Road Trip to Dallas Part 1: Ten Roadside Attractions

Odometer (Legend):  532,825

532825

Odometer (ILX):  119,076

119076

Trip Distance:  2,205 Miles

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Howdy.  First of all, let’s cut to the chase and get acquainted with the native language of Texas before we go there.  “Y’all” is used when addressing 2-3 people.  “ALL y’all” is in reference to a larger group.  The tricky part is when y’all becomes possessive.  Example:  “Is that y’all’s car?”  See, I don’t even know if I’m comfortable using that many apostrophes in one phrase.

For a couple of months now, some friends and I had been planning on a Texas trip.  From the beginning, I had always told them, “I’m driving.  I’ll see you guys there.”  I resisted multiple pushes to book a flight.  It’s not that I have any problem with getting on a plane, but for me, the journey is as much of a vacation as a destination.  Thirty hours in a car sounds like a pretty good time to me.  And you’re reading this because you probably agree.

The last time I was in Dallas was September 2013 for some diesel truck races with my dad & brothers.  However, I cheated that time and took a flight to/from on Southwest Airlines.  Aside from that, I’ve been through the DFW area a number of times on my cross-country adventures, and it’s a fun place to make a stop.

texas

(that picture pulled from my State Lines post)

I departed last Wednesday after work and headed as far as Las Cruces, New Mexico.  Jason of Driven for Drives welcomed me and my ILX with red-carpet treatment for our overnight stay at his place off Interstate 25.  The next morning, it was off to the races.  I had places to go and people to see.  Motivation for the drive was provided by a limited-edition Starbucks “Birthday Cake” frappaccino (thanks to my friend Jim for the travel tip!) which I picked up at the location on George Dieter Road in El Paso.

Over the next 10 or so hours, I watched West Texas fly by in all its grandeur.  My life became a country song:  I was surrounded by boots, spurs, pickup trucks, and blue jeans.  When I rolled into the Pecos, Texas “Stripes” gas station on Interstate 20 (only part of which had actual concrete pavement) around mid-morning, I took a look around me and felt a little out of my element.  Everyone in line at the Subway inside had on flannel except for a woman with 1980’s hair and polka dot leggings.  Culture shock.

speed_limit

I zoomed back onto the interstate via the “feeder” (frontage road) and re-set the cruise control at 83 miles per hour.  Most of that area has an 80 mph limit which helps the miles go a little more quickly.  The problem with maintaining that speed in an Acura ILX is that the engine is whirring at nearly 4,000 RPM even in 6th gear.  Luckily I had 15,605 amazing songs on my iPod to drown out the motor noise.

arrival_dallas

By dusk I had entered into the western end of the 7-million-resident Dallas – Fort Worth “Metroplex” and its maze of under-construction freeways.  My friends welcomed me with a collective roll of the eyes.  Was it really worth all that time in the car?  They asked me.  To keep things easy and share some of my trip highlights, I’ll itemize my list here and you can judge for yourself whether you blame me for driving.

After 2,205 miles, I can confidently say it’s a trip I’d make again and again.  Hope you enjoy taking a passenger seat to some of these neat attractions, and thanks as always for coming along.

1)  Odessa:  World’s Largest Jackrabbit

In 1932, the teeny Texas town of Odessa became home to the world’s first jackrabbit roping competition.  During the town’s annual rodeo, Grace Hendricks roped a rabbit from horseback in 5 seconds and won.  The jackrabbit roping competition was met by outcries from animal lovers and was discontinued until 1977 when a second competition was held.  After that, the Humane Society put a stop to things with a court order.  Today, an 8-foot-tall rabbit stands at the Chamber of Commerce on 8th Street.

ilx_jackrabbit

2)  Odessa:  Replica Stonehenge

Just a few miles away from the rabbit statue, I entered the campus to the University of Texas, Permian Basin.  We’re all probably familiar with the “original” landmark Stonehenge in the United Kingdom, but this one was erected only 11 years ago.  Most of the slabs on display here are 19 feet tall and weigh up to 20 tons each.  The layout of the stones is accurate to the real Stonehenge, but the sizes are a little bit smaller.  Pictured in the far background is a Home Depot.  This is definitely not England.

