Saturday morning I was driving south from Oklahoma City headed toward Dallas for my next book event. With few clouds, you could see a brilliant light blue sky, an almost perfect and mild day. My first realization of the morning was that Oklahomans have a new relationship with speed. I was going about 6 miles over the posted speed limit and that once would have meant I was the one zooming past most cars. Not that day. I was riding along peacefully in the right lane for most of the trip as people blasted past me, clearly going 15-20 miles over.
I was making my way enjoyably, so I pulled off at one of the scenic overlooks in the Arbuckle Mountains, where everything smelled right.
At Marietta I exited to grab lunch at Robertson’s Hams–a simple ham and cheese sandwich, but the ham is so, so good.
When I crossed the Red River into Texas the bright sun warmed my skin and this felt so good, being in a more Southern latitude where the sun feels right instead of the low, soft sunlight of Nebraska.
But as I drove into Dallas proper the nostalgia faded. Nothing felt familiar after five years of absence.
I had been coming to Dallas regularly since college days. One of my roommates lived in the Metro and we would spend weekends with his family and driving all over enjoying the cities. After college so many friends located there for work that I visited them often. Then, of course, I lived there myself for two years in the early Aughts and then kept coming there pretty much monthly after moving back to Oklahoma City. I’ve long said the thing I missed most about moving to Omaha was regular time in Dallas, this being only my third visit in 8 years.
And this time everything felt unfamiliar, which wasn’t true those two previous visits. Dallas driving was as invigorating as I had previously experienced it. The highways have been so radically altered–“Surely this is twenty years worth of new infrastructure,” I thought driving down the LBJ–and the buildings and business different.
I was headed for the Dallas Arboretum, long one of my favourite places. Plus I wanted to enjoy sun and flowers on this perfect day. When I was last there, probably in 2012, it was already altered in ways that eliminated some of my favourite aspects of it, but on this day it felt so very different. Plus it was a madhouse. Dallas had experienced three weeks of overcast, rainy weather and people were enjoying the beautiful sunny day. Once you could get moments to yourself in the gardens, but not now.
The visit was not without its joys, and I discovered a new spot I rather liked, but the gardens refused my nostalgia.
From the Arboretum I drove north through the Lake Highlands to my old stomping grounds, along the way experiencing memories of my step-dad. My favourite moments with him were when I was living in Dallas and he and Mom would visit and we’d bike the trails from my neighborhood down to White Rock Lake and back.
My old house looked good and the neighborhood is clearly on a upswing, which had not been the case in all my previous visits. That neighborhood off Royal and Greenville is such a great location it was destined for a rise in value.
The church looked good as I drove around the parking lot and then headed north on Hillcrest for Plano, a drive I often made back-in-the-day. I was staying with Debi and Harry Wooten and settling onto their living room couch, it felt as if no time had passed at all.
More about my time in Dallas in the next post.