42 Things I Noticed While Driving Around Texas

A few months ago, I started a field technician job which requires me to drive around the great state of Texas.  Of course, while on the highways, byways, and backways of the Lone Star State, I noticed a few things:

  1. My company car is a Chevy Equinox which is a boat compared to my Honda CR-V

    #7 My road! (sort of)
  2. I have dubbed my company car: “The Leviathan.”
  3. I do like that The Leviathan has a BRAAP horn as opposed to the CR-V’s meep.
  4. That moment when you’re happy to be back on a properly paved road
  5. …with a middle stripe.
  6. Whenever I see a Choke Canyon BBQ or gas station I’ll always think: “Hey it’s those guys who tried to rip off Buc-ees”
  7. I vaguely remembered a ‘Solis Road’ as a child and found it.  Of course, I had to take a selfie.
  8. Rio Grande Valley radio sucks.
  9. Rio Grande Valley drivers suck.
  10. “Next services 45 miles” means it’s time for a restroom break.
  11. It’s always funny to see the road literally change from one county to another.
  12. See also: county deputies waiting for speeders.
  13. Dear GPS: Unless there is a significant delay, clam up and let me stay on the route I’m on.
  14. Company-issued iPhone meant that I got to rediscover how lousy Apple Maps is.
  15. What is it with small towns and Y intersections just outside of them?
  16. Note to self: ALWAYS check how much range your gas tank has left before leaving a small town out in the middle of nowhere.
  17. I always think: “Warp speed, Mr Sulu!” whenever I see that first 55 MPH sign outside of a small town.
  18. This beats being in a crappy open plan office while the fluorescent lights suck the life out of me: I’m on my own, I get to listen to music, and the company pays for gas, room, and hotels.
  19. Gas plumes from oil drilling operations look eerie at night.
  20. If you need super-bright LED headlights, maybe your blind tail shouldn’t be driving at night
  21. See also: Fog lights the size of headlights.
  22. You know a town is really small when they don’t even have a Dairy Queen
  23. I’m not sure I want to go to a restaurant who’s slogan is: Put some South in your Mouth
  24. The road is a good place to charge your smartwatch.
  25. Fueling up in a small town makes one appreciate the city, especially given that the gas is 50 cents less expensive a gallon there.
  26. Granted I’m not paying, but still.
  27. Remote start is awesome, makes me feel all Knight Rider and stuff.
  28. It would be even more awesome if I didn’t always get inside the Leviathan just before the engine cuts out.
  29. Where’s the KITT personal assistant?
  30. Construction, just the thing to make I-10 north of San Antonio worse.
  31. Funny how in small towns there are nearly always signs directing you to the football stadium and cemetery.
  32. I kinda get the whole ‘put a cross on the top of a hill’ thing but I kinda don’t.
  33. Nothing like passing the Whataburger you had breakfast at 14 hours earlier on your way home.
  34. Getting on the road early means seeing some of the wildlife out and about, particularly deer.
  35. Saw a gas station that was converted into a computer repair shop. At least it wasn’t a liquor store.
  36. That moment when your GPS reads: “230 miles remaining.”
  37. Nothing like doing a hasty 180 because you passed the one gas station in a town out in the middle of nowhere.
  38. Sampling the local flavor can be a mite harder on Sunday.
  39. If you could display state lines more prominently, Google Maps, that would be greaaat.
  40. You know you’re in a small county when the county road names consist of single letters.
  41. My company and personal phones are on different providers. Few things make the hair on the back of my neck stand up like losing signal on BOTH of them.
  42. God Bless Dairy Queen!

300 Seconds Episode #94 “Highways and By-Ways”

Listen to this episode here!

You are listening to ‘300 Seconds with Eduardo Soliz,’ and this is episode number 94, “Highways and By-ways,” so let the 300 Seconds begin!

Owning a car is a requirement when you live in Texas, and when you’re raised in a small town like I was, it was a necessity, because just about everything significant was either in the larger town ten miles away or in the big city that was twenty miles away.  An interesting side effect of that experience is that driving around doesn’t bother me as much as it does my friends that grew up in the city.

