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Monday October 7, 2002 - Oklahoma City to Memphis

10:00 am - Leave motel. We find our way back to I-40 and stop at McDonalds on the east side of Oklahoma City before finally leaving town at 11:15 am. It is an overcast day, and there is intermittent rain. We pass through a fully wooded area east of OK City -- ash, oak, sumac, and other species interspersed with farmland. Continually tuning the radio for NPR, I come across a classical station playing "Nixon In China: Shearmon Dances." Whatever it is, it's pleasing to listen to. Now there's grass four feet tall, mowed and bailed along the highway.

I begin to recognize highway numbers I checked out earlier that go to a lot of famous historic all-Black ghost towns: Bookertee, Atoka, Wellston Colony, Wybark, Konowa and others. Also currently 50% or more Black towns: Wewoka, Red Bird, Tullahassee, Lewisville, Lima, Clearview, Rentiesville, Taft and more. There are even Buffalo Soldier Civil War battle sites: Flat Rock, Honey Springs, Webbers Falls, Cabin Creek, Timber Hills, and others.

We pass Lake Eufaula, OK on the road and soon come to Latawatah Road at exit 262 (try sounding that one out), just before the turnoff to Muskogee. We just crossed a very wide river. We pass into Arkansas and go through Ft. Smith. It's getting more fall-like, with fall colors -- brown, yellow, red. Oh, there's a really nice creek!

1:45 pm - Relief stop at Love's, east of Fort Smith.

3:00 pm - Ozark, AR. Juniper and pine mix.

3:30 pm - Rest, food and gas stop. 95 miles from Little Rock we cross another large river. At route 38 in from left rear we pass our first swamp and another nice river. Then come Roman Nose State Park, a formidable nuclear power plant, Conway and Toad Suck Park.

The Mighty Mississippi, Memphis - 2003

5:10 pm - Little Rock, AR -- terrain becomes nearly flat. Old hwy 66, which has been gone since OK City, comes back a few miles east of Little Rock. There are many ponds, lakes and swamps in this area; much farming on this flat land, too. White River is the biggest yet! Cache River. I wonder what it caches? As we reach eastern Arkansas, the landscape becomes a mosaic of farming and forest. Woops! There's a BIG river!

7:30 pm - We cross the mighty Mississippi and arrive Memphis, head for our favorite Motel 6 on Brooks Road just west of Elvis Presley Blvd, and bed down for the night. It's raining and dark, but the temperature is quite optimum until we get into the room and find that, as on all past visits, the only way to reduce the humidity is to run the temperature down to 60o.

Tomorrow we will deliver the Del Sol to my mother-in-law's house for safekeeping and start the hateful job of temporary house hunting.

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Sunday October 6, 2002 - Albuquerque to Oklahoma City

We get up late; it's cold in Albuquerque. There are many mountains around Albuquerque. I tune around a lot on the radio, but cannot find a National Public Radio station.

10:30 am - Rest stop east of Moriarty, some miles east of Albuquerque. We're into grass and low rolling hills. It's very green now throughout. Rolling hills gradually turn into more mesas. There are short tufts of green grass on red soil, with a few Juniper trees and rocks spread about. Sometimes white slabs of rock. The grass becomes thicker and longer as we go east. There is apparently not much grazing in this area. Many windmills. We love windmills!

12:15 pm - Tucumcari, NM. We're into flat green plains, now, with farming and ranching, and low plateaus in the distance. Billboards list all kinds of free stuff supposedly available to travelers: a 72 oz steak, 3-inch piece of polished petrified wood, coffee, etc. We pass into Texas.

1:10 pm - Adrian, TX, and a badly needed relief and gas stop. Much wind here with nothing on the landscape to slow it down. As we move on there are endless plains -- nothing but. Roads are all laid out like a window screen, parallel with or perpendicular to each other. The endless oil derricks that I remember as a child in 1947, spread out as far as the eye can see in every direction, are all gone, apparently hauled off for scrap metal. The number left can be counted on one hand over a space of an hour. We pass grain elevators and more farming and ranching, but we still don't see much grazing. Our speed is reduced from 75 mph to 70 mph, apparently a state law. Grassland, now, as far as the eye can see; and much wind. More elevators, ranches, windmills.

