the land of beef

Today we drove from Amarillo (not pronounced Ama-reeyo as in the Spanish ‘yellow’, but rather Ama-rillo) to Bryan (pronounced as you’d expect.) We’ve developed a survival skill of driving for two hours, taking a break, and then going for another two hours. Jeanne heard from a trucker that that’s the way to do it, and it appears like a reasonable amount.

We ate breakfast at The Kettle, which is a chain of restaurants much like Denny’s. We asked someone at the town’s gas station where we’d find the best breakfast in town, and they sent us there. We were the only customers at 10am.The waitress was sassy, the sort of archetypical Texas woman. When I got an omelet instead of the scramble I’d ordered, she offered to show me into the kitchen so that I could smack the cook.

Here’s another conversation:

Ron: Do you know where I can buy a paper?
What sort of paper?
R: A newspaper.
SW: (rolling eyes) Well, I ain’t gonna have anything more to do with you today!
(She brought me her copy of the local paper.)

The food was okay, but I wouldn’t drive halfway across Texas for it. After leaving The Kettle, we came across another restaurant just down the street. The parking lot was full, and it looked a lot more interesting. So much for the opinions of gas station attendants.

We were supposed to meet folks from the Texoma Volks Folks today. I called the contact Myron Hill a few days ago, and asked that he leave a message on our satellite phone with details on the restaurant where we were to meet. He never called back, and when I called him this morning, his phone had been disconnected. Odd. Needless to say, we didn’t meet those folks today. Ahh well.

Today we drove across west Texas, which is very dry and flat, on Highway 287. Along this highway there are some amazingly horrible RV parks. These consist of nothing more than a rectangular lot of brown grass with a grid of connection points and a small building containing showers, restrooms, and the office. No trees, no pool, no swing set, nothing else. Not surprisingly, these were all empty. No long-term residents in these ‘parks’. As we got closer to Dallas-Fort Worth, the countryside got greener and more rolling.

We made our way through Dallas and stopped at a truck stop where we weighed our vans. Mine weighed in at 5,580 pounds, and Jeanne’s came in at around 5,250 (weights include passengers.) If you remove 100 pounds from my weight for the winch, the two vans are fairly close in load.

At the truck stop I bought two cans of Red Bull. I love the taste of that stuff, and after two cans I was tearing down the road singing at the top of my lungs along to Ben Lee’s “Something to Remember Me By”. Great stuff.

We got through the *huge* Dallas-Fort Worth area, which is an incredible maze of freeways about 50 miles wide and high. (287 -> I-35W -> I-20 -> I-45.) We headed south on I-45, stopping in the small town of Palmer for dinner.

Palmer East

Palmer, Texas is one of those All-American small towns that are featured in wholesome 50’s movies. There’s a small downtown surrounded by small houses and green lawns. There’s a grain silo, a street clock, and a cafe, where we stopped for dinner.

The Palmer cafe is a charming, ‘Kountry Kitchen’ sort of place. It’s also the sort of place where everyone knew we weren’t from town, and acted like they didn’t really know how to treat us. The waitress seemed to interact with us only when necessary, spending most of her time sitting at the only other occupied table in the restaurant. (I knew that table contained customers, because they got a bill.)

Palmer West

Shay mentioned that after having been in California, he now realizes how rude Texas waitresses can be. I wouldn’t say ‘rude’, but they definitely interact differently. Texas cuisine seems to have three major themes:

  1. Beef
    1. Beef Jerky
  2. Catfish

This is without doubt the home of all things boeuf. Restaurants name themselves “House of Ribs” or “Beef Pit” or “Steak Barn”. Beef jerky is a subset of beef, but gets special mention because it gets special mention on the side of the highway. “Special Recipe Beef Jerky”, “Award Winning Jerky”, and “Best Jerky You Can Buy!” scream from large signs on the side of the road. “Free sample!” If you ask for turkey jerky, folks squint and say “Whaaa?”

We entered the South today. At 180 miles from of Amarillo, we ate at our first restaurant with grits on the menu, though they were out. (How can someone run out of grits?) At 291 miles out, we came across our first signs hawking okra.

Tomorrow we enter the Deep South. Houma!


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