Day 1: Hitting the Road-- Broken Arrow to Albuquerque 

I woke early Monday, Aug. 25. Everything was packed. It was the opening day of the Burning Man festival. Before going, I posted to my LiveJournal that I was dropping off the face of the Earth for a while. I finished loading up the car, and headed out the door at 8:13 AM. It was 72 degrees in Tulsa, a hazy but otherwise cloudless day.  

I made it to the Turner Turnpike at a quarter to nine. The hills of northeast Oklahoma rolled before me, the static of cicadas buzzing through the open windows. I like to drive with the windows open, almost never using the air conditioning. This part of the journey took me down the famous Route 66 through Tulsa all the way out west. At the toll booth, the ticket taker was named Tim. The signs on the turnpike saying how far it is to Oklahoma City are a little misleading, since you get off the turnpike before the City. Note to people driving through Oklahoma for the first time: If you hear something that sounds like you've got a flat tire, by all means stop and check it out, but it's probably just the Oklahoma roads. I stopped for a soda just after 10, and connected with Interstate 40 west at 10:24. That's when I started to lose the signal on Tulsa radio stations.  

The landscape flattens out once you get past OkC, and doesn't get interesting again until the Canadian River. I passed through Yukon, Oklahoma, the home of Garth Brooks (it says so on the water tank). Near El Reno, I started seeing signs for the Big Texan, the place in Amarillo that sells the 72-ounce steak (free if you can eat it in one hour). I stopped at the Cherokee Trading Post at Exit 104 for $10 of gas. Attractive rolling prairie surrounded me. In the west, one lone cloud appeared. He was soon joined by others. (There's another Cherokee Trading Post at Exit 71, which can be a little confusing.) Noon passed--I'd been on the road for four hours, and I was still in Oklahoma. Prairie turned into red hills about Exit 57, and I started seeing a big plane circling overhead--a B-52? Further on, I thought I saw a C-130, too. I passed through Clinton, Oklahoma, home of the Route 66 Museum, which is just down the road from Elk City, home of the Route 66 Museum. The sky was full of clouds as I neared the Texas border. The last rest stop in Oklahoma has picnic tables under "teepees."  

I hit Texas at 1 PM, where the mile marker signs started counting backwards again. At the 149 mile marker, there's an old, rusty sign that says "Rattlesnakes  Exit  Now." Was it the remains of a bygone tourist trap, or a dire warning of things to come? I rolled up my windows, just in case. The otherwise flat Texas landscape turns rugged in the Red River basin, and the highway winds it's way around gullies and canyons until about marker 122, then straightens out again. In Texas, about 150 miles of the original Route 66 still remain. Traveling west on Interstate 40, the old Route 66 serves as the service road alongside the main highway. Groom, Texas sports what it calls the largest cross in the western hemisphere. The thing is 19 stories tall, and can be seen from five miles off. At Amarillo, I stopped for another $15 of gas, and I began to realize I'd grossly miscalculated how much money I'd need for gas on this trip. I figured I'd be all right so long as I didn't stop to buy food. As I-40 rolled westward, the flat Texas panhandle gave way to pretty vistas of sage, with blue hills on the horizon.  
  
I hit the New Mexico border just after 4 PM. At San Jon, the great mountain overlooking Tucumcari loomed on the horizon like some sleeping titan. I was starting to get tired. Just before 5, I passed Tucumcari, the Heart of Route 66.  There were signs pointing to the "Historical Route 66" (not historic, but historical). Regiments of clouds marched across the sky as I traveled past green and charcoal blue mountains, the late afternoon sun turning shadows ruddy shades of violet. An awesome outcropping of red stone burst into view alongside the highway. A roadrunner zipped across the road; no sign of any wily coyotes. I found a classic rock station... not with songs from the 1980's, but classic classic rock.  

Heading westward at marker 261, the road stretches ahead in a straight line for over 10 miles. I marveled at the perspective, and wondered if people got the same feeling looking down the Nazca lines in South America, or when the stars line up under Stonehenge. The highway slowly climbed into higher country. At Clines Corner, New Mexico, I could see mountains to the west, and a big thunderstorm to the northeast. A dealership was selling prefabricated homes, one of which was manufactured to look like it was made of adobe. Prefab pueblos? I came over a mountain pass, and sunlight twisted the clouds into fierce, phantom shapes. Satori's gas light came on just as I was coming into Albuquerque. I'd traveled 658 miles in just under 12 hours. After settling in for the night, I cooked myself a chili/macaroni MRE for supper, and called home to check in.  

Interstate 40, by the way, runs for 2,565 miles from Wilmington, North Carolina all the way to Barstow, California (Home of the Route 66 Museum)... 

 
Gallery 
 
Loading up Satori for the trip. 
Heading west on the turnpike from Tulsa.
 
The alleged largest cross in the western hemisphere. Eeeek! Bend it like Beckham County, Oklahoma. 
 
 
The skies of Texas are upon you
 
Near Groom, Texas. 
Satori at the first Texas rest area. 
 
The Irish Inn in Shamrock, Texas. (I'll bet the contimental breakfast is Lucky Charms.)
 
Satori (and me) arrive in New Mexico
 
The Great Wall of Albuquerque
 
 
 
Prologue --Day 1 --- Day 2 --- Day 3 --- Day 4 --- Day 5 --- Day 6 --- Day 7 --- Day 8 --- Day 9 --- Day 10 -- Epilogue
 
Current weather conditions in
Gerlach, Nevada
 
Send Comments to tapestry01@yahoo.com  All original images copyright (c) 2003 by Tim Frayser