D is for the DFW Metroplex
When I decided to set the majority of my books in the Dallas area, I figured that it would be easily relatable for people since the area is about the same as the area surrounding any other major city. Then I started reading some of the commentary and questions from my editor who lives up north. Suddenly, it started to seem like my common setting might be a little more foreign to some readers than I originally thought.
So, let’s demystify a few of the things I take for granted.
Dallas doesn’t just mean the city of Dallas
When people say Dallas, they could be referring to the city of Dallas, Dallas County or any of the cities in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex. The area is comprised of two major hubs: Dallas to the east and Fort Worth to the west. Between them and to the north is Denton, which is a college town that’s been growing in recent years. Between these major hub cities, you’ll find dozens of suburbs, as well as some unincorporated areas where people live.
Driving in DFW
For the most part, highways in DFW run either north-south or east-west. While there are a couple of loops and interchanges that are the exception, the major highways create a nice little grid that would make it super-easy for people to get around if every highway didn’t have about twenty names.
I exaggerate, as usual, but the most of our highways have a name and a number. For instance, I-90 is also the George Bush Turnpike. The highway that comes up most often in my books is the Dallas North Tollway aka Dallas Parkway aka the tollway aka Dallas tollroad.
Also, the vast majority of our highways have one-way service roads running alongside them. So, when people in The Shattered Alliance meet at a cafe on the tollway and Frankford, they’re taking the Frankford exit onto the service road where they can turn at the light for that intersection. There are a few highways that use a goofy cloverleaf to facilitate the intersections, but those are more common when you’re trying to get from one highway to the other.
Most of the tollways in DFW have switched to an electronic payment system, so you won’t be reading about very many of my characters sitting in line to pay the toll attendant.
Living in DFW
For the most part, the cost of living in DFW is pretty cheap when compared to the rest of the country. Some areas are more expensive than others, of course, but it’s completely possible to find a nice three-bedroom home for under $100,000. If you’re willing to spend $250,000-$300,000, you can have a huge house with all the bells and whistles.
Granted, the less expensive the area you move to, the longer you’ll probably sit in traffic trying to get to downtown Dallas.
The thing that’s truly strange to some people that come here is how many expensive new luxury cars are on the road. While your salary does tend to go further here, there’s also a mentality that debt is no big deal. During my time in banking, my clients would tell me about how they’d just dropped $100k on furniture for the new house they could barely afford. I get that everyone handles their money differently, but when your credit card bills total to six figures, there might be a tiny problem.
DFW politics and prejudices
Although I try to leave politics totally out of my books because they’re irrelevant to the plots, Texas is a conservative red state that probably won’t go purple for at least another generation. Because of its Solid South standing, Texas has gotten a bit of a reputation for being full of uneducated redneck good ol’ boys driving around in pickup trucks looking for an excuse to beat down minorities with their Bibles and rifles.
Truth? There’s some of that. In fact, I’m pretty sure some people’s lips never touch when they talk.
But that’s not the majority, y’all.
Tons of corporations have moved their main offices to the area, so we have plenty of people with advanced degrees and serious skills living here. We have every flavor of religion and spiritual practice. You pick a nationality and there’s probably a thriving community or seven. And, yes, we do have concealed handgun permits down here so there’s a pretty good probability that anyone you talk to is packin’ at any time.
DFW fast facts
- Tornadoes and hail will appear from nowhere on a clear day
- Our humidity levels are second only to Atlanta, Houston and Hell
- If we don’t have a cold winter, you could practically ride the spiders
- Everyone forgets how to drive when it so much as sprinkles outside
- Life shuts down if there’s snow or ice
- We’ll have floods in the middle of a drought
- If your air conditioning breaks in the summer, you could actually die from the heat
- High school football is a BIG deal
- We don’t all have horses and ranches
- I live across a minor highway from a ranch, yet only 15 minutes from everything else
- Morning rush hour starts around 7:00 and runs until about 9:30
- Afternoon rush hour starts around 4:00 and lasts until 6:30-ish, it never stops on Fridays
- People have ridiculous commutes to work (hubby’s round-trip commute used to be about three hours each day)
- The Dallas Symphony is a-ma-zing.
Oh, and for the love of bubble gum and sunshine, the contraction of you all is y’all, not ya’ll or yall. Y’all. Also, it’s often singular. All y’all or y’all all are both totally acceptable when you’re talking to/at a group of people.
Next up: E is for the Elephant in the Room
Got any questions about the DFW area? I’ll stick around to answer what I can in comments.
© 2013, Sydney Katt. All rights reserved.