The drive to Dallas was wet, especially early on as we left Hot Springs Village. Rain swept over the car in torrents, giving the windshield wipers a challenge they barely met. Once we merged onto I-30, about thirty-five miles from home, big semi-rigs spewed almost impenetrable sprays as we neared them and, especially, as we passed them. There must be a way for trucks to avoid sending out sheets of blinding water onto the roadway behind them as they traverse rain-soaked highways; I just don’t know what that is.
After about five hours, we reached the horrors of the highway entering Rockwall, a roadway that’s been under construction for far longer than we’ve lived in Arkansas. Narrow lanes, construction cones, abrupt lane switches, bad drivers, eighteen-wheelers whose drivers must have been experiencing drug-induced rage, and a host of other challenges awaited us as we entered that nasty zone of evil. But we made it through. However, as we traveled from downtown Dallas toward Arlington on I-30, we experienced more of the same, especially as we exited I-30 for Highway 360 south. Again, though, we survived.
We had decided to have lunch at P.T.T., the initials for a Vietnamese restaurant whose name is Pham Thi Truoc; we rarely remember the full name, so we call it P.T.T. When we lived in Arlington many years ago, we stumbled across P.T.T. and fell in love with the place. At the time, we were among the rare non-Asian patrons; that has changed. But the food has not. Friday, my wife called ahead to find out whether they still serve goat curry. “Yes, but we have limited amounts left; how many?” For some reason, I thought the guy had suggested to her that he could only accommodate a request for one person, so if two wanted it, he could not oblige; so, I told her to tell him only one when she asked if I wanted one, too. I wish I had not done that. When I tasted her goat curry, I wanted badly to ask for another one for me; by then, though, I already had my bún thịt nướng, a bowl of vermicelli accented with copious amounts of grilled barbequed pork and vegetables like carrots, mint leaves, bean sprouts, etc., etc. It was good, as always, but I longed for the goat curry; we’ve had it other places, but P.T.T. carries the banner of BEST goat curry, in my opinion.
After a wonderfully satisfying lunch, we headed north to find our hotel, but not before a little wandering. Once we got to the hotel, we relaxed for a bit before calling friends we had come to visit. We drove to our friends’ house a little later and enjoyed a couple of hours of great conversation, fabulous hors d’oeuvre, and drinks made from first-rate liquor; ah, the good life! Our mother and daughter pair of friends and their daughters/ granddaughters respectively, entertained us magnificently. And Tex, one daughter’s dog, took a liking to us; we reciprocated and inquired as to his interest in moving to Arkansas. The affection Tex displayed for my wife could put a crack in the shell that keeps her from falling head over heels in love with a dog! One can hope. The two daughters are amazing people, as well; one is highly skilled in training horses for the art of dressage; the other is a budding teacher. Both are delightful people, inheriting intellect, attitude, and heart from their mother and grandmother, respectively.
Back at the hotel, we opted to wait for a while for dinner. Once we went out, we remembered that Friday night in the D/FW Metroplex is a very popular time for dining out. Finally, though, after cruising around looking for a place that did not look overwhelmed with people, we crossed the street and had dinner at Abuelo’s, a Tex-Mex chain restaurant that serves decent food. It was fine.
The next morning, we had a bigger than normal breakfast and checked out of the hotel. Before we headed east toward Dallas, though, we had to retrace our steps from the previous night so we could pick up some magazines I had left at our friends’ house, gifts from our friend to acquaint me with the world of very intelligent people. Then we drove east back into Dallas. We had arranged to meet a friend for lunch at a place, she had suggested, the Chocolate Angel in Richardson. Though we were not terribly hungry by then, because of our big breakfast, we had soup. And then we had dessert. Oh, my! My wife opted for coconut pie; I went for cherry. I will be working off the calories for quite some time to come. During lunch, we discovered that our friend has begun writing a “bodice-buster” romance novel!
From there, we went scouring stores we loathe, Wal-Mart, for a product available only at Wal-Mart and a few select other stores: Polar Smoked Herring kipper snacks. It seems my voraciousness for the canned fish completely cleaned out the shelves in all the Wal-Mart stores in and around Hot Springs, Hot Springs Village, Benton, and Bryant in Arkansas. I learned from one of the stores that their distributor of the product was out but that “we will get more as soon as the distributor gets another shipment.” But only 18 cans are shipped to each store, I was told, so the availability would be limited even after a new shipment arrived. So, we decided to check Dallas stores. We bought nine cans at one store (all the they had), then hit the jackpot at a “neighborhood market” in Richardson. I think we got an additional 18 cans there (cleaned them out, too). As much as I would have liked to continue the hunt, my wife persuaded me that we would have to stop buying the stuff if we expected to get it all back to Hot Springs Village in our car.
I had forgotten we had yet to pick up two cases of wine I’d ordered from Spec’s, Babbich Sauvignon Blanc, a wine not carried by any distributors in Arkansas or Tennessee, we were told. One case for my sister-in-law, one case for me. We zipped by the liquor store, picked up the wine and a few other goodies, and went back to the hotel.
During the course of our ramblings, the hunger we thought perfectly sated by the soup returned, so we decided to assuage our pangs by going to another favorite old haunt, Shuck ‘n Jive, a sports bar & grill. We ordered our favorites, oyster po-boys and I got a Deep Ellum Double Brown Stout. The oyster po-boy my wife got was okay, as was the shrimp po-boy they mistakenly served me in place of the oyster I ordered; but we decided the place had lost its culinary luster, so we’ll leave it in the dustbin of memory from here on.
We went back to the hotel and lazed about until around 6 p.m., when other good friends picked us up for a drive to the Flying Saucer, my beer mecca. Mi amigo got a fabulous beer, served in a snifter; his wife got a glass of wine; my wife got lemonade; and I got a nice IPA, the “fire-sale” beer of the day at only $3. My friend, who is more assertive than I at times, opted to seat us in the private, much quieter room than the hellacious noise-pit we first entered. That was a wonderful move, giving us the opportunity to engage in real conversation. From there, we went to Cinco Tacos, Cocina & Tequila, near our hotel. The food was spectacular! At the suggestion of my friend, I had a house margarita on the rocks; it was as good as the best ones I make at home! The place is worth a return trip; several return trips, in fact.
Back at the hotel, sleep eluded us for much of the night, courtesy of sirens, noisy neighbors, and a bed that was not as comfortable as the one we had the night before. But we dealt with it. After my wife awoke, we went to check out the hotel’s free “hot breakfast” offering. It was superb, as well. Both my wife and I watched at the omelettier (my word for a person who makes omelettes) made real, made-to-order omelettes; that was a treat!
I’ll write more of our adventures another time. In the interim, suffice it to say this trip, even with its beginnings with ugly weather and heavy traffic on sometimes bad roads, is I will recall fondly.