The Road To Dallas
On our return journey to Madison we will be pretty much following the same roads in the Texas stretch. However, instead of bearing North East to Arkansas, we would bear North West towards Oklahoma and make our way home through the prairies.
We had till Sunday night to get home and the early drive time traffic in Houston is a bear. So we slept in a little on Friday the 13th and headed out late morning closer to 10 AM. By then drive time rush would be all done and over. Although we beat the Houston traffic, we could not beat the stupidity known as Texas roads. Their entire system is shoddy, incoherent, senseless and poorly marked. Yes the loop system is a nice idea, but you could fucking let us know where its looping to and clearly let me know how to exit the loop to where I want to go. Chicago and St. Louis maybe a bit confusing to country bumpkins like us, but at least its not stupid and incoherent. If a Texan were to spend some time driving in the Midwest, they would discover the hallelujah known as ease of navigation. Needless to say, we took a wrong exit off the loop. We could not figure the take exit on the left on the right and stay in the middle. All was not lost, it rendered us a lovely tour of downtown Houston before we were off on Highway 45 towards Dallas.
This day was special. My sister and I had meticulously planned it to be special and fruitful. After spending almost a week in Texas without trying a lick of Tex-Mex, Mexican or Barbecue, despite everyone telling us thats what we must do; we were done with it. We grabbed the bull by the horns and decided that as we exit from the South, we will nibble on at least a few southern delights.
Our first top was Maximo an upscale elegant Mexican restaurant in Dallas. Maximo is situated in a nice looking neighborhood. The massive wooden doors to enter the restaurant and its regal atmosphere would deem it out of the budget of middle class folks. Indeed lunch time had business men and women in expensive suits, wining and dining while they were wheeling and dealing. It would have scared most scrappy people away, but we did our research.
The first thing to note is that food is relatively cheaper in the South. Dinners in the South cost what a lunch would cost up here in the Midwest. Secondly, when you consider that lunch always means lighter low cost lunch portions you have a winner - a very affordable lunch at an upscale restaurant. Maximo for sure was worth the cost of every economical penny we spent. The food was authentic, spicy and delicious. If you are ever in Dallas check out Maximo.
Everyone is nuts in Texas
In civilized society we would call them jackasses, but we know that Texas is special. Its a state with very special people who feel the desperate need to drive giant trucks on giant highways. Thank God there are no Texans in civilized society like Wisconsin. Those cowboys would be driving military tanks in winter. So I'll be polite and call them nuts instead of asses and dicks.
I'd heard the story before. Texans have big cars, but tiny brains and even less patience. So if there is a traffic jam that is taking forever to move, Texans don't have it in them to endure the wait. They don't have it in them to think about traffic rules, safety and consequences. They might as well be crazed Italians or Indians. They drive off the road and make their own exit/intersection/path or whatever they need in the grass.
So as we waited in an endless traffic jam one Texan nut just steered his car of the road onto the carpet of grass. A few more cars followed and then some more. Now there was a nice flat patch of grass indicating an alternate dirt path. Every now and then some driver would see that path and follow it.
Or not really. I happened to come across a license plate that screamed the obvious - "Cancer Sucks". Why of course cancer sucks! So I state aloud, why one would drive about with a plate screaming the obvious that Cancer sucks. The drivers must have a very strong opinion about Kansas my sister explains. Why does Kansas sucks wonders my mom. My dad is probably wondering if we should drive through Kansas. My grandma probably has a tangent only God can guess in her mind. I shrug hopelessly and explain, Toto not Kansas, Cancer, Cancer sucks.
Jamming in Oklahoma
There was a lot of construction on Highway 35 when we were in the South. We spent hours stuck in a traffic jam. We should have reached Oklahoma city by six PM, but were instead stuck bumper to bumper due to this construction. Just a week after we were on Highway 35 heading to Oklahoma city, one of the many summer tornadoes swept across highway 35 at the same time and place we were. One week later....and we would have witnessed the mayhem of a tornado. As much as I am fascinated by tornadoes and eager to see one, 2011 has been humbling and I'd rather bow down to nature than try to chase it with bravado. Maybe someday I'll find my tornado fascinated spunk back.
We had mapped out a barbecue place for dinner in Oklahoma City. As we drove into the part of the city where the joint was we found ourselves in a very hip and bustling part of town. There was a lot of traffic, and the parking lots everywhere were full. We soon realized that it was due to the ballpark next door and the Oklahoma RedHawks were playing.
This part of town is known as Bricktown and is the entertainment district of the city. Initially a warehouse district, this completely redesigned part of town boasts of top notch eateries, the Sonic headquarters, a massive movie theater complex, some upscale hotels all nestle around the gorgeous Bricktown canal and the meandering walkways around it. At the end of it all, the bad traffic and delays had somehow worked out. Initially we had planned on just eating and moving on into Kansas before calling it a night. At the end of a long day though, we were somewhat tired. However, we were more enamored by the charm and beauty of Bricktown in Oklahoma City. Who knew Oklahoma City would be so endearing. It had a twinge of Madison, WI appeal to it. So after a very quick vote on changing plans we checked ourselves into the Marriot Residence Inn at Bricktown. There were no cheaper hotels in sight and we splurged for the beauty of Bricktown.
Earl's Rib Palace
Our second southern meal of the day was barbecue at a casual joint known as Earl's Rib Palace. Reviews all over said they had some might fine and low cost barbecue. The ambiance of the joint is more fast food and laid back. In fact at lunch time it is a McDonald's style self service place. Dinner is a nice sit down deal though, the place was packed with tourists and locals. Usually, I avoid beef unless its ground up like burgers and sloppy joes. I avoid steaks and large cuts of beef, it never agrees with me and the flavor punch does not satisfy the desi in me. The south must have made me bolder, the thought of good barbecue must have tempted me with flavor. For the first time in my life I had a beef brisket, not whole brisket but a barbecue sandwich of beef brisket. It was juicy, meaty and packed with tons of barbecue flavor. My craving for barbecue in the south had finally been satisfied. I could now go back to Madison, or even hell if you will.
Before retiring for the night we ambled back from the restaurant savoring the precious little we had to enjoy of Bricktown. Maybe someday, maybe someday we would have to come back here again. For now I enjoyed the lovely bright night, the gentle warm summer breeze and the walk along the canal. Gosh, I do love Oklahoma City.