In September of 2017, my wife and I sold our house in Houston, our cars, and all our earthly possessions, except what could fit into a 12' x 8' x 8' pod, and decided to just travel. We changed our legal address to Wichita Falls, TX, so we could have Texas Home Base (a mail forwarding outfit, henceforth known as "Team Flack") scan and upload our mail, which we have since accessed worldwide.
After three years we decided to visit our hometown to vote and check-in with Team Flack.
• Wichita Falls Brewery: We thought a beer was in order to celebrate our successful cross country return to our hometown to vote road trip and this place was but blocks from the courthouse where we voted. I had a Texikaner Black Lager, the Missus, a Southern Drawl Pilsner. After we toasted, we turned to each, fist bumped like were the Obamas, and said "we f*¢%-ing did it!". Believe it or not, it was quite emotional. Later, I asked the bartender about a good steak house to continue our celebration and he mentioned the nearby McBride Land & Cattle Co. was the best in town. I asked if it was pricey and he replied "nothing in Wichita Falls is pricey".
• McBride Land & Cattle Co.: As I always say "go early and go big", so we ordered the early bird special, an $18.99 sirloin for two. A rather large cut of rather tender beef, two side salads, and two fully stuffed baked potatoes. It's not Morton's, but it's not $64.99 (x2).
• McBride Steakhouse: This place is run by the grandson of founder Fats McBride who at one time ran numerous Wichita Falls restaurants. The above McBride Land & Cattle Co., while once owned by Fats, is now separately run, and therefore the only thing they share is a similar nondescript exterior (this place does not even have a sign outside), a comfortable interior that says "this place used to be a tack room", and the fact they both sell tasty, but reasonably priced cuts of meat (though McBride Land & Cattle Co, has more reasonable prices and early bird specials).
• Pelican's: The nicest of the three steakhouses sampled. It bills itself as a steak and seafood joint, but the shrimp cocktail just didn't cut it. As I said of Galatoires in New Orleans is true here, if a restaurant "cannot procure superior fresh shrimp for their shrimp cocktail, then quite simply they shouldn't put it on the menu". The steak on the other hand was outstanding. If I were you I'd get the 14 oz. NY Strip ($28.99) for you and a bottomless salad ($6.99) for your date and then do a switcheroo after every few bites.
• THE Wichita Falls: Per my previous blog entry, I was a bit underwhelmed after viewing the Eiffel Tower in Paris . . . Texas, so prior to visiting the eponymous falls, too conveniently located adjacent to I-44 and the Wichita River, I was prepared to be underwhelmed. I needn't, as the original five-foot falls were destroyed by a flood in 1886, and after nearly 100 years of visitors asking "where are the falls?", the city "rebuilt" it, only at a Texas-sized 54 ft¹. It is artificial, with 3,500 gallons/minute being pumped to the top, but hey, the important thing is that the falls are back! As the water is drawn from the sediment-rich Wichita River, the falls don't have a Niagara bluish hue, but hey, the important thing is that the falls are back! (except when shut down for maintenance or low river levels).
• The World's Littlest Skyscraper²: Didn't even know that this was a thing, until I typed "Landmarks" in my Apple Maps while quaffing my Texikaner Black Lager and realized I was but two blocks away. You can read all about it on Wikipedia, but to sum it up: it was a confidence game based on a $200,000 "investment" for a 480" tall building (note 480" vs 480').
• Museum of North Texas History: Many small cities have this type of catch-all museum. A little bit of this and a little bit of that. The one in Wichita Falls is better than most with a well-organized section on WWII, with a display of large (>4 ft.) scratch-built ship models. It also contains an extensive collection of cowboy hats and the only iron lung I've ever seen.
• Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame and Museum: I have fond memories of watching some of the pro wrestling greats, grappling in the "Television Era": Bob Backlund, Andre the Giant, the politically incorrect Strongbow Brothers³, and the incredibly politically incorrect Fuji and Saito. So I was really looking forward to viewing this museum, but due to Covid, it will not come to be.
• The Wee-Chi-Tah Sculpture: Located on the north side of the Wichita River, it is a multi-part piece of art of a Comanche woman, her child, two braves, their horses, and a colt set in the natural beauty of rock & flowing water. The statue is fine, but there are two better reasons to inspect this sculpture:
- The adjacent Ohio Street Bridge offers some spectacular sunset views of the Wichita River. Then mosey on over to the . . .
- Water Hole: From the unremarkable exterior to the line of pick 'em up trucks "tied" up out front, you might mistake this place for a real shitkicker bar. But don't let that stop you from entering, as once you're inside you'll realize it's a very nice . . . shitkicker bar, with two pool tables, table shuffleboard, and a jukebox well stocked with the best of bro-country⁴. Recommend you ask your daisy dukes clad bartender for the Budweiser of Texas beers, a Shiner Bock, settle in, and listen to some Blake Shelton.
Sheppard Air Force Base
Hear some jets fly overhead? Well, they're out of the nearby Sheppard Air Force base which trains both US and NATO combat pilots.
Team Flack (aka Texas Home Base)
It was nice to finally meet the team after three years of weekly email updates of our scanned mail. Elaine keeps the team in line when we're on the road and maintains "our" ranch, which consists of a house filled with mail, an adjacent garden (which is quite beautiful), and "our" cat Bunny.
• Comfort Inn Wichita Falls Near University: Economical digs ($67/night + tax) with the worst free breakfast I have ever eaten. The Missus complained to the front desk, not because she felt we were getting ripped off, but to tell them they were getting ripped off, as guests were just throwing the faux Egg McMuffin (mystery meat encapsulated by untoasted faux English muffins), directly into the garbage. This was one case where no breakfast is better than a free breakfast. Although, you know what they say, "TANSTAAFB".
• What else but "the first existential country song". After all Wichita Falls is in the center of Wichita County.
Endnotes: I wanted to provide some very specific details which while vaguely interesting did not contribute to the overall narrative. Perhaps just wait until the end to read.
¹ The tallest man-made waterfall in the world is the Cascata delle Marmorem. Built by the Romans in 271 BC, it is still in operation.
² At 2,722 ft, just over half a mile tall, the Burj Khalifa is the world's tallest skyscraper.
³ Luke Joseph Scarpa was a professional wrestler, best known by the ring name Chief Jay Strongbow. He portrayed a Native American wrestler, who wore a war bonnet to the ring and would "go on the warpath" when the fans started cheering him against an opponent. In reality, he was a business-minded Italian-American.
⁴ Bro-Country is a sub-genre of Country music first coined to describe the Florida-Georgia State line song "Cruise". It combines the worst aspects of hip-hop (the objectification of women) and the worst aspects of Country (the banality of beer, pickup trucks, guns, and more pick up trucks).