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BBQ, a T-shirt, and a Solar Phenomenon: Weatherford, Texas

A wildflower near the Weatherford Floating Boardwalk

I don’t mind being wrong. I love being surprised with new information that refocuses my perception. Weatherford, Texas, would be the city that changed my perspective about what to expect in the landscape, and the surprise was pleasant. Having left the plains of Amarillo earlier that day, I had prepared myself to wait out yet another dry, dusty terrain and maybe a tiny single-road town with a gas station and a convenience store. Clearly, I had not done my research.

I have had this experience before, time and again, usually related to a singular experience that I allowed to paint the whole picture only to learn that I need to take a second look. I am confident it will happen again and again. I look forward to this. My father once told me about a film he saw where a man takes a taxi ride through his life, re-experiencing moments with a fresh set of eyes, an outside view. “Oh, is that what happened!” the man would exclaim, understanding better what he swore up and down that he knew.

What awaited us in Weatherford was a small downtown with antique shops, coffee spots, lots of kolaches, surrounding farms and fields of green, and some of the prettiest sunsets I’ve seen as of this writing. Thank you, Weatherford, for correcting me.

Photo of an old courthouse in central Texas.
Parker County Courthouse, Weatherford, Texas

After a four-hour drive, we pulled into town at almost 3:00 pm, with the Parker County Courthouse staring us in the face from the circle. The clock tower appeared to be working properly and stole my attention long enough to take a bumpy photo from the passenger seat. Locals drive through this intersection at record speed and don’t take too kindly to long haulers from out of town. There are antique and vintage shops on either side of the road, closed on Sundays and Mondays and not open on Tuesdays till after we would be gone.

Navigating a ¾ turn around the circle, we head back out of town about 4.5 miles to a lovely escape of farms and abodes to Homestead RV Park, a gated community with a variety of spaces, some long-term stays, and a number of pull-throughs that back up to (gated) homes lined with trees and fencing. It’s clean and mostly lovely. There is a collective of children running around the way kids do during the spring and summer months, hanging in and over the sewer drains, making screaming noises that signal playtime, and only returning inside for meals and required bedtimes. Otherwise, they are spilling about the grounds to release any untethered energy so their adults can gain an ounce of sanity in the interim. Up near the office, there’s a pool and a laundry. The pool looks promising, but I’m excited about the laundry. We’re ready for another round of clean towels despite having done laundry just 48 hours ago.  A dust storm will do that to you.

Dinner lacked inspiration, though the promise of tomorrow softened the edge of leftovers, sending my mind into a flurry of excitement. Tomorrow would be April 8, 2024, and we would be in the totality of the solar eclipse’s path around lunchtime. Our arrival in Texas for such a once-in-a-lifetime event was entirely by happenstance. Well, in advance of our trip, yet in the wake of the discovery that we would be in alignment, I had purchased eclipse glasses and a filter to pop over our camera lens to take photos.

With dinner digested and the dishes put up in the cupboard behind the frosted acrylic slides and cork stoppers from old tequila bottles we fashioned into door pulls, I throw on my weary leather shoes that are hanging on by a thread and skip across the park, past the signs that say “do not enter” (the children already had; seemed fair) so I could get up close to the fence to take pictures of the sunset.

Sending rays between the leaves, lightly cresting the metal of the wire fence, and pouring through was something that allowed a bit of wonder to filter through my mind. I’ve always been fascinated with celestial movements, but in this chapter, I’m not trying to create any meaning out of them; just enjoying them for what they are. These days, the ‘no thought’ moments are the best, and I’ve spent a lot of time during our road trip focusing on the absence of thought. Snapping easily 10-12 photos on the “good” camera, plus a few more on my phone, I’m bouncing back to the airstream to show off my collection. There’s no true way to capture sunlight (I’ve tried), but in photography, the artist can attempt to encapsulate a hint of what they are seeing, if only to say, “Here. I want to share this with you”. Consider it a love language, like a warm meal or a homemade quilt.

I will post photos later as we forgot to pack our camera cable (sigh).

The Floating Boardwalk

A Photo of View from the Weatherford Boardwalk, Weatherford, TX
View from the Weatherford Boardwalk, Weatherford, TX

Upon waking up, all plans are radiating around where to be in time for the eclipse. Ahead of our departure, a friend of Jamie’s alerted us of a BBQ joint in Fort Worth that had a few restaurants in the surrounding area. One of these was planted a good 40 minutes from our RV spot, right in line with the eclipse.

