Tag Archives: Metroplex

Puppy Tales, Part 55

Toby the Puppy has an identity issue.

I won’t call it a “crisis” because our puppy isn’t bothered by it. How does it present itself?

OK, Toby weighs about 11 pounds. When he meets much larger dogs, he tends to act more aggressively than when he encounters fellow canines of similar or smaller size.

Toby the Puppy thinks he’s a pit bull. Or a Rottweiler. Or a German shepherd. Or any variety of Lab.

It might be that he is smitten by the sound of his own voice. Toby’s bark sounds as if it comes from a much larger dog. He speaks sparingly. He barks only for a good reason: someone at the door he doesn’t recognize or someone outside who gets his attention.

We now live in a Fairview neighborhood that is full of dogs. Many of them are much larger than Toby. Some of our neighbors have pit bulls. I’ve seen a couple of English bulldogs. I’ve seen many mixed breeds of considerable size as well. When Toby sees them, he pulls hard on his leash. I have to shush him when he barks or snarls. He listens and then settles down — immediately.

I won’t worry about whether Toby will ever come to grips with the fact that he’s a small dog. He isn’t going to whip many other dogs in a pooch-on-pooch fight. His temperament won’t engage them.

I’ll let him strut around the neighborhood, going through whatever motions male puppies go through.

He will keep my wife and me in stitches every step of the way.

Happy Trails, Part 117: Technology comes in handy

Now that I am a 21st-century man — more or less — I can report that we are relying on state-of-the-art navigational technology to help us get from place to place in our new community.

We live in Fairview, Texas — which is tucked between Allen and McKinney in Collin County. We live about 20-something miles north of Dallas.

Oh, but more importantly, it takes us about 12 minutes to drive to where our granddaughter lives.

We have some technological devices are our disposal to help us stumble and bumble our way around. They all work pretty well.

We have Google apps on our cell phones. The smart phones are pretty damn smart, if you know what I mean — and I know that you do. Hey, we don’t even have to provide a physical address to these devices; we just type in the place where we’re wanting to go and the phone gives us detailed directions.

Then we have the GPS system in our 3/4-ton pickup we have named Big Jake. That system works quite well … as long as the route we intend to travel is an established one that’s been there a while. The Metroplex is full of newly built highways, tollways, turnpikes and parkways. Big Jake’s guidance system, therefore, is a bit of a crap shoot.

And then … we have the Garmin GPS we store in our Prius. Same problem with the Garmin as with the truck’s built-in GPS system.

The bottom line? We’re going to rely primarily on our phones’ guidance systems until we feel comfortable enough getting around without any telecommunications assistance.

It’s going to be some time before that occurs. The Metroplex is hu–u-u-u-ge, sprawling urban center. Dallas/Fort Worth comprises about 7.5 million residents living in the nation’s fourth-largest metropolitan area. You get my drift, right?

But we’ll find our way. Meantime, a prayer or two would be much appreciated.

One more thing. We had no trouble learning the way to and from our granddaughter’s house.

Seeking no credit for this heat

When we moved to Beaumont, Texas from Oregon in the spring of 1984, I would jokingly take credit when it rained for more than a couple of days in a row.

I would give a nod to the same thought when we moved from Beaumont to Amarillo in early 1995. When we would travel from Amarillo to, oh, damn well anywhere in the States, we’d take credit for whenever the wind would blow hard.

However …

There ain’t no way I’m going to tolerate any references to our former places of residence if someone wants to comment on this damn heat.

We’re setting heat records in the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex. The temp hit 109 today. A record. It did so on Friday, too. There might be another record in jeopardy on Sunday and again on Monday.

The heat is an annual event in this part of the world. I’ve known that for many years.

It ain’t the same heat that blankets the Texas Panhandle. This one lingers well into the night, unlike on the Caprock, where it dissipates (more or less) when the sun sets, owing to the 3,650-foot elevation on the High Plains.

This heat requires us to get reacquainted with humidity.

The good news? It won’t last forever. I’m already looking forward to autumn.

Oh, this heat just keeps the pressure on

Just about the time I am inclined to link this incessant Texas heat wave to the issue of global warming, I think of Sen. Jim Inhofe, an Oklahoma Republican and prominent global warming/climate change denier.

We’re broiling in the D/FW Metroplex with temps hovering around 110 degrees (if you factor in that “heat index”). It’s been several days with temperatures topping out at around 100 degrees. I might say, “See, I told you that the climate is changing.”

Sen. Inhofe? Oh, he quite famously walked onto the floor of the U.S. Senate during a recent winter snowstorm in Washington, D.C. He was packing a snowball about the size of a large grapefruit. He then proceeded to declare in a Senate floor speech that the existence of that snowball and the bitterly cold temperatures in the D.C. area proved that the planet isn’t warming up.

