When Your Roadtrip is not Hecka Awesome

Do you want us all to die?

My finger had been under this line in the book in front of me for the past hour and a half. For a week, I had been looking forward to some valuable time away from school to enjoy some personal reading from a book that had captivated me from the opening pages. *

Do you want us all to die?

My mind wondered as I attempted to proceed to the next words on the pages. My eyes darted up as they had so frequently during the car ride I was currently in. The long, flat landscape of Texas loomed in front of me as the road passed beneath. Ironically, the line of words in the book are precisely what I wanted to yell at our driver sitting next to me. A quick glance back to the other wide-eyed and white-knuckled passengers tells me that they are thinking the same thing, which is a coincidence since none of them have read my book. I stare forward again.

Do you want us all to die?

My mind wonders again. I thought back to the start of the day. How had such a well-intentioned day to do service deteriorated into a state of constant fear for our lives? It all started with a bad choice at 6 A.M. **

In light of Hurricane Harvey, relief efforts were quickly underway by a number of organizations, including the LDS church in Texas and the surrounding states. On September 9th, I was a team leader over seven other individuals going to the Gulf Coast to assist in cleanup. We were a small part of the church’s larger effort of volunteers assisting. In San Antonio, there were over 1000 people going down that day.

Six members of my team I already knew. But the seventh, who I shall refer to as Bobcat, I knew not. As we prepared to embark with our assignments, Bobcat spoke up, and said he had a suburban which could seat us all. In an effort to save gas and create unity (really?), but not really knowing this fellow, I made that fateful decision which would weigh on me from that day forward, and agreed to the suburban.

Since the rest of the group knew each other already, they stuck together…in the back of the car. Leaving the passenger seat open. I climbed in, thinking it as an opportunity to briefly get to know Bobcat, then absorb myself in the pages of the novel I was bringing with me.

I asked the basic questions for the first 30 minutes of the drive: general upbringing, what his life story was, and whether he thought pineapple belonged on pizza or not***. It was a decent enough conversation, although I had to tell him a few times to keep his eyes on the road as he drifted out the lane a few times and took some corners a bit quickly. When I considered my job finished, I decided to wind the conversation down and told him I’d like to start reading my book and opened it up to the earmarked page. I found my spot:

Do you want us all to die?

“So…..”

Bobcat had spoken. I glanced up.

“What kind of cars do you like?”

I guess he wasn’t ready for the conversation to end. I responded with Toyotas, but I’d take a Subaru if a Toyota wasn’t available, and went back to my book.

Do you want us all to die?

“So….”

I paused again. Waiting for it.

“What kind of shows do you like?

Only somewhat chagrined, I listed off a few of my favorites: Parks and Rec, Arrested Development, Master of None, and the first two seasons of Law and Order: SVU (because who has time to watch all 18 seasons). He hadn’t seen any of them. So I asked about some of his favorites. His first response was Power Rangers. Thinking he must have TV confused with movies, I told him I hadn’t seen the film yet. Neither had he. Realization dawned on me that he must mean the Saturday morning Power Rangers I was forbidden to watch as a child.

I listened with my mouth slightly ajar as this twenty-something man proceeded to tell me about the different Power Rangers series on TV. Did you know there are 20 different themed rangers? Jungle Fury, Dino Thunder, Ninja Storm, Time Force, Wild Force, in Space, Megaforce, SUPER Megaforce, etc. I just listed those off the top of my mind. I shouldn’t have remembered all those, but for some reason they’ve been ingrained. And why does each season sound like the year they jumped the shark?

I have absolutely nothing to add to this conversation so I just keep quiet and nod. Like when someone speaks to you in a foreign language (or an organic chemistry class) and you can’t understand but you still nod your head anyways like you do.

Without skipping a beat, Bobcat transitions into Web series’ he watches such as PragerU, Stephen Crowder, and Fox News. Getting a better idea of who this guy is, I silently make a bet with myself and ask if his favorite talk show host is Sean Hannity. I’m wrong. It’s Rush Limbaugh (I owe myself $10 now). Before I can stop it, the Trump-Train toots its horn and is full steam ahead now. Bobcat begins listing off Trump’s accomplishments, particularly that Trump visited Houston quicker than it took President Obama to visit New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina (which happened in 2005…so you tell me what’s wrong with that statement).

At this point, morning traffic fills the roads and rather than slowing down, Bobcat is maintaining a constant 85 mph, weaving in and out of lanes and unknowingly (knowingly?) cutting off cars. I quickly spot a McDonalds 20 miles away on my GPS and signal a break. Although disagreeing with everything political being said, I say nothing since my life is in the hands of the driver. I don’t want him to get any ideas that he can MAGA by crashing the car and ridding the world of a non-supporter.

The golden arches looming ahead of me bring an overwhelming sense of joy, such that a McDonalds has never brought me before. As I quickly exit the car, I burst through the doors, order a McMuffin, and soon remember why my McDonalds never brings me any lasting joy. As I return apprehensively to the car, I realize to my dismay that once again, the front seat is mine.

