I ride the final ~200 miles to the convention in Dallas, in 111ºF heat.
Before the Ride
I only had about 209 miles to get to Dallas, and I’m lying. Actually, I could have gotten there in about 150 miles, but that would mean approaching the Dallas/Ft. Worth metromess from the northeast. Why is this a bad thing? Most of the traffic into/out of the Dallas Ft. Worth metromess is from the northeast and east. That’s where the traffic densities are the greatest and that’s where most of the toll roads are located. The shortest route to Grapevine would require me to approach from the northeast and cross most of the central metromess to get to the Gaylord Texan, where the NMRA (National Model Railroaders Association) national convention was being held.
This is a hell similar to crossing downtown Chicago during rush hour, or crossing New York City via Manhattan on a Friday afternoon.
To raise the challenge level a bit, the forecast high for Dallas today was 110ºF.
Consequently, I elected to add ~50 miles to my trip, which allowed me to approach Grapevine from the north-north-west, which meant less traffic densities on I35, which (coincidently) was also not a toll road.
So, back to my original statement. With only 209 miles to travel, the trip wouldn’t take more than about 3.5 hours. My check-in time was 4pm, but as a Marriot Bonvoy member (membership does have a few perks), I was able to wrangle a 2pm check-in time. Working backwards from that, I needed to be on the road around 10am.
This meant blissfully sleeping in until 9am.
Now, I can practically hear the protests from the morning people out there protesting this decision. Yes, if I got up early and started the ride at the butt-crack of dawn, I could get there before the hottest temperatures of the day. But then I’d need to hunker down in some bar/restaurant and loiter for several hours until 2pm anyway.
Sorry, I vote for sleep.
After my much-needed beauty sleep, I loaded the Nightowl and was on the road a little before 10am. The temperature was already 92ºF.
Leaving Idabel, Oklahoma, I headed west on OK37 and (crossing the state line) TX Farm Road 195. Most of the scenery along this stretch was small farms and cattle ranches. These tracts were separated by stretches of forest the delineated property lines or followed creeks and streams. As hot as the weather had been, most of the river/creek beds still had water in them.
At Paris, Texas, I merged onto US82 west. West of Paris, the scenery changed a bit. The small farms and ranches with similarly small homes morphed into small farms and ranches with gigantic homes with two- to five-car garages. Many places had nice fencing with impressive gates guarding (at least) the side of their property facing the highway. I found myself:
- Trying to remember how the theme song to the 1980s TV show Dallas went.
- Wondering whatever happened to Victoria Principal and Charlene Tilton.
Continuing west, I eventually reached Gainesville, Texas, where I’d turn south on I35. With the temperature now well over 100ºF, and my progress being ahead of schedule, I elected to stop for some hydration and air conditioning. The gas station/convenience store I stopped at offered no shady parking spots, but I did notice one broken pump when I was maneuvering for a gas fill up. I parked the Nightowl in front of the out-of-order gas pump, confident that nobody would complain.
After a Vitamin Water and a Nestle Crunch ice cream bar, I refilled my Camelback bladder with fresh ice and water (after asking permission, of course), and ventured back out into the oven-like conditions outside.
The pace down I35 was good and the construction zones were few and far between, so the last 60 miles passed fairly quickly. I did have to switch only a short length of toll road before I exited, but it should only be a few bucks.
When I finally exited onto the surface streets near the Gaylord Texan resort, I found myself fighting through a few stoplights. While I waited, I checked the temperature one last time: 111ºF. Ouch.
Another couple of miles and I was parked in the shade of the covered entrance to the Gaylord Texan hotel.
After the Ride
A quick consult with the Marriot Bonvoy app showed that they’d granted my early check-in and I could use my phone to unlock my room. The Gaylord Texan doesn’t believe in letting customers cart their own luggage to their rooms. They assigned Norman to me and he stood there with a luggage cart as I loaded the bags from the Nightowl. I tipped him a few bucks and he ferried my bags to my room while I parked the Nightowl.
The parking structure is huge and the Nightowl will be out of the sunlight, but it still felt stifling even in shade. Ugh.
The resort is huge, so it was nearly a 10 minute walk to reach my room. That’s not to say that my room is back in a dark corner; this place is just that huge. My bags were waiting for me (thank you, Norman) and the air conditioning was already adjusted to deep freeze.
After unpacking a bit and taking a blissfully cool shower, I dressed in non-sweaty clothes and made my way downstairs to pick up my badge for the convention and to help this years Operations Road Show group assemble their model train layout. With the exception of a break for dinner with some of the rest of the team, we were working on the layout until 10:30pm, but it’s coming along nicely and should be ready for it’s first group of participants tomorrow at 2pm after a shakedown session in the morning.
On my way back to my room, I located the guest laundry. After over a week on the road, I’ll need to do a load before I leave for home. I also stopped in one of the several bars in this place for a quick nightcap. I sipped some Woodford bourbon while checking tomorrow’s schedule and watching a pre-season football game.
Here’s today’s route. Click on the map to link to an interactive map of the day’s ride.
I’ll be here at the convention for the rest of the week. I won’t venture back out on the road (for anything other than local model train layout visits) until this coming Saturday (six days hence).
Naturally, I have no idea what route I’ll take for the trip home.