Day 26 – Dallas Aquarium, Texas high school football, and finally some beagles!

• The day began with a quick trip up the highway to see what’s cracking in Dallas. Like everywhere thus far, flyovers and concrete highways dominate. And water towers, gotta have water towers.

The activity for the day was the Dallas World Aquarium, a multistory zoo which has this incredible layout made up of 3? 4? areas stacked on top of each other, with an aquarium at the bottom. The centre of each area is open so you can see from top to bottom as you go which makes it feel so much bigger than it is. Photos don’t really do justice to just how interesting and detailed the whole place is when you’re wandering around inside. Absolutely fantastic use of the space.

• Some of the animals like the sloth and larger monkeys are not in a cage or fenced area at all, and rely purely on a bit of an air gap. Makes them feel more up close and natural. I’m surprised they don’t try and do a runner (well, maybe not the sloth lol) though they wouldn’t be able to get out of the building itself.

• I feel some of the enclosures are too small, but I am not an animalollogist. Likely they have multiple animalollogists on hand who have determined they are fine. One of the tamarin there is 20 years old, and his grumpy little face was adorable. You could definitely picture him telling everyone to get off his lawn.

• My only real complaint is that there’s very little labelling on the enclosures. Some have QR codes to scan and read about the enclosure, have YouTube videos embedded etc which is cool I guess, but who wants to wander around staring at your phone the while time? We’re not Millennials! ( Now that’s some Grade A boomer humour ). I think some printed signs with pictures of the animal to know what to look for / which animal is which scientific name would be super helpful.

• Next up was a trip to Tyler which is a town in East Texas where one of Erin’s beagle pals generously offered a place to stay, and far more importantly some beagles to pat. Having gone a month without our puppies, the allure of droopy ears and waggy tails was too much to resist so the old Hemi V8 got another workout.

• Tyler sure is interesting – it’s green, and it’s pretty. Definitely not what we’d pictured Texas to be which involved a lot of cows, a lot of spikey grass (possibly tumbling), ranches, more cows, and maybe some horses. Instead there were trees, there were green leaves, there was soft luxurious grass, and even squirrels.

• The closest thing to a horse we saw was like 500 of them stuffed under the bonnet of the biggest ute (“truck” 🙄) I’ve ever been in, which was like navigating the Titanic. There was an offer for me to be the pilot, but to continue the metaphor I didn’t want to end up being the one to hit an iceberg. It made our Durango look like a tiny clown car and I’ve caused enough trouble with that thing so for the good of everyone’s well being, I rode shotgun instead.

• Like a pair of hound crack fiends, the first priority on arrival was to get our fix of pats. The lucky puppies get a pool to swim in so they quickly set about transferring water from the pool to my pants and shirt via their paws, and in return we patted so many ears it should be enough to get us through until we return home. Beagle methadone.

• Our hosts Tammy and Wes offered to take us to a football game, which in their language refers to the one with helmets and shoulder pads and about 8 coaches per side. My experience with American football was limited to watching The Blind Side, so I was keen to expand on my knowledge and see how it goes in real time. From listening to the radio and watching local TV on our travels I knew that football was taken somewhat seriously. This is quite the understatement it turns out.

• First stop was dinner, where there were fried green tomatoes, “chicken fried chicken” (not a typo), and collard greens. And beer. Classic Texas food experience! After the game we attempted fancy soft drinks from Sonic, but I suspect the server had gotten in to an “all sugar squishees”. After he got a little interpretive with what was ordered he’s managed to put chocolate syrup in everything. We might have to give that one another go I think. During daylight hours.

• The football game on offer was high school football, which in Australia would mean some rough old back oval, players in hand me down equipment, a volunteer-run canteen flogging sausage rolls and cans of off-brand soft drink, and a relatively equal number of players and spectators (mostly made up of parents and grandparents). This is not the case in the US. The game was in a real stadium, there’s multiple announcers, the thing is being live streamed, and the crowds were being bussed in. There were cheer leaders, marching bands, and even big inflatable tunnels for the teams to run out. It was loud, it was totally excessive, and I loved it.

• I got some learning about the game along the way, to the point where I knew which bits to clap. Mostly. I’m sure there’s all sorts of strategy and clever plays going on, but I’m just at the point of “hooray, ball went the right way!” so don’t ask me to explain any further. The band being there gives audible cues too – your team doing good things, trumpets go crazy. It’s a slower game than rugby as any handover results in the teams swapping out completely, but it’s totally fun to watch. Still not sure why they need like 6 people with headsets on chewing gum and yelling instructions at everyone. All the rugby guys need is one coach to rouse at them at halftime, and Alfie Langer getting himself on the field as much as possible. Zero headsets!

• Free board and lodging for the night with beagle accompaniment, thanks once again for the hospitality! If you’re ever in Australia we must return the favour – beagle pats and all!


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