Sunday, August 22, 2010

See The World and Never Leave Texas. Part 1: Roanoke

When living in Austin a few years back, I came up with idea of writing a Texas travel book in the Bill Bryson / John Kelso mode. It would be a tongue in cheek comparison of a town elsewhere and its worthy Texas namesake. The humorous bit is that some of these Texas towns are on the other end of the spectrum compared to their faraway cousins. The obvious example is Paris. Anyway, this idea came before blogs were around and realizing that I would never be able to write a book, the whole thing was shelved. But now that we are back in TX, and the blog is up and running, I have a green light. The plan is to visit the Texas hamlet, take a few pics, get a feel for the place and compare it to its twin(s). The other town doesn't warrant a visit, that is what the Internet is for… First up is Roanoke, TX. Easy one because it is three miles from Southlake.

Roanoke TX, pop. 2,810. We drove around on Sat afternoon when it was 106F, so it seemed more like pop. ten, including me and the two young boys. Even the normally busy Oak Street was deserted. The town planners decided a few years back to plow some dollars in Oak Street and it has paid handsome dividends. The new sidewalks, lampposts and traffic circles are really well presented and the new storefronts look great - see photo to left. Under the watch of the water tower are several restaurants, the most famous being Babes Chicken House. I have not been to this one - but I have been to its sister joint, Bubbas near SMU in Dallas. Their chicken and biscuits are excellent. Across from Babes is a burger joint and a few stores north was Mi Familia Tex Mex. I mean in terms of the three basic food groups, what more could one want? The revitalized edition of Downtown Roanoke is definitely more authentic than Town Square, South(f)lake.

As we made a u-turn on Front Street we were faced by a freight train hauling coal that must have been a mile long. Its horn wailed and it rumbled along for a good ten minutes. We were not too sure what to make of this cowboy and horse bronze statue on Byron Nelson Parkway. Certainly the herd had moved on without him. He seems to be looking back at the strip mall and wondering where the prairie went. Behind him, the ubiquitous Taco Bell and the equally common F350 dually and landscape crew.

First settled in 1847, Roanoke was named after Roanoke VA. Most famous resident was the aforementioned Byron Nelson, winner of 5 majors on the pro-golf circuit. Born in Waxahachie TX in 1912, he retired to his ranch on Roanoke at the age of 34 and was an active member of the Roanoke Church of Christ. This was when golfers were role models...

The Roanoke VA edition has a population of almost 300,000 and can claim Wayne Newton!!! and the mouthy Tiki Barber as its own. It has a daily newspaper (the adventurously named "Times") and a bunch of TV and radio stations. Seems like a real city... This one is close but the Wayne Newton factor tips the scales in favor of the Texas edition of Roanoke. I guarantee the food is way better...

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