Day Two of the Route 66 Adventure (more realistically, the Avoid Weather To California Move) didn’t end very well, alas. The hotel was inexpensive, but the room was freezing. Eventually I realized the window was stuck open, fixed it, and then it stopped being quite so cold. By then I’d already huddled up with blankets and was dealing with the day’s messages. Ini got the total bill for the boiler replacement that cost me my temple salary. It came in over $30,000. Yes, thirty thousand dollars. This means I will not have that salary back again, as we’ll be paying that bill off for a long time to come, and it means that my decade of working strictly for the temple is well and truly over. Add to this unpleasant surprise a roomful of noisy teenagers next door, and it was a long and not very fun night.
Sunday morning dawned foggy. The weather report said that the fog was expected to be a freezing fog closer to St. Louis, so I needed to put as many miles between the river and where I was as I could. Started out and was surprised to check out the landscape in the daytime. This part of Missouri has (small) mountains! I suppose I should’ve realized that when I was looking at the maps and everything was about caverns…but I really didn’t make the connection until the drive. The next few hours were spent entirely going up and down hills, or around bigger ones. If you’ve ever been in the Chattanooga area, or in central Pennsylvania, it’s like that. Quite beautiful, despite it being winter and sort of grey and brown. Occasionally I wandered off the interstate and back onto Route 66 to check out some of the strange little things: like the water tower labeled “Bourbon” (the name of the town), an old drive-in theatre, and the World’s Largest Rocking Chair. I wanted to see Onondaga Cave, but it was closed for the season. I suspect much of the trip will be like that, unfortunately.
At some point I started seeing signs that indicated I was following the same route as the Trail of Tears. It’s one thing to see this on a map. It’s quite another to be in this area, and to experience the route to Oklahoma. The fact that a single person made it that far, let alone entire nations, boggles my mind and fills me with all kinds of feelings, mostly anger. The anger lingered, and continued when I got to Rolla (the Missouri way to spell Raleigh as it’s pronounced in that NC city, or so they said), but there it was for the blatantly anti-gay billboards on the interstate. Who spends money to preach to the choir and/or offend the tourists coming through your area? Just ridiculous, unnecessary, and put me in an even more foul mood.
In Springfield I passed by a factory that makes mustard, and realized that due to the fog the entire area smelled like mustard. This of course made me hungry, so I ended up stopping here, at a Culver’s, for my last butterburger. There are a few things I will miss about home, and some of the food including Culver’s is on that list. Back on the road, and more hills until Joplin.
The May 22, 2011 tornado must have gone through the area I drove through, as I came over one hill on a particularly wooded slope to see an entire forest laying on its side. At first I thought maybe it had been a fire, like I had seen in Florida on past drives, but then realized that none of the trees were burned, and all of their roots were exposed, like a giant hand had simply brushed them all over. There must have been hundreds of trees, and not small trees, either – huge old hardwoods, just piled on top of each other, and beyond them on the next rise, a few new houses poking up above streets that clearly had room for more houses than were there. I’ve seen tornado devastation before in my life, and up close more than once, but never that many big, old trees. It was like the forest my parents live in, a primeval that’s never been touched in several hundred years. It was really unsettling.
Missouri became Oklahoma – a few changes in signage, some road construction, and a bunch of signs reading DO NOT DRIVE INTO SMOKE, and then some signs for the Cherokee Nation and Will Rogers, including a McDonalds restaurant (the “largest McDonalds in the U.S.”) that had a small museum in his honor. I stopped at some tourist dive and laughed at the silly things for sale, then continued on. My search for the Blue Whale in Catoosa was foiled by a bad map in my guidebook – as far as I can tell now that I’ve checked other sources, I was off by less than a block but didn’t see it. By nightfall, I ended up in Tulsa, had a surprisingly good dinner of barbecued chicken and grilled vegetables, and found a non-freezing hotel room and slept.
(Note: photos and links added February 11, 2012)