We left the Shreveport KOA around 8:00 and headed West on HWY 20. It was a straight shot to Dallas and I decided this was the best route because of the weather radar. The storm’s remnants looked to be hooking through East Texas and would intersect my path if I took the originally planned back roads. So, we would travel the tasteless, colorless interstate, eventually taking IH 35 South towards Austin. I immediately saw the difference in the road once we crossed over the border, it felt smoother.
They say everything’s bigger in Texas and that’s the truth when it comes to truck stops. We passed a few on HWY 20 with Buc ee’s being the biggest. More gas pumps than we could count and retail space greater than some of the small towns I passed through in the North East. I might have seen a sign for fine dining, but then again, the definition is open to interpretation. Sheri and I have different ideas as to what constitutes “Fine”. A couple in a truck pass us on the road and point to the back of the trailer but I don’t understand what they are mouthing. It doesn’t seem like it’s a compliment so I pull off when I get the chance and we end up at Duke’s in Canton, Texas. My license plate was held on by one bolt, the other side had tore and left it flapping in the wind. I had never seen a license plate tear before and am thinking our prison labor force needs to step it up. Do they still make license plates in prison? I punch a new hole in the plate and use one of the zip ties I thankfully thought to pack before leaving while Mabel sauntered around Duke’s dog park. I gassed up and we were on our way towards an uneventful trip to Dallas/Fort Worth.
The GPS navigated are way around the metropolis and we soon found ourselves on the familiar, or so we thought IH 35. It has been a long time since I have travelled this stretch, so any familiarity is a trick of the mind. The miles piled up, Mabel excited to see a four-ship formation of Blackhawk helicopters just as Metallica’s Search and Destroy was playing on the radio. It made me want to hum the Team America theme song and Mabel told me she was a proud American.
The immediate destination was Magnolia Market, the retail arm of Sheri’s favorite home improvement couple. We turned off at the Waco exit and found the store in an older part of town, parking was atrocious but I did find free parking on 8th. Remember that if you go, no need to pay the church for parking. These two have an industry going on and this isn’t a store but a destination. I, who hate to shop, was even excited. So excited I face timed Sheri on the phone to tell her where I was; she instantly knew seeing the silos behind me. Then I texted all my gal friends to let them know I was in the chosen land. Magnolia is three parts:
1. The outdoor courtyard complete with garden store, food trucks, fake grass and games for the kids.
2. A bakery next to the silos.
3. The indoor shopping center.
This place really isn’t my thing but I went inside and met a mom/daughter couple from Stillwater then jostled my way through their wares. Is it me or does most of their stuff look like branded merchandise? If so, they do a fantastic job with their brand. I bought something, not telling what, and the lady at the register was so nice I told her my story. She loved it and wanted to see Mabel, so I went and got her. Mabel may be the only Minnesota dog to shop at Magnolia and I am sure she will tell Evelyn as much. I can only take so much of this type of shopping so I was happy to continue South.
The old route, one of farm fields and nothingness has changed into stores and something. I tried to recognize where I was but had no luck, especially after Georgetown. It all seems to roll right into Austin and Round Rock is no longer separated. Before we were dating, when I was Rico Suaveing on Sheri, I surprised her at The Lone Star Café in Round Rock, her waitress job. I liked her so much I gave my car keys to the guys I was with (I never let anyone drive my car) and we went out on a date, probably considered our first. We have been a couple ever since and have outlasted the Lone Star Café; I didn’t see it as I drove by. Funny how those moments can be so important and at the time you don’t realize it. I was with Brian Gilbert and Ray Hudy, they were a part of what my life became, and at the time it was just another Saturday night.
Passing over HWY 183 I saw where I used to buy roses for my Sheri visits, her Dad telling me I was spoiling her, but I was still trying to show Mac Daddiness. All this had changed, there are now toll roads and over passes that run over bypasses and I was driving through at rush hour so lots of traffic. Mabel helped me keep calm, telling me when it was clear to change lanes and we soon found ourselves South of Ben White Boulevard which also didn’t look familiar. They were just starting to develop the fields that Scott Higgins and I used to ride his three-wheeler on. Yes, I said three-wheeler.
We were spending the night with Stacey, my sister-in-law, who lives in New Braunfels which now stretches onto the East side of the highway. None of this was built back in my time in Texas. I don’t know why I am so surprised with the changes. Sheri and I moved to New York in 1993, 24 years ago! Was Texas supposed to standstill and not change during that time? I guess in the back of my mind it was. We drove by her house as I didn’t recognize her car but she flagged us down on the second pass. I liked her new home, plenty of room to entertain with an open floor plan.
Stacey is great and I like how she plays off my jokes, often enhancing them for more laughs. Her little dog and Mabel got along so we left them at the house to get the bestest Tex-Mex food in the world; Chuy’s. Sheri worked for Chuy’s after we started dating, back when two brothers owned the company and they had three restaurants with Elvis shrines. Now they are in multiple states, listed on the NASDAQ, but still not in Minnesota. I have messaged them a few times but still no plans to invade the North. The meal was great, I had the Elvis platter and left stuffed. Too full for after dinner drinks so we went back home and I fell asleep during That 70’s Show. I forgot how funny it was, but I guess not too funny to keep me awake.
Crawling into a real bed tonight and I am thankful for family.