Groom, TX -- Farmland all over, now, and giant round rolls of hay. We pass the giant cross that was described on National Public Radio some years ago, and statues of Christ carrying the cross -- all the product of a private individual with a vision who's financing it himself. Just east of exit 114 there is a water tower very near the highway that is leaning badly: the leaning water tower of Groom -- somehow it just doesnít ring...

The Leaning Watertower, Groom, TX - 2003

Amarillo, TX and an hour pass. It's hillier, now, with deep gullies and much hillside erosion. There is long grass, but it's much dryer. The only trees here were planted long-ago by settlers, and there are many. We begin to pass farmland and mowed grass. All along Interstate 40 you can still see the remains of old Highway 66. Sometimes it disappears for a few minutes, but it always comes back, and much of it is still maintained for local travel. There were many small towns in New Mexico, and there continue to be in Texas.

Texola, TX and the state line. We're now in Oklahoma. I must remember to bring the recorder on our next trip to avoid typing into my handheld while driving. Also, I need some long sleeved shirts; it's been cold ever since leaving Arizona. There is much natural low ground cover here for a moment, but we have apparently passed through a range of hills because the terrain immediately flattens out again and turns into farmland. Much ground cover and many trees between farms.

Damn rest areas. We keep seeing rest area signs and as a result skipping the few merchant rest stops we come across. Then, after passing the merchant stop we find the rest area closed. Damn, again and again. More low shrubbery; being cleared.

4:35 pm - Sayer, OK. Elk City, relief, and ice cream.

5:00 pm - Red earth and green grass. Farmland where possible, but many washed areas on hillsides in tall grass. Wooded strips left in many places. Weatherford Green, OK. Farmland that won't quit. Junipers, and wet streams! Woah! Lots of water in ponds, etc. A real river, big! More creeks with real water! Juniper and scrub oak.

After dark -- Oklahoma City, OK. We get lost in the dark. I get in a wrong lane, and we wind up several miles off the interstate. At that point, we loose track of each other on city streets and out of range of the walkie-talkies, and have to overcome this separation before we do anything else. I pull over and wait for about half an hour before my soul mate comes back into radio contact. Fortunately, she found me by backtracking her route through the city. Once we are back together, we decide to stop for the night before figuring out where we are.

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Saturday October 5, 2002 - Phoenix to Albuquerque

11:30 am - We leave Phoenix, each alone in a car. We stay together on the highway where road conditions permit, which is most of the time. Some conversation is possible via a pair of those little Motorola walkie-talkies we picked up at Radio Shack; they're good up to about 3/4 mile. Short rest stop at Sunset Point -- above the Mogollon Rim, Black Canyon City, and the valley heat.

San Francisco Peaks, Flagstaff, AZ from I-17 - October 2002

2:15 pm - Gas up at Flagstaff, AZ. Mostly trucks on Interstate 40; we've never seen so many on one highway.

3:22 pm - Joseph City. Many interesting wash names -- the creeks are usually dry here, so in Arizona we call them washes. The Petrified Forest ranges to the north. Petrified logs, some forty feet long, lie behind the fence on the south side where they fell thousands of years ago. We pass a dinosaur museum, with brightly colored full sized dinosaur models placed along both sides of the interstate. Next we pass through the edge of the Painted Desert with its pink and purple soils. Soon there are mesas along the highway, their rough edges, wind and water eroded, standing many stories tall. There is an old cemetery on the south side. Also many windmills on the horizon, and six to ten trains rushing by us on the track that runs parallel to the interstate about a quarter mile away.

Lupton, AZ, and the road to Window Rock -- the capitol of the Navajo Nation. There are many rocks strewn about here. We pass through an area covered with razor-sharp lava flows; it lasts for several miles.

5:00 pm - Gallup, NM -- Home of the Razorbacks. Rest and gas stop. We have road construction both before and after Gallup. Red rock cliffs, and road left to Coolidge. White toped [things?] in rows and columns on right. A billboard says "Free Meal"; no strings specified. Continental Divide at 7200 feet; I notice there are no trees here, but it obviously isn't due to altitude alone.

7:00 pm - Albuquerque, NM. It's 8:00 pm. We select a Motel 76, at Coors Road. It's a pretty decent place for the price. Phone number (505) 836-3881.

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