A Few Observations About Dallas
The funniest thing to me about Dallas, and perhaps all of Texas by extension, is that everyone drives everywhere. No, really, I mean everywhere. I watched in awe as every person in my motorcycle instruction group got into their cars to drive the roughly 300ft back and forth between the shopping mall where we had classes and the section of the mall's parking lot where the driving course was established. Don't get me wrong, I grew up in a very car-centric place and am no stranger to the mental gymnastics involved in justifying driving your car to a place you could have very easily walked. "What if I need something from the trunk?" "What if we need to go somewhere else afterwards?" But in Dallas, no excuse is needed. Short-distance driving is ubiquitous—it's just the water that they swim in.
I'm told this behavior is because of the intense summer heat, and I'm inclined to believe this explanation, but that doesn't account for the other vehicle-related behavior I witnessed during my southern sojourn: people on the interstate are actively trying to kill one another. Again, no stranger to places with intense rush-hour traffic and road rage. But as they say, everything is bigger in Texas. I could not physically get my 2007 Honda fit to drive at a sufficient speed to protect myself on the Dallas freeways. No matter what I did, there was always someone behind me, honking, flashing their lights, all but ramming their trucks into the back of my little car to encourage me to speed along. There were times that I felt so unsafe that I was pretty glad to have my recently purchased motorcycle helmet sitting conveniently in my passenger seat.
And each time I would eventually make it to my destination, drenched in sweat, knuckles white from strain, panting and bemoaning the aggression of Texan freeway drivers, my interlocutor would inevitably offer the same confusing explanation: "Oh yeah, those Californians are terrible and aggressive drivers."
At first, I didn't understand. What do you mean Californians? Everyone trying to kill me had Texas license plates and was usually driving some kind of truck that would be completely uneconomical to own and operate in California. But slowly, I realized that one of the hottest dinner-table topics in Texas is the steady influx of Californians, most ostensibly pushed out by ballooning home prices. This migration is a source of variable consternation (they are clogging our roads, taking our jobs, changing our politics, etc.) and pride (Texas is better, even Elon is moving here, etc.). Best I can tell, this migration is actually happening: the number of Californians moving to Texas each year has increased over the past several years while the number of Texans moving to California has remained roughly the same. But whether these new Texans, in addition to struggling to adopt the local vernacular of "y'all" and "bless your heart", are also responsible for the aggressive driving or any other number of societal ills impugned upon them? Well, you'd just have to ask a Texan yourself.
(Chris's) Home Sweet Home
One place in Dallas where I always felt safe and California-free, however, was in the wonderful home of generous hosts—The Mathis family. One of my best friends from college, Chris, a known motorcycle aficionado and current nursing student in Chicago, has been carefully following my apparent devolvement (evolution?) into a "vehicle guy" over the past few years. After gushing to him one day about my euphoric experience with a motor scooter on the streets and in the hills of Medellín, he saw his chance, and sent me a link to an affordable motorcycle basics course in Dallas along with the dates that he would be home on spring break. "You wouldn't need to rent anything. You could stay with my family and you could use my bike and gear. My mom will make you her famous Lumpia egg rolls." Not one to turn down an opportunity to abuse someone's proffered hospitality, I of course accepted, and the rest is history.
Living with Chris and his family for a whole week was an absolute treat for me. I realized that it had been a long time since I had really enjoyed the easy-going stability and comfort of family life: home-cooked meals, a little yard work, watching F1 racing on Sunday morning together, arguing about the threat posed by Californians to Texas's culture and infrastructure. I made Chris run with me every day, half to get some exercise amid all of the motor activity that constantly surrounded me, and half to prove to my former college-athlete friend that I finally myself have begun to appreciate the joys of health and strength.
I split my time during the day between work and motorcycle practice. In addition to my formal course offered by the Texas Department of Transportation, I would also practice on Chris's bike around his neighborhood. At night, Chris and I would partake in our other shared interest and play an elaborate, sci-fi-themed grand strategy game for hours and hours. By the end of the week, we had probably logged a shameful 20+ hours in one game, and weren't even close to really finishing it. At some point we had to just call it a draw and move on with our lives, although I still find myself dreaming about how my intergalactic race of bird biologists would have reigned supreme in the galaxy had it not been for the wormhole that opened right in the middle of my growing empire, spewing hostile, technologically superior warships from another dimension right into my trade routes. C'est la vie, I guess.
I also introduced Chris's family to virtual reality by way of a project I've been cooking up for the Oculus Quest. If you've never seen someone who has never really held a game controller before, let alone used virtual reality, do so for the first time, you know that it's always a fun(ny) experience.
All in all, my week in Texas, dangerous and exciting and filled with activity as it may have been, turned out to be exactly the week of stability and comfort that I have been looking for—and I have my motorcycle license now, to boot! I have the Mathis family, and particularly Mrs. Mathis, to thank for enabling all of this. I can't wait for my next Dallas visit, and I'm sorry that I'm including a photo of you with your hair in curlers on my blog!
Speaking of family, I've decided to spend the next two weeks with my family in Ohio. My brother is about to turn fourteen and is already taller than me and giving me his hand-me-down shoes. I figured it would be nice to spend just a bit more time with him before he fully enters the land of teenagerdom and I don't see him again without his phone covering his face for a few years. On Monday, I hopped in the car and drove back up to Ohio via Memphis and Cincinnati.
I also need to start preparing for my next adventure with Jacob, which begins in about two weeks. In reality, as long-time readers of the blog will remember, it will probably be mostly me watching Jacob prepare for our next adventure, but you get the idea. More next week!