Saturday, October 15, 2016

Summary of the Western Trip - Part Eleven - Dallas, Texas

Thursday, August 25 - Woke up in Las Vegas, and was ready to go. Not that I was eager to leave the west, or had not enjoyed the trip. But Las Vegas is obviously the capital of decadence, and right by the hotel, there were everywhere signs of this decadence. There were hookers on street corners, and their shady pimps driving around in fancy cars, yelling at them and bossing them around, ordering them to move to this or that street corner. There were young people who were obviously destitute, asking anyone that they encountered for money. And all of this was taking place underneath the glittering skyline of the casinos. It was a bit depressing, and admittedly, felt like a bit of a letdown from the highs that we had experienced on the trip. We showered and rushed to the airport to return the car rental, and then went to the terminal, running maybe fifteen minutes late, at least in terms of being at the airport two hours before our flight was scheduled to take off. As it turned out, we need not have worried, as the takeoff had been pushed back by an hour. So, we ate a little something (not much) just prior to going through security. Then, we got on line, and when we approached, I noticed that I was missing something important: my license! Remembering that the Virgin Atlantic representative who had helped us had requested to see it, I ran over there, and indeed, he still had it. That was a load off. It was not too annoying, or anything, since he had helped us, specifically by waving the baggage fee for the next day, since the flight had been altered against my wishes (originally, we were only supposed to be in Dallas for about four hours or so, but ended up getting almost 24 hours when the airline changed our itinerary). When we went back to the security line, it was much longer, and so we lost some time. Still, not really that big of a deal, since we now had plenty of time due to the delay. We sat and waited, and I was getting anxious to leave Vegas, and get to Dallas, Texas, which felt like it was going to be a new adventure. Having never been to Texas, this was going to be something new, and I was determined to make it an extension of the trip, rather than simply viewing it as an inconvenience. In that spirit, once we landed at Dallas's Love Field (and I have never before been a part of a landing or unboarding that was so smooth), we went through the relatively small airport that did, nonetheless, hold some historical significance. It was to Love Field that President Kennedy landed after a very short flight from Fort Worth, and back to Love Field that his body was taken after the assassination. Also, this airport was the site of Lyndon B. Johnson taking the oath of office to succeed Kennedy as president. Probably, this mattered little to others (it hardly seemed to matter to my son, either), although I found it intriguing, and a small privilege to deal with this airport, rather than the more modern and monstrous Dallas-Fort Worth, which I had heard is a pain in the butt, and very big. After picking up the car rental, we headed straight for Dealey Plaza, which is, of course, the site where Kennedy was assassinated in 1963. It was much smaller than I had expected. When you see it in pictures and on television all of your life, it just seems to be somewhat larger than it feels in person. There were conspiracy theorists there, explaining their viewpoint that it could not possibly have been one lone gunman who killed Kennedy and, of course, they had further proof than merely their explanations, but it all came at a cost. You had to buy the products that they were selling in order to see their proof. We walked around Dealey Plaza and learned that this was also the site where the city of Dallas itself originated, and so we learned something on this day! Then, we went to Parkland Hospital, where Kennedy was taken immediately after being shot, and where he was officially pronounced dead. There was a display there with the portraits of both President Kennedy and President Johnson, who of course came from Texas. After that, it was getting dark, and we were tired, so we decided to head towards the hotel. I spotted a decent place, and we ate there, at Long John Silver, which coupled with an A and W, where we had some root beer floats. It was an enjoyable and filling meal, and my son really enjoyed it! Then, we checked into the hotel, and were pleasantly surprised to learn that the pool was still open, and would remain so until 10pm. My son really wanted to go, and so despite how fatigued I felt, we both went, and swam for the better part of an hour, until we unknowingly went past the 10pm closing time. We both slept well that night, to end our last full day while still on the trip.