I wrote at the time that Inhofe was nuts to use a real-time episode in one community as a way to debunk an event that scientists around the world have said is occurring.

Look at global picture, Sen. Inhofe

So, with that said, I am going to refrain from linking to this hideous heat to the notion that Earth’s climate is changing.

There. Are you climate change deniers happy now?

Happy Trails, Part 114: Learning our way around

We have settled in our new digs just north of Dallas.

Our dwelling is comfortable. My wife has done a miraculous job of assembling it and putting everything (mostly) in its place.

Now the next big challenge awaits us: learning our way around in a community that bears little — if any — resemblance to the community we left.

Fairview is a busy place. We live just a stone’s throw from U.S. 75, aka the Dallas Central Expressway. Collin County comprises nearly 1 million residents. We’ve been fortunate to be able to avoid the freeway at times when virtually everyone in this county is on the road at the same time.

We’ve checked out local routes that enable us to get from place to place with zero hassle. We haven’t yet ventured too far away from our digs. We’ve located several grocery stores, a nice shopping area, some very nice eating establishments, entertainment venues.

What we haven’t yet mastered is how we travel from our small community to destinations some distance away. We know how to get from the Metroplex back to Amarillo; we also know how to get from Fairview to the Hill Country, or from Fairview to Gulf Coast.

We’re going to figure out how to transit easily from our dwelling to, say, Love Field or to Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport. There a number of communities nearby: Plano, Frisco, Sherman, Carrollton, Richardson. They’re all clustered in the region just north of Dallas.

We’ll find our way around in due course. Hey, it’s gone pretty swimmingly so far.

Until we commit these routes to memory, we’ll just have to thank goodness for Google Maps.

Growth vs. no-growth in new city of residence

I have learned something about the town my wife and I now call “home.”

There appears to be a struggle within the town of Fairview among residents, some of whom want to see the community grow, while others of them don’t want any more growth. They like the town just the way it is.

Hmm. I haven’t seen this kind of intra-city tension in a good while.

I have made a fascinating acquaintance in Fairview. He is a member of the Town Council. I hesitate to give you his name because he doesn’t know I’m writing this blog post; I’ll respect his privacy.

He tells me about the strife that’s occurring in this Collin County community. Fairview’s population in 2010 was about 7,200; its estimated population in 2014 had grown to more than 8,400 residents.

It is tucked between McKinney to the north (population of just less than 200,000) and Allen to the south (population of about 100,000). Collin County’s population likely has surpassed 1 million residents.

This is a high-growth, high-demand region of Texas (just north of Dallas), which is a state that is growing rapidly as well.

We lived 23 years in Amarillo before relocating to Fairview. I don’t recall ever hearing much public squawking in Amarillo about the city’s aggressive growth strategies: its use of the economic development corporation to lure jobs; its courting of manufacturing and medical center jobs. All of that meant growth was certain. Indeed, Amarillo’s population will exceed 200,000 by the time they take the census in 2020.

We lived in Beaumont for nearly 11 years before migrating to the Caprock. The Golden Triangle, too, demonstrated an eagerness to grow and to seek diversity in its economic base, which for generations relied heavily on the petrochemical industry.

My own sense is that the pro-growth faction — whoever comprises it — ultimately will win the argument. I have found little appetite in Texas during my 34 years living in this state for wholesale resistance to growth opportunities when they present themselves.

Growth means more revenue, which produces greater means to pay for services. My new friend in Fairview seems to believe the no-growth faction remains a vocal minority.

I trust he is correct, as he knows the town far better than I do.

That also is my hope.

Happy Trails, Part 111: Loving the term ‘retired’

Time for an acknowledgement.

It took me some time to get used to telling strangers that I am “retired.” I wasn’t uncomfortable saying it. I have enjoyed virtually every minute of full-time retirement.

It’s just that when someone would ask me, “What are you doing these days?” or “What line of work are you in?” I would freeze for just an instant before answering the question.

These days, my wife and I are encountering many more strangers than longtime friends and acquaintances, given our new place of residence just north of Dallas in the pleasant community of Fairview.

We meet folks. The question comes about my occupation. I now answer without taking a breath: I’m retired.

Then comes the follow-up inquiry: You’re retired … from what?

Then I tell them I was a journalist for nearly four decades.

I’ve long noted since I resigned from the Amarillo Globe-News in the summer of 2012 that “separation anxiety from working every day is highly overrated.” I feel the same as what my wife and I felt about “empty nest syndrome,” which we also considered to be an overrated condition as well. Our sons left home right after high school to attend college and — to be totally candid — my wife and I felt a certain liberation.

We feel the same way about retirement. We’re liberated from the obligation of reporting to The Man, of having to be certain places at certain times and having to do certain tasks for certain people.

