Cows, Corn Fields and Kicks on Route 66....
Never before have we been in four states in just one day. We began in Arkansas, drove across the entire state of Oklahoma, then the Texas Panhandle, and now we are in Tucumcari, New Mexico – and what a day we had!
Let me say this, my kids are amazing travelers – Joey can find something amusing in the simplest of things and Gionna is really enjoying our road trip. When we aren’t engaged in meaningless “girl talk” we are singing along to the radio or commenting on some of the hilarious road signs…..(Roman Nose National Park, Toad Suck Park or one of my favorites…..Just 10 Miles to the “Pig Out Palace” – um, we chose NOT to eat there).
Throwing Gionna’s rigid travel itinerary to the wind, I slept through our 5:15 a.m. wake up call and slept until 7:00 a.m. By 8:30 we were on the road and headed towards Oklahoma. Within ten minutes we were lost, I don’t know how, but we definitely were not on I-40. Since we were still headed west I didn’t panic but when the only signs of life were cows, I thought it best to ask for directions as soon as possible. We pulled into a gas station and asked for directions….to my surprise, the owner of the gas station was from Sacramento, California. His first comment to me, “you’re not from around here are you?” I explained that I was an Alabama transplant driving to California to visit family. You could have heard a pin drop when everyone heard I was driving to California. Comments ranged from, “Darlin’, are you sure you want to do that”, to “Well, that’s a mighty long trip, you know that, right?” Back on the road with shaky directions, we headed west once again and eventually made it back to the interstate. Gionna only asked “are you sure this is the right way” twice – I think a third time may have resulted in some form of road rage! ;-)
Oklahoma City was our first stop where we paid just $2.18 a gallon for gas. Gas has been very inexpensive since we left Alabama – however, that will not be the case in California. The scenery was pretty much the same throughout Oklahoma…..corn fields, trees, cows and a section of the highway that was very proud of Carrie Underwood; I’m guessing we were close to her hometown. Before we knew it we were approaching the Texas Panhandle – and for us, that is where the real fun began.
Just a few miles into Texas we took an exit and ended up in a little town called Shamrock. As with many of the towns we had seen, signs of life were hard to come by. Without knowing it, we were also on the Historic Route 66. This really intrigued me and we drove further into Shamrock. I could tell that in its day, Shamrock was probably quite a busy little place, the main street was filled with mom and pop grocery stores, little coffee shops, barber shops….all of which were now vacant. Then we saw a Conoco station, not just any Conoco station, but the one that Route 66 has made famous….it even made an appearance in the Disney/Pixar movie “Cars”. (see photo) Gia’s interest was sparked as she noticed the old time gas pumps – with the “old time” gas prices. We found a tiny gift shop with an elderly lady more than eager to talk about Shamrock. I asked her if Route 66 would take us to Amarillo, she told us it would take us a far as McLean, Texas. So, the kids and I headed down Route 66 – Gia wasn’t too impressed but I loved driving on a road that so many traveled on in times gone by. We made our way to McLean and waiting for us was the Route 66 Museum. Gia protested but I just had to go inside. The kids stayed in the car while I satisfied my curiosity. Honestly, parts of my body were numb from sitting so long and I would have taken a walk just about anywhere. The museum pulled double duty as it also served as a shrine to, are you ready for this, barbed wire, also known as "the devil's rope". (see photo) The museum was quaint – the volunteer employees were older than Moses, but very eager to talk about Route 66 and its glory days. Once again, when they found out that I was driving to California from Alabama the comments varied from “Darlin’, that’s no small undertaking”, “Honey, are you lost?” and “Why in the world would you want to go to California?”. One little old man brought me a book and told me I couldn’t leave without signing it. It seems that if you visit Route 66 Museum, they want to know where you are from – they keep track of the number of visitors from the different states and it had been quite some time since they had someone from Alabama. All this information is posted for all to see – and I was told that it had been at least “27 pages” since someone from Alabama had visited their museum. I was proud to break their dry spell!
Back on I-40, Gia and I started counting the miles until Amarillo. A few months ago, we saw a restaurant on the Travel Channel called “The Big Texan” – Home of the 72 ounce steak and it is located in Amarillo – the self-proclaimed “Beef Capital” of the world. If you can eat a 72-ounce steak in one hour, along with a baked potato, salad and dinner roll, your meal is free. If not, you pay $72. Now, this wasn’t a challenge that Gia and I would ever consider, but we were hoping that while we were there, someone would.
It seemed to take forever, but we made it to Amarillo and right away we saw a larger than life cowboy welcoming I-40 travelers to The Big Texan. I now believe that things really are bigger in Texas. Once we were seated, we noticed a small stage with one table on it. This was where whoever takes the 72 ounce steak challenge sits. Just as we had hoped, a young gentleman from Utah sat down at this table and an announcement was made that “JC” would have 60 minutes to finish his meal. I couldn’t resist, ten minutes into his meal I went up and asked if I could take his picture (see photo). I was in shock at the size of the steak – it covered the entire plate and then some. As Gia and I ate our dinner, we would glance over at JC and also at the HUGE clock that everyone could see, counting down the minutes JC had left. We were concerned when he took a small break, but our worries were without merit. With just four minutes left, JC stood up and everyone cheered – he was the 8567th person in 50 years to finish his meal in less than one hour.
On the road again, this time headed to our final destination for the day, Tucumcari, New Mexico. As we headed out of Texas the skies again turned almost black. And just like before, there was not an exit in sight, just wide open spaces with the occasional herd of cows. As we approached the New Mexico border, lightening lit up the sky and the radio warned us of hail and strong winds and urged everyone to take cover. We were already experiencing the strong winds – but the hail had me worried and there was absolutely no place to take cover. So, the prayers started once again and we made it to New Mexico safe and sound.
On accident, we found ourselves on Route 66 once again as we entered Tucumcari. We quickly found our hotel and settled in for the night. Up to this point, Joey had been full of energy in the car, often reaching decibels so loud that it made it impossible to hold a conversation or even have a complete thought. When he wasn’t kicking the back of my seat, he was smiling, giggling, tossing toys about the van and even trying to figure out how to get out of his car seat. When we made it to our hotel room, the first thing we did was give Joey a bath….within minutes of getting him out of the tub, Joey fell asleep – and we haven’t seen his brown eyes since.
Tomorrow we will make our way to Kingman, Arizona and we should arrive in California on Thursday. I gotta tell you, this is a lot of fun! Well, another storm is headed our way and there is a pillow that is calling my name. Tune in tomorrow to find out what we’ve been up to!