Category Archives: The Big Trip

Bentonville AR Mile 2098.8

We have been driving under cloudy skies or rain since Albuquerque which seems like a long time for us although it has only been a couple of days. When we woke up Tuesday morning, in Tulsa, it was raining Since this drive was short – only 121.5 miles, it turned out – we spend the morning and most of the afternoon in Tulsa in intermitant rain. As an aside, my whole worldview is that it only rains when it is cold and I am shocked every time I walk out of an air-conditioned building into the rain, and it is warmer. End aside. 

Michele standing at The Center of the Universe, a place on a pedestrian bridge over the railroad tracks, that has very strange acoustics.
The Woodie Gutherie Center was a great reminder that, while Oklahoma is politically conservative, it also has strong Populist roots.
Michele – I guess that you already know that this is Michele – in front of a stunning mosaic showing the geology of the area.

It was still raining as we left town. I liked Tulsa a lot. Because it has had several booms and busts, It’s got lots of interesting buildings and it’s fun to walk around the Downtown area and see what seems to be buildings from three eras. The 60s buildings, of which I have always been a fan, come off as pretty blandly out of a human scale, compared to the earlier buildings. 

I don’t know what to make of the “Kum & Go” name of the gas station. I am slightly offended by the name and slightly more offended by the bad spelling.

Once on the road, the rain seemed harder before it let-up..  

Crossing the Arkansas River on its way from Colorado to the mighty Mississippi.

Entering the Ozarks which were beautiful even in flat light. .
The Welcome Center for the Cherokee Nation with both flags at half mast.


A little after when we left Tulsa, we got into the Ozark Mountains and the road cuts became spectacular, but we seemed to be mostly out of them by the time we got to Arkansas. Still, Arkansas was beautiful even if was marred by giant chicken factories, and, driving into Bentonville, much of it seemed like a park.  We ended the day at Doe’s Eat Place, a place we had first run into in Greenville MS, where Michele had a long conversation about Rye whiskeys and Irish whiskeys before choosing a very nice Cornel Taylor Rye.

A couple shots of Tulsa OK

When we got up to wander around Tulsa, my camera had a dead battery. I had plugged in the charger cable all night but it didn’t charge the phone. It turns out that the phone has to be sitting at a certain angle for the charger to work – I’m worried that I may have tweaked connectors while charging in the car – so I didn’t take any pictures on our wandering through Tulsa. The pictures after the Union Station and before Michele shaking hands, are all Michele’s. 

Tulsa 9/11 Memorial. The tall building in the background is a 52 story tower designed by Minoru Yamasaki & Associates, the same architect as the original World Trade Center and, at 52 stories, it looks like a 1/2 scale model.

Tulsa Union Station.

Michele and a Tulsa Democratic activist congratulating each other on their mutual good sense.
Tulsa State Fairgrounds Main Pavilion which was featuring “Disney On Ice. Most of the rest of the shots are at the Tulsa State Fair. 
The guys on the left are selling metal outbuildings, the guys are the right are selling barbecues that run on pellets that are feed into the fire by a little electric motor – hey! don’t laugh, Michele has a family friend that has one and swears by it – safes, and gun silences (called suppressors).
There seems to be a much bigger interest in security in this part of the world than I am used to. Part of it is the constant threat of tornadoes.
Tornado Alley Armour, a manufacureer
I like that the tooth guy is right next to Nitro Ice Cream.
A vendor demonstrating how to beautify a cow for an upcoming competition. The comprehensive program includes making the cow’s nose shiny and doing something to improve the hoofs as well as enhancing the coat with paint.  
A family leading – and sometimes pushing – two of the most beautiful cows I have ever seen, to a beauty competition.





Tulsa Mile 1944.4

Amarillo is slightly less than the halfway point between home and the Cousin’s Reunion in Beaufort South Carolina. From home to Amarillo is about 19 hours and 39 minutes according to Google Maps and we have about 20 hours and  12 minutes to go to get to the Reunion (however, both of these times are by the most direct route, a route we are rarely on). When we checked into our hotel in Amarillo, the guy in front of us, an older gentleman with four young disciples, asked if the rooms had a Bible. The young woman at the registration desk said that all the rooms should have Bibles, but, if it didn’t, they had extra Bibles at the main desk. It got me thinking, Wouldn’t a person who is basing a room choice on the availability of Bibles, have one of his own.? Is he with the Bible police checking on the Hotel’s compliance?  This morning, when we checked out at about 11:30, it was drizzling – actually, what I would call a driving drizzle with a fierce Texas plains wind driving the drizzle – and it smelled like a very large feedlot. In a way, that sums up our Amarillo experience which was only a short stop on the road to somewhere else. 