tyson_at_stonehenge

3)  Colorado City:  Radio Station Microphone Sign

There’s a radio station called KVMC that’s been broadcasting since the 1940s.  A couple of decades later, someone took a picket fence and made a piece of artwork out of it, creating a giant replica of the original microphone.  It still stands today in front of the radio station along the frontage road to Interstate 20.

kvmc_sign

4)  Abilene:  World’s Largest Paper Airplane

On 1st Street in Abilene at the Sparhawk Art Gallery / Bed & Breakfast, there’s a 30-foot-long version of a paper F15 aircraft.  This one, however, actually appears to be made of wood.  When I pulled into the narrow Sparhawk parking lot, I immediately spotted the aircraft toward the back and rolled there for a few photographs.

When my work there was through, I started to drive away and a woman came running out of the small building with something in her hand – a “regular sized” paper airplane.  I rolled down my passenger window, thinking perhaps I was getting in trouble for taking pictures on private property.  “Here!” she said.  “You have to take this with you!” and she handed me the paper airplane.  Soon, a man named Donovan came out too.  I got out of the car to talk to both of them, and Donovan handed me a second airplane.  He had folded both of them.  “They don’t fly well, but I only used one sheet of paper each, and a tiny drop of glue.”

paper_airplane_2

tyson_donovan

5)  Abilene:  Dino Bob & the Slug Bug

This work of art dates back to the late 1980s when artist Bob Wade perched a Volkswagen Beetle on top of a garage, with a dinosaur nibbling on it.  The dinosaur and VW were moved in 2007 to their current location where they oversee a facility for children’s literature.

dino_abilene

6)  Abilene:  World’s Largest Buffalo Skull

Here’s another fun landmark not far from Dino Bob.  Sculpted in 2012 by artist Joe Barrington, this buffalo skull measures 26 feet across and weighs 2 tons.  The eye sockets are big enough to crawl through.  I resisted the temptation to try that out.  This is located at a visitor center called “Frontier Texas.”

buffalo

7)  Fort Worth:  U.S. Bureau of Engraving & Printing

This is one of only two places in the country where paper money gets printed (the other is in Washington, DC).  Photos here are scarce – in fact, I got yelled at by someone in the lobby of the Security building for even taking this picture of the sign from the road.   Before we were allowed inside, all cell phones had to be left inside our car.  But the inner workings of this building are fascinating!  We took a 45-minute self-guided tour on an elevated catwalk that actually overlooks the factory floor, its machines, and the production staff.  I paid $22.50 for an uncut sheet of four $2 bills at the gift shop.  How about a few fun facts?

  • The estimated life span of a $1 bill is 5.9 years
  • The estimated life span of a $100 bill is 15 years
  • There have been no bills printed in denominations greater than $100 since 1969
  • Each production day, the facility I visited prints $17 million in currency per hour
  • “Paper” money is actually mostly cotton and part linen

Now you know!

bep

8)  Fort Worth:  Fort Worth Stock Yards

Here, a 206-acre area that used to house a huge livestock market is now a historic district that retains its Wild West heritage with saloons, rodeo grounds, and souvenir shops.  Originally inhabited in the 1860s, Fort Worth Stock Yards officially opened up in 1890 and became a historic district in 1976.  My friends and I enjoyed wandering around and exploring the pedestrian-friendly blocks.  We had delicious lunch including bottled IBC Root Beer at a restaurant called Star Cafe.

fort_worth_stock_yards

9)  Fort Worth:  Water Gardens

The Water Gardens are located right in downtown and have been there since 1974.  Within the 4-acre park, there are several different water features including an “aerating” pool and a “meditation” pool.  My favorite feature was the Active Pool which is a terraced waterfall that steps down 38 feet below ground level.  Visitors can step down into the base of the waterfall next to a pool at the bottom.  The roaring sound from within the center is amazing.  I took a short video to show the experience.  I panned around from inside the waterfall, then recorded going up the steps to exit, then did a pan of the overall facility.  This particular pool was redesigned from 2005-2007 after 4 people died there.  It is now 7 feet more shallow than it used to be.

10)  Irving:  Dr. Pepper Bottling Plant

This is the home of the Dr. Pepper Snapple Group in Irving.  Perfectly visible from Highway 482, we pulled off the road quickly here to get a picture of these massive tanks designed to resemble soda cans.

