When I started putting this trip together, I initially did not plan to go as far south as Texas. Actually, the original intent was to join the old “Route 66” somewhere after getting back past our stop in Indiana, and joining up a Westerly route from Joplin to Amarillo and Santa Fe.
But then, one of my longest standing clients decided to take me up on my offer to help them start “monetizing” their multimedia tools, and meet their staff. He was willing to pay me for my time, and pick up the tab for a hotel, so it was difficult to refuse…even if it meant an 1,100 mile detour to get there and back to Amarillo.
Texas is huge. And Brady, Texas is “Deep in the Heart of Texas” as the song goes. And, it may even be that the song was about Brady…but, I’ll get to that in a bit. Geographically, Brady is about a in the middle of the state as you can get. Which is good…because if it was deeper south, our backsides would have given out.
Day one, of the two back to back “Butt-Busters” began.
We had diverted even a little more, to be able to re-visit Katie’s first alma-mater, Cottey College, in Nevada, Mo (pronounced Ne-Vay-Da. much like the Midwesterners in Indiana pronounce LaSalle, La-SALE). Ok. We’ll go with that.
Visiting Cottey brought back a flood of memories of our first “baby bird” flying far from the nest. For two years, “the Bushwhacker Capital” (yes…Nevada has a conflicted past), was home for the most part to Katie, who thrived in an atmosphere that fostered a wide range of learning from art, photography and journalism.
I won’t go into the first night before dropping her off when she begged me “not to leave me here, Daddy!” (she had a boyfriend at home), or the realization that she and her best friend, Cheyenne (aka Squiggy) pretty much ruled Nevada, and had the “townies” at their beckoning. The local girls are not super fans of the Cottey girls…although many a Cottey girl ends up being a local, as was the case with our PEO B&B Host in Cottey.
I’ll write a separate post about the PEO, and their amazing B&B program for visiting “sisters.”
The trip from Nevada to Brady is close to 600 miles…and there just isn’t that much to see. The land is flat, really flat…especially through Oklahoma. And there are about a zillion toll roads along the Interstate there…all with annoyingly small tolls that require quarters and singles. However, we were surprised when a huge pickup truck, with an equally huge, bearded driver paid our toll. “It’s been paid by the man ahead of you” the toll booth lady drawled. And Oregon Duck fan? Hard to say…but we waved a thank you when we passed him later up the road.
We did our best to embrace the Route 66 vibe before breaking off of the main road outside of Oklahoma City, with a stop at the Route 66 museum in Clinton, OK. It was just a tad underwhelming…as was almost every “Route 66” thing we tried to see, until much later in our trip(another post on that later).
When we finally broke into Texas, and “Siri” took us on a shortcut that got us off of the highway and onto some rural two-lane stretches (where the speed limit is still 75 mph) we made up a ton of time, and got a chance to see signs of small town Texas that were both charming and sad.
The Walmartization of the Nation is real. I saw it first 10 years ago in Nevada, MO when I dropped off Katie for Cottey, and realized that their beautiful downtown was all but abandoned, even though there was a huge, courthouse there. All of the “traffic and activity” was at the huge Mega-Walmart at the far border of town, near the Interstate.
Walmart’s slogan of “Pay Less Live Better” should actually be longer. It should be, “Lose your business, go broke, then come to work for us and shop here, because that is all you can afford now anyway.” But that doesn’t fit easily onto a billboard.
In small town after small town, we saw the same pattern repeated. Main streets either boarded up, or converted to antique and curio shops (no doubt selling the heirlooms of townspeople forced into auction) or completely boarded up, altogether…and a huge Walmart within driving distance.
About halfway from the turnoff from Oklahoma City, is a perfect example of this. Cisco Texas, used to be vital, and is even famous for having the first hotel that Conrad Hilton ever bought…a huge career and a reality TV family launched, from a single 40 room hotel in the middle of “oil country.” The hotel is still there, in operation…but barely, as most of the 44 rooms have been converted to office space for civic use.
But the rest of the town…even some HUGE commercial buildings, including one with a giant penthouse atop of it, are all boarded and falling into disrepair…or converted to less focused versions of commerce.
Brady, Texas has fared much better, because the people of Brady are driven by tradition, an appreciation of their past, as well as learning to embrace the future. It is a rare, but beautiful thing.
After almost 9.5 hours in the car, with almost no break…we were really happy to get to Brady. It is an enchantingly “small town Texas” town of 6,000, literally in the “Heart of Texas.”
Look at the map. There is a reason that they claim the right to be home of the “Heart of Texas Music Museum” and the “Heart of Texas Music Festival” and the “Heart of Texas Record Label and Recording Studio” (all of which have ties to my client KNEL Radio).
I loved Brady. But, I was sad to hear the owner of KNEL explaining that “Walmart has been good for Brady, because it brings loads of people in from small towns up to 30 miles away.” OK. But, I would argue that they now HAVE to come to Walmart, because their small local businesses are gone. And there is loads of evidence to prove it.
However, I also admit to being “assimilated” into the newest option of modern convenience, a brand new, Holiday Inn Express, with great beds, an incredible free breakfast, and lighting fast WiFi (after being in WiFi hell in the Midwest at a few B&Bs). It was refreshing, modern, and a taste of the big city that I admittedly had missed for the most part on this trip.
So I am part of the problem.
Brady is the real deal. And Lynn Ferris and his staff, are doing more as a 5 person staff to become a multimedia company (terrestrial radio, streaming audio/video, social media, online commerce, local sports, weather, news), than about 95% of their big market brethren. They are “Hyper-Local” with an emphasis to keeping those who love Brady, informed about everything that matters to Brady.
I did a whirlwind 4-hour work session and seminar with his staff…was treated to an amazing lunch of local Bar-B-Cue, and then Deb and I packed up, and headed North to Amarillo…but not before finding the coolest “antiques and curios” shop ever.
It. Is. Amazing.
I close out this segment of our trip, with a bunch of pics from that curio shop…which is more appropriate than you can imagine, as the paradox of “old -vs- new, and how the two shall survive” became a theme for the next day of the trip.
Our “time capsule” of a vehicle was apparently starting to buckle in the 106 degree heat (after someone bumped our back bumper in a parking lot somewhere), and the modern version of a fancy bumper, started to fall off (silly plastic tabs holding it to the frame frayed by the wind), and we had to resort to some “Camo Duct Tape”, Texas style, to be able to head back onto the road. Pretty classy…but strangely appropriate.
Or…it may be that the “time capsule” was being torn apart by the paradox of a time/space/continuum that is being challenged by so many people clinging to the past, as the future shreds the fabric of their roots.
Or…it is just crappy design.
Oh…and then…we headed into “Tornado Alley” and found out that it isn’t just a clever euphemism used by the show, “Storm Chasers.”
But for now…feast on the natural and surreal world of Brady’s “Good Old Days Antiques and Oddities.” I’ll debate what “good old days” means in another post..