Last week, I left Albuquerque to visit Texas and Oklahoma.
Instead of driving from Albuquerque to Oklahoma City, I had decided to fly to Dallas, rent a car, and go from there.
I spent one night in Dallas, where I met up with an old friend or, as we agreed sounded better, a friend I’ve known for a long time. We worked together years ago when I’d first graduated from college. She treated me to dinner and we enjoyed gabbing, catching up for several hours.
The next day, I was off, heading north to Oklahoma City. The entire (roughly) 40 miles between Dallas and Denton was under construction, so it was slow going. After Denton, I was able to sail up I-35, stopping where I pleased for a food, a bathroom, or a curiosity break.
Along the way, I counted the fatalities. Two raccoons, three skunks, a large bird, and something that might have been a fox or a dog had met their demise on this stretch of highway.
I stopped at the Cracker Barrel because I know they have clean bathrooms. I stopped at the Chickasaw Visitors Center because the billboards had advertised a chocolate shop there. It’s called Bedré and it did not disappoint.
I pulled off in Norman because the billboards had promised a yarn shop with over “21,000” different yarns. Though I drove up and down Main St. and Gray St., I never found the shop. Shrug.
Before getting back on the interstate, I set the GPS on my phone and white-knuckled it as the electronic voice guided me, through evening rush hour traffic, to my hotel on the north side of the city.
Two days later, I headed east on I-40 to the Indian Nation Turnpike. Then, south to East Texas. There were so many things that I wanted to stop and photograph, the pond surrounded by cattails, the herd of red cattle, the grain silos. There was a swath of jonquils, already flowering yellow, by the side of the road. Probably they’re all that remains of an old homestead.
There was no place to safely pull off the road to take photos, so those images will have to live in my memory and maybe in my sketchbook.
Once I left the turnpike and started through the country roads in southern Oklahoma and northeast Texas, the animal body count increased. I counted six more dead raccoons, five more skunks, two creatures that looked like cats, and four lumps of something, mangled beyond recognition.
I noticed lazy hawks, circling in the sky, above the tall pines. Truck after truck whizzed by me on the narrow two-lane road, carrying logs, the trunks of those felled trees.
In East Texas, I drove through towns that are struggling to survive. There was one with elegant wrought iron street lamps. The town was only one block long, but the antique lamps proudly stood guard over now-derelict buildings.
I saw towns with defunct movie theaters with names like “State” and “Ritz.” The signs are still there, but the theaters probably closed long ago. I passed places like the Double Deuce Ranch and the Players Club, one of two bars in a town with three churches, Baptist, Methodist, and Assembly of God. I wondered if the same crowd showed up at the honky tonks on Saturday night and then repented on Sunday morning.
Just before I got back on the interstate highway, off to my left in a grassy field, I saw a tiny white French bulldog staring down a fat black cow. I desperately wanted to turn around to take a photo, but again, there was no place to do it. I consoled myself with the fact that, by the time I got turned around and back there, the scene probably would have changed. Another one for my sketchbook.
Meandering as I please has been fun, stopping when I want to, stretching my legs if I get tired. For a woman who doesn’t like driving, I’ve enjoyed this “road trip.” Maybe a little more road trippin’ would solve some of my wanderlust.