Parkland Hospital Display:

Friday, August 26 - The last day of the trip, period. We woke up a bit later than usual, but enjoyed a very hearty breakfast. The hotel had what appeared to be an actual restaurant inside, and breakfast was complimentary. They had fresh fruit, real eggs, sausages, toast, English muffins, cereal, do-it-yourself waffles, milk, coffee, and juices. Naturally, my son's eyes were bigger than his stomach, and quite typically, he took too much. One thing that he did was the waffles, and when I saw his on his plate, it kind of made me in the mood for it, too. When I went up to make my own, I saw two different waffle makers, and one was making them in the shape of Texas, so I went for that. Predictably, my son's eyes widened, and he was jealous, and asked if he could have mine. No problem, although I made sure to take a picture of him with it (see below). We finished our breakfast (although he was taking a long time), then got ready. We barely had brought anything to the hotel, so it did not take long for us to leave after checking out. We then headed towards Fort Worth. I had wanted to visit the Sixth Floor Museum back at Dealey Plaza in Dallas, although I could already tell that time was going to be too tight to do everything, and that was likely going to have to be scrapped. My girlfriend had spent some time in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, and when I asked her what there was that could appeal to a ten-year old boy, she immediately mentioned the Active Fountains in Fort Worth, as well as the longhorns, which are marched through the streets of the city. Upon doing some further research, I learned that, indeed, the longhorns took two walks everyday in the Fort Worth Stockyards, once at 11:30 and again at 4:30. Obviously, we were going to try and catch the 11:30 one, since by 4:30, we would be either at the airport awaiting boarding, or on a plane. So, we drove to Fort Worth, and went straight to the Stockyards, and watched the longhorns. The horns really were amazingly long, and seemed on each side to be the length of the width of the cars that they passed! That was surprising! My son enjoyed this quite a bit. After that, we went to the Active Fountains. My son ran straight to the fountains, although I made a quick call, just to make sure that I could drop the rental car off later than the noon time when we were slated to. As it turned out, since we had picked it up at roughly 5 pm the day before, we did not have to worry about extra charges until after that 24 hour period, and we would have to drop the car off earlier than that to make the flight! So, my worries on that front went away, and we enjoyed the fountains quite a lot. He really went kind of wild there, and later, he said that this was one of the highlights of his trip! I was glad that we went there, although we had to cut it short when a thunderstorm approached. Suddenly, there was thunder and lightning, and we were drenched in heavy rainfall. So, we went back to the car, and then went to the Kennedy Memorial outside of the former Hotel Texas (Now the Fort Worth Hilton Hotel) in General Worth Square. We parked and waited for the rain to subside. And waited. And waited. After a while, it dawned on me that it was getting a bit late, and that if I was going to take some pictures, it would apparently have to be in the rain. After all, we had this one day here, and really, only for a few more hours. So, I braved the heavy rains and menacing thunder, which sounded too close for comfort, and took pictures of, admittedly, yet another site with some Kennedy significance to it. It was strange, looking up at the building where President Kennedy spent his last night of his life, and I recalled a very good article that told of how three presidents were in the city of Dallas on that fateful morning, as a light rain fell. There was nothing light about this rain, however, and wearing my sandals as I was, had to jump over some of the big puddles to get to the memorial. Then, it was time to go. Predictably, the rain stopped maybe five minutes after I took all of those pictures, but by then, we were almost on the highway that would take us out of Fort Worth and back towards Dallas, and to Love Field. There was one more Kennedy thing that I wanted to see before we left. It had been a billboard, of all things, but it looked to be an old Kennedy for President campaign billboard. Thinking of the two walking, talking, breathing mediocrities currently running for the highest office in the land, I wished that we indeed did have a John F. Kennedy as an option to vote for. In any case, we filled up the gas tank (we had not used much gas on our trip, certainly not in comparison to the other places we had visited, and the massive miles that we had put on), and I stopped and snapped some pictures of this billboard. Then, we went to Love Field Airport. I tried to find out if there were any plaques or statues recognizing the airport's historical significance during the Kennedy Assassination, although I was not met with any success. Still, I tried to imagine what this relatively small airport might have been like back in the 1960's. Of course, we arrived relatively early, because it seemed unnecessary to take any risks, which meant that we had time to kill. So, I treated my son to the closest thing to a Texas-style meal that was available. He chose a barbecue meal, as did I, and we ate well. It was good, and then I went to the souvenir shops and looked around, not having had a chance to look at Texas souvenirs elsewhere. Before long, we went to our terminal and waited it out, before finally boarding the plane, more or less on time. That said, we ended up waiting on the tarmac because of an enormous storm front, and that was believable, having seen the heavy rains that we had seen in Fort Worth. So, it took a bit longer, although before too long, we nonetheless did get up in the air, and wound up landing at LaGuardia more or less on time. We flew over Flushing Meadows and saw the grounds where the US Open would be played in the next couple of days, as well as Citi Field, where the lights were on and a crowd assembled, presumably for a Mets game. It was one little last bit of excitement for my son to see before we landed. The trip was now over.

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