Hello from Route 66 in New Mexico! We’ve been making our way across the Midwest from the crystal clear lakes of Arkansas to the cattle ranches of Texas. This stretch has been quite a ride, and these “fly-over states” have proved to be anything but boring.
Lake Ouachita, Arkansas: After a long drive from Memphis, we were glad to pull into a beautiful campsite on the banks of Lake Ouachita, Arkansas’s largest and clearest fresh water lake. At first glance the area reminded us of Lake Winnipesauke in New Hampshire where Torrey’s grandmother lives and she has grown up going. Arkansas, as we learned from the locals, doesn’t have many natural lakes, and lake Ouachita is the product of a man-made dam. At 30 miles long, it was impossible to see from one end to the other, but our smaller cove was a large throughway in itself. We pitched our tent about fifteen feet from the lake, and borrowed two kayaks from our very friendly and helpful neighbors (hello Renee and Janette!) to go out and get better views of the sunset.
We spent the next day and a half kayaking on the lake, lounging at our campsite and biking around the area. It was ridiculously hot and the water was almost too warm, but it was a great getaway after our city travels… even with Dicken’s pathetic fear of snakes consuming most of his energy here.
Before we left to head West, Renee and Janette gave us some parting advice, “remember, we got nothing on nature”. The farther we drive, the more we feel this advice- the land encapsulates and dictates the livelihoods of the people here, it is almost intimidating to drive through and experience the vast expansiveness of the terrain across the middle of the country. The dust whirls up into tiny tornadoes in the plains, and dirt roads disappear into the horizon at every turn.
Oklahoma: As we continued on I-40 through Oklahoma, we finally felt like we were headed west. The horizon seemed to stretch on forever, and the setting sun on the horizon cast its beautiful colors all around us. It was very freeing to drive with the windows down, and music loud, making our way across the green and lush plains of Oklahoma. We spent the night at a Days Inn on the outskirts of Oklahoma City, which is not the most beautiful city in America, but served as a good stopping point. We attempted to explore the city the next day, but apart from some delicious fro-yo, it had little to offer. We found driving through the country to be the most exciting park of this state.
Texas: The terrain seemed to change as quickly as the state lines – from the lush plains of Oklahoma, we moved onto the barren and expansive stretches in Texas. We drove past cattle ranches, Cadillac Ranches (see bizarre photo below) and mile-long irrigation lines on the way to our next stop in Amarillo, Texas.
Amarillo was not much to look at, but the simple inn we stayed in alongside I-40 brought southern hospitality to a new level. Not only did they have a cookie jar at the front desk (which Torrey has been looking for the entire trip!), they also had free food and alcohol during their HH – which in this area stands for “hospitality hour”. For dinner, we ventured out to the Country Barn Steakhouse for our first Texan Steak. It did not disappoint, and it’s hard to see how anyone could be a vegetarian around here.
It’s incredible to see the many places across the country that are inhabited by people, and how the terrain, local cultures and religions influence their perspectives and views of the country. We’ve talked to many people on our travels so far, young and old, and it is clear to see how each state imparts its own attitude and norms on them. Friendliness is a trademark of the South and the Midwest, and the people here find other parts of the country, like the coasts, to be more brash and hurried. We asked one cab driver in Texas her take on politics and Washington today (as I’m sure you all expected Torrey would do) and her main take on things was that politics has escaped her Texan motto of “do unto others what you would like done unto you”. A very interesting lesson for policy makers to keep in mind…