When I was in my small town and I wanted to go to HEB, it was a ten-mile drive.  Blockbuster Video?  Fifteen miles.  The mall? Twenty miles. Heck, if you wanted something to eat that wasn’t Dairy Queen or the local Mexican place it was at least a ten mile drive.  My city friends are used to having everything close by and I’m used to having everything far away, so where the thought of driving to the other side of town horrifies them; for me, it’s a big deal.

I make a trip to see my parents about every month or so, and thus, I know Interstate 37 between San Antonio and Corpus Christi like the back of my hand.  It’s interesting to see it slowly change over the years:  Quirky mom and pop gas stations that had animatronic cowboys and sold ostrich eggs have been replaced by big shiny corporate twenty-pump monstrosities that can probably be seen from space at night.

I find it interesting how most of the newer gas stations are trying really hard to be Buc-ees.  One even tried a little too hard and ended up being sued over it.  (Buc-ees won, by the way) Try as they might, though, nobody has ever been able to completely pull it off, because they all forget the one thing that makes Buc-ees, Buc-ees:  It isn’t the massive store, or the kitschy souvenirs that they sell, or the friendly workers, or even the mascot.  It’s the guy cleaning the bathrooms.  When you walk into the bathroom at Buc-ees, not only is it huge, but it’s always super-clean, day or night.  The other guys try: They’ll put locks on the stall doors and solid walls in between them, but all it takes is one clogged toilet or not-working sink or funky smell to remind you that they ain’t Buc-ees.

A rival gas station, QuikTrip, recently took the title of favorite gas station in Texas from Buc-ees in a 2017 GasBuddy survey. That which had some folks, including myself, up in arms: “There is just no way some other lousy gas station could be better than Buc-ees!”  Everybody said.  Quik Trip recently began opening stations in the San Antonio area, and one opened up on my way to work, so I decided to check it out.  In doing so, I figured out why they won the title.  Much like Buc-ees, Quik Trip is a really nice gas station with a good selection of hot food, snacks, drinks, and friendly employees.

You see, Buc-ees is where you stop when you are on a road trip.  In Texas, it’s to the point where a stop at Buc-ees is almost a part of the vacation itself, but it’s where you stop when you are on your way to somewhere far away.  It’s where you make a pit stop to use the bathroom and get beef jerky, kolaches, tacos, BBQ sandwiches, sweets, sodas, beaver nuggets, and maybe even a T-shirt or maybe even an ice chest or even a grill.  And that’s great.  Quik Trip, on the other hand, is where you go to gas up from week in and week out for work.  Their gas is fairly cheap, and the station is always clean and has a pretty good selection of food and snacks.  Now, is Quik Trip as big as Buc-ees? No. Does it have fresh kolaches and beef jerky like Buc-ees?  No.  Souvenirs?  No.  But it is nicer than most other gas stations and  probably closer to home for most than Buc-ees.  So yeah, I can see why it is more popular, especially if the gas is just as cheap, and isn’t cheap gas what we’re all looking for?

This has been 300 Seconds, the next episode will be posted after I top-up my SUV.  I am Eduardo Soliz, if you’d like to hear or read more of my words visit Eduardo Soliz dot com, and I thank you for listening!

My Favorite Christmas Songs 2018 #10

When it’s Christmas Time in Texas, George Strait, 1986

Having lived in Texas for all of my life, I can certainly relate to George Strait’s ode to Christmas in the Lone Star State. While y’all are having turkey and ham, we’re firing up the grill.

Crazy thing: I’ve actually experienced a White Christmas once, in 2004 in Corpus Christi, of all places.  That’s it for this year’s additions!

Listen to all of the songs here on YouTube!

47 Things I Noticed at Garner State Park

1
#25: Darn skippy

After (too many) years since my last trip to the iconic Texas summer getaway, I decided to take stay for a night to see if anything had changed since then.  I’m glad to say that the park is mostly the same, but I did notice a few things…

  1. It is only a two hour drive from San Antonio to Garner, as opposed to three and a half from my parent’s house. WHAT TOOK ME SO LONG?
  2. I took Highway 90 on the way over, and will likely take the ‘scenic route’ on the way home.
  3. Shocked to find hardly any vehicles at the park office, think I picked a perfect time to come!
  4. Temperature notwithstanding, anyway.
  5. Slept without the benefit of air conditioning at home the night before to prepare myself.  Not too hard.
  6. Resisting the urge to turn on my CR-V’s air conditioner on the drive over, however, was quite difficult!
  7. Lost my cell signal somewhere between Sabinal and the park.  Didn’t miss it…much.
  8. Okay, maybe I missed it a little, but that’s because I’m waiting to hear back about an interview.
  9. Despite the low number of cars at the park office, I still had to wait a bit.
  10. I pulled number 70 and the last one helped was 65. People have no patience!
  11. My original plan was to stay two nights, but I shortened it to one…maybe once it isn’t a billion degrees out.
  12. It has been so long, I only have vague memories, but a few were jostled loose when I drove by the campsite I (think) I stayed in last time.
  13. Canyonero!
    #13: Canyonero!

