Differences between TX and PA

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Derek and I have been taking note of some of the differences we have noticed between living in a city – and in Texas in general –  and living in rural Pennsylvania. Here are some of the ones we’ve come up with so far:

Roads:
A major difference is the roads. First of all, the majority of them are concrete. They are loud, and when it is raining out, they reflect in such a way that makes it hard to see the road! Not to mention the cracks in the concrete. Texas’ concrete cracks are akin to Pennsylvania potholes after a bad winter! Trying to learn the rules of the road, we quickly learned that there are no rules to the road. Some u-turns have their own lanes, some have a yield sign. Some exits are the “left two lanes” or the “right two lanes” and some are just one lane. Roads will go down from 4 to 3 lanes fairly quickly, and the same goes for 3 up to 4 lanes too. You have to pay very close attention! On the way to the University of Houston, there is one section where you literally have to keep right, then keep left, and then keep right all to get onto one road towards an exit! I am sure we will get used to it eventually, but thank goodness for GPS for now. Also, there are so many intersections that not all of them are named! When I am driving to the Target, I have to remember to “turn on the street after McNee,” because the street after McNee isn’t named!

The radio:
I thought I would be so happy having a ton of radio stations to choose from. Back in Wellsboro, there were only three to four stations to choose from, and I didn’t like the music on two of them. You were S-O-L most of the time when bouncing around from station to station. Plus, when you did find something you liked, it didn’t last very long, reception wise. Now we’ve got too many stations to choose from. Half of them aren’t in English! It took two weeks worth of driving around to find a country station that I liked, which was unexpectedly overwhelming. And to my surprise, the station lasted the entire hour drive to Galveston. We have a winner!

Stores:
We were joking around saying that we had been to more stores in two weeks than we had in the seven years that we were in Pennsylvania. Not too far from the truth! There are SO MANY stores/shopping plazas. We found one plaza about three miles from our apartment, and it is like a gold mine. So many good stores, I may not need to step foot into a mall once. Not to mention how HUGE the stores are. We had only been here about two to three days, and we went into a Kroger (the local grocery store) and the super target in one day. That was enough for us to realize that we definitely weren’t in a rural area anymore! The Kroger was at least double the size of our grocery store back in Wellsboro. We also went to a Lowes, and then it was my dad’s time to gasp at the sheer size of the store.

Grocery stores:
Diving a bit further into stores now, specifically, grocery shopping. We soon discovered that there were about five or six grocery stores to choose from. The Kroger we soon found out was a bit on the expensive side (bear in mind we are used to non-city prices) so then I started panicking over the circulars that came in the mail for the different grocery stores. Was I really going to have to shop at each one before we found a good fit???? We decided to start with the super target, since it is the closest to the apartment. That ended up being a good decision, for the most part. The craziest thing I have gotten anxiety over while being here is the meat department. Usually I buy ground beef in various sizes. Some dishes I make require a bit over a pound, and some a little under. Here in stores (both in the Kroger and the Target) they only come in one size only – one pound. Plus, the meat is just TOO EXPENSIVE overall. So then we went over to Fiesta Mart (another grocery store) which is branded as being an inexpensive option. There the meat selection was more what I was used to seeing in Wellsboro. So, I may have to go to two separate grocery stores to get what I want, but at least we got that sorted out fairly quickly. The Fiesta Mart in itself was amazing. There was a whole international foods section. Some day I just want to go and browse it all. The strangest thing we saw there was cactus pads in the produce aisle!

Weather:
The weather here is unreal. In the last three weeks, I feel like maybe only two days have gone by where there hasn’t been a thunderstorm. And the storms are BAD. Just today the lightning and thunder lasted at least an hour. When it rains, it POURS. I am glad that we live on the second floor. I am surprised we haven’t needed a boat yet. With all this moisture in the air, the humidity is unreal. Humidity doesn’t necessarily bother me, but no denying it is there when you go outside and our glasses immediately fog up!

Texas, Texas, Texas:
People in Texas are proud that they are from Texas! Texas flags everywhere, everyone wears Texas themed shirts, Texas bumper stickers, etc. Grocery store aisles have rows and rows of “made in Texas” salsa, and Texas beef (way more expensive than the already expensive meat I mentioned previously.) When we were in Galveston for the day, nearly everyone had a tent or chairs that was branded with some sort of Texas school or sport team. I just can’t recall seeing so much “Pennsylvania” branded items. Maybe the maple syrup? But I think that is less obvious.  “Made in Pennsylvania” is one thing, but having a huge Texas flag label with cowboys, horses, long horns, armadillos, etc, is another! In Buc-ees and in the campus book store, there were Texas themed cookware. I’ll admit I “oohed” at the Texas shaped cutting board, but does anyone actually buy and use these things? Maybe it is more of a novelty, for the people visiting Texas, instead of the people who live here.

That is all of the differences I can think of for now, but I am sure there will be more as time goes on!

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Galveston Railroad Museum

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When dad was here for the week helping us move in, we wanted to have one day of fun and go to Galveston.

My dad and I are big train buffs, so we were happy to discover that there was a railroad museum.

The entrance, ticket booth and gift shop were in the actual old train station building, which was impressive in its own right.

There were lots of engines, cars and cabooses to check out. Highlights for me included the mail car, seeing the kitchen inside the dining cars and going inside the caboose. It was also cool to see the old 1950’s style sleeper cabins. So tiny!

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Hermann Park

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Hermann Park is about three and a half miles from our apartment. It is in the museum district, and the zoo is in the park as well as the Miller Outdoor Theater. So over all, just a really cool area to visit.

