Another KU road trip, another rental car. The hope was not to repeat the minivan experience of Mississippi. The football team had flown to Waco to play Baylor but had bused to Temple, Texas, some 40 miles south for the night before the game. As usual, we had plans. A car was needed.
Since we were renting for only a day, we always ask for the cheapest car they offer. They must not keep many on their lots. More often than not, we end up with an upgrade since they have run out of the car we reserved. Yes, on the last trip that meant a minivan. Other times you never know.
In 2003, at the Charles De Gaulle Airport in Paris, Hertz had run out of the car we had reserved and offered me a free upgrade. Laura was watching our luggage when I returned with the keys. I told Laura about the deal, and she wanted to know what we got. A Jaguar was my reply.
All the way to the car, Laura kept doubting me. I kept telling her we’d be driving a Jaguar. She totally believed I was full of it until I unlocked the doors to our beautiful blue Jag. For the next three weeks we chased the Tour de France with power and style and looked way out of place in the camp grounds we used during those weeks.
For our Waco trip, we were up-graded to something completely different – a Toyota Prius. We turned the car on and heard absolutely nothing. The only sound was tire noise as we drove around Temple. Standing outside the car as it drove by at 30 mph there was virtually no sound. It is no wonder these hybrids might have to incorporate artificial sound to help the visually impaired who have no idea a car like this is approaching.
We were happy to do our part for the environment by averaging a remarkable 54.8 mpg during our trip to and from Waco Friday night and on an early morning breakfast trip. It was fun to watch all the electronics report whether we had the skills to keep the little electric motor charged and firing us along instead of burning gasoline with the combustion engine.
What wasn’t fun was the acceleration. There wasn’t any. Unless the pedal was mashed to the floor, the hope of going anywhere quickly was impossible. When pushed, electronics would scream over our gas-guzzling crime. When trying to accelerate normally from a stoplight there was always a serious lag before we began to move. Laura was convinced I was fooling with her when I told her to never say the words, “You’ve got it if go for it right now” while driving our little hybrid. We would never make it. Once she drove the car Saturday morning, she understood.
The other major problem was the bar Toyota tacked onto the car’s back window. The view out the back was made tryingly bad by that split in the window. As pickup after pickup raced up from behind as we puttered along, I mentioned that the bar did a nice job of blocking out bright headlights. What that also meant is that I couldn’t see the vehicles behind the lights either.
Here we were in the Republic of Texas where the official vehicle is a honkingly big pickup and coffee comes black. It just felt right for Laura to be driving a Prius and buying a latte early Saturday morning. The reality is that we will continue to do all we can for our environment. Just don’t expect it to be in a Prius.
We wouldn’t have needed a car if it wasn’t for George’s. The Waco watering hole and diner is certainly well known as the packed parking lot attested. However, in the minds of friends Beau White and Mason Logan, dining at George’s is a complete sensory delight that must be experienced. The place spreads over four different areas. The main bar area and the “Big O Deck” are pure honky-tonk Texas straight out of some classic country lyrics. Two dining areas are filled with old Formica-topped tables, folding chairs and a squeeze since every bit of space is needed to get the big crowd fed.
The menu is just as packed with traditional Texas fare but is highlighted by the “Crazy Wings”, an artery-hardening combination of jalapeno pepper wrapped in cheese, wrapped in chicken and finally wrapped in bacon. Thrown into a fryer, they come to the table hot and tasty. Each bite runs the gamut of flavors. The bacon jumps out immediately upon first bite before the juicy chicken kicks in. Then the creamy cheese smoothes everything out until the late hit of the pepper brings it all home. Outstanding, but dangerous. We kept our intake to a minimum unlike Logan who has been known to eat as many as 15 in one setting.
Beau White and Mike Strauss from KU’s Media Relations department and Nate Bukaty, the KU sideline voice for the radio broadcast, joined us for dinner. We had a lively round-robin discussion on football and many other topics. We also got to see Beau eat what he called just a “half dinner” of “Crazy Wings” and fish tacos. He had started out with barbecue at another famed Waco eatery – Rudy’s. That was followed by a dinner with the Fox TV crew to prep them for the game and finally a required appearance at George’s. White’s not the biggest guy in the world, so how he packs it all in during his personal Man vs. Food fight is amazing.
On our way south from Waco to Temple Friday afternoon on one of the team buses, there was a non-stop flow of traffic heading north from the Austin area for the big Oklahoma vs. Texas football game in the Cotton Bowl in Dallas. Cars and trucks were all decked out in Texas flags and signs. That got Laura’s Oklahoma blood boiling. Quietly humming our way back to Waco that evening, traffic had thinned, and time flew by as Laura recounted her wild tales of weekends in Dallas for the big game during her five years at Oklahoma. As much as she shared, I’m sure there are many details she carefully kept out.
The next day, Baylor’s scoring gave Bear fans 55 opportunities to show their claws. Texas schools all have their hand signals. Baylor fans bear their claws. Texas fans hook ’em with their horns. Texas Tech shows off theirs guns by folding their hands into a pistol and Texas A&M will “gig em” with their thumbs. That one I’ll never understand, but who can really understand any of the Aggies’ cheers and rituals other than giving your date a big kiss after a score. I’m just glad we are privileged to witness them all and for us to keep our own special on-campus tradition alive and going strong.
The remaining football trips will all be drivable, so our team flights and rental car days are over for now. I’m sure the fun the road trips provide isn’t over though.