The Evolving World
Burning Man 2009
I stopped at the front gate, where the park ranger didnít realize it was
time to open up. She felt obliged to take down all my personal information,
which would have been logical had I been entering the park instead
of trying to leave. The camping fee was $16. I paid with a twenty
...and had to remind her to give me my change. For future reference,
people going to Abilene State Park should ignore Abilene and instead head
for Buffalo Gap. Once there, watch for the signs pointing to the state
park (because thatís all there are!) and go across the railroad tracks
up highway 89 for about five miles.
||After an uneasy night, I woke up at 7 AM local time the next morning.
It was raining again. Iíd left a window cracked open, but only a little
rain came in. I think I got about six hours of sleep. It was September
A car with a trailer had joined me at the wagon wheel sometime in the
night. I pulled out the park map and found my way to the showers. On the
way, a young deer strolled across the road ahead of me. I took my time
taking my first hot shower in days. When I was done, I remembered the shampooÖ
but almost walked out without my towel. I brushed my teeth, found a clean(er)
shirt and reset my watch to Central Time. It was time to go home.
I arrived in Cross Plains, Texas just after 9:30. Cross Plains was the
home town of Robert E. Howard, the creator of Conan the Barbarian. His
house, a white one-story frame house, was on the edge of a city park. It
was small, but seemed comfortable enough for a guy to live in. Unfortunately
for Howard, he couldnít live there alone. He lived with his mother, and
when she was diagnosed with a terminal illness, the guy who imagined worlds
of magic and barbarians couldnít imagine a world without her. He
walked out of the doctorís office, sat in his car, and shot himself. Thereís
a museum inside the house, but itís only open by appointment, so I walked
up the front sidewalk and looked through the windows. His was a sad story.
I stopped at a convenience store down the road. In memory of Mom, I got
a Zero candy bar. Somewhere along that road, Satori clicked over 243,000
miles. I headed east, crossing the Comanche County line at 10:13. The town
of Comanche is built around the courthouse square, like so many towns in
Texas. The air was very cold. I kept cruising the radio stations, and finally
found one with classical music. The roads were lined with sprawling cattle
and horse ranches. Just before 11 AM, I rolled into Dublin, Texas. Thatís
where I stopped to see the Dr. Pepper bottling plant, the only place where
they still made Dr. Pepper with the original recipe: made with pure
cane sugar, not high fructose corn syrup!
|Leaving the park, the road merged onto Interstate 20, and I followed
it until exit 284 when I pulled off to get some gas. The sky was overcast,
and the temperature 71 degrees. I passed the airport and the Abilene Zoo,
headed out of town on Highway 36, the Texas 36th Division Memorial Highway.
The road was a wide 2-lane, and I passed many farms and green fields.
There were turnoffs for Clyde, Olpia, Potosi. The clouds cleared enough
to reveal the Sun as a ghostly blob in the sky. I took a wrong turn but
soon corrected myself.
Inside was a little café, decorated with many vintage Dr. Pepper
ads and signs. The café was actually in the room when they originally
bottled the soda, back when the plant first opened in the 1800ís. The tour
was conducted by a little blonde girl named Ashley. It started out with
us each getting a bottle of Dr. Pepper, made the way it was made when I
was kid. It tasted likeÖ youth. When the plant first opened in 1891,
the owners put it in Dublin because they had the idea the town was going
to take off and be as big as Ft. Worth or Dallas. Things didnít turn out
that way. ďWe got a Sonic, though!Ē Ashley laughed. It turns out nowadays
the plant only actually bottles Dr. Pepper about one day out of the month,
usually a Wednesday. Thatís because the plant was geared for returnable
bottles, not the disposable bottles it was now sold in. The machine that
cleaned and sterilized the bottles was made in 1961. The oldest machine
was the one that mixed the ingredients in the bottles; that dated back
to 1937. People collected the old returnable bottles, which Dr. Pepper
hadnít used since the 1990ís, and sent them to the plant to be refilled.
Ashley showed us where the bottles were inspected. Sometimes they get filled
with too much soda, which was okay for the workers, because that
meant they got to drink it. From there, we went around back to rooms
filled with Dr. Pepper memorabilia: old bottles, posters, signs, clocks,
and toys. One room displayed items from floor to ceiling, and Ashley said
that represented only 1/8th of what was in the entire collection. It was
a fun tour. Afterwards, I bought a case of Dublin Dr. Pepper and hit the
It started raining again as soon as I left town. It was 70 miles to
Ft. Worth, but Lordy, that was the longest seventy miles Iíd ever traveled.
I thought Iíd never get anywhere. When I got to Granbury, I saw some brave
fishermen out on the rainy lake. Thatís where my stomach clock went
off. I realized I hadnít eaten anything substantial since the can of
ravioli way back at the City of Rocks. So, I pulled over to a Schlotzskyís
for some lunch. It felt good to get some real food in me. It was just after
2 PM when I left town. It was another 45 minutes until I got to Ft. Worth
and headed north on Interstate 35.
Just before 4 PM, the rain finally let up. I went through Gainsville, home
of the Frank Buck Zoon, and crossed the Red River back into Oklahoma. Right
on the border was a huge casino, the Winstar, the exterior built to look
like an assortment of famous places around the world. It even had an RV
park. I got to Pauls Valley just after 5. It was just after 6 when I got
to Oklahoma City. There was a big traffic jam in the southbound lane of
I-35. I had about $10 left, so I got $5 worth of gas. On the Turner Turnpike,
I found a Tulsa radio station. Even though I got gas, the gas light came
on just as I got to Bristow. So as soon as I got to Tulsa, I pulled over
and filled up Satoriís tank.
Friday evening, just before 9, I turned into my neighborhood and up
towards my house... and was shocked at how tall the grass had gotten! There
had been a lot of rain at home while I was away, with few chances for mowing.
It took me a while to wind down, but I went to bed about 11. I had traveled
over four thousand miles in 15 days.
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Robert E. Howard
Dublin Dr. Pepper
All original content copyright 2009 by Tim Frayser.
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