Journey to the Whataburger
When I was growing up, Journey to the Center of the Earth was a movie we watched a lot, and my dad would always quote the movie, saying “Next time you go to the center of the earth, Hans go toooo.” Now, when Hans said that, I never understand what he was saying. Was there ever a journey, that I went on with some friends, that would get me to say something similar to that?? And then the fall of 2003 came around and I was given the chance to possibly say, something similar to Hans.
I was in Dallas for a retreat with a bunch of people I worked with. We were doing a conference late in the night and headed back to our hotel. None of us had eaten for a while, or had a car. The place we were staying had no places around, so we walked out of the hotel, not really going anywhere in-particular. I had remembered thinking that there was a What-a-burger just down the road. Now, I was about 10% sure in my head that I had seen one close, but I convinced the other guys that I was about 95% sure. Call it a lie, call it a deceiver; but I call it looking for a story.
As we sat there in the parking lot, we saw two guys walking out of a bar, and I instantly ran up to them, asking if they knew of a what-a-burger anywhere close. They kind of looked at each other, that look you get that says “is this really happening, we can jack with these guys”, and said there was one just up the road, and they would drive us. So the 6 of us hoped into the back of these gentlemen’s truck, who were clearly drunk, and at no point did we think this would be a bad idea. As we pulled out of the parking lot, I noticed we were driving the wrong way. At this point, Stephen, the smart one of the group, said “We need to get out of here, quick.” I start banging on the window, telling him he was going the wrong way. He started laughing and said “OK.” But not like the reassuring ok, the smart alec ok where you kind of know you are in trouble. We are at an underpass, making a U-turn and realize, this is our chance, so we jump out. Our friends drive off, not really realizing that we have hopped out.
We start to walk back to the hotel, but I am still selling the fact that the place is close. We lose one of our brothers, but the other 5 of us decide we are going to go on. We start making our way to the highway, because I am convinced that if we just walk along the shoulder, we will eventually get there. Well, as we get closer, we realize there is no shoulder, but it is too late to turn back. At this point, Harvey drives up. I am not sure his name is Harvey, but that is the name we gave him. This is our encounter:
Me: (jumping out in the middle of the on ramp waving and running up to his car) Sir, would you mind ...
Harvey: What in the hell are you doing in the middle of the damn highway.
Me: Do you know if there is a what-a-burger anywhere down the highway and would you mind taking us there.
Harvey: Well, I am on my way there now, but I don’t want to take you there.
Me: Are you sure, we have been walking for about an hour.
Harvey: Yes I am sure ... what the hell, get in.
I get really excited and stat to jump in the back of the truck. My friend, Scott, notices barb wire and a saw on top op grass and bricks, and grabs my shoulder, saying “Kyle, this is a bad idea.” Matt, tells Harvey, that’s ok, but we are just going to walk. Harvey doesn’t respond, he just drives off. We continue to walk the small shoulder that was there and up the off ramp, seeing What-a-burger within reach, just across the highway. As we are walking to the overpass to cross, we see and hear this horribly loud noise just in front of us, which we find out is a car wreck. Scott and I get so excited and sprint up to it, while the other three guys are yelling at us to leave it alone. We come up to two of the most different guys you could imagine. One, would best be described as a ‘tall drink of water’ in kicker jeans, alligator cowboy boots and a 10-gallon hat, driving a four-door Ford F-350. The other, may have just come from Europe, in the 80’s He had a white mustache, blue blazer with white pants, driving a mid-90s BMW. The only thing they had in common, was the fact that they were hammered out of their minds. I run over to Garth, while Scott runs over to the German Crockett and Tubbs. We both take sides, me sticking up for Cowboy, and Scott taking up for Mustache. Then we start listening to the other side, and by the time the cops get there, we have switched sides and telling them what really happened. The cops are confused, and are basically asking who we are and what we were doing there. One of the police officers says to Scott and I, “Wait over there, I need to take your statements.” Our moods change and we realize we shouldn’t be there. We slowly start to back away towards the What-a-burger, which is about 50 yards away. Somehow, someway, we get away.
As we walk into the place, the first person we see is Harvey, and for some reason, we act like little school boys, giggling and hiding from him. We finally get to the prize that we had been working for all night. I remembered exactly what I ordered, a number 2 with cheese and jalapeños and a Coke. Yeah, that’s right, I still remember it. So we get done and realize that none of us want to walk back. So I get nominated to find us a ride. The first guy I walk up to tells me that I can have a ride, just walk over to the gas station with him. It is there that I get propositioned to buy some pills. I ask him if I could just have a ride. We both realize that I am not buying his pills, so he sends me on my way. As I begin to walk back into the restaurant, I ask this lady walking out, kind of a last ditch effort if she would take my friends back to our hotel. Her response is “Well, I need to drop my daughter off at work, but sure, let’s go.” So I run back inside, grab my friends and we hop in the bed of her truck. (Never realizing that we have had pretty bad luck with trucks) The first thing we do is go through the drive thru of the same place we just ate. If you ever want an awkward experience, sit in the bed of a truck going through a drive thru. They just kind of stare at you.
The daughters work was a hotel, and she wasn’t the night manager. She gets out of the car with an over night bag. As we look up, there is an open window, with a guy standing only in his underwear, yelling “You better get your toosh up here!” You guess what was going on.
She peels out of the lot, going about 90 driving down the feeder road. We finally pull into the hotel, only to find it is the wrong hotel, but realize it will probably be better to act like it is the right one. So we jump out, and start walking back down the feeder towards our hotel. The last place of the night was one that was just strange. We are walking down a sidewalk, passing Stella’s House of Fun, which has one of the ‘employees’ outside for a smoke, saying, “Hey honies, want a show.” We just keep walking, ignoring this elderly woman of the night.
We finally get back to the hotel, 3.5 hours later, but with a belly full of greasy goodness. This was a while ago, so I may be leaving stuff out. But it was the night that we got the burger we wanted. And the best part was, no alcohol was involved, at least from our side. The lengths men will go to for the best fast food burger in Texas.