You know what they say, “everything’s bigger in Texas, even the peanuts,” and after two weeks as a CenTrill Nut, it was finally time for me to head to the biggest state of them all. With over one fourth of my coworkers being from Texas, including two of my partners for the year, I had heard a ton about the food, the people, the variety of cities and landscapes and more about this foreign land, and I was excited to take on my first stop: Dallas!
When crossing over from Arkansas into Texas, where else would one stop other than the great city of Texarkana?! Especially if it happens to be the hometown of your travel buddy, Peconner. Our team stopped for an interview with the Texarkana Gazette, which mainly revolved around Conner, as he was born and raised there. I’ve done a lot of media this year, but there seems to be something more fulfilling about riding the NUTmobile up and down the same streets you were born and raised on and, after 22 years, landing on the front page of your hometown paper. I’m now eagerly and hopefully anticipating my own return to Kenosha, although I hope to avoid mistaking my own past and telling the reporter I graduated high school in 2008 (*cough* Conner *cough*). After our interview we grabbed a quick lunch and finally got to meet Conner’s parents before finishing our trip to Dallas.
On our day off, Conner showed me around the places he worked during the semesters he lived in Dallas. I toured his old office at the Dallas Theatre Center, got to stand on stage of the Wyly Theatre, and even received an invite to the company’s annual ‘Pie Day’ which happened to fall on the day we were there. When I say pie day, I’m talking 50+ pies that were sweet, savory and everything in between all waiting to be eaten by us (needless to say, my goal of eating healthier this half has been a struggle at best). After touring the theatre, Conner also scored us all free tickets to their production of Frankenstein the next night. It pays to have connections, and I’m already counting on this privilege continuing when Conner becomes a big-time Broadway director.
I spent my second day off biking and sightseeing. I’ve always thought biking was a great way to see a city because its cheap, convenient and keeps you active. I sadly hadn’t biked on the road since way back in South Dakota, but luckily, Dallas has an amazing bike-share system – all you do is find a bike and scan it with their app, pay $1/hour and when you’re done you just leave it wherever you are and it automatically locks its own wheels. The ease of the bike system plus the famous Katy Bike Trail made it a no-brainer for me to spend the day biking the trail and the streets of Dallas. I stopped at the Katy Trail Ice House for lunch, rode the streets passed the Cowboys stadium and Dealey Plaza (where JFK was assassinated), completed the trail and topped it off with a cherry limeade popsicle as a reward for my efforts.
There also happened to be two Hotdoggers, Maddie and Mayra, from last year living together in Dallas, and they treated us to dinner and drinks one night. They gave us a bunch of recommendations for the area, including some awesome bars in the Deep Ellum area, which Ner and I checked out the next night (I got to go to my very first speakeasy!). Mayra even took us out with her and her friends for a night that started in a luxury, high-rise apartment and ended at the bars in Uptown, dancing all night and screaming “Mr. Brightside” by The Killers at the top of our lungs – nothing new there. The best part of meeting Maddie and Mayra (besides the fact that they’re both awesome and fun) was that they’re both only one year out of the job and have only recently moved to Dallas, yet they clearly both had great jobs, a nice apartment, a community of friends and an overall appealing life in their new home. I told them over and over again that seeing them calmed a lot of my nerves about the future, and I really meant it. It was definitely reassuring.
I’m sad to admit that the last thing that really sticks out in my mind when I think of Dallas is fast food. No, not the local barbeque or Tex Mex, but the everyday, everywhere fast food chains. This is because we have long been in a heated debate with each other and with other Peanutters about which fast food restaurant is the best: In-N-Out, Shake Shack or Whataburger. Dallas happens to be one of the only cities to have all three regional chains, so we decided to finally put the debate to an end through a structured analysis of their burgers. When all was said and done, In-N-Out came out on top, although this was mainly because price was included on our rubrics and In-N-Out is much cheaper than the other two. Shake Shack won in ‘overall dankness’ and, in my opinion, is still the best taste-wise. Whatabuger truly can’t compete when it comes to burgers, but I also got to try their Honey Butter Chicken Biscuit, which is in a whole league of its own (note: I am not trying to start another debate and thus have to sample a ton of fast food chicken sandwiches because of this comment).
As I said above, Elise and Conner are both from Texas, and they often were in a heated disagreement about whether they liked Dallas or not. My own takeaway was that Dallas was the type of place I loved to visit, but probably wouldn’t want to live – although this may be tainted by the fact that the highways in/out of the city are extremely confusing and we spent much of our time lost, late or both. All in all though, the first week in my 16th state was one for the books, and I have high hopes for the many more weeks (and tacos and bowls of queso) in Texas to come!
Keep it cashewal!