Day Trip to Dublin . . . Texas

Travel can be exhilarating, exhausting and expensive. Taking time off from work coupled with the cost of plane tickets, hotels, and tours can add up to a hefty bill. This doesn’t stop us from planning vacations in far off places, but if you have a “normal” job it can limit this kind of travel to once or twice a year. This is where the day-trip comes in.

A couple of weeks ago Jason and I scheduled a Saturday “date day.” Historically, we have planned activities close to home, such as visiting the arboretum or the DMA. Unfortunately, it can devolve into running errands and doing things around the house. This time, I wanted to do something different and the idea of a short road trip seemed to be the ticket.

Living in North Texas means that a day trip – somewhere you can drive to in one to two hours – doesn’t get you far out of North Texas, but that doesn’t mean you can’t find some interesting things to do. After searching around the internet I landed on the Dublin Bottling Company in Dublin, Texas. Just south of Stephenville, it would take around two hours to drive there. Upon mentioning this idea to Jason, he recalled reading about Dublin in Dean Fearing’s cookbook last year and was excited about the idea.

After a slow start out of the gate, we got on the road around 11:30 a.m. Once we broke through the congestion of the Dallas highways, we relaxed a bit and began to enjoy the drive.   Traveling on the open highway where the scenery turns to open fields with signs of ranching and farming brought the stress level down a few notches. At this point, Jason started counting the dead skunks that probably tried to brave a street crossing at night. Life is rough in the country.

Our destination sat on the corner of the main street in town with an imposing bronze statue of the bottling company’s founder. As we stepped out of the car, it felt like we had stepped back in time. The two-step sidewalk and brick peaking through the washed away concrete of the road all reminded me of typical small town Texas. Blessed with a summer day in February, we strolled around before stepping into the soda shop. Decorated up to the 20-foot ceiling with signs from the past, the counter stood to the left with girls hard at work pulling sodas, scooping ice cream, and making sandwiches. Immediately to your left stood a cooler stacked with Dublin’s finest: root beer, Dublin original with black cherry, cream soda and nu grape. While Jason prefers the bottle, I dig on the fountain drink. Grabbing a sandwich order sheet, I scanned for a vegetarian option – thank goodness they had a peanut butter and jelly. After handing in our orders, I picked through the chips and settled on some Cheetos and took a seat near the register to wait on our sandwiches.

Once I had a chance to sit down and look around, I felt like I was standing before a Bosch painting with so much going on that you had to give yourself time to take it all in. Behind me stood a 7 foot Jar Jar Binx next to a Christmas tree of empty soda bottles. A set of stairs behind the tree took you up to a loft area that looked like the Manager’s office. Most of the wall space was covered with old soda signs. To the right of the door from the street was a mountain of empty boxes atop a display of the various sodas Dublin bottled. You could choose your bottles to fill the box and take home. Another corner had an array of knick knack type things you could buy: bottle cap magnets, soda brand patches, bottle openers, etc.

The PB&Js did not disappoint and the whole meal experience reminded me of the field trip lunches from my elementary school days when we’d pack a sandwich with a small bag of chips and roll our coke cans in foil to keep them cold. Afterward, while waiting for the next guided tour of the bottling plant, we stepped outside to sit on a bench and enjoy the sunshine.

The teenage girl who gave the tour was fairly knowledgeable. She had her spiel down and seemed to really take pride in the fact that she worked for a company that was part of Texas lore. The tour included a look at the age-old machinery the company used until it stopped bottling a few years ago. We learned about the prior owners, and we were taken through the original office and cold storage area. The lawsuit that had recently brought Dublin significant fame was the frame for the history of the company.

After the tour, we walked around the museum across the street containing more of the same of what we had just perused. (One of the former owners collected hundreds of pieces of soda memorabilia.)  After thanking our guide, we headed over to the Ben Hogan museum around the corner.  (Who knew there was so much to see in Dublin, Texas??)  I’ll leave out the details so as not to spoil it for you, but I will mention that our guide at the Hogan museum had the right amount of enthusiasm and hospitality to make the visit pleasant and interesting.

Returning home with our box of soda, we felt like we had been on a real adventure and taken advantage of the beautiful weather on a warm February day. We hit all the points that make a good trip – it was the perfect amount of time to be away with a small price tag. We felt removed from the traffic and fast pace of Dallas for a little while and learned something about Texas history. It was . . . a successful day trip.

What’s your favorite day trip story or location?  Please share!

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