Sunday, October 22, 2017

Out of the Loop


The State Fair of Texas is known as the "Deep Fried Food Capital of the World" and every year vendors compete to come up with the most creative deep fried dish to amaze and sustain fair visitors.  Deep Fried Twinkies and Deep Fried Snickers may have started the trend years ago but now they're old news.  This year's top contender was Deep Fried Froot Loops...and I got 'em!

Here's what they look like.  The round loops of fruity goodness not only garnish the tasty treat, they also make up the inner filling.  Inside the crisp shell is a "goo" (for lack of a better term) that has the essence of Froot Loops.  Somehow the cereal was mashed up or liquefied or goo-ified but it definitely tastes like the real deal.

Like many deep fried treats at the fair, the creators feel it necessary to dump a ton of powdered sugar on top of it.  And that's not necessarily a bad thing but if I breathe in right before a bite, I tend to get a lung full of sugar...which is an unusual sensation.

Lastly, there's also a type of icing or topping to round out the experience.  I wasn't sure but I think it was marshmallow flavor.  I'm also not even sure that marshmallow is a is, right?  So as far as I'm concerned, we now have a brand new way to enjoy our favorite fruity breakfast treat.  If you try them, tell 'em Toucan Sam sent ya.  See you next year at the fair!

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Roadside Attraction

Anytime I drive out of or into the Lone Star State I try to stop at one of the Texas Travel Information Centers at the border where I load up on pamphlets and unload my bladder.  Yesterday, as I was heading back from some business in Oklahoma, I noticed much more than the usual amount of cars joining me along I-35.

The dark red decor of many of the cars, as well as the cooler weather, reminded me what time of year it is and that this weekend is the annual Texas/OU game at the State Fair.  I was unprepared to celebrate but the folks at the Travel Info Center in Gaineville were ready to go.  And a lot of people joined them, like the Frank Buck Zoo:

They even brought one of their friendliest snakes to greet the visitors.  I didn't catch his name so I mentally named him Snakesy McSnakes-a-lot.  I also never got clarification on whether he was rooting for Texas or OU but he probably didn't want to be controversial so I guess we'll never know.

Rumpy’s Little German Bakery & Deli was also one of the many other booths there and were handing out some of their tasty treats.  Nothing gets a crowd to your table like some good grub.  It got enough of my attention that I'll definitely stop there the next time I'm in Gainesville.  There was also a lot going on outside, including a mini-car show:

There were plenty of nice specimens on display, some with their engines exposed, some not, and some with owners that would be more than happy to pop the hood for any interested gear head travelers.  The one that caught my eye was this was this sweet little '66 Mustang:

Notice the tray on the driver's side window with the prop Whataburger meal?  It's a great little touch that reminds people what side of the Red River they're on. 

It was an interesting surprise to see such a brouhaha at one of my regular travel stops but it was time to hit the road.  You never know what you'll find along the way.  Enjoy the game!

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Queen For a Day

Most businesses spend a fair amount of time and money on market research.  Before you roll out a new product you're going to want to make it as good as possible and to do that you need to test it out.  And that's what brought me to an East Texas Dairy Queen today.

So what exactly was on the tasting menu?  It turns out they have an interest in serving up a Buffalo Ranch Chicken Sandwich.  And it's pretty much what it sounds like: your standard chicken sandwich (fried or grilled) with Buffalo Sauce and Ranch Dressing.  While they headed to the kitchen to whip one up, they handed out the questionnaire:

There were only a handful of questions and they were all pretty much straightforward: How did you like it?  Would you recommend it?  Etc. That's all you have to do to sing for your supper.  So here's what all the fuss is about:

I got the "grilled" version.  You can definitely taste the buffalo sauce...I'll say that for it.  So I ate my sandwich, filled out the form and went on my way.  Will we end up seeing the Chicken Buffalo Ranch Sandwich at Dairy Queens across Texas?  Only time will tell..

Monday, September 18, 2017

Hoop Dreams


There are some very common fantasies out there.  Being a professional sports star is one of them.  Being a superhero is another.  But there are some people just won't be happy until they're both.  And so, because of that we are gifted with the comic book known as "Full Throttle Featuring the Dallas Mavericks"!

The 2003 comic was created to promote literacy and to show off the Mavs' little known monster fighting skills.  It was fully licensed by the NBA and sold exclusively in Walmart stores and given away at a Mavericks home game.  I'm going to assume that proceeds went to charity.  With that rousing endorsement, let's dive in:

Our story begins at the American Airlines Center during practice when a group of school kids are brought in to meet their favorite Mavs and discuss their favorite books.  Before an in depth analysis of "To Kill a Mockingbird" could take place, a mysterious cracking and shaking in center court grabs everyone's attention, when all of the sudden...

Yep, the mysterious explosion leads to a mysterious system of caverns and it's all beneath the American Airlines Center.  The school kids are led away but all the excitement attracted the attention Dallas' most famous busybody.  Mark Cuban takes charge and drops some fairly upsetting information:

The bad news:  there's a monster called "Gargamon" that lives underground and has some form of nefarious plans.  The good news:  When he wasn't throwing temper tantrums at games, Cuban had prepared for the situation by stockpiling sophisticated weaponry below the American Airlines Center:

The latest technology went into a collection of super suits that enhance an athletes natural abilities to "soar like an eagle" in addition to hi tops that let you walk up walls, mini-basketballs that contain "gizmos" as needed, and gloves that help you "grip" things...I guess.

The details are somewhat glossed over but you get the impression they can do whatever the plot demands.  The suits also come with a catchphrase: "Full Throttle!"

