Today our friend Ammo Grrlll continues her series deriving from her recent high school reunion in ON THE ROAD – Part Dos – Or, Are We There Yet?
I believe it was French philosopher Alexis de Toqueville who said, “This is one big-ass country,” but I could be mistaken. It might have been the Texan next door who likes Whataburgers and French Fries. An understandable confusion.
If you only fly over America – particularly her heartland – you can never really understand America. This country was meant to be traveled in a big-ass American automobile, or at least a mid-sized Korean one. It is darn near twice as far from Los Angeles to New York as from Paris to Moscow! Texas, alone, is just under 800 miles across.
On my recent 5,000-mile trip to and from Minnesota for a class reunion, with my two BFFs Bonnie and Heather, I got to experience those miles up close and personal. Before you get too old, tired or disabled to make the trip, I would highly recommend a leisurely jaunt across the heartland, stopping at whim to see what’s out there. It is surprising and wonderful.
You have to be willing to engage with your fellow Americans, those warm-hearted and stunningly un-bitter clingers who just get up every day and make everything work. Most of what we discovered was serendipitous, one happy accident after another.
In a truckstop in Oklahoma, we chatted over terrific Barbecue with a Vietnam vet who had raised 24 foster children. In Guthrie, Oklahoma, we found a gorgeous giftshop called Aunt Gertrude’s House. It was full of the most exquisite art, jewelry, scarves, and pottery. Though the lovely proprietor proudly featured only American crafts and art, she made an exception – out of support – for Israeli artists! Who knew you could find a mezzuzah in a state known as the Buckle on the Bible Belt?
When I have journaled previous trips, most entries could be summed up in four words: “And then I ate…” Why stop now? The first night in Van Horn, TX, we found an outstanding meal at the historic El Capitan Hotel. The man next to us described his Chicken Fried Steak as the best he had ever eaten in his life. From my appetizer plate, I have no reason to doubt him. Bonnie’s entree salad was a feast for all the senses.
If you read my post last week, you learned that I am directionally-challenged. And yet, I can find favorite restaurants on the road like a heat-seeking missile. In Big Spring, TX, where I had stayed on previous trips West, I fell in love with Albertos Mexican restaurant. Craving huevos for breakfast, we left the highway, and I drove right to its front door. Que cosa! It did not open until 11:00. With enough therapy, I may eventually recover.
In Wichita – both coming and going – we ate at P.F. Chang’s. Though it’s a chain, Bonnie and Heather had never experienced Chang’s and we had an absolutely delightful waitress named Morgan. The food, libation, and service were exemplary. In a houseful of males (Household Motto: “The Seat is Always Up.”), I have serious Daughter Deprivation and want to adopt every young woman I see. Morgan would make a good choice.
Got a world-class burger and fries at Retta Mae’s Home Style Cookin’ in Roscoe, TX. Retta Mae is an African-American lady and her staff and happy regulars of every race and color could have populated that “I Am An American” propaganda piece that ran tediously after 9/11.
We found the Holy Grail of Mexican food at La Posta DeMesilla in Las Cruces, New Mexico. My neighbor said he routinely drove there from El Paso for dinner, evidently because there’s just not enough Mexican food in El Paso.
Guthrie, Oklahoma, was treasure trove enough to warrant another separate future trip. Ammo Grrrll normally has the patience of a teething toddler for museums, but The Oklahoma Territorial Museum is nothing short of delightful. My Daddy was a druggist and there is also an Apothecary Museum we will catch next time.
We left early enough in the morning from Guthrie to be able to hit the Cowboy Hall of Fame in OKCity when it opened. Ammo Grrrll had urged spending just two to three hours there in order to avoid the worst of rush hour when we returned Heather to Ft. Worth. Someone – why point fingers? – had squandered 30 minutes of that precious time in another slight directional error. (East, West – as HRC said, “What difference does it make now?”) Besides, two hours at that Museum would be like two hours at the Louvres. There is simply too much to see.
In addition to 1300 kinds of barbed wire (barbed wire’s greatest hits, culled from over 8,000 varieties), there is gallery after gallery of gorgeous Western and Native American art, a complete mock-up of a Western town, a vast collection of cowboy outfits worn in Westerns, a fine firearms gallery, a sprawling outdoor sculpture garden, a rodeo hall of fame, and an excellent lunch buffet! You quite literally cannot do it in a day. We spent five hours and the impending hellacious rush hour was totally worth it. (Photo below of the 3 amigas with Indian.)
And so we end this episode with Ammo Grrrll lost in the Beirut-like construction maze that is Dallas-Ft. Worth at rush hour. Going a restful 90 mph to avoid being rear-ended by Texans doing 100. And I did NOT run a red light. And never have in my entire life. It was yellow all the way through the intersection and the wretched “Safelight” camera photo that allegedly captured me must have been photo-shopped! A pro bono case for John or Scott?
Next week: the 50th reunion itself, or, “Who are all these codgers?”
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