Freeway Free in Texas: Odds and Ends on the Other Side of Somewhere
W and I agreed on the first day to shift off driving every two hours, although she grew a bit impatient at my refusing to drive faster than 65 on a two-lane road where the posted speed is 75. Texas drivers seem to have no fear of oncoming traffic or soft shoulders. As we move along and I figure out the cruise control I am more daring, but still not able to pass anyone unless there is a passing lane.
The first day my two hours ends in Hamilton at lunch time. Yelp reviews speak well of Garlands, but this turns out to be a little blue trailer kitchen in an RV park, with nary so much as a picnic table to eat at. The fallback is Central Perk, a funky converted home with a wide veranda which would have been charming to sit on if the weather had not been in the 50’s and windy. They were out of soup, and the Veggie Panini was… interesting. Whole wheat bread grilled on one side, with eggplant, zucchini, bell pepper, and onion with a slice of Romano cheese. The cheese was melted, but the vegetables were raw. I’ve never had raw eggplant before, and hope not to ever again. but the rest was surprisingly good, with a copious salad of greens, a tomato, and honey mustard dressing. The wall held several certificates lauding CP as “best sandwiches in four counties” which considering where we were may very well have been true.
I’m always on the alert for reasons to stop along the way beyond simply natural necessities. Seymour, Texas, strategically located on the way between Archer City and Turkey, boasts the excellent Whiteside Museum of Natural History, with a Sound Garden across the street, in addition to the requisite gas stations. Two busloads of I’d judge third graders were also exploring the museum and the sound garden at the time we dropped in, but their chaperones kept them well in hand, and we dodged around the Pleistocene and Jurassic and other exhibits in avoidance. I’ve not seen a better T Rex simulacrum, the Triceratops skull was awesome, lots of other excellent taxidermy of currently thriving wildlife all around. The only complaint I have is regarding the sole, ridiculously expensive ($2.50) and very ugly post card available in the rudimentary gift shop.
From Turkey we headed east off across the boundless open high plains to Abilene. It seemed odd to see banners in this North Central Texas cattle capital, proclaiming it to be the “Storybook Capital of the World”, but in the downtown area a former commercial building across from the historic railroad station houses the National Center for Children’s Illustrated Literature Illustration, and a number of statues depicting storybook characters can be found on rooftops, on corners, and in parks around the downtown area. We lunched in the Storybook Garden down the street from the museum. next to a statue of the Lorax. The museum itself is fascinating, full of memories of stories I read to my kids as well as stories read to me.
Abilene also boasts of Frontier Texas! a history museum with modern interactive exhibits which also serves as the official Visitors Center for Abilene and the Texas Forts Trail Region. We did not stop here, nor did we take in The Grace Museum, an art museum featuring rotating exhibits of contemporary art and local history, located in a handsome re-purposed circa 1909 hotel in the historic downtown center of Abilene.
Abilene is doing its best to be Somewhere. It’s certainly worth a second stop, the next time we go west from Dallas.
My debut novel, Fox Spirit, is appearing episode by episode on my sister blog, ajmccready.wordpress.com. New episodes arrive every Monday and Thursday. They’re short, so you’re not too late to check them out, and sign up for future happenings. Here’s a link to the first episode: http://ajmccready.wordpress.com/2023/02.