- Where We Started: Tulsa, Okla.
- Where We Ended: Ennis, Tex.
- Miles Driven: 335 (4,407 total)
- New States: Texas
- Total States: 13 (Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Florida, Mississippi, Louisiana, Tennessee, Arkansas, Missouri, Oklahoma, Texas)
THE DAY'S HIGHLIGHTS
We try our best on these journeys not to make too many firm date commitments, lest we get ourselves in a position where we have to skip things we want to see and end up on late-night, marathon drives. But, on Tuesday, we reached a fork in our scheduling road, and had to pick up the pace some. The result was a lot of highway driving, with the only highlights being another quite large religious sculpture and a stop to see where Ike got his start in Texas.
The original plan for Tuesday was a tour of Tulsa, followed by a leisurely drive down the Talimena Scenic Drive in Oklahoma and Arkansas, followed by drive into northern Texas. But we got a late start Tuesday, and after an ill-advised drive down what turned out to be a completely boring stretch of Route 66, I realized we didn't have time to do the nice drive. It also then struck me that our need to be in Phoenix by the evening of April 1 -- because of a few professional commitments in my end -- meant we needed to pick up our overall pace. So at about 4:30pm, we decided to lead-foot it south and see how far we could get. The answer: Ennis, Tex., about 40 miles southeast of Dallas. This five-hour ride was a bore, but sometimes practicality has to win the day.
That's not to say we didn't see anything. We spent some time in downtown Tulsa, and took the dogs for a walk at Riverside Park. After lunch, we made a stop at Oral Roberts University to see our Oversized Religious Artifact of the Day, the "Praying Hands" that adorn the entrance to the university. The university, commissioned in 1963, features all sorts of futuristic architecture and, by even Hands-free, is a sight to behold. Joan mentioned that it looked like the school the Jetson kids should have attended, though I don't recall any episodes of the "The Jetsons" that explored Elroy's religious awakening.
Now, Joan and I each had a comment on the handy tagline on the sculpture, which said, "Educating the whole man." Joan, taking a serious, sober look at the cultural ramifications of such a phrase, wanted to know why "man" was used instead of a less gender-specific phrase. Me, being the smart ass I am, wanted to know why, if they were so focused on educating the whole man, the statue was only of two hands. Other than Cousin Itt from "The Addams Family," I don't think hands make any man.
By the way, it's hard to get a sense of how big this sculpture is, so here's a picture I took of Joan taking her photo.
We wanted to do a little time on historic Route 66, so we decided to drive a 25-mile stretch outside Tulsa, and found it to be decidedly unhistoric. Newly paved, and lined with Sonics and Wal-Mart, it felt more like Route 666. We then did a quick swing through Okemah, Okla., where Woody Guthrie was born. Once we realized that Okemah didn't seem to much care about being Woody's birthplace, we decided we shouldn't care either. We stopped to use a restroom, at which point I decided we were changing course.
From there, it was pretty much U.S.-69, U.S.-75 and I-45 all the way. The only detour was a stop in Denison, Tex., a tired town which doesn't have much going for it other than being Dwight D. Eisenhower's birthplace. Interesting story: It was originally presumed that Eisenhower was born -- like his brothers -- in Tyler, Tex. Ike himself thought so. But after little Dwight became Supreme Allied Commander, Denison's denizens protested, suggesting he was actually born there. Further investigation by the President's Commission on Presidential Birthplaces -- OK, I'm making that up -- revealed he was indeed born in Denison. So the town turned the entire block around where he was born into a state historic site.
Since today was mostly a driving day on the tour, let me respond to some comments and/or questions we've received over the past few days.
From Dennis Tuttle: Yeeesh! Watching you eat is an insult to phat people everywhere. If you're going to skip local joints in lieu of chains and give us the pretense of diet . . . goddammit, do it right! Enough with the Fritos and small fries. Don't just bomb, go down nuclear by hitting the 10 Unhealthiest Lunches in America: http://health.msn.com/nutrition/articlepage.aspx?cp-documentid=100234410>1=31036
Jim Responds: Joan and I discussed a while ago the need for us to balance the desire to share this experience with others with a desire to actually survive the trip. We decided that we would sample as many highly-touted or recommended places as we could, but that when none was available, we'd try and eat healthier. Now, we can all joke about how successful we've been on that mission, but let's just say, eating less healthy is not an option, unless you're hoping for FHMA Day 45: The Coronary in Carmel.
From David Aldridge: The Lennon Sisters?! What did Tony do with Dawn? That bastard.
Jim Responds: Excellent question, and one I meant to address in my Branson post. According to the All-Music Guide, Tony Orlando retired from show business in 1977 because of mounting drug problems and depression related to the death of his sister and close friend Freddie Prinze. Dawn attempted to forge on without him, but Dawn without Tony Orlando turned into a career blackout. Of course, this being show business, Orlando unretired four months later, and 32 years later, has made it all the way back to Branson.
From Amy Kovac: If you drive on Interstate 40 in Texas, try to go through Groom. There will be a structure there you won't be able to miss.
