving as much as I did in my younger years. This trip — for one thing— has had me thinking longer and harder about day-trip length, and how many multiple-day drives I’m interested in taking. I acknowledge that how I look at travel is changing — just as everything else is changing in this world. I’m sure we’ll still travel — I’m not saying I’ve had my fill. But posture in the car is more important as I get older. I have always liked to sit somewhat more erect than reclined and we have often ended up with vans to accomplish that. Today vans as we knew them don’t really exist. The coach was one of the reasons we enjoyed our long distance travels as much as we did — the seating in both coaches was much more erect and posture-positive than in any car we’ve ever owned. Driving was easier; long distance less stressful — even if the cost of fuel and the fuel economy stunk! 🙂
A lot of factors seem to be percolating in my brain right now. The decision to purchase a house opened up a Pandora’s Box of ideas and if I sometimes seem reticent to talk about certain things it’s because the ideas in my head are so disparate that trying to make heads or tails out of them for public consumption are more daunting than I’m ready for — I’d rather wait until I’ve sussed out what we’re going to do and talk about it all then. I find this a very exciting time in life. It’s clearly a new chapter in ways we did not expect. But I suppose aging hits a lot of people that way. “No one told me old age would be like this” — I’m not over the OLD AGE threshold yet — at least I don’t feel like it; but I think I’ve gotten sensitized to the subject of euphemisms and I’m willing to talk about being OLD now, instead of just being a “senior citizen” — we americans do tend to make things sound younger than they really are.
So, I had two more things I wanted to comment on — completely out of order for the day’s activities. One is about food — what else? And the other is about highways.
We stopped in Waco for a bite of lunch. Our routine for choosing restaurants is rather loosely defined. For one thing, I rely upon a lifetime of travel — it’s surprising how often I have returned to cities and towns and even crossroads where I have eaten before. I sometimes remember where I have gone (in life) by what I ate when I was there! (I know — that sounds weird) If I have no inner wisdom about where to stop I often check out Trip Advisor — but with the proviso that many, if not most, of the people reviewing restaurants are a.) not as discriminating in their taste (as witnessed by fast food joints being higher in the list of best restaurants than a 2 Michelin star ‘real’ restaurant) and b.) many reviewers aren’t looking for a great meal — just for something that will fill their stomachs or to quiet the kids down after a long stint in the car. (and YES, I admit it, I AM a food snob!)
So, here we were approaching Waco and we were in need of food. Where to go, where to go. We have tried a couple BBQ places on this trip but Trip Advisor clued me into a so-called BBQ joint that was a little out of the ordinary and I decided to check them out. Vitek’s Bar B Q is an odd little joint. It’s been around since the early 1900’s. Being located in a college town they clearly cater to the college crowd. And arriving as past-peak lunch hour the joint was still crammed with people (students and business folk) chowing down to their heart’s content. This is not a place to go to scrutinize your plate for the smoke ring, or to analyze the meat to fat content. It’s not fussy in that way.
To prove my point, let me tell you about the Vitek “Gut Pack”. Knowing that college students need to eat they have concocted a 2 pound, delivered in styrofoam, portable lunch. Visualize a layer of Fritos corn chips covered in cheese, covered in sliced smoked sausage, covered in barbecue with jalapeños and chopped onions on the side and two slices of bread. And then dig in! It’s not a gourmet delight. But it is a gastronomic experience worth having! Don’t even think about dessert here. You won’t need it. And the offerings are slim. But if you want a fun meal that’s also delicious and satisfying — do try Vitek’s
My final though for the day is about The Canyons of Dallas. US-75 proceeding North out of downtown — also called the Central Expressway is a below grade 8-10 lane ribbon of highway that’s supposed to get you out of downtown to the Northern suburbs. It’s a stretch of road that is frequently bumper to bumper and when something happens there’s no where to go. You’re kind of stuck down there with all the other traffic. It has seemed in the past that every time we go through Dallas we get hung up here — this time we managed to luck out — going through about 11 a.m. — and while the traffic was racing through we did make most of the trip at close to posted speeds. It’s not my favorite place in the world — I don’t like roads that are close in like this — but it’s what’s here.
Considering that we have been living with the 5 years of Interstate reconstruction in Milwaukee I can’t help but wonder what will happen here when they have to update this stretch of road. There’s not much place to go with additional lanes. As the city grows — presumably it will — there will have to be accommodations made for more and more traffic. I’ll be interested to see how they solve the problem when the time comes.
Ok — the clock is calling — I still have 360 miles to travel today and I’d best get off my high-horse and get into my little CR-V and get with the program.
Thanks for stopping. I’ll be here tomorrow, why not check in to see what’s happening.