Do you want us all to die?

I quickly realize that my silence may be taken as an interpretation for Bobcat to continue his monologue. I abruptly turn around and interject myself into the conversations occurring behind me. For 30 minutes, a kinked back and strained neck provides me with a normal interaction. A small price to pay until we arrive at the small town of Ingleside. As we pull up to the house we’ll be helping, the car doors burst open before the car comes to a stop. The people in back clamber out and away from the car. Safe for now.

If only we knew what the rest of the day held in store.

Part II coming soon involving mold, cockroaches, pants, and Subway sandwiches

*Red Rising – The Hunger Games meets Ender’s Game meets Game of Thrones

** Actually, the first bad choice was deciding to wake up at 5:30 A.M. on a Saturday

**Pineapple should never go on pizza

More Things Texas People Like

This post wasn’t supposed to happen.  It is an uneccesary sequel, much like any Transformers movie or the last 7 seasons of Grey’s Anatomy (really, all the main characters in that hospital keep dying, why would anyone want to keep working there?).  But since there appears to be a market for it, these posts will keep getting pushed out.  So here are some More Things Texas People Like.  Let’s begin with where this started:

Never Being Content

Go read any article about Texas.  Actually, just skip the article and go to the comments.  If you haven’t lost your faith in humanity after the first few commentors and common trolls, you’ll find a trove of Texas complaining about what was NOT included in the article.  Really, you could read an informational article about the Alamo and have someone comment that it isn’t nearly as fun as Six Flags.

Think about how difficult it must be for a Buzzfeed author to “write” (quotations because I can’t believe people at Buzzfeed have jobs consisting of posting pop culture memes and lists) about the best restaraunts in Texas.  These authors (excuse me, the Buzzfeed term is contributor) have to narrow down the choices to the top 20 bars or the top 36 BBQ stands that will give you chills…er…sorry, I get my clickbait articles mixed up.  They are absolutely destroyed by upset readers whose favorite spots were not included.

According to the National Restaraunt Association, there are 43,670 restaraunts and bars in Texas.  If an ambitious millenial journalist really wanted to cover their bases, they would write an article along the lines of “The 43,670 Restaraunts and Bars in Texas You Need to Try Before You Die.”  Of course, someone will still likely complain that the article forgot the Tamale lady who comes over every Tuesday.  Some people are just impossible to please.

Whataburger

If you’ve ever watched Parks and Rec, you may recall the recurring storyline of Ben and his beffudlement over the excess attention people give to Lil’ Sebastian.  He doesn’t understand why, but he still goes along with it.

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“It’s a small pony. What am I missing?”

Similarly, I feel the exact same way about Whataburger.  To me, it’s still just another fast food place, but Texans approach it as more of a transendental opportunity.  So I go along with it. (For the sake of this post, I am an anonymous guest blogger to avoid potential backlash)

Whataburger (or you may hear it pronounced Waterburger) likely makes up half the restaurants in Texas .  Back in Utah, when two girls want to meet up, they usually settle on a soup and salad place or maybe some fake Mexican food.  You’d be hard pressed to find people meeting up at Wendy’s or some other fast food joint.  I meet up with 2 girls a few weeks ago for dinner and asked them to pick the venue.  To my amazement, they agreed on Whataburger.  Mind blown!

Ask anyone what their favorite menu item is and the answer will likely be the Honey Butter Chicken Biscuit.

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One serving and your daily calorie intake has been met!

When I first visited and tried this menu item with classmates, expectations had been set unreasonably high (like every other food recommendation I’ve been given here).  Yes, it was good.  But not knock your socks off good (I was partly to blame for wearing shoes that day).  I’ll probably get another one, probably as a way to break my New Year’s Resolution in early January.  But where one breakfast food may fail, there are dozens more attempting to take its spot, which leads to…

Breakfast Tacos

These are nothing new.  Breakfast tacos have been around for a long time.  In Utah, breakfast burritos are more common.  The biggest advantage of the Texas Tacos over the Utah Burrito that you won’t be regretting your choice from the confines of the bathroom for the rest of the day.

Even the term itself, ‘breakfast taco’ is classic Tex-Mex food formula.  One word is English. One word is Spanish.  It turns regular food into breakfast food.   It provides an ethnic experience without having to travel.  Some people grab a coffee and doughnut on their way to work in the morning.  In Texas, you grab your taco and coffee to go.  It doesn’t ring as well, but who cares?! You have a breakfast taco!

Vendors jam pack their tortillas as well.  Being used to meager fillings in Utah, I ordered 4 breakfast tacos my first time.  If you’re assuming I didn’t eat them all, you’re wrong.  I did, and I was more full than I would have liked and it hurt a little bit.  But it was a good hurt.download

If you thought breakfast tacos came from Mexico, you’re probably right, but you will also probably be told you’re wrong by people from Austin

Austin is its own post which I don’t even want to try writing about.  So if you’d like to guest post, let me know!

