36 Hours in Fort Worth

April 24, 2010

“Everyone thinks I died in Deadwood.  They shot me, and buried me.  But I was still alive, so I got out, and now I’m here talking to you fine folks.”  This from a man with white hair flowing down his shoulders, and a white mustache to match.  He was dressed as a gentlemen gunfighter from the 19th century American west, and claimed to be none other than Wild Bill Hickok.  As he stepped into the driver’s seat of his blue pickup he stated he had to bring the money he earned tonight home to Calamity Jane, so she’d let him drink beer.

In other words, welcome to Fort Worth, Texas.

My time in Fort Worth was filled with about as much wonder as could be had in any city in a day and a half.  On our approach to the YMCA camp in Fort Worth that would be our home for two nights after another long but enjoyable century ride, Libby exclaimed, “Whoa! Did anyone see that?”  I looked up just in time to see a fireball off on the horizon, and then a large black cloud of smoke.  The firestorm came from the local Air Force Base, and next thing I heard was the sound of three fighter jets roaring off in a perfect triangular formation.

We’d passed by several military proving grounds on our trip, but usually they’re in the middle of scrubland, not on a military base in the middle of a major city.  My next instantaneous thought was that we were under attack from Mexico.  I wondered if I could summon the courage of Patrick Swayze when he lead a group of High School students in a guerilla war against a combined strike from Mexico, Cuba and the Soviet Union in the movie Red Dawn.  I still don’t know what caused that explosion, but it was quite a way to enter Fort Worth.

That night, Jess’ family graciously provided dinner for us, and after we voraciously devoured the meal, we were off to Old Fort Worth for some revelry.  Old Fort Worth combines the nightlife and bar scene that every town aspires for with a western feel that is unique to Fort Worth.  It is focused around the Fort Worth Stockyards and the Cowtown Coliseum, which is the oldest indoor Rodeo venue in the United States.  After a brief walk through the streets, where open container laws are apparently not enforced, I ended up saddled up to the bar at Risckey’s Steakhouse with Pete, Chris, Adam and Tim, where we watched some basketball and drank to Tim’s being awarded a large scholarship.

After closing down the bar, we headed over to Lola’s where the rest of the team was enjoying a local bluegrass band.  A couple of Patriots later we were all ready for some good music and dancing.  As the night started to get hazier we made our way back toward the van, stopping by a local Taco shop for some of the best late night fare ever (and some Pineapple Fanta for a very excited Bryce).

But the best part of the night was sleeping on real beds back at camp, and rolling over at 6:30 in the morning, knowing you could sleep as long as you pleased.  I woke up late the next morning in a mild state of veisalgia.  The word veisalgia comes from the Norwegian word kveis, which translates to “uneasiness after debauchery.”  Uneasiness after debauchery?  Check.

But I couldn’t circle the toilet all day, so I grabbed a doughnut graciously provided by Justin’s aunt and uncle and we were off to a “barbecue” hosted by the medical students our group had talked with the day before.  They were hosting this event as a medical screening for immigrant children in the area.  We ate some good Indian food, chatted with our colleagues about global health issues, and were off to do the other menial tasks that keep our ride progressing: namely visiting a bike store and going to the CVS.

Chores done, we got back to camp in time for a pleasant afternoon cleaning and tuning KITT, while Miles Davis played on the computer.  With a happy bicycle and a quick shower, we were off to sample the staple of Texan cuisine: steak!  We found a place called Sawgrass Steakhouse that had good reviews, but didn’t break the bank.  I ordered a 7 oz. Filet Minion cooked to the chef’s preference, and received a perfectly seared medium rare steak with baked sweet potato overflowing with butter.  After sharing an ice cream sundae I was in gustatory meltdown!  How Brian and Travis were able to put down 22 oz. Porterhouses I will never know.  As I was trying to keep from exploding in the back of Gray Goose (our Gray 15 passenger van), Roshan drove us back to the Stockyards, where the Rodeo was about to start.

There are certain experiences that life calls on each of us.  If you are in Fort Worth, you must see the Rodeo.  Two hours of bull riding and bronc busting, and even a chance for Lauren to get out in the arena and shake her bootie.  For $14, it is much more fun than any movie.  As we headed back toward the YMCA, our stomachs replete with steak and our minds replete with cowgirls, I had a revelation: I love Fort Worth!  I’m not sure I’ve ever said a good word about the Lone Star State, but Fort Worth is a genuinely cool town, and in this time of economic downturn, it remains vibrant and prosperous.

If you ever find yourself bicycling across the country, you need to spend at least 36 hours in Fort Worth, Texas.

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