    Upon reaching my site, I had to take a picture of my CR-V like it’s in one of those SUV commercials.

  14. Set up my tent only to find the zipper on the door isn’t working quite right.  Crap.
  15. Only packed sandwiches and snacks to eat; I have no desire to prepare or eat any hot food while I’m here.
  16. Not bringing my stove and any food to heat up made packing harder somehow.
  17. Chili lime chips are the closest I’ll get to heat today.
  18. I’m keeping my Pebble Time smartwatch on even though my cell phone is kaputski. It still works as a pedometer, and well, a watch.
  19. Hiked down to the riverbank, had the obligatory ‘slip on the muddy ground/slick rocks’ moment.
  20. It is hard to resist taking panoramic pictures.  Some beautiful country, here.
  21. Finding trash around cheeses me off, and I pick up what I can.
  22. I can appreciate the irony in the gift shop selling bottle openers.
  23. Yes, I bought one, because why not?
  24. Picked up a cane sugar Dr. Pepper from the ‘Stinkin’ Sweet’ candy store to make sure it wasn’t defective.
  25. Also bought a bumper sticker.  Thanks to some unintended help from Verizon (see #7) it’s pretty easy to stay unplugged.
  26. Didn’t do any tubing, but went for a refreshing swim by the dam.
  27. Is there a rule that says the only people that buy portable speakers have to have the crappiest taste in music?
  28. The tube/paddleboat rental shack is no more, replaced by a trailer.
  29. They also have a food truck ‘Garner Grill.’  Dunno if they have tacos.
  30. Spent most of the afternoon sitting at my campsite, listening to the radio and working on this list.

    BUNNY!
    BUNNY!
  31. I also spent about twenty minutes just looking at birds.
  32. Didn’t do much, really, but that’s kind of the point.
  33. My $15 Emerson analog radio picks up The Eagle from San Antonio, yet my CR-V doesn’t. Huh.
  34. BUNNY!
  35. Jackrabbits are freaking HUGE.
  36. Saw a guy walk into the men’s room shower followed by his dog.  Damn furries.
  37. Garner Grill has the best food truck slogan ever: “Where fat free can take a hike.” No tacos, though.
  38. They did have burgers, of which I partook.  Hooray for convenience!
  39. Got a story idea while waiting for my food. Hooray for inspiration!
  40. I was a little surprised at how active the wildlife got once the sun went down.
  41. Annoying music coming from a car at a nearby camp. If his battery dies, and they ask: No, I don’t have jumper cables.
  42. Annoying music stops, and I can now hear music coming from somewhere else. *sigh*

    So purdy!
    So purdy!
  43. You don’t know how sunburned you are until try to go to sleep.
  44. It was a fitful night’s sleep. I’m not sure if it was the heat or my bedding that kept me up.
  45. One night of tent camping is definitely enough in Texas’s August heat.
  46. The scenic route home was a fun little drive.
  47. I look forward to coming back when the temperature isn’t so brutal!

11 Things I Noticed After Oklacon

I would drive one thousand miles…

Of course, now that its all said and done, one last list.

  1. I heard more conversations about DnD this weekend then I have in my entire life up to this point.
  2. Not sure which is worse: watching the Dallas Cowboys nearly blow the game on TV or hearing them nearly blow it on the radio.
  3. I put 1,000+ miles on the Excelsior during the trip…whew.
  4. Three days of sleeping on the ground made me really appreciate my bed.
  5. I was fortunate enough to have only encountered one raccoon.
  6. No matter how tired I am, no matter how many hours I’ve spent on the road, no matter how badly I want to get home, there’s always time for a stop at Buc-ees.
  7. Gas at Buc-ees was $2.99 a gallon for regular unleaded, WOW.
  8. The logjam I hit on I-35 South going home had me wishing I’d taken 281 instead, ugh.
  9. RED DIRT EVERYWHERE GET IT OFF GET IT OFF GET IT OFF
  10. Lesson learned: if I come back I’m getting a tent spot away from the bathrooms and the campfire.
  11. I am so glad I took Monday off from work to recover.  After what happened the last time, I almost stayed home!

