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Test Trip – Chapter 2

We set out for Dallas, TX (actually Grapevine) after a swift departure from Hastings, OK. This was our shortest drive of the trip, so far, and we were looking forward to full hookups (water, sewer, and electric) and to breaking our record for longest stay in one location. Based on photos of the next campground and some previews via Google Earth, expectations were high. The drive went smoothly and we passed the world’s largest bowie knife on our way through Bowie, TX – hopefully just the first of many world’s largest things we will encounter in our new life on the road.

On the way to Grapevine, we had the opportunity to drop by Buc-cees – a gas station/restaurant/grocery/convenience store/gift shop. We bought more than we needed but had no regrets. Honeybunch purchased some Christmas ornaments and I bought a 5-gallon jug that we planned to use for fresh water and to avoid the mistake that was made at Santa Rosa Lake State Park. We also bought a variety of foods and drinks, most of which were consumed immediately during the in-car taste test that we recorded.

The Vineyards Campground & Cabins

As soon as we arrived at The Vineyards Campground & Cabins, we knew we made the right choice. The campground is situated on the Southeastern coast of Grapevine Lake and our site was located on a peninsula at the far end of the park. It was beautiful. Sites are paved, level, and spacious. They also include a charcoal grill and a metal picnic table that was bolted to the ground. Bolted to the ground? Are they worried we might move it or steal it? Nope. The reason became apparent on our seventh night – wind. An extremely windy thunderstorm passed through and we found ourselves researching to find out if the 50 mph wind gusts could blow over our travel trailer. Yes, it was possible, but luckily we stayed upright and survived to camp another day, although I was concerned that this would be the end of our full-time RV dreams. I was relieved to learn that Honeybunch wasn’t ready to call it quits yet however, we decided to keep our emergency weather radio next to us in the rig instead of foolishly storing it in the truck’s glove box. Aside from the wind, which seemed to be a constant everywhere we went in western Texas, our only other complaint is the campground’s noticeable proximity to DFW airport. The Vineyards Campground & Cabins also has a large off-leash, unfenced dog area known as Puppy Point. Layla loved the freedom and ventured into the water more than ever before, even though she still wouldn’t go any deeper than knee-high.

In addition to our long-awaited trip to Buc-cees, we were excited to eat at some chain restaurants that are not available in our hometown. Maybe we should have researched some local favorites, but we didn’t. At home, we make 2-hour round trips just to get Chick-fil-A, so the opportunity to go to the restaurants we see on the commercials was not wasted. Yes, you’re advertising budget paid off, Carrabba’s Italian Grill. We went twice and learned two valuable lessons – 1) If you really enjoyed a meal at a certain restaurant, don’t go back right away. Perhaps counterintuitive, but the service and the food were amazing for the first visit. The second was disappointing because of our high expectations and a noticeably lower quality of service. 2) The expressways in Dallas are a scam. Apple Maps (yes, we have grown to prefer Apple Maps over Google Maps when driving with the travel trailer) guided us onto every expressway it could find, probably because it was rush-hour. At first, we thought they were just standard toll roads, but we quickly noticed that the actual highway was parallel to the expressway and, at times, had faster moving traffic. The expressway prices were variable depending on time of day and we ended up paying $11 for a 2-mile stretch of “faster” driving while getting passed by cars on the main, free, route.

The Star

Philadelphia Eagles fans – feel free to skip to the next section (just kidding). One of big splurges during this trip was a guided VIP tour of The Star, world headquarters of the Dallas Cowboys, located in Frisco, TX. This 91-acre campus which includes corporate offices, practice facilities, shops, restaurants (we enjoyed lunch at The Concrete Cowboy), and a hotel did not disappoint. It was the highlight, among many highlights, of our stay in Dallas. Kylee knew the visit was part of our itinerary, but we surprised her with the guided tour. She and Honeybunch weren’t fans of the Dallas Cowboys like I am (thank you, Godfather), but they recently binged the now-cancelled, possibly soon-to-return, Dallas Cowboys Cheerleader: Making the Team, which is filmed at The Star. So, The Star had something for everyone in the Blazedar family.

We navigated our way from the parking garage, past some massive statues and numeric tributes, to the Ford Center where the tour would take place. Upon entering we were greeted by an extremely friendly and pleasantly talkative security guard that seemed to be just as excited to be there as we were. As the minutes passed and the scheduled tour grew closer, we were also surprised to find that we were the only people there. Are we going to get a private tour?  Yes, we did!  After all, it wasn’t football season, and it was a Wednesday.

