The Evolving World
Burning Man 2009
I got to Oklahoma City just after 9 AM, and hit Interstate 40, headed westward,
about 20 minutes later. Going through Yukon, I noticed Exit 136 took you
to Garth Brooks Boulevard. Road construction the next few miles slowed
me down some.
||The night before I left, I cooked up a bunch of hard-boiled eggs to
take with me. It was going to be a long trip. I hoped I remembered everything.
I was up early the next morning, August 28th. Breakfast was a can of
V-8. I finished loading stuff in the van, and cooked up a serving of tomato
soup, which I stored in my thermos. Friday morning, the air was cool, the
sky partly cloudy as I headed out at 7:35. I got on the Creek Turnpike
headed west. Traffic was pretty thick until I crossed the river, then it
thinned out considerably. It was just after 8 when I passed the Kellyville
exit on the Turner Turnpike. The sky got even cloudier as I passed Bristow.
When I drove past the turnpike food plaza at 8:22, the air smelled like
At 10 AM I stopped at the Cherokee truck stop for some gas. At the next
gas pump, a guy trailing an oxygen tank was gassing up his pickup. Inside
the gift shop, I found a penny crushing machine. That's where I got a text
message from my friend Chester: "Travel well, travel safe, chum!" I got
back on the interstate. At mile marker 85, I crossed the Sparland L. Rose
Memorial Bridge. It turned into a bright, pretty day. I seemed to be making
good time, so I decided to take an unplanned side trip. When I got to Waterford,
I pulled off the highway and went to the Stafford Air & Space Museum.
It was surprisingly expansive, with all kinds of exhibits on history and
technology. For $5, a heck of a deal.
When I left, I saw a computer store advertising they still sold computers
"with Windows XP." Driving down the main street downtown, there was one
storefront marked "German National Bank." (?) I got back on the interstate,
and was greeted with high, majestic wind generators. I drove a short distance
down the road to Clinton, where I stopped at the Route 66 Museum. That
was fun: they had separate rooms dedicated to the various decades the road
was in operation. There were tons of artifacts, reminding me of placed
I'd gone as a kid.
I hit the road again shortly after noon. It was 172 miles to Amarillo.
The sky had cleared off, and it turned into a bright, clear day. I passed
lots of wide, green fields, set apart with long stripes of Oklahoma red
earth. I snacked on some beef jerky. About 12:30 I passed Elk City, home
of the National Route 66 Museum, but I drove on. More road construction
slowed me down at mile marker 16. About a quarter after one, I crossed
the border into Texas. I had planned on stopping for some lunch, but the
first roadside park I saw was closed, weeds growing up through the pavement.
The Grey County line greeted me with clear, baby blue skies. At 1:50
I passed the exit for Alanreed, Texas, and five minutes later I pulled
over at the Grey County Rest Stop. It was a huge, clean facility overlooking
the high plains. Inside were exhibits about Charlie Goodnight, famous rancher
(and character in the Lonesome Dove series), the XIT Ranch and Quanah Parker.
Ten thousand years past, ancient Americans hunted wooly mammoths nearby.
There were vending machines and clean bathrooms. I found a shady spot under
one of the picnic areas to write and eat my lunch: 1 hard boiled egg, a
Dr. Thunder soda, and an apple. The barbecue grill was made in the shape
of Texas. A man in a brown van walked his dog. The Texas flag flew at half-mast,
in honor of recently-departed Ted Kennedy?
Oklahoma City water park
The afternoon Sun was harsh as I headed west. There were also a lot of
cops on the road, so I kept a close watch on my speed. At mile marker 16,
the road slopes downward off an impressive escarpment. Not far past that,
I came up on a big blue bus. It had a wide platform on the roof, a stairway
in the back, and lots of gas jugs tied down with their gear. I thought,
I wonder where they're headed...? It was straight up 5 PM
when I crossed into New Mexico, making it suddenly 4 PM. I stopped at the
information center, where a nice lady gave me a map and all kinds of pamphlets.
Crossing the overpass at San Jon, Tucumcari Mountain came into view. When
I got to Tucumcari, I pulled off the interstate, following the signs for
Route 66, and there, right ahead of me, was the blue bus! I watched
them turn into a gas station. I think they watched me, too. I found signs
leading to the Mesalands Dinosaur Museum. The exterior was not very impressive.