So it was time to head underground to take the fight to Gargamon and his monsterous cronies.  And while they put up a good fight, it didn't take long for the Mavs to realize they're better at playing basketball than being superheros.  Once captured, it was time for the villain to do what villains do and reveal his evil plan:

So the "plan" seems to be to get the Mavs out of the picture and take over Dallas.  Keep it simple, ya know?  So out go the hordes of shaggy green monsters to the streets of Big D.  Once their reign of terror begins we get a couple of hometown cameos.

Dale Hansen from WFFA and the late Kidd Kraddick give the play by play of the monster invasion.  Meanwhile, the reading enthusiast kids from before manage to rescue the Mavs.

They had befriended a young monster and learn a few key pieces of information:  1. The monsters love chocolate and 2. The monsters can't read.  With that crucial knowledge a plan was formed and a trap was set.

So teamwork triumphs, the bad guys are defeated and literacy is promoted...kind of.  I'd like to think we all learned a valuable lesson from this exercise but I'm not sure what that would be.  Maybe, if you're a monster and you want to attack Dallas, you should learn how to read?  But at least Dallas was finally safe from Gargamon...

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Tour of Texas Dinos Part 1

There's lots to love about the Lone Star State and plenty of things that make it unique.  One of the surprising things you may notice along the highways and back roads are a ferocious amount of dinosaurs that make their home in Texas.  So today we begin our Tour of Texas Dinos, starting in Balch Springs:

This guy stands out in front of "No Limits Motors." formerly known as "EZ Pawn" and formerly known as a mini-golf place whose name has been lost to the ages.  Over the years it's been green, green and yellow, and (as of the time of this pic) blue and white.  Its humble origins as a mini-golf obstacle are long forgotten by the commuters that pass by every day.  Hopefully, the next business owner at this location will keep him around and maybe slap on another coat of paint (of his or her choosing).

Our next stop is a Texas roadside legend.  The Car Parts Dinosaur in Bertram is, believe it or not, constructed completely out of automobile parts.  As you can see, she sits atop a flatbed trailer so she can make appearances in parades and other special events.  Years ago I saw her at the "Best of Texas" Festival at Six Flags in Arlington alongside such other legends as "Old Rip" and the World's Largest Jackrabbit.  I'm looking forward to seeing where she goes next.

Not everybody knows it but Abilene is the "Storybook Capital of Texas."  The town has no shortage of whimsy in the form of public sculptures all over the places.  From Dr. Suess to William Joyce to E.B. White, many of your favorite childhood characters are represented.  Our friend in the red cap is from "Dinosaur Bob and His Adventures with the Family Lazardo" and was sculpted by the legendary Bob "Daddy-O" Wade

We've just scratched the surface with this small collection of weirdo wonders.  The next chapter of our Tour of Texas Dinos will be coming soon.  Until then, keep an eye out for extinct wildlife.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Flashback: Vanishing Texas River Cruise 1986

It was 1986 and the entire state was gripped with Sesquicentennial fever.  But even though there were plenty of special events throughout the year, there were also plenty of non-anniversary adventures throughout the Lone Star State.

One of them was a road trip that my grandparents and great-aunt & uncle took down to Burnet, TX to take the Vanishing Texas River Cruise.  The cruise is still in business today but luckily the gang picked up some post cards and pamphlets that now qualify as vintage (yeah, stuff from the 80's is "vintage" now...feel old yet?)  Here's a look at some of the ephemera you could have grabbed if you had visited in '86, starting with a couple of postcards:

If you're curious about the absolute minutia of what it was like taking the tour a few decades ago then you're in luck!  The grandparents were also able to grab this flyer with details on pricing and meal options:

I'm fairly certain the prices have gone up through the years and possibly the menu has expanded.  According to their website, there are many different themed cruises currently available.  But if it's outdated information that you're looking for then, good news, I've got one more piece for you:

So the next time you're in the area and have a few hours to kill, it might be worth a stop to take a couple of hours and enjoy the river tour and check out the local scenery.  These guys sure seem to be satisfied customers:

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Bug Bites

The Houston Museum of Natural Science has everything you want in a natural history museum.  Fossils, rocks, interactive displays, rotating exhibits...and all the dinosaurs you stare at.

But it was when I was on my way out that I discovered something truly unique.  Near the gift shop is this unassuming vending machine:

Sure, it looks like the average treat dispenser but if you take a closer look you'll see a menu of science specific snacks and borderline gross grub.  Let's start with some of the more traditional fare.  And what's more at home at a museum than dinosaurs?

Gummi bears are replaced with Gummi Dinosaurs but the real find here is the top row.  Choc-o-saurus is a combination of two museum staples: dinosaurs and freeze dried ice cream!  It's chocolate with chocolate chips and, while eating it, you have the option to pretend like you're an astronaut or a extinct predator who loves dehydrated food.

Larvets!  Wondering if these things are what they look like?  Well, here's the explanation directly from their website: "Real larva, deliciously seasoned. Offered in three flavors: BBQ, Cheddar Cheese, or Mexican Spice."  And that's not enough bugs to satisfy your appetite, then good news...

Here we've got "Crick-ettes." which are, you guessed it, real crickets.  These are Bacon & Cheese flavor but they also come in Salt N' Vinegar and Sour Cream & Onion.  And if you're still hungry for bugs, you can also grab some Ant Wafers!  It's essentially what it sounds like: "Real ants in chocolate flavored round wafers."

Have you ever eaten hard candy and thought to yourself, "I wish this had ants in it."  Then you should have picked #56 or #57 from this vending machine.  You get the option of either Cherry or Apple flavor, both with Black Ants of course.

For our final selections we head to outer space for Alien Ice Cream.  This another freeze dried ice cream and is your standard Neapolitan flavor but it's either made by or eaten by Aliens.  Or maybe there's just one on the package.  Or you can have a Moon Pie!  Get it?  "Moon"

So the next time you head out to the museum, bring some change and an adventurous appetite.