40 Things I Noticed During Oklacon

Have some corn squeezens!

I’ve never been to an outdoor convention before, nor to Oklahoma, so Oklacon promised to be a different experience.  Indeed it was!

  1. Parking on top of the hill made me appreciate having a Honda CR-V instead of a Dodge Neon all the more.
  2. Standing in the slow registration line wasn’t all that bad after 7+ hours on the road.
  3. I was a little worried about finding a decent radio station, then realized I should have been more worried about reception.
  4. Apparently only loud people stay up late at night…argh
  5. Chopping wood in the middle of the night?  SERIOUSLY?
  6. I know darn well there’s no signal, but I keep checking my phone. I may have a problem.
  7. About the only thing I could do with this phone was update this list.
  8. As is the custom, Artist’s Alley was located in Mos Isley.
  9. The hard ground kept me from sleeping at night, but at least I was warm. /shrug
  10. There were no smut writers at the artist’s meetup, or at least none willing to own up to it.
  11. The weather was pretty nice once the chill got out if the air…unfortunately it got a little too warm on Saturday.
  12. Doesn’t seem to be much concern about ‘breaking the magic’ here…then again there isn’t a ‘headless lounge’ either.
  13. I enjoyed the ‘Furry common sense’ panel, learned a lot of ‘good to know’ information.
  14. Love the little ‘codes’ they put on the badges.
  15. They had ‘predator’ and ‘prey’ designs for the baseball caps, clever.
  16. Bears are omnnivores, so I could go either way…fark it, I bought one with a predator design.
  17. Someone reportedly got cactus needles stuck in their hand, not sure if there was a mouse available to assist.
  18. What would a ‘redneck’ fur like Mr. Drunky up there be called?
  19. Bad Science was DEPRESSING, though Dr. Nuka kinda turned it around at the end
  20. Favorite new phrase, heard during Bad Science: “Animal Malfunction”
  21. Got my first badge commission done. I liked it, and I paid for another one.
  22. I really need to establish a fursona, the second artist I purchased a commission from had all these questions and I was all “I DON’T KNOW!”
  23. Some guy called me ‘Ed’ and totally confused me until I realized it was on the badge I had commissioned and was now wearing.
  24. Nothing like thinking you lost your wallet to make for an exciting evening.
  25. One benefit of being an early riser is there’s always hot water in the shower.
  26. Big thanks to whomever left the giant bottle of body wash in the showers.  Not that I was out, but ‘fresh mango’ wasn’t quite the vibe I was going for…need to check the label next time.
  27. I woke up on Saturday morning to find someone asleep on top of a hill…WTF?
  28. Finally realized what I had forgotten to bring: A roll of toilet paper.  Granted, they had plenty, but still, I always feel better having a spare roll.
  29. The bathrooms got progressively worse and worse as the weekend progressed, but I’ve used outhouses, so no biggie.
  30. Second thing I forgot: an air mattress.  I sleep on my side and my hip bone was constantly touching the ground as I slept…ow!
  31. The Mini Moon Pies were okay until the sun came out on Saturday,  oh well.
  32. Trebuchets are cool.
  33. Everything felt inverted: I eventually purchased a badge to identify myself as being straight.
  34. The fursuit parade got moved FORWARD an hour? They know we’re OUTSIDE, right?
  35. Never been to a con that had two fursuit parades, so that was cool.
  36. Sat in on a International Anthropomorphic Research Project group chat and learned a little bit more about myself.
  37. Someone made an interesting point: we use funny animals to entertain our children and expect them to forget about them once they grow up.
  38. When I heard they were making stone soup, I got a mental image of people throwing Cheetos, Pocky and M&Ms into the pot.
  39. Judging how much heat is coming out of a propane stove in the middle of the day is tricky.
  40. When the wooden handle on your saucepan catches fire, there’s too much heat.