NewsOK: Oklahoma City News, Sports, Weather & Entertainment

Tramel Fort Worth travelblog: The Arbuckles aren't New England

After nine nights and eight days in New England, a 32-hour round trip to Fort Worth for the OU-TCU game seemed on the puny side. But trips to Fort Worth always are fun, even though they’re quick, and this was a memorable time for many reasons.

Here are those reasons:

1. Driving through the Arbuckles on Friday afternoon, I got the strangest sensation. As in, what’s wrong with this place?

Usually when I drive through the small mountain range, I get a sense of pride. I’m a child of the prairie, born and raised in central Oklahoma, so I always have gotten a charge out of seeing the other elevations of the state. The Ouachita  Mountains in southeastern Oklahoma, the Ozark foothills in northeastern Oklahoma, the Arbuckles in southern Oklahoma.

But I was less than 36 hours removed from a trip to New England, where fall foliage was beyond fantastic. When we got to Davis on Interstate 35 and started making the climb, I thought, where’s all the color? This is awfully green and a little bit brown. Where are the reds and yellows and oranges?

In truth, the Arbuckles were their usual fine self, and maybe the foliage in a week or two will be cool. But comparing them to New England, while not the least bit fair, led to disappointment.

I’m sorry, Arbuckles. I’ll try to have a better attitude next time.

2. We spent some time along the roadside. Ryan Aber and I headed to Fort Worth around 1:45 p.m. Friday, and just after crossing the Canadian River, we got a call from The Athletic’s Jason Kersey, our former colleague at The Oklahoman. He had a flat tire just south of Wynnewood and was wondering if we were ahead or behind him.

We told him we’d check on him when we came through. Sure enough, an hour later -- after a frustrating construction backup through Purcell -- we came up on JK and his Hertz rental car.

Turns out, the tire wasn’t just flat, it was split, and his rental car didn’t come with a spare. The fix-a-flat spray can didn’t help, and JK was stranded. His frustration was high, because he was on a long hold with Hertz’s roadside assistance.

We waited with him almost an hour, then he made the decision to jump in the car with us and head south. At that time, he had been on hold a combined 75 minutes.

Sometime on the road south, he got through to Hertz and sort of figured it all out, but throughout the evening, JK had to communicate with Hertz on things like the car keys and such. We estimated he was on the phone two hours and 45 minutes, with most of that time on hold, waiting to talk to a customer representative.

Customer service isn’t what it used to be, and that goes for everything from rental cars to newspapers.

3. We were scheduled to hit the TCU campus about 5 p.m. and take a tour of the new eastside upper deck at Amon Carter Stadium. TCU publicist Mark Cohen has been great to work with since the Horned Frogs joined the Big 12, and he’s always ready to show off TCU’s glittering facilities.

But the delay meant we wouldn’t be able to get to campus until 6:15 or so, so I texted Cohen, and we agreed to do it later.

The new upper deck is really impressive. It balances the stadium, in the same way that the eastside upper deck above Owen Field brought better aesthetics -- and tons of revenue -- to the Sooners’ home.

Amon Carter is one of my favorite stadiums in the Big 12. The pressbox is in the corner, so the view isn’t great, but it’s also lower than most (any?), so the perspective is unique. Being new doesn’t hurt, either.

The pressbox social distancing was the most I’ve seen this year. More than 10 feet between seats. The COVID protocols did have a positive effect in one regard.

TCU has the league’s worst postgame press conference setup for visitors. No designated room, just an area under the stadium. It’s crowded and loud and not terribly manageable. The Zoom interviews, the bane of our existence for months, are an upgrade at Amon Carter.

4. Not often do I try new restaurants on trips to DFW. I’ve been down there enough that I know plenty of good places to eat, so why risk a meal on the unknown?

But this trip, we ended up at two new places for dinner.

On Friday night, as we took JK to his hotel near the Fossil Ridge area of northeast Fort Worth, we looked for a Mexican place. I hadn’t had Mexican since before my New England trip -- I tried to get Trish the Dish to try Mexican in the Northeast, but she wouldn’t bite -- so cravings were setting in.

