Delightfully Dallas

I arrive at Arlanda just before 2 am and make myself comfortable at our designated meeting spot. At about 4:30 people start showing up, seems like a timely bunch. Aside from Thorstein who I traveled in India with I discovered the the Friises who I went on the transsibirean trip with. We’re sent off by Eddie at the Pink Caravan, since our tour leader Karina is already on location in Mexico.

At Heathrow we have our first celebrity spotting when Robyn is going on the same plane as we are (she looks really good, like she was to walk up on stage right then and there). But aside from that, Heathrow means trouble as we learn that the plane has some technical difficulties and they have to get another. This means that we’re about 2-3 hours behind schedule taking off. We don’t manage to make up that much on the way either but remain optimistic since we had over 3 hours stop in Dallas. The crew also assures us that the customs people on the ground has agreed to ship our luggage directly from our plane to the next instead of re-checking our bags like we were initially told to (which just highlights what a sham the security procedures are when you can just sidestep it when there’s money on the line).

Just before we land we’re told however that we won’t be making our connection after all and that we will be issued hotel vouchers and a new flight in the morning. Oh well, that might be nice as well, I’ve never been to Dallas. The staff at the airport in Dallas leave something to be desired however, they’re mostly helpful but seem unable to admit when they don’t know the answer to a question and instead direct us the wrong way a bunch of times. It is especially hard to get a boarding pass for the new connection for Cancun the next day since the staff at both American Airlines (the airline that will actually fly us there) and British Airways (the airline that brought us here late) are both pointing fingers at each other. So after having been given the runaround for about two hours we’re finally on our way to the Hyatt Regency hotel.

The Regency turns out to be a really nice hotel with rather luxurious rooms but I don’t linger long since I’m planning to see some of Dallas before it gets too late! I talk to my fellow travelers and try to get them to come with me in search for an authentic Texan steak house (I’ve had one recommended by several people already that is on Grapevine, just a shuttle ride away form the hotel), but they have all decided to use the dinner voucher to eat at the hotel restaurant. I can’t really blame them since it’s a free meal for up to $35, but since this might be the last time I’m in Dallas, or Texas for that matter, I want to go for the real McCoy.
My plan starts off badly however when I discover that I missed the last shuttle bus by mere minutes and that the next one isn’t for another hour. The concierge suggest I get something in the hotel restaurant on the voucher while I wait for the next shuttle and that seems like a good idea. I join the rest of the group at the table and order a starter (if I should expect to down a steak later I better not fill up before). I get a smile from the waitress when I ask for some kind of girly drink and fetches the cocktail menu. The service is kind of slow though and I never manage to get my starter before it’s time to catch the shuttle.
The shuttle drops me off right next to the steakhouse and I’m greeted by a very friendly staff. I start asking all kinds of questions and end up with a lemon drop martini and a 22 oz steak that I’ve forgotten the name of, a ribeye something. The steak is hands down the best one I’ve ever eaten (that makes for two of the best steaks I’ve ever had within a couple of days since Derya and I went to Östgötakällaren before I went to the airport in Stockholm), perfectly grilled and seasoned with the meat just melting away in the mouth. My waitress is delighted as I sing the praises of the beef and wonders if I want dessert. As I alluded to feeling like a beached whale it’s not a very serious question. Before leaving I quiz her about the surroundings, if there is anything to do while I wait for the shuttle back which is still an hour or so away. She says that there isn’t much to see along the Grapevine, and besides, it’s all closed now anyway. But there are a few bars there and her favorite, the Tap Inn is down the road. It’s a ways down the street however and I’d better take a cab there. But with 22 oz of steak in my tummy I’d rather walk, so I start down along the Grapevine. The area isn’t terribly interesting, it’s a mix of one of those places where you put big box stores like Elgiganten and IKEA and a regular city center (a mall the locals call it), but there are a variety of touristy stores scattered along the road and eventually it actually looks more like a city street.

At the end of the street I finally locate the Tap Inn (after walking something like 700-800 yards, not that far if you ask me) and it’s a cozy place with $4 drinks and karaoke night. I start idly looking through the list of songs when a guy gets up and starts singing, rather awesomely, a country song that I don’t remember the name of. The guy comes up to the bar afterwards and we start chatting. He’s a freelance contractor named Chuck that fixes up houses and sells them who comes here after his 12 hour workday to relax a bit before going home. We get along great and before I know it he has convinced me to sing Creep by Radiohead, not being a guy who says “no” that often (especially when I’m on vacation) I agree even though that it means that I have to follow his incredible performance.

It doesn’t go all that great, but okay I guess and I’m enthusiastically cheered on by Chuck and the others. After some more chatting it’s time for Chuck to leave, but not before giving me his business card and telling me to look him up next time I’m in Dallas and he’ll fix me up with a place to stay and show me around. This southern hospitality sure is a wonderful thing! He also sings one last song, Johnny Cash’s cover of Nine Inch Nails’ Hurt and it’s even better than the first one.

All this means that I missed the last shuttle back to the hotel so I need to find a cab (walking is not an option here in the US). Unable to find any I walk into a gas station to get the number for a cab, the problem is that they need my phone number so that the driver can locate me and my Swedish number won’t do since it’s too many digits. I have to ask the gas station attendant for his number and it all works out fine in the end. While waiting for the cab I chat with the attendant and as he hears that I’m on vacation and for no less than five weeks he gets a bit bitter and tells me that he hasn’t had a vacation for eight years. Maybe there’s an upside of living under an oppressive socialistic regime! =P

The cab driver is a friendly Kenyan guy and we chat about ABBA and the Jante law. All accounted for a pretty good start of my vacation!

Today’s spending:
Hotel drink: $12
Shuttle: $5
Awsomests steak evar: $42
Lemon Drop: $10
Tap Inn drink: $4
Cab back: $20