Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Don't Mess With Texas

I'm walking down a street in the historic district of Fort Worth and there’s a gray haired, leather skinned woman blatantly staring at me, with a huge smile. Crap. What’s on my face? I swipe my plaid sleeve across my sweaty cheek. It’s the first week of May and it’s 90 degrees. The occasional breeze feels fantastic. It smells like horse butt, but feels fantastic. A few steps later, a couple familiarly smiles at me like I’m an old high school lab partner. As the man opens his mouth to speak I’m preparing to break it to them. “Sorry guys. I grew up 800 miles from here, barely made it past Biology 101, and I’m probably like 10 years younger than you. You got the wrong girl.” Instead, he offers to take a photo of my friend, Wodek, and I. “Oh…sure. Actually, that’d be great! Thanks.” I’m smizing behind my aviators when two cute valet boys photo bomb the shot. Fast forward 12 hours later: one of them shows us the best late night taco spot and drives us to our hotel so we don't have to cab it. Genuine southern hospitality. Y’all, these Texan folks are friendly. Almost too friendly. Suspiciously friendly. “What’s your deal, man?” But there is no deal! That’s just how it is down here.

I've eaten THIS many ribs for lunch. 

Talk about more malls than you can shake a stick at. (I had to.) (In my head, this whole thing is narrated by an old cowboy named Maverick Atkins.) (Sorry, Mave. Continue.) The Metroplex has more shopping centers than any other major U.S. city, but if you’re looking for something a little more rustic, Cavender’s is the chain to shop at for cowboy boots. Never have I ever seen more leather. Even if the Western style isn’t your thing, it’s hard not to appreciate the craftsmanship of each boot up close. Unless you’re digging for worms it’s generally hard to see the detail when they’re on someone’s feet. Psst, hot tip right off the saddle (that means nothing), to look like a local, opt for a flat toe shoe. I ain’t whistling Dixie ‘bout that one. (Oh, Mave.)

So hungry you could eat a cow, you say? With more than 10,000 restaurants in the Metroplex alone, you won’t starve. I'm sure some will even dish you up the whole cow if you ask politely. Dallas has four times more restaurants per person than New York City. For some authentic finger lickin’ BBQ, check out Bone Daddy’s House of Smoke. (Wish I thought of that name.) Sample a little bit of everything and have no regrets.

Dallas and Fort Worth are thirty miles apart, but joined by a sprawling cluster of towns called The Metroplex. It covers 12,000 square miles, has over 5 million residents, and is the #1 tourist destination in Texas. There’s definitely stuff to do here. Being my first time in the Lone Star State, we go for the real down home experience. When in northern Texas…

Shoot some guns at the range!

Buy a cowboy hat.

Run on the Dallas Cowboys Stadium field during the VIP tour.

Eat some real Texas style BBQ with creamed corn, collard greens, and all the fixins.

Saddle up for a horse ride. Chaps optional.

Learn the 2-step from charming locals at Billy Bob’s or the Neon Moon.

Pick up a twang, but it’ll probably just happen anyway.

Hit a few balls and play bags at Top Golf. (Ok, not Texas specific, but still fun.)

Wear plaid or denim or both.

Get where you’re goin’ by truck on Interstate 30.

Watch cowboys get bucked off bulls at a rodeo.

Visit The Sixth Floor Museum at the site of JFK's assassination in Dealey Plaza.

Chow on some biscuits n’ gravy at Bill Smith’s Cafe.

Stay out of the way as the cattle take over the road at the Fort Worth Stockyard Station.

Try a local brewed beer like Shiner Bock or Lonestar.

A car is definitely the most reliable mode of transportation in this part of Texas. Cabs are a rare breed, you can’t just walk around and flag one down. And be forewarned that Molly the Trolley in Fort Worth isn’t as trustworthy as the rest of ‘em. She let us down. So we call “Pappa Mike” the “Journey Ambassador” at the Hilton, our home for the night. (Which coincidentally happens to be the same hotel JFK stayed at before he was shot. Check out the mini memorial on the top level.) Sweeter than tea, he gives us the number for a cab. A yellow van pulls up with the cutest elderly cab driver inside. He’s accompanied by his equally cute wife who’s just along for the ride, keeping her man company. With their darlin’ drawls, they chat us up on the drive, explaining the ins and outs of southern living. “People like to take their time here. There’s no rush to do anything. It’ll all get done.” I’m no Texan, but I think they're on to something.   
Which way to the nearest waterhole, boys?

Just the Facts, Ma'am:

Dallas, nicknamed "Big D," is the 8th largest city in the U.S. and is somewhat metropolitan while Fort Worth, "Cowtown," fully embraces it’s laid back, country heritage. Since they’re only an hour apart, check out both.

I’m told "The Mixmaster" or "High Five" is what Dallasites call a spot where all the highways overlap. There can be 5 layers of road all interweaving each other. And why are they so high, you ask? Because everything’s bigger in Texas. (Ok, I'm done.)

Thanks Mike, Marcia, and Michael for being great tour guides!