Ten Vignettes

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A typical week of American vacation is spent faraway, maybe oiled up and laid out on a sugary beach, or perhaps rounding up visits to a cloister of world-famous theme parks. In contrast, my family is meandering through the sometimes-humdrum corners of the country, where not all that much seems to be happening — that is, if you don’t pay attention.

So in honor of the everyday places we are visiting, the earthy folks we are meeting, and the breathtaking nothingness whizzing by our windows, here are ten potentially–forgettable moments worth remembering.

1) Trader’s Village Campground, Dallas, Texas
His name is Rupert and he is missing his front four teeth. His rotund body barely fits through the door of his trailer, and his gold belt buckle sparkles in the hot Texas sun. He fired up his television around suppertime, tuned it to the all-Southern-Gospel channel, sang along sporadically in a deep baritone, and soon fell into a deep slumber on his couch. It is now 1:00 AM, and instead of sleeping, I am tapping my big toes together to the rhythm of the Gaithers reunion concert.

2) Somewhere on I-35W, Whitney, Texas
We pass a billboard for Applegate Turf Farm. I wonder, out loud, if they ever have a yard sale. Margaret doesn’t laugh.

3) Mission Trail RV Resort, San Antonio, Texas
I am waiting to use the bathroom — have been for a long time. There is a line of similar-looking people ahead of me, each one a different age. The oldest, a freckled, redheaded, skinny pickle of a twenty-something-year-old wearing bleached jeans and tan flip flops, asks me if I just moved in. I tell her I am from Atlanta and only staying for two nights. These are the last words I say. She proceeds to offer me complete details about her nine-member missionary family, all living in one trailer that has no bathroom. They are in San Antonio because they feel called to make Christian movies. I ask her if any of the family’s movies are online. “Oh no,” she chuckled, “We haven’t actually made any movies yet… but we will.”

4) The Alamo, San Antonio, Texas
An army of relatives, friends, and even people I barely know have demanded that I visit the Alamo. I am here. I am unimpressed. That is all.

5) Johnny’s Grill, El Reno, Texas
We were handed a pile of brochures at the Oklahoma Welcome Center, one of which details the historic and kitschy sites along the Mother Road — Historic Route 66. The fried onion burgers in El Reno made it into the leaflet, and I knew a stop was in order. I am presently perched on a stool at Johnny’s counter, stretching my fingers around this football of a burger, trying to land it in my mouth like a 747 on a sidewalk. The trifecta of griddle-fried caramelized onion, spicy brown mustard, and hamburger grease overflow the bun and run down the side of my hand and onto my shirt. I finish every speck on the plate, including the garnish of dill pickle coins, and then I tuck into what is left of the boy’s coney.

6) Hart Plaza, Dallas, Texas
My son is frolicking in the playful fountains of the stunning Hart Plaza park in downtown Dallas. Joining him are children from every corner of the world. Most are under the age of five, and each one sends lilting giggles through the warm, spring air and they splash through the dancing water. Two African-American sisters come to the fountains to cool of. Both are tall and thin, with delicate features and soft smiles. Each is wearing a layered sun dress, the one fuchsia, the other a creamy white. As they twirl through the fountain arcs, beads of water catch in their hair and send specks of warm sunlight into my corneas. This is innocent beauty at its finest.

7) Taco House, San Antonio, Texas
Thanks to a hot lead from RoadFood.com, I am eating lunch off the beaten path, and there is not a single tourist in sight. I order a bowl of red chili (no beans, of course — this is Texas). It is served with a pile of hot flour tortillas made just minutes ago, which are soft, pillowy, sumptuous, and just slightly sweet.

8) DART, Dallas, Texas
We board the light rail and head toward Dallas. My son is elated to be riding the train, and he can not sit still. He points out everything he sees, including the trees we pass, the fabric pattern on the seats, the system map, the passengers entering, the passengers exiting, the power lines, the rail ties. When a train passes in the other direction, a three-second blur of yellow and white, he trembles with excitement. I love that.

9) Historic Route 66 Playground, Oklahoma City, OK
We are all stretching our legs and enjoying some time in the city’s largest playground. A pristine road next to the park ambles around the tranquil Lake Overholser. A 1956 Chevy Bel-Air (two-toned — maroon and white) seems to float down the winding road, silently gracing the curves following the lake. I run for the camera but am not quick enough to take the shot.

10) Red Rock Canyon State Park, OK
We roll into camp past dark, set up quickly and head to bed. I am jittery because I saw a sign two miles from the park that read, “Caution: hitchhikers may be escaped convicts.” — but the past two nights of restlessness wins, and what seems like a few minutes later, morning breaks. We are greeted with the vista of horizontally-lined sedimentary rock cliffs descending into grassy outcroppings and ascending into an azure sky. This is the scene from the breakfast table and will remain the view from ‘the office’ as I attempt to accomplish some work.

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My family is currently traveling around the USA in a 10 foot Shasta Compact travel trailer from 1969. We are currently camped in Red Rock Canyon State Park (OK) and headed toward Amarillo, TX. Keep it right here for tales from the journey, and please also join us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Nothing keeps us motivated more than the encouragement of hearing from our readers, so please keep in touch by commenting below. Thanks!

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6 thoughts on “Ten Vignettes

  1. For what it’s worth, we didn’t say the Alamo was impressive. Just that it’s historic. Although one could argue, I suppose, whether or not every move of Davy Crockett can rightfully claim the status of “history.” By the way, your line from Houston to San Antonio doesn’t dip far enough south to do justice to your detour through Corpus Christi. It looks like you didn’t make it further than Port Lavaca.

    • You were one of the least adamant in the lot Stephen — not to worry. Some even suggested that it would be blasphemy to motor through the state without stopping. And thank you too for the map QC. I will fix it up for the next post. Cheers.

  2. “Hitchikers may be escaping convicts.” There must be more than one of those signs in Oklahoma. I remember my family passing one or more on our treks between Dallas and Chicago, and always saying we should stop and take a picture of us sticking our thumbs out. We finally did at some point in my teen years, and now I have a similar picture of my nieces and nephews doing the same. I’m only surprised that not EVERYONE stops at the signs for that very purpose.

    Mimi

  3. I love the little things that pop up as bigger memories when looking back at a trip. I say to myself when I miss the shot or forget my camera all together, it is “Pictures are for other people, memories are for me.” I find that I actually take a longer look when this happens. It also stops me from thinking about forgetting the camera. 🙂

    • Words from the wise! Thanks so much. It is a challenge to find a balance between memories for myself and sharing the trip with others. There is a lot of joy in sharing the journey with friends (which is why I write the blog), mostly because the road may seem lonely otherwise. But you are right that time with family, new experiences, and the memories made on the road are the reasons for the journey. So I’ll continue to aim for a healthy balance. Thanks so much for reading and commenting. Cheers!

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