I’m here to tell you that the Interstate 35 drive between Austin and Dallas/Fort Worth can be a crashing bore, worthy stops like the Texas Ranger Museum (unbeatable slogan “One Riot, One Ranger”) and the Dr Pepper Museum in Waco notwithstanding.
To strike a traveler’s blow against tedium (and enjoy a reasonably clean bathroom) work in a visit to Willie’s Place, a truck stop in teensy Carl’s Corner, Texas on Interstate 35E…the leg of I-35 that heads east to Dallas rather than west to Fort Worth, about 7 miles north of Hillsboro.
“Truck stop?” you say.
Yes, but this is a Willie Nelson truck stop, so it’s a little different.
Y’all have heard of BioWillie diesel fuel, right? Well, I filled my Hyundai with regular gasoline, but the 13 diesel islands for trucks had BioWillie pumps ready to go.
Willie’s Place is actually several “places” in one building:
*** A General Store packed with tons of Willie gear, like bits of the famous headbands he wears and plenty of “On the Road Again” and “Willie Nelson for President” bumper stickers. Of course, there are also munchies, drinks and CDs for the road.
*** The Night Life Theater for live music – hum along to the words in Willie’s song, “The night life ain’t no good life, but it’s my life….”
*** The Willie Nelson Walk of Fame with many of his famous and not-so-famous albums (did you know he did a cover of Joni Mitchell’s “Both Sides Now?” Me, either) gold records, guitars and sheet music from songs like “Crazy.”
Yes, Patsy Cline made that song famous, but Willie wrote it.
Here, go listen. I’ll wait:
(Update: Google bought out the Lala.com music service and then shut it down, so the play box doesn’t work. ( * stabs Google with fork * )
*** The Whiskey River Saloon and Blue Sky Cafe if you want to set a spell – both also named after famous Nelson tunes.
(Update: The kids and I had lunch at the Blue Sky Cafe during a June 2010 road trip. It was pretty doggone good!)
*** A Trucker’s Lounge with showers and laundry facilities.
All that was fine, but what I enjoyed was stumbling upon a broadcast booth at Willie’s.
The Sirius/XM satellite radio show “Willie’s Place” is broadcast from, well, Willie’s Place, and you can wave and say hello to the DJ in the booth. I listen to Sirius/XM a lot – I hate ads on commercial radio – and it was fun to meet one of the channels “in person.”
It was rather like one of my favorite scenes from the movie American Graffiti, where Richard Dreyfuss’s character Curt Henderson finds Wolfman Jack broadcasting from a radio station out in the middle of nowhere.
I bought a Dr Pepper to go. It is Texas, after all….
Update 19 May 2011 – thanks to a heads up from one of our readers down the in comments, I’ve confirmed that Willie’s Place went bankrupt and was bought by TA Travel Centers. I haven’t been there lately but it sounds like it’s not such a great place anymore, which is sad. Well, no one ever said Willie was a great businessman.