21 January 2012

Spending time in Plano, Texas was pretty low on the list of things I hoped to achieve with this whole Airstream travel thing, and yet we keep finding ourselves coming back here without really knowing why. We don’t particularly like it here, that’s for sure. In fact I find the endless sprawl of shopping centers and McMansions of the Dallas suburbs rather disgusting most of the time. But over the past five years, Plano has consistently been voted one of the best cities to live in and is one of the country’s wealthiest, best educated, and safest cities. (Certainly there’s some strong correlation among all those achievements.)

The shopping is the real allure, and the wealth and rapid growth surely make that possible. There are huge swaths of Plano that are specialty store after specialty store, one for practically everything you can imagine, in addition to all the popular upscale retailers like Crate & Barrel, William Sonoma, Nordstrom, etc. that you’ll find in any self-respecting shopping destination. And Plano’s a particularly drivable city, cut through by loads of six-lane streets, making any of the shopping opportunities easily accessible.

When I was in college, about seven years ago, I borrowed a box trailer from my dad and drove the 6 hours from Kansas to shop at the IKEA here. (The IKEA is technically in Frisco, but all of these suburbs bleed into one another and that’s sort of my point.) We filled up the trailer with GÜDEEZ, but were blown away by all the other shopping opportunities within a mile of there. Since then, development has completely exploded and it’s just mind-boggling to see all the stores that are supported around here.

Jessa & I bought our truck here, too, about 15 months ago. We certainly didn’t need to leave the state of Kansas to find a Ford F-150, but we were coming to Texas anyway for a pair of Gorillaz concerts, and thought “where better to shop for a truck than Texas?” We were not disappointed. “Coach” at Bob Tomes Ford found us exactly the truck we were looking for, including all the accouterments that we required. The truth is that we bought our Airstream here, too, just a few months earlier, after nearly a year of shopping. This area’s been good to us, as far as satisfying our sometimes ridiculously-picky requirements for the products we buy.

Over the holidays, I sort of got hooked on drinking coffee. I discovered the excellent Sumatra beans from Dean & Deluca and then let my parents’ crappy drip coffeemaker all but destroy it. (Well, it was still awesome.) Over the past month I’ve been training myself to become a real coffee snob and set out to find all the bits & pieces to complete my ideal kit. I still don’t even own a real mug (that’ll change tomorrow: I’ve researched the exact one I want and am sure it’s somewhere here in Plano), but today I eventually tracked down the coveted Aeropress and a new OXO stovetop kettle. It took a half dozen stops at a variety of stores, but I ultimately found the Aeropress in stock at Sur la Table, an impressive specialty kitchen shop with a veritable smorgasbord of utensils, tools & appliances, like William Sonoma but a few layers deeper.

The point is: I’m glad places like Plano, Texas exist. I love that companies continue to innovate products into more acute levels of detail and differentiation and that there exist places one can go to browse all of that excess in it disgusting superfluity. I just wouldn’t want to live there.

For the past two nights we have lived there, at what I believe must be Plano’s only RV park, at Spring Creek Village, a mostly-mobile home park sandwiched between the busy Hwy 75 & some train tracks, with a bit of space reserved specifically for RVs. Because we’re just staying two nights, I think they stuck us in the worst of sites, a row of lines painted on the parking lot across from the bathhouse. It’s no less a parking lot than when we camp at Walmart, except we have water & electrical hookups, which is apparently worth $34 a night. We don’t even have a tree, which is really the only difference between this and any of the other sites in the park. We’re not particularly bothered by this, or the constant highway noise, because it’s in a terrifically convenient location and, well, there are just trade-offs to be had if you want to camp in the city. For us, it’s worth it for a couple nights, just so we can get some shopping done before we move on into more remote areas for a few months.

Still, besides the expected (and easily tolerated) noise-pollution, this has to be one of the worst campgrounds we’ve stayed at. We’re pretty self-contained in the Airstream, so it doesn’t bother us too much, but a quick look around the the facilities reveals a complete lack of care. I’d never do laundry in their dirty, rusty machines and the mens bathroom was without hand soap, paper towels, or toilet paper and the only toilet wasn’t even bolted to the floor. Jessa was too scared to even go in the women’s bathroom. Again, w’ll cope because it’s close to Chitos, The Fish Shack, and Whole Foods, but I’m thrilled to be moving on tomorrow, happy to leave the Plano sprawl in the dust. Until next time.