Now that I getting acquainted with a new community filled with people I’ve never seen until now, I find myself answering the question about how I spend my days with increasing ease.

I’m retired.

It’s easy to type on my keyboard and it’s easy to say out loud.

We’re having the time of our lives.

The road provides stern test, but we passed!

You may now call me the Maximum Road Warrior.

Mad Max has nothing on me. Or on my wife, for that matter.

We have just completed some sort of unofficial personal record for time spent behind the wheel of a motor vehicle. I’m proud to declare that we survived a supreme test of endurance. It was a a tag-team effort, to be sure. We both took turns behind the wheel of our Prius.

We made it home! Hooray for us!

Our day began at 7 a.m. Thursday in Amarillo. We set out for points south and east downstate. Through Lubbock we went. Then through Post and Snyder. On to Sweetwater and then to Abilene.

We stopped for a meal in Santa Anna, then proceeded to Brady, Mason, Fredericksburg and on to Dripping Springs. We delivered my wife’s brother to his house, then decided we weren’t done driving yet.

That leg took us about 10 hours total on the road. There was more to come.

We decided we wanted to get home to Fairview. We said so long to her brother and then set forth.

We drove east toward Austin, then north through Austin along that race track aka Interstate 35. Past Austin we trudged on.

More than four hours later, long after the sun had set, we plowed through Dallas, diverting from I-35 over to Interstate 45. North we proceeded through the urban center, then to Central Expressway.

We pulled in at our digs at 10:45 p.m.

The way I figure it, subtracting some time we took to have two meals (breakfast in Amarillo and lunch in Santa Anna), we spent 14 hours on the road.

I believe we covered roughly 850 miles today.

Are you proud of us? If not, you should be. We spent 23 years in Amarillo, where we never really had the kind of traffic headaches known to become inflicted on motorists in the Metroplex and Austin.

Today, dear reader, we endured both of those stress deliverers … on the same day!

I am relaxing late this evening with a beer while taking a few moments to brag on our road worthiness.

Tomorrow is a new day. I plan to do a lot less driving.

Happy Trails, Part 105: Bring on the thunder!

Years ago, when my wife and I committed to moving to the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex, we expressed the hope we might get to revive one of the memories we had when we lived on the Texas Gulf Coast.

Today, it happened.

My wife and I are huge fans of thunderstorms. We love the sound of thunder. We just heard a huge clap of it right overhead. Directly!

Our conclusion is that the relative humidity of the Metroplex atmosphere — compared to the dryness of the Texas Panhandle air — is going to produce the kind of explosive weather we enjoyed/endured while we lived in Beaumont.

There was one storm in particular in Beaumont that I recall. It was a doozy. What did my wife and I do? We hauled our lawn chairs to spots under our carport and sat there, just listening to the thunder and watching the lightning streak across the sky.

I know what you’re thinking: Are those people nuts?

Actually, we’re quite sane. It doesn’t take much to please either of us. Mother Nature’s tempestuous is one of the joys of life we enjoy.

Sure, we had some beauts blown in over us in Amarillo. We had to replace the roof on our house just three years after we built it because of baseball-size hail that pummeled us. And, yep, the lightning was damn loud that day, too!

We are hoping for more of that kind of thrill — perverse though it sounds — as we settle into our new digs just north of Dallas … although the hail can stay away!

Happy Trails, Part 104: Half in, half out

I am at this moment in the midst of a curious emotional state.

My wife and I have taken up residence in Fairview, Texas, which is tucked neatly between Allen and McKinney, or just about a 30-minute drive north of Dallas.

It’s not entirely that simple. Nor have we completed the move entirely.

Our other “home” is our fifth wheel recreational vehicle, which at this moment is parked in an RV park in Amarillo, the city of our residence for the past 23 years.

We’re in. We’re out. We’re back and forth.

I tell friends in the Texas Panhandle that we have moved. I say so with absolute confidence and, to be candid, supreme pleasure. We had planned for years for the move; or, more to the point, we started planning the moment we learned that our granddaughter was on her way into this world. Our son and daughter-in-law live in Allen, so the deal was done when they told us of their pregnancy.

The RV has served as our home since October, when we vacated the house we built in December 1996. It’s our Panhandle home to this day. Our Fairview home is still a work in progress. You see, we are still trying to stuff many of the contents of our house into our new, and considerably smaller, dwelling in North Texas.

What’s more, we have decided where we’re going to store our RV when we’re no longer living in it. That transition will occur in about three weeks.

I have complete faith that we’ll succeed in this endeavor. The new place will be comfortable. We are looking forward to calling it our full-time residence. At this time, though, we remain tied to our former community as well as to the current one.

Family matters will keep us attached to Amarillo for the foreseeable future. Eventually, we intend fully to make the turn toward Fairview.

I guess you could call this the “long goodbye.”