Monday, February 15, 2016

Texas Classic Chevy Cruise to Decatur, Texas

Classic Chevy Experience Decatur Texas
February 13, 2016
   -Alan Arnell

Finally, I got to have a Texas Classic Car Experience, well sort of.

I had plans for today to take a drive in the Texas countryside in my non Belair, 1957 Chevy, model 150, 2-door sedan.  I have had the ‘57 in a state of repair for several months now, fixing accessory belts, pulleys, damper, brackets and power steering pump.   It all started when I wanted to replace a leaking steering pump.  While, I was taking off the steering pump I found a broken bracket and that the damper (harmonic balancer) had a deformed and cracked inner rubber bushing.  After several false starts, mistakes in part ordering, misunderstanding of what was wrong and a motivational problem I almost have the ‘57 in working order. Except, I am not happy with the alignment with the alternator and the drive pulley on on the water pump.  

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On the Texas Highway in my 1957 Chevy.

So, the ‘57 is still down but not down for the count.  Still wanting to have an adventure my wife and I took our other car in place of the ‘57.  Here are our experiences.

Skipping breakfast after sleeping in on this fine Texas warm winter day we set out for Decatur, Texas.  Decatur is a city located in Wise County, Texas, United States. Decatur is the county seat. It is part of the Dallas–Fort Worth metroplex and is located 25 miles northwest of Fort Worth and 45 miles northwest of Dallas.  

Where I live in North Texas we are on a flat prairie now filled with a suburban city.  Where I live is so flat that the neighboring city is named Plano.  Apparently, an early land developer thought the the Spanish word for flat was plano and thus gave the city it’s name.

North Texas 

The trip to Decatur is somewhat of a change in terrain for us to witness.  The lands we passed though today are apart of what was is called the Cross Timbers. The Cross Timer was really not that much of a forest compared to what people going out to the western United States will see.  The Cross Timbers is really only a sparse sprinkling of trees.  Of course cotton farming and ranching has eliminated the true Cross Timbers as the pioneers witnessed it, but the area is notably different than the Great Pains that make up Texas to its west.

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Texas Pioneer Spirit.
The Cross Timber in the 19th Century was a mix of prairie, savanna, and woodland,  The Cross Timber area formed a  boundary between the more heavily forested eastern country (Piny Woods) and the almost treeless Great Plains (Central and West Texas),

Roughly the western half of the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex, including the cities of Fort Worth, Denton, Arlington, and Weatherford are situated in the Cross Timer.   The first main highway I drove on today, which was Interstate 35 East, cuts across and tends to skirt the Cross Timbers' eastern fringe.  The Cross Timbers trees are mainly post oak and blackjack oak on coarse, sandy soils.   The short-stout oaks that grow in the Cross Timbers are not usable as timber.  The remaining trees that were not cleared for farmland makeup one of the least disturbed forest types in the eastern United States.

Black Jack Oak Tree

The land looks different where I live, because the Cross Timbers are underlain by Pennsylvanian and Cretaceous-era sandstone and limestone that has been moderately dissected, giving the region a gently to moderately rolling topography.  By any standard of the remainder of North America the slight hilly area is is relatively low in height.  The rise and fall of the hills are not more than a hundred feet or so.

From Interstate 35, I took highway US-380 to Decatur. US-380 is a lesser known but not less important, highway that runs from Greenville, Texas to San Antonio, New Mexico where it end south of Socorro at an intersection with Interstate 25.

The view from your car’s window is one of horse and cattle ranch land, dotted with oil pump jacks or natural gas wells and cotton farms.  What is nice is every once in awhile you crest a small rise and get a great view of the flat lands of Texas.  Decatur is on top of such a rise in elevation.

Pump Jacks:  Used for pumping crude oil to the surface.
 I did not see any well pumping today, due to the low selling price of crude oil.

Decatur is situated in Wise County and was established in 1856 and was made the county seat.  The town is named in honor of naval hero Stephen Decatur who was a famous early American Naval Captain.

Early settlers to Decatur came from a variety of eastern states, and only about half came from the "deep south". As a result, some sympathized with the Unionist side during the Civil War, and violent acts against them were common. One such act occurred in October 1862, when several Unionist sympathizers were arrested and taken to nearby Gainesville for trial on charges of treason and insurrection.

The areas of Wise County still suffered Native American attacks well into the 1870’s. Therefor, Decatur was founded on the highest point of elevation in the county which houses the courthouse. The intent of placing the town on this high point of elevation was to be able to sight and ward off any incoming attacks or raids by Native Americans.

Back to the ride.

Wise County Courthouse in Decatur, Texas

I  found a great parking spot on the square that houses the Wise County Courthouse.  The courthouse was built in the end of the 19th Century.  The building is based on the cruciform plan and the Romanesque Revival architectural style that uses

Texas granite in two colors, with terra cotta friezes, turrets and dormers.  The interior has a marble wainscot and stone flooring of contrasting color tiles.  The doors and trim are solid oak.  The courthouse is notable for its winding cast iron staircase and glass skylights.

1895Wise County Courthouse stone columns   
Courthouse embellishments.

Just at the corner of the square was the restaurant Sweetie Pie’s Ribeyes that we had our late lunch at today.   The restaurant overall was excellent.  The ribeye looked perfect and juicy. However, I chose to have the ribeye chicken fried steak.  The scratch made yeast rolls were addicting and with real butter was close to heaven.  For sides, I had the creamed squash and mushrooms.  The mushrooms are not you typical mushrooms.  They taste of balsamic garlic marinade. I like them a lot!  The restaurant’s atmosphere is great.  We like our server Jennifer very much.  She was very personable and gave us great service.   For dessert I had a fantastic apple pie with melted cheese on top.  Good old down home Texas cooking.  I would recommend Sweetie Pie’s Ribeyes to anyone.

Sweetie Pie’s Ribeyes, Mmmmmmm Gooooood!

Southwest & The Decatur Swap Meets

Both of the restaurants managers came by to speak to us.  While exchanging pleasantries with Christopher he and I discussed classic cars and his restaurant.  He told me the restaurant is a part of at least 5 car shows each year.  I gave him my email address for him to send me the dates and information for future events in Decatur.  I will place the information on Texas Classic Chevys  “Events Page.”

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Decatur in known throughout Texas for it two major classic auto parts swap meets.  The Southwest swap meet was established in 1968.  The meet is the oldest, continuously running swap meet in Texas dedicated to the old car hobby.  The first meet was in Irving, Texas, then moved moved to the Texas Rangers Ballpark in Arlington in 1977 and then to Decatur in 2011.

The swap meet is held at the Wise County Parks & Recreation Fairgrounds.  The fairgrounds are located on FM 51, approximately 1.5 miles south of its junction with US Hwy 287.  Check the Texas Classic Chevy Events page for dates and times.

The Decatur Swap Meet is the first major automotive swap meet of the season in the south central United States.  Swap meet goers look at the meet as the kick off the new season of restorations, repairs, car show, and tours. Vendors from as far away as Minnesota take part in the meet year after year.

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Open Skies of Texas.

I had a superb Texas experience today today.  Great weather, 70 degrees with not a cloud in the sky. Today was a rare day as there was little to no wind.  If you have never been to Texas you have to come to just see the great expanse of sky.  There are no mountains or trees to block your view.  On even on a small rise it appears you can see forever, at least in North Texas.  

I had such a good meal and ate so much I am skipping dinner tonight and will not feel the least bit deprived.

Check back for new posts of the many Texas Classic Chevy Experiences to come.
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