Jim Responds: In fact, we saw this huge cross on our 2003 trip. We were there late a night, so couldn't get a good pic, but here's someone else's picture of this cross, the second-biggest in the Western Hemisphere. (For the record, I have no idea who measures these things, so this could be wrong).
- In the Music Report below, I describe the barren landscape I encountered when seeking Oklahoma-raised musicians to listen to. Joan and I were discussing this, and she suggested that maybe I had the score from the musical "Oklahoma!" that we could listen to. So let me set the record straight: Movie music and show tunes are NOT the same thing. I actually can't stand musicals, and have a special place in my black heart for the ridiculous "West Side Story." Nothing like fearsome dancing gangs. Where are the Crips and/or Bloods when you need them?
- Cruising down I-40 in Oklahoma, we stumbled upon the small town of Henryetta, Okla., where Troy Aikman moved when he was 12 years old and where actress Alice Ghostley (Betwitched, Designing Women) was born. Not surprisingly, the signs around town seem to focus on Aikman. After being urged to stop and see Aikman's home by a number of road signs, we hopped off the interstate, where the signs stopped. Deciding we were not that interested, we got back on the highway. But we can now say we've been to Henryetta.
- We cruised through downtown Dallas on our way to Ennis, and for the first time since we left home, I felt like I was back on the Beltway. If I had a helmet in the car, I would have strapped it on. All the polite driving and laid-back feel on the highways of the South disappeared in an instant. We saw a car cut off a truck and almost cause a wreck. I was going 80, and had to timidly keep moving right, as I was getting blown away by 18-wheelers. It does make you realize how hard it must be to drive in a big city if you don't live in one; it was quite a jolt to suddenly be in "Days of Thunder" after three weeks of "Driving Miss Daisy." But by the time we got to Ennis, I had my mojo back and was cutting people off just for fun. That was a joke, Mom. I have still only used the middle finger once on this trip.
- Random iPod shuffle song of the day: "Achilles Last Stand," by Led Zeppelin. I've already mentioned this song in this blog, so I won't bore you again with a long rant about how underrated it is. Instead, I'll bore you with my list of other underrated Led Zeppelin songs: "Out on the Tiles," "How Many More Times," "No Quarter," "The Rover," "When the Levee Breaks" and "Ozone Baby."
- Re: my Rush rant. I'll give on Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five, and I'll accept that the Velvet Underground were influential, though the group's impact on anything beyond other musicians is debatable. (Can anyone name more than one Velvet Underground song?) But the Lovin' Spoonful? The Rascals? Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons (Popular? Yes. Rock and roll? No.) Bruce Springsteen? (OK, that was a joke; just tweaking the Boss fanatics).
- By the way, Rush has been a major influence on pretty much every progressive band of the past 30 years, so they don't come up short there either. The Hall just seems to dislike progressive music, since Yes, the Moody Blues and King Crimson are also on the outside looking in. I happen to like progressive music, and I wasn't even in the AV club in high school.
- We tried to play Oklahoma artists during our time there, but it's a pretty grim list if you don't like country. Last year, a music blog named Oklahoma's Top 100 musicians. The top 10, from top to bottom: Woody Guthrie, Garth Brooks, Gene Autry, Reba McEntire, the Flaming Lips, Charlie Christian, Vince Gill, Leon Russell, Bob Wills & The Texas Playboys and the Gap Band. These 10 artists have a total of five songs on my iPod, four from Woody Guthrie.
- Most-played albums: Lots of Zeppelin today. I needed some driving tunes.
- Lunch: Cancun International Restaurant, Tulsa, Okla.: Roadfood said this restaurant served the best authentic Mexican food in Tulsa, and it was indeed good, though not amazing. The salsa with the chips was terrific, and my chicken burrito was very good. Joan had a sweet rice drink called horchata that she loved. But she was not as impressed with the crispy tacos she ordered, if for no other reason, because they brought soft tacos. Jim Nutrition Rating: 1 star (out of 5). Carbs hell. Restaurant Rating: 3.5 stars (out of 5).
- Dinner: Chipotle, Sherman, Tex.: Yes, we had Mexican for lunch, but sometimes when you've been away from home for a while, a familiar site like Chipotle creates a magnetic pull. Joan had a burrito bol. Jim Nutrition Rating: 1 stars (out of 5). Another burrito. More chips. Next weigh: Not looking good. Restaurant Rating: 4 stars (out of 5, on the fast food scale). We are big Chipotle fans.
- Baymont Inn & Suites, Ennis, Tex.: This hotel, which, until recently, was a Best Western. So it still has some of the Best Western look and feel, but thankfully, it's got the Baymont service. The guest laundry was broken, and since that -- plus Joan's crack-like obsession with doing laundry -- was a big attraction for coming to this hotel, she was disappointed. So the woman at the front desk allowed her to use the hotel laundry. Extra star for great customer service. Laundry aside, the high-speed was blazing fast and the bed very comfortable. Rating: 4 stars (out of 5). We still ♡ Baymont.
COMMENT OF THE DAY
- Today: The Gulf Coast of Texas, including Galveston, Texas City and Port Arthur.
- Tomorrow: Austin, Tex.
- The Day After Tomorrow: San Antonio, and a long drive toward Big Bend National Park.
BONUS BEAGLE PHOTO