A year ago we used our trailer as a means of taking a short trip during the pandemic without making contact with other people. Everything we needed was self-contained in the twenty-one feet of space that encapsulated our little world. We only momentarily interacted with others when we stopped for gasoline. Otherwise all of our needs were handled inside the trailer that we pulled behind our truck. We carried our food and drink in there, slept in there, took potty breaks in there. We were observers without being part of the crowds that we viewed from the safety of the front window of our truck. We enjoyed a liberating experience without risking our own health in the process.
This year we are fully vaccinated and feeling a bit more secure about returning to a more normal state of contact with folks outside the confines of our home. We decided to be a bit more adventurous by planning a longer trip, but we still wanted to keep the safety of the little bubble known as our trailer. We planned an adventure that would take us across west Texas to New Mexico, Colorado, Kansas and Oklahoma. Because we’ve outgrown twelve hour driving days, our journey would be slow and steady and allow us to really take time to see the places through which we passed. Way back in February we plotted a route, made note of service stations to insure that we would always be fueled, and made reservations at campgrounds along the way.
The first leg of the journey took us through places in Texas that I had never before visited in earnest. We began by spending a couple of days in Waco, Texas, the home of Baylor University and the now trendy Magnolia dynasty of Chip and Joanna Gaines. Heavy rain almost perfectly coincided with our arrival there on a Friday afternoon. We had managed to outrun the worst of it on the road, but our plans for visiting outdoor sites of interest were quickly dampened.
Waco has a great deal more to offer for a fun time than I had imagined. The university itself is quite lovely and worth a tour. In our case we stayed in the truck and just drove around due to the frequent downpours. Nonetheless we found the campus to be enchanting and inviting. Not far from the university are lovely homes evoking the kind of elegance that is often found in older sections of a city. The styles reminded me of the turn of the century into the 1900s when there was a sense of forward thinking before the horrors of two world wars, an economic depression, and a different worldwide pandemic. I could almost imagine the ladies in their long white dresses and broad brimmed hats strolling down the avenues.
Among the places established in Waco during that time was the Dr. Pepper factory which is now a museum that was open for tours on the day we were there. We found it to be a delightfully fun experience to learn of the history of that iconic drink and soda waters in general. Who knew that they had once been thought to be medicinal? The exhibits were fascinating and took us back to a time in our youth that seemed so fun and innocent. Our tour concluded with a root beer float in the soda shop where we spoke of Saturday evenings as kids when such a treat brought us great joy.
The Magnolia complex was virtually across the street from the Dr. Pepper Museum and the license plates on the cars that filled every available parking space told of people who had traveled from all over the United States to get a look at the place made famous on HGTV. With rain coming down in buckets we only drove by long enough to take photos and for me to attempt to explain the phenomenon to Mike who was puzzled by the sight of individuals standing in long lines while the rain doused them. I actually saw the episode when Chip revealed his idea to Joanna, so I felt a bit of excitement in seeing how nicely things had come together. I suppose that if there had been sunshine and I had been with other women I might have enjoyed spending some time there. I knew better than to drag Mike along to a place where he would have been miserable.
We instead went to the Texas Rangers Museum which had a kind of chilling effect on me because it ended up being mostly a collection of guns and saddles and boots used by the officers at various times. There were disturbing accounts of the misuse of authority in the ranks of the rangers as well. Perhaps the inky skies and the relentless rain had darkened my mood, but I felt uncomfortable in the place and we left rather quickly. I used a kink in my hip as an excuse for leaving. Instead we sat in the car enjoying a homemade lunch while the rain continued to pour overhead.
We had gone to West, Texas which is often known as the kolache capital of Texas, earlier in the day. A kolache is a type of pastry derived from Czech culinary heritage. It is a sweet bread-like creation filled with various fruits, often in combination with cream cheese. They are delightful temptations and the best of the best are said to come from The Czech Stop bakery which is housed behind a Shell service station in West. Sadly the crowd at the Czech Stop was little better than the one at the Magnolia complex. The line of people waiting to purchase the famous delights was far too long for my taste, especially given that the shop was tiny and nobody inside was wearing masks even though less than half of the people in Texas have been fully vaccinated. I was not willing to risk my health, or that of someone else, just to determine if the kolaches were indeed the best I had ever eaten.
We drove around town and saw numerous places advertising kolaches. We stopped at a small shop that also sold pizza. That should have been a clue that we were not going to find kolache nirvana there, but we purchased four that appeared to be up to speed and eagerly rushed to the truck to try them out. To our grave disappointment we found them to be terrible. They were cold, stale and the fruit filling was runny. After a few bites we literally threw all of them away and headed over to Slovacek’s, another popular kolache destination, which was on the way back to Waco.
The line at Slovacek’s was far shorter and the store was big enough to allow for social distancing which the patrons were pleasantly following. The kolaches were definitely good, but in truth I have found better ones in Ellinger on the way to Austin. I did, however, get a “Jak se Mas” sticker to put on the back of our trailer which delighted me even more than the kolaches because of my own Czechoslovakian ancestry. Nonetheless, Mike and I both agreed that the best kolaches we have ever eaten used to be made by a group of Czech ladies who had a tiny shop on Telephone Road in Houston. Our quest to find the best kolaches in Texas will continue as an excuse for trying these wonderful Texas treats.
We enjoyed our short time in Waco and realized that it is a much more fun place than we had imagined. The rain prevented us from seeing the fossils of dinosaurs and creatures of long ago or strolling through the lovely park and zoo in the center of downtown. It is a place that I have ignored for all of my life, but one to which I would enjoy exploring again on a sunny day. I never really understood why anyone wanted to go to Waco but now it makes sense. Take one taste of Waco and you will get it.
Next stop…Abilene, Texas, a truly pretty little town. Stay tuned tomorrow.