This past weekend, Susan and I traveled to Arlington, TX for Susan’s graduate school graduation. Susan had been taking master’s degree classes online through the University of Texas at Arlington with her best friend and a few of their coworkers. So, when it came time to graduate, Susan and her best friend decided that they wanted to walk in the ceremony at graduation, especially since this would probably be the last degree that they earn. So, on Friday, Susan, her parents, sister, grandmother, best friend, best friend’s boyfriend and family, and I took a caravan from Memphis to Arlington. This is a seven to eight hour trip, and for whatever reason, I-40 in Arkansas always seems to be under construction, so we wanted to leave early on Friday morning to maximize our trip. The only downsides to the trip were that we had to take Beau to a kennel since Susan’s parents were going on the trip and I would be missing Mother’s Day with my mom.
On Friday, the road trip started about like I expected, thirty minutes late with a decent amount of traffic and quite a bit of road construction. Interstate 40 is probably has the most amount of road work with the least amount of road work completion in America, especially the 120 or so miles between Memphis and Little Rock. Luckily, we did not get delayed too much by any of the construction, and really had an uneventful trip to Little Rock. Once in Little Rock, we had our first setback of the day. My in-laws ended up taking the wrong exit and detoured several miles before returning to the correct route. Susan tried to call them about this to no avail. Once they got back onto the beaten path, there was just several hours of driving, avoiding state troopers, and the guessing of the proper pronunciation of small towns in Arkansas and Texas. This was at least an easier feat than trying to pronounce names in rural Mississippi, which becomes futile after a few miles. We made it all the way to Rockwall, TX before we had another issue. My father-in-law hit a chunk of wood on the interstate going well over 80 MPH and needless to say, his tire was not happy. He busted the rim and had to hobble into a local gas station to change it out. At least he had a full size spare, even if there was no air in it. After a jack malfunction, some air pump manoeuvrings, and shifting of luggage, we finally started our final descent to Arlington. As Memphians, we love to complain about our traffic, but after seeing what residents of the Metroplex endure everyday, I will try to cut back on my gripes. Once we got to our hotel, my first thought was that our room was bigger than my first apartment in college. We had a king six=zed bed, couch, recliner, mini fridge, microwave, and huge bathroom. I can get used to traveling with free hotel rooms! We went to dinner at the Mexican place next door and called it a night.
Saturday began with a blueberry waffle shaped like the state of Texas, because, why not. After breakfast, we headed to campus of UT Arlington for Susan’s first, and last trip to a school that she is an alumnae. My first impression of the campus was of utter shock. I was expecting rundown buildings and an abandon all hope decor. I was completely wrong. The campus was great, with several new buildings, and was much larger than I anticipated. Graduation was held in their on campus basketball arena, which was just built in 2010. And since the arena is a little on the small side, and the graduating class was gigantic, UT Arlington spits their graduation up by colleges. This is genius and saved us several hours of sitting. After the graduation, we decided to try Chop House Burgers, a local restaurant that has been featured on Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives, one of my go to shows when eating in new cities and claims to have the best burger in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. I ordered the Mushroom Swiss Burger, Susan ordered the Blacken Bleu Burger, and her father ordered the Cheeseburger, which uses two grilled cheeses as the bun! Susan’s burger was the best (of what we ordered) and the blackened seasoning had a nice kick to it. Susan and I shared some fresh cut fries and I sampled some of her parents’ onion rings as well. The onion rings may have been the best thing that I ate there. They were double seasoned and deep fried to golden perfection. I really enjoyed my lunch, but it would not crack my top five, or possibly my top ten list of favorite burgers.
