Traveling the Back Roads
Everything I Could Ever Tell You About …
NAME: Bob Phillips | AGE: 55 | HOMETOWN: Dallas | Qualifications: Host of the travel show Texas Country Reporter since October 1972 / Author of 52 Offbeat Texas Stops and 52 More Offbeat Texas Stops / Former spokesman for Dairy Queen
• There truly is not a town that I haven’t visited or a road in Texas I haven’t been down. I haven’t done a story in every place, but I’ve poked around at one time or another.
• Most of my extended family lived in the country. I spent summers out with the farmers, ranchers, and folks who are the real salt of the earth. My dad’s character and strength came from his experiences on the back roads. They weren’t the back roads to him; they were home. He came to the city to work, but his heart was in the black soil of North Texas. I guess deep down mine is too.
• It’s hard to say how many miles I’ve covered, but a good guess is close to two million.
• Texas Country Reporter is about people. It is not about towns. It is not about general stores or cafes. We may do stories in those places, but the stories are about lives and passions. And did you ever try to interview a town?
• Milton Watts stands out in my mind. He’s a guy who grew up in East Texas thinking he would follow in the footsteps of his daddy and granddaddy and become a farmer and rancher, but the Corps of Engineers thought their farm would be a great place for a lake. Milton ended up running a fishing camp on Lake O’ the Pines and selling bait to city kids who came on the weekends. He managed to put it all in focus by writing some incredible poetry about his life. You haven’t lived until you’ve watched the sun set over the water with Milton while he recites one of his epic poems about East Texas.
• We’ve done stories in Houston and Dallas and stories in Round Top and Sour Lake. But there are a lot more small towns than big ones, so naturally, there are more stories from the back roads.
• We go where the locals go. There’s no trick or magic to it. We aren’t shy; we’ll stop people on the street and ask questions. We get invited to dinner a lot.
• People still associate me with Dairy Queen. I hear it every day: “Hey, Bob, just say it once for us!” I know they want me to say, “Blizzzarrrddd!”
• I’ll never forget the time I showed up after my crew had arrived in a tiny town and tried to check in at the one and only motel. The lady at the desk said, “Them boys showed up and all they had on ’em was an American Express!” To her, trying to pay with an AMEX card was no different than arriving in a martian costume.
• Don’t ask for a half-caf, no-foam soy latte at a cafe with a parking lot full of pickup trucks.
• Do get out and see Texas for yourself. Just get in the car and go. There is an adventure around every corner.