Inside was the main desk and gift shop. Admission was $6. Inside the museum,
however, was all kinds of fossils and exhibits. Mesalands was unique because
a bunch of their fossils had been cast in bronze—huge skulls and
bone casts, which they invite people to go ahead and touch. It was bronze,
and not the real thing, but I admit getting a rush as I touched
the triceratops skull, which was as big as a recliner chair. I was glad
I got some stuff in the gift shop, including a crushed penny, and drove
around Tucumcari. The streets were wide, even the side streets, which told
just how old the town was. The streets were made wide enough for a horse-drawn
wagon to turn around in. I passed an old theater called the Odeon, the
vintage Masonic Temple, and the classic old train station, down next to
the tracks. By that time, the shadows were getting long, so I got back
on the interstate. It was 52 miles to Santa Rosa. The Sun was still up
when I pulled of the interstate and stopped at the Santa Rosa Circle-K
store for directions to the state park. It wasn’t far. To get to Santa
Rosa Lake State Park, you drive through a little neighborhood and out of
town. The lake itself came into view off in the distance. I found a campsite
near the bathrooms and pulled into camp right at 8 PM, 560 miles from home.
The Sun was just setting on the horizon. I sat down at the picnic table
for my supper: two pimento cheese sandwiches, chips and a thermos full
of hot tomato soup, still hot.
||I took off at 2:30. It was still 60 miles to Amarillo. I crossed the
Donley County line, and a mile from the Grey County rest stop I found the
Donley County rest stop, just as big and fancy. Interstate 40 seemed to
cross several county lines in the next few miles. The big cross at Groom
came into view; it would be another five minutes before I drove past it.
Three hundred forty-seven miles from home, I stopped at the Love's truck
stop for some gas. At 3 PM, I was still two and a half hours away from
Tucumcari. There was a museum I wanted to see there, but it didn't look
like there was any way I'd get there before 5 PM. Then I realized: New
Mexico was on Mountain Time-- I'd gain an hour when I crossed the border.
It was just about 3:30 when I got to Amarillo. Coincidentally, I had been
listening to my MP3 player, and Jerry Jeff Walker's "London Homesick Blues"
came on just as I entered town.
At Exit 77, I could have stopped at a truck stop called the Jesus
is Lord Travel Center ("free WI-FI"), but instead I stopped down the
road at the Big Texan steakhouse, not because I wanted to try their 72-oz
steak contest but because they had a penny crushing machine. It offered
four different designs. On the wall near the machine was a list of people
who had recently won the free steak challenge. One guy commented: "That
was great-- let's never do that again." A winner from Norway said simply
"It was okay." Back on the road again, I passed the Cadillac Ranch
at Exit 60, but I didn't stop.
As I ate in the fading light, I noticed a jackrabbit, big as a cat,
sitting in the grass not 20 feet from me. He didn’t seem scared of me at
all. As the Sun went down, a big Sunseeker RV pulling a boat eased its
way into the space across the road from me. I met the driver on my way
to the bathrooms. His name was Hal, and he and his friends were meeting
up for a weekend at the lake. He said he hadn’t been back for a couple
of years. Hal used to be a scoutmaster, and brought his troops up there
to camp out all the time. It turned out there was a cove at the bottom
of the hill where the scouts could launch their canoes, fish from their
canoes, tip over their canoes… good times. One of the kids he taught grew
up to be the new scoutmaster. I found the bathrooms at the crest of the
hill. No showers. There was a water fountain where I filled my canteen.
I tried to find memorable landmarks in the campsite. I needed to be able
to find the bathroom in the dark. The waxing Moon rose high in the sky
as night fell. I dozed off and briefly woke up at 11. Some girls camping
a dozen or so yards away and shrieking with laughter woke me up again at
1. When I woke at 3 AM to go to the bathroom, the Moon was gone, and stars
above were glorious. I fell back asleep concerned about money.
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|That night, I dreamed I was at a fancy party at a huge mansion.
Everyone seemed to be having a great time, but I kept noticing signs of
disrepair: rotten wood, holes in walls, and a car half-sunk in a pool.
Back inside the house, a big dinner was going on, while the next
room was infested with spiders, rats and those crawling alien bluegill
things from "Next Generation." The breaking point was when a wiener dog
crawled up out of the floor…