The Evolving World
Burning Man 2009
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 11th. 

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 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.
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.
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!

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 road.

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.

Robert E. Howard 
Dublin Dr. Pepper 
Sonic Drive-In 
All original content copyright 2009 by Tim Frayser. If your image appears on this site, and you'd rather it didn't, drop me a line and I'll remove it. Pictures appearing on this website are for personal use and are not for sale. 
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Introduction  Day 1  Day 2  Day 3 
Monday  Tuesday  Wednesday  Thursday  Friday  Saturday  Sunday 
Day 11  Day 12  Day 13  Day 14  Day 15  Epilogue