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Texas and its people were most welcoming, and I can’t wait to go back again.  The drive would be worth it even if just for the food:  Tillman’s Roadhouse in the Bishop Arts District on 7th Street gets high ranks from me.  First of all, the mac & cheese with bacon is amazing, and secondly:  YOU CAN COOK S’MORES AT YOUR TABLE!  They bring miniature stoves out along with a variety of marshmallows, some chocolate squares, and poker sticks.  What a way to do dessert!

Please enjoy the rest of the pics if you’d like.

I-10 eastbound, passing Picacho Peak in Arizona

picacho

Overnight stay with Jason and a look at our recent March-April 2015 feature in Arizona Driver

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Drive Friendly – The Texas Way

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Interstate 10 through El Paso, Texas

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“Happy Birthday” Frappaccino at Starbucks in El Paso (yes, it has pink whipped cream)

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Old school maps.  That’s how I roll.

map

Those mountains are in Mexico.

mexico

This is how close I was to the international border (blue dot).

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I-10 / I-20 split.  From here, I headed toward Dallas.

20_10_split

Stonehenge in Odessa

ilx_stonehenge

Lots of water towers!  This one, in Big Spring.

big_spring_water_tank

Crumbling building in Colorado City, Texas – and a dually pickup truck that is a perfect representation of the “typical” west Texas automobile of choice.

co_city

Paper airplane from Donovan at the Sparhawk Art Gallery in Abilene.

paper_airplane

Getting closer!

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Hotel for the first two nights:  Omni.

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View of central Dallas from the 22nd floor of the Omni hotel.

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Brunch with friends in Oakcliff area.

brunch

$22.50 worth of money!  I think the Bureau of Engraving & Printing ripped me off.

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Roadside scene in Fort Worth, Texas near the Stock Yards.

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Check out those bar stools!  Scott, Tyson, Kyle, showing some skin & booty.

saloon

Lunch spot.

star_cafe

Entering the Active Pool at the Fort Worth Water Gardens.

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Hanging out near the pool.

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“Only in Texas” will you see a banner like this at the entrance to your hotel.

cattle_raisers

Dinner at Tillman’s Roadhouse

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Hotel for night 3:  Aloft in Las Colinas area of Irving, Texas

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93 octane!  Didn’t feel too bad paying $2.64 for the rich stuff.

93_octane

Definition of an easy drive:  Next turn in 633 miles!

gps

Sunrise in my rearview mirror departing the Dallas – Fort Worth Metroplex on Sunday morning.

morning

Homeward trek to the I-10 / I-20 split again.

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Fuel & stretch stop in Van Horn, Texas.  Home of the Sands Motel.  My favorite part of the sign was the spray-painted “American Owned” comment along the bottom.

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Entering the Land of Enchantment:  New Mexico.

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12 Responses to “Road Trip to Dallas Part 1: Ten Roadside Attractions”

  1. That’s right! This was the trip with Beau to his homeland state! Rest up son; we have miles to go before we sleep.

  2. You sure know how to document and photograph a trip, car sized rabbits and all. I feel like I was there! Glad you had so much fun, but you might want to shift into 7th gear when you hit those 80 mph zones next time. 😉

  3. A long trip in a short amount of time! I too tried the “Happy Birthday” Frappaccino and to be honest it wasn’t that bad. Nice going along with you on your Texas trip.

  4. Good gravy! 15,605 songs! How many days is that? Or should I say weeks?

  5. Tyson, I frightened my quiet coworkers here when I burst out laughing at those bar stools! Love it! You sure covered some nice attractions along your way. Perfect plan to take occasional breaks from the vast Texas landscape. Was a pleasure hosting you. Always here (or at least my house is) next time you roll through. 🙂

    • Haha, seriously. I took one look inside that bar with the “leg” stools and I said WE HAVE TO GET A PIC IN HERE! Luckily, the other guys were all onboard with it 🙂

  6. Love the Stonehenge in Odessa – had no idea there was a “henge” replica all the way out there. I’ve been to Carhenge in Alliance, Nebraska and there is a Foamhenge closer to me in Virginia. Of course I’ve been to the real thing, but I almost love these Americanized mock-ups more.

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