Returning from a seven-month jaunt in Europe has left me with a lot of great stories to tell, most of which involve weekend travel. Cheap options like Ryan Air, Easy Jet, and train travel made weekends in cities like Paris and Rome both accessible and affordable, even on a college budget. But spending all of those weekends away in Europe caused a few of my friends and me to wonder why we had never had the same exploratory attitude in our own corner of the world. Why is it that the fun and frenzy of the classic weekend road trip are not wildly popular here at SMU?
Is it the humdrum familiarity we have with Texas that keeps us tethered to the Park Cities? This seems an unlikely explanation, as 48% of students come to campus from out-of-state, according to 2008 statistics. And while too much homework, too many extra-curricular activities, and too little time all could serve to explain our complacency, no mere school assignment ever kept any of us study abroad students from exploring the world around us while across the pond.
The sad truth is that few of us Mustangs ever even venture beyond the limits of the Park Cities and surrounding areas in our free time. Could it be that we, the SMU student body, think that Texas has little to offer outside of Dallas? I am ashamed to say that I used to have a similar attitude. However, after 21 years of life in Dallas, I am ready to expand my horizons and take a deep dive into the heart of Texas.
Outside of the obvious weekend visits to Austin, San Antonio, and, perhaps, Houston, there are a few things already on my list of Texas musts. Among them is, of course, a visit to Shiner, Texas and the brewery of its eponymous Shiner Beer. I have even heard that at the factory they will sit you down, share a drink, and explain the origin of their majestic ram logo.
Texas is also home to the “World’s Smallest Catholic Church” off a little road between Round Top and Warrenton, just a few hours outside of Dallas. Measuring 12 by 16 feet, the tiny St. Martin’s is surely worth a visit. And who wouldn’t want to see the Dr Pepper Museum in Waco? Better yet, I would love to visit the Dublin Dr Pepper factory in Dublin, Texas, which remains the only Dr. Pepper factory that still uses the original Dr Pepper formula.
Most interestingly and amusingly of all, Texas is home to quite a few oddly named towns. Of course we all know about Rome and Paris, Texas, but have you ever heard of Friendship, Gun Barrel City, or Old Glory, Texas? One might throw a Luau on Tiki Island or perhaps load up on morning whole grains in Oatmeal. We could either celebrate Thanksgiving or take an elaborate bath in Turkey. Surprisingly, visiting Tuxedo requires no dress code. As a girl with a bit of a sweet tooth, I wouldn’t mind stopping by Chocolate Bayou, either. I can only hope that fate someday brings me to my personal favorite, Jot-Em-Down.
With a bit of research and a lot of imagination it becomes clear that trekking through Texas could prove to be almost as fun as catching a flight to Munich or Prague. Besides, where else can you see Paris, Rome, and Dublin without crossing a single border?
Rebecca Quinn is a junior art history, Spanish, and French triple major. She can be reached for comment at firstname.lastname@example.org.