Turning Back

Trip Start Mar 01, 2005
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Flag of United States  , Oklahoma
Thursday, June 23, 2005

For various reasons, Ed and I made the decision not to continue on our originally planned tour, but to turn back East. The main reason was that our truck, while performing well, wasn't quite living up to standards. (We would be thankful for this decision later!) Driving into such high headwinds in New Mexico and Texas took their toll. Plus, we're both a little homesick. So the morning of April 2, we packed up and retraced I-10 through Las Cruces, NM. We knew the drive was going to be our longest yet and agreed that if we could make it to Santa Rosa, we would splurge on a motel room . . . hopefully with a whirlpool. Also in Santa Rosa, we would pick up I-40. Yes, folks, the same I-40 that runs almost to our driveway. Never did we think we'd be so happy to see any one road . . .

We drove past White Sands, NM, and caught a glimpse of the National Monument around some road construction. We talked about stopping, but Ed wanted to get as far as possible, so on we went. Next, we got a great view of the White Sands Missile Range. No wonder the government performed nuclear tests in that area. There's nothing there. Some rocks and some cacti. A mountain here and there. But just nothing. No houses. No people. Just desert and road. The few settlements we drove through on our way north to Santa Rosa got smaller and smaller. The map was our only point of reference and we thought if a town was big enough to appear on a map, surely it would be a relatively substantial settlement. Boy, were we wrong.

We stopped to get gas in Carrizozo - the name is longer than the town - and get drinks and munchies to hold us over until we could get food. I walked out of there quite thunderstruck because the lady behind the counter - except for blond hair - was the spitting image of one of my friend's mothers. Earlier in the fall, she (the mother) had died from cancer; but that was Ms. Betty, raspy voice and all.

It was close to dusk when we pulled away from Carrizozo, but light lingers a long time in the desert. The next so-called town we drove through was Corona - nothing more than a Mexican with a beer on the roadside pelting the truck with pieces of lime. The last shapes we saw clearly were large bushes looming on the progressively hilly landscape. UP and down and UP and down and UP and down and UP and down.

And finally, I-40.

We pulled into a motel and checked into a spacious room with two beds. Ed walked over to Dairy Queen for some quick, late supper while I fed Bandit. Then we donned our bathing suits and got into the hotel's Jacuzzi. Indoor. Near the pool. Love AAA.

Ed and I slept in separate beds, sprawled out and wrapped in the covers. The only drawback was that Bandit kept barking when doors in the hall opened and shut. And although Ed and I had plenty of room to spread out, I don't think either of us was truly comfortable. But the room was still great.

Back on the road in the morning (after enjoying continental breakfast plus waffles), we discovered that sometime during the darkness the night before, the ground sprouted grass and there were even trees - ACTUAL TREES - here and there. The difference in the landscape made the last few miles out of New Mexico and into Texas a breeze.

We stopped for Sunday dinner in Amarillo at the Country Barn BBQ and Steak Restaurant. It was housed in a large red barn (of course) filled with country/western and Amarillo memorabilia. In front of the restaurant was a tall muffler man with a cowboy hat (here's his picture and a link to muffler man info: http://www.roadsideamerica.com/tips/getAttraction.php3?tip_AttractionNo==8637).

Although we were in the top hat of Texas, we weren't yet back in sweet tea country. We both ordered fizzy drinks and BBQ, then I headed for the bathroom. I pushed the door open and stepped into an eight by fifteen corridor lined completely with mirrors. Walls and ceiling. Each mirrored had a beveled edge, so what could have been creepy was actually pretty cool. The ladies' bathroom itself was all black (even the toilets) with a plush leather couch. The sinks were the shape of Texas and were quite impressive. When I got back to my seat, I told Ed to go and prepare himself. Later, he told me that the urinals in the men's were filled with chipped ice. Everything's bigger in Texas.

After eating, we walked over to the boot warehouse next door and spent a little over an hour picking out hats. Can't leave Texas without a hat.

We overnighted somewhere in Oklahoma near its Texas border. When we pulled into our spot, we noticed that we parked right next to an RV like ours. It was the first one like ours that either of us had seen. We've noticed a few Outbacks, but those have the bed slide in the rear, not the front. But next to us was a 2003 Caravan. Of course, we met the owners who were from New Hampshire and on their way back from Arizona. They peeked in ours and we peeked in theirs and then we compared notes. The position of our dinette and couch are reversed in their Caravan, the bunk beds are flush with the back wall, and they have a shelf we don't have. Otherwise, very much alike.

We spent the next day driving across Oklahoma and watching the landscape get greener and greener. We also began to see more and more water. Ponds. Rivers. Small lakes. In Arizona, a river was a four inch deep trickle of water moving through an area four feet wide. In Oklahoma, it became much much more. The roads are a different matter entirely, though. By the time we reached a stopping point (and sort of the reason we stopped), we both felt like milkshakes.

We camped that night, Monday, April 4, (and for the next two) at MarVal RV Resort in Gore, Oklahoma. What was begun as a fishing camp had developed into (what I consider) the best campground we stayed at. It was situated right on the Illinois River, which was fed by Tenkiller Lake and its dam system, and emptied into the Arkansas River (which we crossed on the way into Gore). The resort was quiet and large with only a few streetlights. It was green and wild and had flowers blooming everywhere.

The town itself was smaller than Whiteville. Gore, Oklahoma, population 900 (or so). We decided to spend two nights in Gore because we needed the rest, we needed to do laundry, and bad weather was on the way. Tuesday morning, we did laundry, then headed into Gore for lunch at a little café. Many of the military that ate there signed the wall, so we read over names and ranks while we ate our burgers and sundae. After we left, we headed up to Tenkiller Lake. We had to cross two dam systems to enter the recreational area, but it was worth it. This huge lake just sprawled out with mountains poking out of its waters. Ed drove us down to Fisherman's Point, a rocky outcropping with picnic tables and geese. We hopped out of the Dodge long enough to take a few pictures and notice the oncoming clouds. Back in the truck and over the dams to the camper where we hunkered down for the oncoming storms.

The local weather showed a line of severe thunderstorms pummeling areas of Oklahoma and we stood in their way. After Ed and I heard the word "Tornado Warning" we became more uneasy. Here we were, two people trained in hurricanes facing our first tornado in the Tin Box. So we pulled the bed slide in to make our profile smaller and hunkered down with our fingers crossed. We kept the TV on and flipped through the channels to catch the radar and as many local reports as possible.

What became clear to us as we watched TV and listened to the rain smacking the roof was that somehow, we dodged a bullet. One storm cell passed to our north, one passed to our south, and all we got was a little rain in between. After the storm ended, Ed opened the door to see outside and discovered a rainbow, so we grabbed the cameras and walked down to the river. The rainbow shone in a perfect arc from one side of the river to the opposite. It was almost dusk, so we just stood outside with the trees dripping all around us, watched as the rainbow changed, and took pictures. At one point, we could see the ghost of the rainbow's twin just in front of it. It got very intense as the sun made its last appearance. Then the sun dropped. Then it got cold and we went inside.

The next morning (Wednesday, April 6), after some discussion about the weather, we packed up. Ed believed he could keep us ahead of the stormline, so off we went to Arkansas.
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