It is a large park, and so far we have only explored the main section with the Sam Houston monument, the reflection pool with the Pioneer Memorial and McGovern Lake.

The Sam Houston monument was very grand, and the plaque on the monument offered a lot of interesting information about the man that this city was named after.

The reflection pool seemed like a very nice and peaceful place to walk around, or just sit and relax. Same goes for the neighboring McGovern Lake. However, if you are looking to up the fun, you can rent pedal boats on the lake. May have to take them up on that eventually.

There are lots of nice trails that weave around the park. We only sampled just a small portion of them, but when it gets cooler out, it will be a great place to get some exercise.

There is a cute little train that goes around the park. Tickets are $5. I also hope to do that some day in the future.

The main highlight was the Japanese Garden. We stumbled upon it, and I was shocked that it was free admission! It was an added bonus.

Looking forward to exploring more of the park in the future!

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Buc-ee’s convenience store

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When we were still in Pennsylvania, I was wondering what type of gas station/convenience store chains there would be in Texas. Growing up in the northeast, I was fiercely loyal to Wawa and Sheetz, and would miss them terribly after the move.

I starting searching online for what kinds of stores we would encounter down in Houston, and Buc-ee’s was the top hit. I was reading the website and newspaper articles about this chain, and there was a lot of hype about the beaver.

During the planning of the trip, I told my dad that we had to make a stop at a Buc-ees. Once we had crossed over the Texas state line, Derek and I went ahead at the 75 mph limit (woah!) to get to our apartment early. Dad, pulling the trailer, had to stay at about 60 mph. He decided to stop for lunch at a Buc-ee’s. I got a call from dad after he left, and he said, “Holy smokes.”

I have to admit, I am glad that the hype was warranted. Dad said that it was unbelievable inside. The floors were clean enough to eat off of (it was voted #1 cleanest restroom in America) and there were 96, count ’em, 96 gas pumps.

So now Derek and I were even more excited to experience Buc-ee’s during our day trip to Galveston. (There is a Buc-ee’s on the way to the beach.)

When we got there, we were not disappointed, but dad was. This station had only 56 pumps! Ha!

We entered the store and there was so much to look at and purchase! You could do your Christmas shopping there for the whole family!

After leaving the store, I have come to the conclusion that things really are bigger in Texas!

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Pappa’s BBQ

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My dad told me that while he was here for the week in Houston, he wanted to find some really good Texas BBQ. I thought it would be a daunting task at first, because well, there would probably be hundreds of places to choose from. When we were driving around the first day, we passed Pappa’s BBQ. We looked online at their menu and decided to check it out. None of us had expected what we found inside.

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This is what you see from the outside. Just looks like a regular restaurant, right?

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But this is what you see when you look inside. It was almost like stepping inside a rustic cabin.

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There was old Texas memorabilia everywhere, and saddles hanging up in the wooden beams.

So this is how Pappa’s works: It is a sit down restaurant, but the food is cafeteria style. You get a tray, and you go down the line and order what you want. Service is fast and everyone works like a well oiled machine.

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There is a bunch of food to choose from. Pulled pork, pulled beef, ribs, chicken, burgers, etc. And the sides are all really good! We tried the mac and cheese and the potato salad, and my dad tried the baked beans and the yams. The food was so good that my dad insisted we go back a second time, so we did!

I am sure that there are PLENTY of other BBQ places around, and we will eat at them eventually, but it is nice to know that there is a good place within two miles of our apartment! We will be coming here a lot for sure!

Cowboy boots

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One of the things on my Texas bucket list was to get cowboy boots. I didn’t think it would happen within the first week of us being here, but it did!

Our apartment complex is across the highway from Cavender’s Boot City. My dad and I decided to peruse around the store. I knew I was going to fall in love with some boots, but I didn’t expect to fall SO HARD.

There was a sale going on, and the sales person told me that the sale would go on for as long as the boots were available (and what they had on the shelves was it for stock) so I broke down, and asked Derek to meet us at the store with my wallet.

Here is there website for anyone who wants to check them out: https://www.cavenders.com/

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The picture of the two pairs of boots are the ones I ended up buying. My Aunt said that she would treat me to one of the pairs for my birthday. My birthday is coming up. I can probably get another pair, and then more pairs for Christmas! I saw about 15 other pairs that I liked, and that is not an exaggeration. Slowly but surely.

I even put in an application to work for Cavender’s. The store manager was very nice and said that there might be some part-time work available in the fall. We will have to see. I will have to work in order to pay for this boot addiction!

 

 

The road trip

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Well, we made it! 1600 miles spread out over three days. Here are some photos of the highlights:

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My favorite parts of the trip were:

Crossing into Tennessee: The whole first day through Virginia were all roads that I was familiar with. Tennessee was new and exciting to me.

Lookout Mountain, Tennessee: We passed a gorgeous mountain range in lower Tennessee. One of these mountains, Lookout Mountain, was the site of a Civil War battle. It was called the battle in the clouds.

Fort Payne, Alabama: My favorite oldies Christmas song is “Christmas in Dixie,” by the band Alabama. They were formed in Fort Payne. The last line of the song is, “And from Fort Payne, Alabama, God bless you all, We love ya, Happy New Year, Good night, Merry Christmas. Merry Christmas tonight”

Crossing over the Mississippi: Doing this just made me FEEL different. Like we were truly on our way. It also made me feel like a modern pioneer, and I remembered the multiple times that Laura Ingalls Wilder (my favorite author) had crossed the river in her lifetime.

And: crossing into the Texas state line of course!