Saturday I went to visit my friend Toni in the Dallas area (about 3.5 hours from Austin) who I haven't seen in person for about 14 years. Toni and I worked together at a company in the Houston area when we both lived there. We've kept in touch on and off about once every few years or so through e-mail.
What I remembered most about Toni was that we used to be able to talk for hours about various subjects. This weekend was no exception to that. It isn't by accident that I don't speak much about Dallas. I have never liked that city very much, and so my expectation was to visit Toni and catch-up on things. I surprisingly got to see the city I never cared much for in a different light, and even more, the a bit more of the state I have called home for a substantial part of my adult life.
For lunch, Toni recommended an Asian restaurant called Jeng Chi in Richardson (a Dallas suburb). The restaurant is clustered among a cluster of other Asian restaurants and markets. Toni commented that Jeng Chi has been owned by the same folks for a number of years, and that the waitstaff have been working there seemingly forever. The food was excellent. We shared three dishes, which I unfortunately can't recall exactly which they were, and I had a bowl of the hot and sour soup. I couldn't have imagined better food and conversation, really.
By the time we got done with lunch it was getting too late to do most of the stuff we originally thought we could do. So Toni whipped-out the ever-popular "Entertainment" coupon book (the kids in almost every large city sells these for fundraisers). We decided to go to the railroad museum in "Fair Park."
The railroad museum was pretty interesting. They have several old full-size locomotives/equipment that you can view from the outside, and some on the inside as well. Two of these were steam engines, one seemed to be an old wood-fired engine, and the other definitely coal (there was the tell-tail hopper behind the engine). Walking through some of the passenger cars was like going back in time to a completely different era. They also had a Pullman Sleeper Car on-display. I speak of these as though I knew something about this, but really didn't know much until going on this little walking tour.
Fair Park is, as the name subtly implies, the area of Dallas where the state fair is held. Toni participates in cooking-related contests at the fair every year, so she gave me a quite detailed tour of the area. There is no way I could recall everything she told me, and will likely leave-out a lot of it here (not on purpose). Toni explained how during the restoration of many of the buildings on the fairgrounds they have discovered beautiful old murals under layers of old paint, and showed me some of the ones they have brought back to life. I am completely in awe of how they were able to resurrect these murals in such detail, forget having to do this after stripping back layers of paint.
The Texas state fair, as these fairs usually do, has a lot to do with agriculture in its many forms. Austin is a liberal city, and as such the topic of agriculture is usually about sustainability and moving away from meat, and that kind of thing. So I tend to forget that Texas is a state rich in agriculture - we grow lots of crops and raise lots of animals for food. In fact, after talking to Toni (who grew-up in this state) I realized how little I really knew about the place I've been calling home.
For dinner we ate at Fadi's Mediterranean Grill (near the Stonebriar Mall in Frisco) - a place similar to Tinos Greek Cafe here in Austin (I mentioned this place in a recent posting). It was really tasty, although thinking about things, I probably like Tinos a bit better. That isn't a bad thing - both places are good.
So while I still don't picture myself ever living in Dallas, I did have a chance to see the city I never much liked in a much better light than I have in the past. They definitely have some good food, and I always thought Austin was a good place for good food.
So my thanks to Toni (and her four cats) for a great time. It's hard to believe this was all just one day. I'm not sure I could do as well for someone coming to visit me.
The Prius didn't do as well as I had hoped on gas on the trip - there was a pretty strong wind out of the north during the drive up, which I had to fight the whole trip. I think I got about 43 MPG. I left back for Austin at 11:30pm. On the trip back the gas mileage started out strongly (over 50 MPG), but that tapered-off somewhat as I started to get tired and was less able to concentrate on avoiding sudden acceleration (like anticipating going up hills). While I am usually a night person, and do pretty well at this hour, I was a bit worn down from all the activity during the day. By the time I was about an hour from Austin, I had to stop at a rest area for a short nap to avoid falling asleep at the wheel. I arrived home at 3:45am to a confused and happy cat who was very glad to see me.