The tour began at the pedestal that held the Dallas Cowboys star logo which has been touched and provided inspiration for so many greats over the years. There were interesting things to see everywhere, and the guide provided detailed information about everything from football scouting notes (such as, “Emmitt Smith [now the NFL’s all-time leading rusher] is too small and emotional”) to the triumphs The Cowboys have achieved over the years (like 3 consecutive Superbowl wins in the 1990’s). There were a few players working out in the enormous gym with equipment that fed data straight the trainers. Other notable innovations included a full-width, 12-yard field on a balcony of the second floor where linemen could run drills without wasting time going back and forth to the 2 practice fields below (training time is regulated by the NFL, so every minute counts) and a 6-foot wide field goal (about half of regulation width) that was a special request from one of the team’s former kickers. The tour also provided some glimpses into the history of The Cowboys such as, the evolution of the uniform, team name, and logo, and the story of how the team originally became part of the NFL (spoiler:  it was borderline blackmail, but the tour guide called it “leverage”).

Although the gear, the training facilities, and the history of the team were interesting – the most impressive thing about The Cowboys is the team culture fostered by owner, Jerry Jones. It was surprising to learn how much he is involved with the team and how he strives to put players, managers, and fans first. The story about Mr. Jones, as he is respectfully referred to by the tour guide, taking the time to chat with a group of elementary school students on a field trip while his private helicopter waited for almost an hour on the practice field especially got to us. By the time the tour was over, the whole family had become lifelong fans of the Dallas Cowboys.

Perot Museum

We’re not quite sure if we’re the museum type. We like to do things more than we like to look at things however, The Perot Museum of Science and Nature included a good mix of both. There was a temporary Pixar exhibit that gave us some hands-on insight into the process and efforts that go into the creations of the beloved animation studio; everything from 3D modeling to lighting to sound and final rendering.

Each floor of the museum is dedicated to a specific scientific genre like astronomy (the universe and space travel), life on Earth (everything from dinosaurs to humans to plants), gems and minerals, and our favorite, the engineering hall where we could play with the exhibits and even have some friendly competition. Honeybunch crushed us in the keyboard typing speed and accuracy test, but Kylee dominated when using the keyboard on a phone, and I impressed the family with my ability to hang by my fingertips like Spider-man.

Dealey Plaza & Sixth Floor Museum

Our next experience was a somber one – Dealey Plaza in downtown Dallas, the site where President John F. Kennedy was assassinated. There was a lot to learn here and The Sixth Floor Museum, formerly known as the Texas School Book Depository (the location from which Lee Harvey Oswald fired the deadly shots, allegedly), proved to be an unexpected educational resource that not only taught us about the death of JFK and the surrounding conspiracies, but also about his life as a politician and the hope he brought to a generation in our nation. Kylee was motivated to learn about events that were currently her subject of study in school, and she immediately shared with her teachers the images and experiences that were not available to her peers. We added Oliver Stone’s JFK to our movie watchlist.

HQ and Sticky Rice

The week wasn’t all fun and games. On our last day in Dallas, I worked on-site at the corporate headquarters of my current employer. The office has remained mostly empty since COVID quarantines as most businesses have adopted remote work policies, but I did get to meet, in person, a few people with whom I’ve only emailed and video conferenced in the past. The IT department enjoyed a catered lunch as a team followed by a quick biographic introduction from each team member as we welcomed our new boss to the crew. I was surprised by how little I knew about the people I’ve been working with for years. I left some artwork on the whiteboard of my very temporary office.

When the workday drew to a close, Kylee and Honeybunch arrived to pick me up and shared stories of their adventures on the last day in the big city – yet another trip to Buc-cees and some Nascar-esque driving in the rush-hour traffic.

Our last meal in Dallas was shared with my former, and hopefully future, co-worker and his family at the restaurant he co-owns with his cousin. Sticky Rice specializes in Lao and Thai cuisine, and when we arrived, we were greeted by a friendly young man that told us we can sit anywhere we like. I said, “We’re waiting for the owner to join us. Do you know him?”

“Yeah.”, he replied. Then after a short pause, he humorously added, “He’s my Dad.”

Maybe it was the personalized choices from the owners themselves or the quality of the food or simply the variety of flavors made available to us, but we are forever ruined for any Thai restaurant that is not Sticky Rice. The time flew by as we shared stories about our lives, experiences, and plans. We barely put a dent in the amount of food that was brought to the table and after all was said and done, we had leftovers for days.

1 Comment

  1. Moira Vaughan

    Sounds like a successful test trip!
    Enjoy the rest of your adventure.
    Can’t wait until you come east 🍀💚

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