Monday, August 25, 2003

Trip to Dallas

Over the weekend we went to Denton and Frisco to see family. Mom, Dad and I went up there on highway 16. Dad drove until Comanche. Then I drove to Sam's house in Denton. It took about 4 1/2 hours, and was a pleasant drive until we got to Granbury.

It's not Granbury's fault exactly, it's just that we passed several dozen Home Depots, and Super Wal-Marts. Between these huge islands of commerce were twice as many strip centers with Barnes and Nobles, pain-free dentists, insurance agents, Chinese restaurants and liquor stores and the back of large parking lots. Along the road were Chilis, Outback Steakhouse, McDonalds, Whataburgers, Arbys, KFCs, and convenience stores.

Honestly, you can't tell Granbury apart from the outskirts of San Antonio. The stores and the layouts are the same.


Anyway, we had a good time visiting with Sam and MJ and their kids, (see pictures at left) and Bob and Ann who had come up to visit too.

Sam and Garret at play


Grant on Ann's lap

Since there isn't a lot of room at Sam's house, we spent the night at a Best Western around the corner. What a great motel! They had big beds, big rooms and were easy to get to.

Sunday, we went to see Johnny and William in Frisco. The area between Frisco and Denton is subdivision land, with each development trying to build a bigger club house. What was really funny was that the first development advertised homes from the 90s. The second from the $100s, the next from the $110s. We wondered how high the bidding would go. "Live here! We're more expensive than them!" It's a perfect symbol of the way we Americans like to consume conspicuously.

Frisco reminded me of Wells Branch Parkway in Austin, where I lived a few years ago. The housing developments were shrouded in tall fences, and sat conveniently behind all the commercial lots that lined the main street. As Bill Bryson wrote, "We used to build civilization. Now we build shopping malls." Behind the strip centers, the houses had brick fronts, shallow front yards, wood siding in the back with shallow backyards, and chimneys encased in wood. It also looked like the subdivisions going up around Nueva Vista golf course in Midland. Or like the ones going up on the outskirts of Austin. Or the ones I have seen in Virginia. It's like there is no more originality in home design.


Actually, William and Johnny's house was all brick, and larger than some of the ones I had been looking at from the street. As we drove through the neighborhood, watching the weekend yard warriors working over their lawns, I was reminded of the Monkees song "Pleasant Valley Sunday."

Pleasant Valley Sunday Lyrics:

The local rock group down the street

Is trying hard to learn their song

To serenade the weekend squire, who just came out to mow his lawn

Another pleasant valley sunday

Charcoal burning everywhere

Rows of houses that are all the same

And no one seems to care

See Mrs. Gray she’s proud today

because her roses are in bloom

See Mr. Green he’s so serene,

he’s got a t.v. in every room

Another pleasant valley sunday

Here in status symbol land

Mothers complain about how hard life is

And the kids just don’t understand

Creature comfort goals

They only numb my soul and make it hard for me to see

My thoughts all seem to stray, to places far away

I need a change of scenery

Ta ta ta...

Another pleasant valley sunday

Charcoal burning everywhere

Another pleasant valley sunday

Here in status symbol land

Another pleasant valley sunday...

You know, when I brought that up, I was thinking about the line of people mowing lawns, tending gardens and barbecueing. Reading the lyrics, I realize it perfectly describes my feelings about the Urban Sprawl that is threatening to make Texas one big city. And here I thought the Monkees were a kids' band.

We left Johnnie's at 2:30 pm and headed home down I-35. Travel was fine through Dallas. But once we got out of town, I realized I-35 was nothing more that a long ribbon of cars heading south. A couple of times we crested hills and could see miles down the road. There was no break in the traffic.

There were brake lights, though. Seven or eight times between Hillsboro and Temple, traffic would come to a complete stop for no reason. Then everyone would race off at 75 mph until the next time traffic stopped. I had originally planned to go to Georgetown and cut across through Burnet to get home, but by the time we got to Temple, I altered the plan and we cut across to Lampasas.

We stopped at Rodney's house at about 6:30 pm. I'm sure they are insulted by how little time we spent there. But we knew if we went in, we would use the bathrooms, have something to drink, watch some TV and we wouldn't have left until much later. So we chatted in the yard for a minute, then jumped back into the car and hauled ass home. We got in at about 8 pm.

I made myself a promise as I drifted off to sleep Sunday night. I would NEVER drive I-35 again!