I’d ask if I missed anything, but people will let me know anyways.

Things Texas People Like

Blogging is hard.  I haven’t gotten to the point where hundreds of ideas just flow through my mind until I’m rolling in ad endorsements.  My primary forte has been finding groups of people to poke fun at and I quickly exhausted my resources of Utah county (although this election cycle provides plenty of new material, but I’ll just leave that to every media outlet).

For those of you who didn’t know I moved to Texas, I moved to Texas.  It’s been about two months now and in that time I still don’t understand the root of Texas pride.  However, I have been able to see that many things are, in fact bigger in Texas: trucks, alcohol tolerance, and waistlines (San Antonio: 8th largest in the nation!) for example.  There is a whole group of people down here with their own culture and stereotypes that must be spoken of.  And so continues the saga with Things Texas People Like.

Driving the speed limit

When someone strikes a nerve with you while driving, do you ever glance at them while driving past them to see if they look as bad as they drive?  Since I’ve been in Texas, it has taken a great deal of self-control to keep watch where I’m going and eyes on the road.

“Is there a 7 care pile up ahead?”

No! It’s just half the freeway population doing 5 under the speed limit!

Coming from Utah where the average speed is 10 over (I’m not implicating myself as a reckless driver, it’s everyone else), if you pulled that speed here, you’re likely to be bigger target for cops than sprinkled doughnuts on a stake out.  I half expect there to be a dog or family of otters in front of all these cars to explain their speed.  But I am always left disappointed that I have yet to see a family of otters running through the freeway.  In Utah, I used to hear all the time what bad drivers we are.  I think a more appropriate statement would be:

(Insert your state here) has bad drivers”

Talking about Restaurants you’ve Never been to (and shooting down the ones you have)

One of my first weekends in Texas, we had just finished a successful trip to IKEA in Austin (about an hour and a half drive).  We were hungry and wanted to find somewhere good to eat.  Consulting Google, we found a place called Rudy’s with excellent ratings.  As newbies, the employees treated us to a small, free platter of samplers to see what we liked.  We proceeded to consume a satisfying meal of brisket, half a loaf of bread (calories don’t count if you don’t count them!), and creamed corn that tasted like ice cream.  We were content.

Later that week in class, we told others of our experience.  All we wanted was for others to be happy of our decision.  What we were told instead was that we should have gone literally anywhere else.

“Oh sure, Rudy’s is fine, but it’s a franchise and you can find that anywhere.  You should have tried…”

Then came a more heated discussion than the blue/gold dress of 2015 as everyone but us Utah folk contributed to the conversation and disagreed on where the best BBQ places are. What I came to understand was that it didn’t matter if we bought some good-looking chairs, we wasted a trip to Austin. If I had a nickel for how many restaurants have been recommended to me down here, I still wouldn’t be rich, but I would have just an absurd amount of nickels.  Even after we go out and try a recommended place, there is always someone to disprove our decision and give us 10 other alternatives.

So, if you ever come to town and are looking for recommendations, please don’t ask me, and whatever you do, don’t tell anyone where you decided to go.  Also, you’ll likely have to travel to Austin because apparently all the best restaurants are not in San Antonio.

Blue Bell

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A play off the moniker “What happens in Vegas…” is “What’s made in Texas, stays in Texas.  They’re very selfish with their BBQ sauces, HEB grocery stores (one of the best things in Texas), and especially Blue Bell ice cream.  Once I decided to pay nearly $7 for a half-gallon of buttered pecan (pronounced pee-can), I was immediately  hooked and went and bought another tub the next day upon finishing the first (don’t judge me).

Yes, there was a Listeria outbreak last year in which over 8 million gallons were recalled.  Yes, a few people did die from it.  But, since they used the phrase “we’re rebranding” during their comeback, like Chipotle or Wells Fargo, I completely trust them.  It’s just so good!

If you want a small taste of it in Utah, they serve it at Ike’s Creamery in Provo Beach Resort.

Football

I’m not a sports guy.  I love attending events, but watching random games on TV isn’t my favorite idea, and don’t expect me to know any stats either.  It took me about 5 years at BYU before I could hold my own in a conversation about BYU football, always made difficult by the fact that the lineup changes constantly (stop graduating for just one year, please!).

Now I feel like an idiot all over again.  My class is made up of students coming from big football schools of the south.  Naturally, the topic comes up…quite frequently actually…everyday as a matter of fact.  It’s usually the morning conversation as everyone follows up on their fantasy football stats.  Sometimes in order to deflect my lack of knowledge, I feel like saying:

“Can you all shut up? I’m getting ready to learn!”

or I just keep it vague:

“I like when the team you like gets more points than the other!”

But those both make me feel about as comfortable as getting stabbed, so I keep it to myself.

Texas is fine as far as states that start with T go.  I’m not sure where Texas pride comes from yet (unless it comes from Blue Bell, then I completely understand).  Another year may help me understand that, but also give me more things to write about.