After lunch we were supposed to go to Six Flags, but we had discovered that Kenny Chesney was playing Cowboys Stadium that evening. I went to a Cowboys game there a few years ago, and no one else had ever been, so going to the concert just to see the place was enough for some of our crew. After some investigation, we discovered that tickets were still available and Susan decided that she would rather go to the concert than Six Flags. Her grandmother agreed, and even said she would buy our concert tickets, so the concert became an easy choice. The concert stated at five, and would have four total performers, Kacey Musgraves, Eli Young Band, Eric Church, and Kenny Chesney. For $50, and that lineup, this concert was a bargain, especially since it lasted a little over six hours! The only downside is since it was in Cowboys Stadium or Jerry’s World, the acoustics were terrible. If you didn’t know a song, you had trouble understanding any of the lyrics and forget trying to listen to any of the performers speak. And the Eli Young Band, who are great live performers usually, were completely inaudible for their entire set. It was a little disappointing. How Eric Church and Kenny Chesney have so much energy throughout their sets is phenomenal, especially Chesney. Eric Church sang all of his hits plus a cover of A Country Boy Can Survive, which is fitting since he is copying Hank Williams, Jr.’s look (sunglasses, beard, drinking whiskey on stage). Honestly, his hour on stage would have been worth the $50 alone. They opened the roof when Chesney came on stage since it was such a nice night and he performed twenty-four of his hits! The most impressive part, at least to Susan and I was that he barely paused between songs, and just kept coming with his high energy performance. Towards the end of the show, we moved down a couple of levels (we were up rather high) to the standing room only section, and the acoustics were much improved. I will have to say, however, that the stadium was much better suited for its intended purpose, hosting football games. Parking was a nightmare around the stadium (as always) but since our hotel was close, I parked on a street going away from the traffic, and we moved to the standing room only section, we were able to make it back to our hotel in under ten minutes. Some other concert goers that were at our hotel told us the next morning that it took them over two hours to make the same, two mile trip.
Also at the concert, our group saw something quite funny. At Cowboys Stadium, there are huge walls of glass that extend from the floor to the ceiling several feet above. As you approach one of these walls, it is easy to confuse them for doors. Or at least my group did, along with a few others. Well, we noticed within ten feet or so of the wall and turned around to find the actual door. Well, this poor guy behind us was not so fortunate. He approached the wall in full stride, and never slowed down until he crashed face first into the wall! He hit it so hard that people on both sides of the wall stopped and watched the man stagger away from reverberating wall. The man was too stunned from the hit to be outwardly embarrassed, and we had to clear the area to keep from laughing directly in his face. We did notice, however, as we passed the wall that the man left a grease spot on the wall from his forehead, nose, and mustache! I lost it when I saw that, but did refrain from snapping a picture. My only question is did the man think that the wall was a door or that there was no wall at all? I mean, if he thought it was a door, leading with your face seems like an odd way to open it.
Sunday only had the following three things on its itinerary: drive home, visit the Grand Prairie Premium Outlet Mall, and eat at In-N-Out Burger. The outlet mall had many premium brands, including several athletic outfitters. Susan wanted a purse, I was interested in grabbing some new running gear. I succeeded in my goal, Susan did not. I ended up getting a new running shirt and two pairs of shorts from Under Armour and a pair of Saucony shoes to use as my everyday sneaker for around $100. In Memphis, this would have been over $150 easy. On our way out of town, we stopped at the In-N-Out burger in Rockwall (a nice bookend for our trip) to have some of burger heaven. I had only had In-N-Out Burger once in my life when I visited Anaheim a couple of summers ago, and I have been craving it ever since. I am very thankful for their eastern expansion to Texas back in 2011 since it makes my acquisition of a burger slightly easier. Maybe one day Memphis and Tennessee can have a franchise as well! This was Susan’s first time to have In-N-Out, and she was definitely impressed with the bun. With 100% fresh ingredients, including the bun, it is hard to argue with the quality. I did not try “animal style” a variation of their burger on their “Not So Secret Menu” simply because I find mustard to be the single most disgusting food item on the planet. Just the thought of it makes my stomach turn, so I avoid it at all costs, even telling some servers that I am allergic to it. Nothing can ruin a burger like mustard. Sadly, on this trip at least, the fires were very lackluster and grossly under seasoned. I guess we will have to make a return trip so they can redeem themselves to Susan! Our drive home was uneventful and the only real issue was getting caught up in some traffic fives miles from home on I-240 due to some night paving. But since this happened in Memphis, we knew enough back roads to navigate a detoured route home.
I have written a rather extension post about our trip and I have not mentioned anything about running. The reason for this, despite my intentions, I completely ignored my running during this mini vacation. Yep, I went four days between runs. And when you take in account that I had three burger joints (Chop House, In-N-Out, and Whataburger), it is plain to see that I was not as dedicated to my health as I should have been. So my punishment is taking the stairs at work. I work on the eighth floor in my building, and travel to the basement frequently. I decided last week that once a week, I was going to take the stairs all day once a week. As my punishment, I was going to double that. Yesterday, that meant that I took 1,360 stairs! Of course, as I am writing this, that doesn’t seem like enough of a punishment, so I am going to take the stairs for the rest of the week. Maybe I will make this my daily habit, or maybe I won’t skip anymore runs!