Our 2005 Road Trip, Part 8 of 10: Dr Pepper Picked a Place for Prepping Peppers

Dr. Pepperbot!

Dr Pepper-bot welcomes you to Waco, not to Westworld.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:

Welcome to the first installment of another special MCC miniseries, representing the original travelogue from our 2005 drive from Indianapolis to San Antonio, Texas, and back again in far too short a time…

I’d love to say our whirlwind tour of Texas was a two-week sightseeing spree through all the major cities you’ve heard of from movies and TV, but time didn’t permit and they’re not all in a straight line five miles apart. (Houston and Corpus Christi were particularly disappointing to miss because at the time we knew folks who lived in each.) If all our Plan A’s had worked out, right about here would be a bonus chapter on our first expedition into Mexico, but time didn’t permit and two of us three travelers chickened out. Part of me is also annoyed at past-Me for skipping out on any Austin research altogether, but time didn’t permit because we hadn’t earned enough vacation time in our respective office jobs to take more than the single week we’d set aside.

But as always, we did the best we could with what we had to work with. And if that meant taking a slight detour to go Be a Pepper, so be it.

* * * * *

DAY FIVE: Wednesday, July 27th.

After one last free Quality Inn breakfast (by which time I’d run out of ways to make the exact same scrambled eggs differently interesting) and one overdue gas fill-up ($27.16), we bade farewell to San Antonio and headed north on I-35 for another long, long driving day. Less than three hours later, we stopped in Waco for the only planned tourist attraction of the day: The Dr Pepper Museum. It’s owned not by the corporation itself, but by a local nonprofit that runs the place as both a salute to third-party soft drinks and a history lesson on free enterprise in general.

Dr Pepper Museum!

Not that the company disapproves. They donated this century-old building to them for the cause.

Inside it’s the size, shape, and coziness level and of a mom-‘n’-pop operation, but it’s filled with just enough exhibits to warrant its own existence. After paying admission, you’re greeted by the creator of Dr Pepper, resurrected through the wizardry of spooky animatronics. Pharmacist Charles Alderton concocted the famous recipe as part of an experiment to replicate the smells of a drugstore in a recreational drink. The origin of the “Dr Pepper” name is the stuff of multiple legends.

Drink Machine!

Antique drink machinery represents how complicated every step of the process is, even the bottle washing. You can’t just add sugar and mushed cherries to a mug of cough syrup. Nor should you.

Lessons and arrangements include:

* A long history of the invention and development of the “Waco”, the drink that eventually became Dr Pepper
* A display of Dr Pepper containers from all eras
* A collection of actual drink-manufacturing equipment, including a behemoth of a returnable-bottle washer that’s the size of a small tank
* An exhibit dedicated to 75 years of 7-Up, whose company marged with Dr Pepper’s own a while back
* Another display all about RC Cola, which shares the same British parent company as the 7-Up/Dr. Pepper Company and has at least one (1) fan in my wife’s grandmother
* A repeating screening of Dr Pepper commercials from every decade
* An impressive, candid assortment of several dozen Dr Pepper imitations and knockoffs, naturally including that most famous doppelgänger, Mr. Pibb, the Hydrox of soft drinks

7-Up World!

A long timeline organizes the complete history of 7-Up, which my wife keeps on hand sometimes for medicinal purposes. Call it “Dr-Up”, I suppose.

A working soda shop on the premises sells Dr. Pepper, of course, but made the old-fashioned way — assembled in front of you one ingredient at a time rather than pumped through an artificial drink system. Their on-site Dr Pepper syrup is also made with pure cane sugar rather than today’s factory-made corn syrups and re-reprocessed sugars. You wouldn’t expect a big difference, and yet…there it was. Their gift shop is small and crowded but overflowing with a variety of souvenir ideas, including a Dr Pepper blanket exactly like one I’d won years ago as a door prize at a McDonald’s crew meeting. I still have my blanket, but picking up a replacement here would’ve set me back a peppy fifty bucks. Yikes.

After the museum, we stopped on the other side of I-35 for gas ($19.34), then for lunch — voted 2-to-1, guys in favor — for an encore round of Whataburger. Between tableside condiment service and gravy on demand, we do miss Whataburger. As of 2017 they have yet to penetrate the bustling Indianapolis restaurant market.

The rest of the day commenced with the planned hours and hours and hours of driving and driving and then driving. On our way up I-35W through Fort Worth we encountered our first and only storm system of the entire week, but it lasted less than an hour before we outpaced it. We stopped just north of Fort Worth for more gas, then promptly lost the receipt, somewhere in the $20 range. Gas adds up on these long drives all over the contiguous U.S., worse in some years than in others. Thankfully for our budget we were between national calamities at the time and free enterprise worked in our favor for purposes of both fast food and fuel.

To be continued!

[Link enclosed here to handy checklist for other chapters and for our complete road trip history to date. Follow us on Facebook or via email signup for new-entry alerts, or over on Twitter if you want to track my TV live-tweeting and other signs of life between entries. Thanks for reading!]

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