Given that we had a few hours to go, we decided to check out a local walk to get the boys worn out and give our old legs a stretch. In Weatherford, there is an alleged “longest floating boardwalk” that goes from one side of the lake to the other. The homes in the region around said lake vary in size and are so snuggly, resting next to one another, that you could pass your neighbor a cup of coffee through the window with a little effort. The extra drive around was worth the gas. Each home has a different character and symbolizes the care and definition that go into creating a dream getaway or permanent residence, depending on the situation. People were gardening and working on their cars in the driveway. There are lots of well-kept flower beds and raised decks to look out onto the water.

Upon arrival at the parking lot near the entry, we armed ourselves with the required equipment, similar to packing a baby bag for an infant human. Dog bags, treats, bark deterrent can, collapsible water bowl, water bottle (shared), human infant carrier wrap for Vito in case he gets worn out so my hands can be free in case of falling, phone, sunglasses, and truck keys. I’m sure I’m a sight for anyone on a regular day, let alone an afternoon hike with the dogs.

A Photo of Crawfish carcasses.
Crawfish Remains

The boardwalk was so amassed with reeds, cattails, lily pads, and dead crawfish that I could hardly believe that it “floats.” I’m sure that the boardwalk did float at one point in time, but not today. Not by a long shot. With that said, it was a lovely walk. The view of the water could be seen from afar in brief intervals between the trees, and the sun beat down on us during those opportunities as well. The lingering hot aroma of recently deceased crawfish was also available to our olfactory senses, as was the collection of fauna that is only known to one who has encountered swamp-like adventures. While navigating this bridge and attempting to keep the boys away from crawfish remains and bird droppings, I found that I was fighting to enjoy the beautiful parts while curbing Benny and Vito from a respiratory infection or digestive issue that would inevitably wake me at 2:00 am. To my relief, we were successfully able to make it past other walkers and runners, the whole of the boardwalk, and back, with enough time to pile everyone back in the truck and head over to Burleson to Hard Eight BBQ.

BBQ, a T-shirt, and a Solar Phenomenon

Behind the BBQ joint, we were one of 10-15 vehicles that had been collected there for the purpose of viewing the solar eclipse. Jamie was charged with purchasing food and Hard Eight t-shirts – a red one for me with “Risk it for the Brisket” and a pair of dice on the back, and (sadly) not for him, as they were out of his size for the one he had been hoping for.

For our lunch, we ordered chicken, sausage, and pulled pork that came with a side of BBQ sauce, sliced jalapeño, pickles, and onion. My job was to keep an eye on the boys until Jamie returned. Both of them had zero interest in the weather changes and 100% interest in the increase in cars in the lot the longer we waited.

Photo of take out chicken.
BBQ Chicken from Hard 8 BBQ, Burleson, TX

By that point, the sky darkened an eerie grey so that it seemed like nothing more than cloudy and overcast, but not quite. It is almost as though it is nightfall, but again, not. Around the United States, there were areas where a partial eclipse could be viewed. I excitedly messaged my family and friends about what could be seen, save for the three minutes of the actual eclipse. My camera was unworthy of such a feat of taking a picture, and Jamie’s managed the challenge only a half ounce better.

You need a unique lens that we just did not have. What we could see through our special glasses, however, was quite different.

“You can take your glasses off now; the sun is covered!”

A giant, black orb hovering over our truck with a slender, bright, white orb behind it with piercing rays like one might see in a science fiction movie while the world darkened around us. Trucks and cars alike that still had their motors running and were new enough all had their headlights turned on, as did the street lamps that automatically came on at dusk. It felt like 9:00 pm for a few minutes alone. Outside the restaurant, staff and patrons were sitting down, and in some cases lying down, to stare at the sun. One guy even said out loud, looking at me, “You can take your glasses off now; the sun is covered!” … uh, no, thank you. I like my retinas just the way they are. The boys were in the backseat and did not seem to mind the fuss. They were busy with their toys and playing since everyone was together.

When the event was over and our lunch finished, we set back to the camp, grabbed fuel on the way, and spent the rest of the day relaxing. The paid Wi-Fi was quite good at this park and allowed for a bit of work while our stomachs rested from the feast that we shared for lunch. Thankful that I did not need to do any dishes, I prepped our sandwiches early and prepared the coffee—another day in the books in what will be one of the most incredible memories of my adult life.

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