Before leaving Amarillo, we did stop at a small private park north-east of the actual city. The park, Wildcat Bluff, is a square mile sample of untouched grasslands and is the kind of place that would be a County or State Park in California. Driving around Amarillo, which seemed to be mostly Frontage Roads, the land looks uninteresting with civilization sitting uncomfortably on it, but when we out and walked on the land, it was lovely. As an aside, Civilization does not sit easily in Drylands and the drier, the worse it looks; the people are usually on the poor side of the spectrum and there is no place to hide Civilization’s detritus, which I think is one of the reasons many people find the Desert ugly. End aside.    Walking around Wildcat Bluff, the wind was the major experience, but in the car, on Interstate 40, the temperature is a sweet 72° and the landscape, with a shocking number of new windmills, passed by as if we were watching it on TV.     

I am not a big fan of Texas, having been stationed there for a long year and a half, but on the road to Tulsa, while still very much in Texas, we ran into the best rest stop in the known universe. I’m not kidding, it is a stellar rest stop. It even has a tornado shelter. 

Driving east across the Texas panhandle, we pass over rolling hills. They don’t photograph well, but it is very nice driving except that we have no idea what the 75-speed limit means. Will we be jailed if we drive 85? Are we OK driving 79? 

As we drive East, the time in relation to the sun changes, when we entered Texas, we switched to Central Daylight Time which we will live under until we leave Memphis but that is not the whole story. When we got to Amarillo, sunset was at 7:30, in Memphis, it was at 6:42 and, in Tulsa where this is being written, it is at 7:04. Crossing into Oklahoma, the land seems to change almost instantly, part of it is that Oklahoma seems to water their freeways and part of it is that the landscape really does change as we drop down from the Rockies, across the eastern alluvial fan from the Rockies, and down into the greater Mississippi Valley. We stop for gas soon after crossing the border into Oklahoma – so far Texas is the only state we have passed through without getting gas, a fact that tickles both Michele and me as being, somehow, ironic – and we give up on finding any restaurant other than McDonald’s in what seems to be the largest food desert on the continent.  

When we get off the main highway and drive down back roads, Oklahoma starts to feel very different from Texas. As the sun gets low, we go through Gutherie OK – just in time to see them finish tearing down the tents from a Wine and Arts Fair – and finally, into Tulsa in the dark.

Amarillo mile 1540.4

We left Paula, Jim, and Edison’s in Albuquerque and 307.2 miles later checked into a hotel in Amarillo. In between was a lot of open country, a lot.  

When we left Albuquerque, we drove along Route 66 for a while but it wasn’t very interesting in that it was just a wide street in an exurban area, so we got back on Interstate 40 slowly climbing out of the Rio Grande River valley. We are running along the top of a tilted mesa that seems flatish, but we are really still slowly climbing until we are driving through a Juniper forest. We top out at over 7,200 feet – the highest point on our trip, I think – and then slowly start dropping. The Junipers disappear and we drive through immense, lovely, spaces covered in grass as we drop down to the Pecos River – the Pecos River is a name I’ve heard, we all have in Western stories or movies, and I’m curiously and surprisedly thrilled – which we cross at Santa Rosa NM.

Santa Rosa NM, where we crossed the fabled Pecos, is a rundown town that must have been a big deal in Route 66 days before it was bypassed by the Interstate. It does, however, have what might be the last free attraction in the country, the Santa Rosa Blue Hole. The Blue Hole is a stunning eighty-two-foot deep artesian well – in sandstone, surprisingly, because these kind of formations are usually in limestone – that offers free swimming and is one of the most popular scuba diving destinations in the country (and another place I had never heard of). Then it is back on the Interstate, driving past small towns and immense spaces.   

In Texas, it gets even flatter, the sky gets even darker and flatter – with a couple of miles of great light as the sun sunk below the clouds – until we got to the Cadilac Ranch, sitting in a hayfield, in murky twilight. (Most of the shots from the car are by Michele.) At the nd of the day, we had dinner, in a huge, almost empty dining room, down the Frontage Road at Rudy’s Country Store & Bar-B-Q.