If travel is a challenge – let the games begin!
On Earth Day, I partook of a challenge that had been swimming in my head for years. The challenge is to do a day trip – flying in somewhere that allows for enough time on the ground. Then, spend that precious time on the ground doing as much as humanly possible to see what I have an interest or curiosity about. The catch to this day trip is to go somewhere I have never been before.
In planning this, I researched my possibilities and came up with one city: Dallas, Texas.
The Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex is truly an important location for many reasons. It is a commercial hub, that has a huge technology and scientific economy. The wealth is what we see the most, but it is also economically diverse, as is culturally rich. From all fo the things I read and heard about this area, there has been quite a lot of change over time.
Still, there are points along the way that help shape my interest in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. History plays a huge part – in particular a date that still evokes memories for my generation…and our parent's generations.
As with every trip, it begins with a run to the airport. For me, I figured to use Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport's Value ramp across from Terminal 2. I figured out in my heard that with the timing of the flights and the cost of local transport, this should be a good value proposition. It also got me closer to my flight.
I chose Twin Cities-based Sun Country Airlines as my carrier, They offered a bookend of flights between MSP and DFW, with a continuation onto Cancun. I was not looking forward to the Cancun passengers, as I was traveling for business purposes. Let me just say that I had an interesting flight down with a couple sitting next to me that began their row sharing sarcastically. I was in no mood for anything.
Luckily, our flight arrived early. The wait for a shuttle to The Parking Spot South to pick up my steed for this short time in Dallas-Fort Worth was very short. The fleet management company had the vehicle ready prior to my arrival. This trip was already starting to redeem itself on the ground.
Considering it was Earth Day, I would have easily eschewed a car and used the Dallas Area Rapid Transit system instead. Instead, American Honda provided a 2017 Accord Hybrid for this brief trip. I could not think of a perfectly sustainable vehicle to celebrate Earth Day with.
It may have been a great option to get around the Metroplex in, but it certainly was challenged en route from The Parking Spot South to downtown Dallas. There was construction on the Airport Freeway (Texas Highway 183), along with a huge backup on Interstate 35E leading into Interstates 30 and 45 downtown. Luckily, I trusted Honda's navigation system to get me to my first stop: Dealey Plaza.
This is where my History undergraduate studies and my own history unfold. On November 22, 1963, President John F. Kennedy was assassinated as his motorcade looped around Dealey Plaza in front of the Texas Book Repository. On Main Street in front of the grassy knoll, an "X" painted in the middle of the street marked the spot where the rifle's bullets hit the President. A few blocks away, an ominous memorial was erected next to the Old Red Museum on Elm Street. It was a reminder of the city's past that still echoes today.
I felt uneasy about heading to the grassy knoll and the spot where Kennedy was shot. There were already too many tourists hovering around the site, along with people with "newspapers" – an obvious tourist trap. I did drive the route as a way to honor that moment when the world simply stopped with that assassin's bullet.
Construction is pretty common sight anywhere one roams. That and a walk event near the Reunion Tower kind of blew a few photo opportunities. Though I will say that I did have a chance to see a few more things than I originally planned on.
My next stop was to the Oak Lawn neighborhood. This is considered the center of Dallas' LGBT community. Though I wondered if I caught this on some form of decline. The bars were still there, but there appears to be a lot of new restaurants around. There is also seems to be a lot of diversity in Dallas' LGBT community, which is a welcomed sight. As for the Dallas Bear scene….um, I must've missed it. Or, has it moved away from Cedar Springs Road? It seemed free of "Dallatude." Or, could that have been transferred to the plethora of online hook-up apps available to smartphone users across the Metroplex.
My lunch stop in Oak Lawn was Hunky's on Cedar Springs. The food was good, as was the service. I got a small flavor of the Dallas LGBT scene – a diverse mix across the board. Perhaps a reflection of the evolution of Oak Lawn and its denizens.
As I was ahead of schedule, I figured I do some moseying around towards Arlington. I made an earlier decision to skip Deep Ellum and the Fairplex area. The former usually kicks off during the evening with its nightlife and dining scene. There was an Earth Day event at Fairplex, which would have been a traffic problem or another waiting to happen.
Instead, I explored further into Uptown towards Love Field. A drive along Lemmon Avenue provided a rare glance at some luxury automobiles, along a very busy corridor. It also got me along the back side of Dallas' old airport.
Eventually, I made it to Arlington, just south of DFW. There was a a special stop I needed to make. When I was a kid, Texas Stadium opened as the "new" home of the Dallas Cowboys. This was the era with Roger Staubach frustrating Tom Landry with his two-minute offense and scrambling to find his receivers, such as Drew Pearson and Golden Richards. Tony Dorsett's arrival cemented Landry's legacy prior to Jerry Jones' arrival in the Metroplex. This changing of the guard brought us Troy Aikman and Michael Irvin, among others.
The reason I bring up these eras and those names was to honor the timespace where I had to hate the Cowboys. Hate them as I did, I respected them – the team and its individuals.