Some of the popular places were too crowded. We didn’t want a packed place with COVID. So the guys googled whatever, and we ended up at a strip shopping center joint called Los Molcajetes. 

It was plenty popular -- there was a wait -- but the tables were socially distanced, so it was relatively safe. We got in after about 15 minutes and had a good Mexican meal. Nothing special, but Mexican is hard to screw up. It can be done, but it takes work.

I had shrimp fajitas, and they were good. We also had queso fundido, which is Mexican chorizo melted with monterey jack cheese. They lit it up right at our table. But what you end up with is an incredibly thick queso that basically you can’t deal with. I’ll pass next time.

And Saturday night, headed home, we stopped off in Gainesville and discovered a gem of a place, Sarah’s on the Square, a delightful place serving all kinds of traditional dishes. JK and Ryan had chicken-fried steak; I had chicken spaghetti. All very good, and while we didn’t eat dessert, they had a fabulous dessert counter. I’ll be back to Sarah’s on the Square.

5. My favorite meal of the weekend was breakfast Saturday, because I got to eat with my friend Gerald Page. Gerald lives in northeast Tarrant County, a big OU fan, and a few years ago, on a whim, he emailed and asked if he could take me to breakfast before the game.

I said sure, and we had a great time. So now it’s become a tradition. He picks me up at my hotel, takes me to a great breakfast spot, then drops me off at the TCU campus.

We always have a great time talking and catching up. It’s one of the best things about my job, meeting readers like Gerald.

Gerald took me to Vickery Cafe. I had French toast, which was great. I was stuffed all day. 


6. True story from game day. I packed light. Really light. So when Gerald dropped me off near the stadium, I literally had only my computer bag and a little shoe bag, with all my stuff from the trip. The only thing that didn’t fit was a light jacket I figured I would wear home if I had the chance to change out of my sportcoat. So I wrapped the jacket through the handles of the bag.

Before the game, in the pressbox, I realized my jacket was gone. I figured it had slipped out somewhere. I went down to the security check-in, thinking it might be there, but no. 

So I thought, bummer. Rarely wear that jacket, so no big loss. But still. You don’t want to lose a jacket.

After the game, as we left the pressbox, I told the guys I would retrace my steps to see if it was still lying on the ground somewhere. And at the base of the stadium, near the loading dock, there was my jacket, nicely draped over a short pole. The people of Fort Worth are first class.

Glad you’re in the Big 12, Frogs. Glad you’re my friend, Gerald. Glad we could rescue you, Jason. Glad we got the Arbuckles, even if it’s not New England.

Related Photos
Davis, Oklahoma, Tuesday, 9/28/04.  Photos for story by David Zizzo about the Arbuckle Mountains. Road cuts for
 I-35 in the Arbuckles.   Staff photo by David McDaniel.

Davis, Oklahoma, Tuesday, 9/28/04. Photos for story by David Zizzo about the Arbuckle Mountains. Road cuts for I-35 in the Arbuckles. Staff photo by David McDaniel.

<figure><img src="//" alt="Photo - Davis, Oklahoma, Tuesday, 9/28/04. Photos for story by David Zizzo about the Arbuckle Mountains. Road cuts for I-35 in the Arbuckles. Staff photo by David McDaniel." title="Davis, Oklahoma, Tuesday, 9/28/04. Photos for story by David Zizzo about the Arbuckle Mountains. Road cuts for I-35 in the Arbuckles. Staff photo by David McDaniel."><figcaption>Davis, Oklahoma, Tuesday, 9/28/04. Photos for story by David Zizzo about the Arbuckle Mountains. Road cuts for I-35 in the Arbuckles. Staff photo by David McDaniel.</figcaption></figure>
Berry Tramel

Berry Tramel, a lifelong Oklahoman, sports fan and newspaper reader, joined The Oklahoman in 1991 and has served as beat writer, assistant sports editor, sports editor and columnist. Tramel grew up reading four daily newspapers — The Oklahoman,... Read more ›