It was a rainy Friday afternoon as Tropical Storm Alex barreled through the Gulf of Mexico. Although we were spared a direct hit, my family and I spent several hours battling Alex’s outer rain bands as we traveled down highway 290 from Houston to Ft. Worth.
We had been planning this family trip for several months and we were not about to allow some pesky tropical storm to ruin our plans. Luckily, GM loaned me a Chevy Traverse that was comfortable (the boys each had a captain’s chair while my daughter stretched out in the third row) and more than capable of handling the treacherous highways.
As the rain pelted the vehicle, the kids grew nervous. I was able to ease their fears by allowing them to watch some movies on the built-in DVD player. While they enjoyed the first two Toy Story movies, my wife, KayEm, and I listened to “The Groove” on XM Satellite Radio.
After driving for over and hour and a half, we decided to stop for lunch in College Station, TX, home of the Texas A&M University Aggies.
Since we were on a tight schedule, we opted for a quick meal at Raising Cane’s Chicken Fingers. The restaurant was decorated with Aggie paraphernalia, historical photos, and Chuck Norris quotes. I found the food to be overpriced and average tasting. The kids, however, loved the chicken fingers.
We quickly finished our lunched and loaded everyone back into the Traverse.
We drove through several small towns and I was pleased to see that they were still thriving despite the economy.
The rain finally stopped as we neared our accommodations at Yogi Bear Campground in Burleson, TX.
Yogi Bear Campground at Rustic Creek Ranch
My family and I had stayed at one of the Yogi Bear campgrounds before, but were blown away this property at Rustic Creek Ranch. The sprawling campground was beautifully maintained and adorned with majestic pine and pecan trees.
Our cabin, with rustic yet elegant decor, was spacious enough to fit my family of five comfortably.
Babe’s Chicken Dinner House
By the time we reached Burleson, we were famished. I searched my iPhone for a nearby restaurant and discovered a local favorite called Babe’s Chicken Dinner House.
When we arrived, we noticed that people were waiting outside for a taste of Babe’s delectable dinners. Luckily, we didn’t have to wait long before we were seated.
The interior of the restaurant has a unique style of architecture known as Storybook Style. As I admired the décor, I felt as if I was in a Disney film titled “The Princess and the Chicken.” Several patrons who were celebrating their birthdays ran around the restaurant clucking and flapping their arms while one of the servers sauntered through the restaurant serenading patrons with her sultry songs
While we waited for our table, I joined the staff as they performed the Hokey Pokey. My kids were mortified and begged me to stop. Their moods changed from embarrassment to joy when they discovered that my moves earned us all official Hokey Pokey stickers.
When we were finally seated, our server took our orders. The kids and I orders the fried chicken. It was crispy, juicy, and delicious. My wife ordered catfish which came with green tomato relish. The catfish was crunchy and well-seasoned and the relish was sweet and tangy.
All of the meals at Babe’s are served family style and each comes with all you can eat salad, creamed corn, green beans, and mashed potatoes. I was a bit disappointed that I couldn’t choose my side dishes, but my disappointment quickly faded when I tasted their creamy, buttery mashed potatoes.
When I bit into my sorghum soaked biscuit, I was immediately transported to my grandmother’s kitchen. Now this was my idea of comfort food.
Ft. Worth Stock Yards
The next morning we ventured to The Fort Worth Stockyards. As soon as we drove into the parking lot, we were transported to the old west.
We immediately saw Cowboys in covered wagons and others mounted atop their steads. I took a few photos with some showgirls while the rest of the family did some shopping.
We really wanted to see the daily cattle drive, but we arrived too late (cattle drives are held daily at 11:30 am and 4:00 pm). Nevertheless, we had a great time. My kids got to ride horses, interact with livestock, and pose with real Cowboys.
As we walked, we noticed several restaurants, bars, museums and shops located throughout the stockyards. The kids and I had fun trying on cowboy hats and boots (FYI – some shop owners do not allow patrons to take photographs while wearing their merchandise)
One of the highlights for me, was scoring a bottle of real Dublin Dr. Pepper. Dublin is the oldest Dr. Pepper bottling plant in the world and only plant the uses the original Dr. Pepper formula with real cane sugar. The sweet beverage tasted delicious after spending several hours in the Texas heat.
I really wanted to visit the Museum of Cowboy History, but the kids were worn out and we had more sites to see.
Dallas Cowboy Stadium
The pinnacle of our trip for my sons and I was a tour of the billion dollar Dallas Cowboy Stadium in Arlington, TX. As we approached the massive structure, I was awestruck by its size. The hulking dome looms over the horizon like a mountain range.
When we stepped onto the field, my daughter said, “Wow! This is a once in a lifetime opportunity.” She was right. I felt as if I had stepped into the Football Promised Land. The stadium is the largest domed stadium in the world, seats 80,000, and has the largest high definition video screen which hangs from 20 yard line to 20 yard line.
After taking the cursory tour of the locker rooms (players and cheerleaders), press room, and lounge, my sons and I spent the next hour running up and down the field. It was a special moment for my boys and me – one that we will never forget.
American Girl Store
Our final destination was the American Girl Store. My daughter’s doll, Nee, really needed new hairstyle so we drove a full hour in order to make our appointment.
We picked a hair style and watched as grown women fastened a styling drape around the doll’s shoulders before gently placing her into a miniature stylist’s chair. It was going to take a while to get the doll back into shape, so Nee and her mother began to look around.
We soon realized that the American Girl store is a money making behemoth. Everything from cute outfits to the extensive “self-help” book section screamed: buy me.
In addition to the doll’s new outfit, we ended up buying two books, a doll outfit, and a pair of doll glasses.
The hour we spent in the American Girl Store allowed Nee to recapture some of her little girl innocence. It was a safe place to play with dolls, pick ribbons, make crafts, and hang out.
I’m just glad that there isn’t an American Girl Store in Houston or else, I’d be broke.
Back at Yogi Bear Campground
After a long day of sightseeing, we were ready to relax. My idea of relaxing was entering the karaoke contest in the camp clubhouse. I was set to wow the crowd with my stirring rendition of “Don’t Stop Believing,” but my entertainment career was cut short because the event was cancelled due to lack of participation.
Instead, we decided to join Yogi Bear and Boo Boo on a hay ride through the camp ground. My 2-year old son couldn’t contain his glee as we yelled, “Hey! Hey! Hey!” whenever we passed a group of campers. At the end of the ride, my kids took a few photos in the back of the trailer with Yogi Bear.
Walking back to our cabin, we noticed a group of people playing kickball at the playground. We watched the game for a few minutes before turning in for the night.
On the Road Again
The next morning, we loaded up the Traverse to drive back to Houston. That is when we discovered the one thing that I disliked about the vehicle. My sister-in-law, who is not a light packer, rode back with us. There was a total of four suitcases (my SIL had the same number of bags as our family of five) and various shopping bags. After several minutes of configuring the luggage, I finally managed to secure everything (I fit three of the suitcases in the trunk and had to place the other bags throughout the vehicle’s interior).
The drive home was much more pleasant because it was rain-free. I was not even bothered when the kids started asking, “Are we there yet?”