It was with an open mind that I arrived at Jerry Jones' grand venue for his team, AT&T Stadium. The air was right, as the Cowboys are now infused with two very exciting players securing the team's future – Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott.
When arriving upon the stadium, one could not measure the grandness of size and stature the building embodies. I even went further to say how much I liked AT&T Stadium over the new U.S. Bank Stadium located not far from home. Seriously…with apologies to Vikings fans and the Super Bowl LII Host Committee.
There are many reasons why. For its size and scale, it is an excellent building. The large screen setup below the "hole" – a paean to old Texas Stadium – is a brilliant move to show the action on a larger scale to those sitting in the upper deck. The place is full of amenities…more accessible and tangible than most National Football League stadiums. I was simply blown away by ti all – it takes a lot to get that reaction.
Inside the stadium, I broadcast a live video on Facebook, showing my "friends" what the stadium was all about. During the video, I told the story of a discovery I found during my time in the D.C. Area as a segment of the region's population rooted for the Cowboys since the beginnings of the franchise in 1960. The reason was integration. As an expansion team, the Cowboys brought in African-American players before any of the NFL's legacy teams were integrated.
Only one team did not have an African-American player – the Washington Redskins. This explains why a majority of the D.C. Area's African-American population refuse to support the local NFL team and root for the Cowboys instead. It was not until 1961 when the Redskins welcomed their first African-American player. Even then, the damage was already done to the local African-American community.
No matter if you love or hate the Cowboys, respect is indeed due. The building is astounding in every way. It befits the past, present and future of "America's Team."
On my way out of AT&T Stadium, I caught a glimpse of Globe Life Park, the home of Texas Rangers baseball club. In had the complete opposite reaction to the neo-retro ballpark. Perhaps because similar ballparks in Baltimore and San Francisco offered unique features distinguishing themselves from the rest, Globe Life Park seemed contrived and "cookie cutter" in that design vein. It didn't help that it had changed names a few times since the place opened up.
There was room for one final stop. Up Texas Highway 360 was a special museum dedicated to the region's hometown airline – American Airlines. The C.R. Smith Museum told American's story from its beginnings to its current state as one of the largest airlines in the USA. The exhibits showed every aspect of the airline, including a children's area that both entertain and educate. It also feed into my aviation geekery.
The main piece of this museum is a Douglas DC-3 called Flagship Knoxville. If you have never been on this forerunner of today's airliners, it will be an experience. Considering today's level of airline comfort, the DC-3 might not be a pressurized, but those seats were very comfortable. There is legroom, seat width and real comfort. The display was designed for you to step inside the plane and see what it was like to fly on American in the 1930s and 1940s. Stepping inside of the Flagship Knoxville certainly impacted my thinking about flying.
If there was one piece of the museum that did disappoint me, it would be in a form of a scale model airliner. There was an exhibit showing all of the airlines that were absorbed into today's American Airlines. There was one omission – PSA. You see, the first airline I flew on would be absorbed by USAir in the 1980s. Eventually, USAir – later to become US Airways – would merge with American. Instead the display showed two models representing AirCal (and Air California before it). That airline would merge into American after PSA's merger into USAir. Yes, I know, it's all details.
Of note, American operates a fleet of retro airliners wearing the livery of most those former airlines seen in that exhibit. One of these Airbus A320s just happen to wear the colors – and the smile – of PSA. Just saying…
My return of the Honda Accord Hybrid lent itself to an early arrival into DFW's Terminal D with the intent on transferring photos from the camera and to start up the write-ups. Then, the aviation geek took over again. Terminal D is where a lot of international flights are serviced. The Sun Country flight I was heading home on originated from Cancun. But, that was not the thing that rekindled my aviation geekery. At the terminal were flights from Qatar Airways, Etihad Airways and British Airways – three airlines you would never see fly in and out of MSP. On the apron was a Qantas Airbus A380 sitting and waiting to be loaded with passengers heading to Sydney. This is considered the longest nonstop flight in the world.
It made me ponder about the change in the airlines business since my first flights in the 1970s. It used to be that the USA had the finest airlines in the world – Pan American being the greatest among equals. Terminal D is still dominated by American Airlines and its international flights and a few domestic services. But, the domain of airline excellence is now the province of those carriers based along the Persian Gulf. Qatar, Etihad, Emirates and Gulf Air offer a luxurious on-board flight experience that Juan Trippe originally envisioned in Pan Am's Clipper services prior to World War II. These airlines from the Middle East have become the most loved and respected carriers in the business.
The point about travel is for one to go somewhere they have dreamed about visiting. They might have heard, tread or seen a video of. To actually go and visit it is the experience one has to partake in life.
Dallas is not Dubai, London or Sydney. It is a fine city – combined with Fort Worth and the suburbs in-between and around them. I definitely would return there. Maybe I'll spend more time and meet more people. Still, there are many more places I am still curious about to visit.
This challenge was just the beginning of many things to come. The game's not over.
DISCLAIMER: The vehicle featured in this travel piece was provided by American Honda. Air travel and most logistics were of the responsibility of the author
All photos by Randy Stern