Arkansas, Oklahoma


Arkansas, Oklahoma.

Dad and I woke up again at 4:30 and we had cold, fatty chunks of left over steak from yesterday and some bran muffins Mom sent along.   Somehow, the steak was better cold and left over—an economical, Dad, roadtrip-type breakfast.

I am the only one who drinks coffee in my family, but Dad generously attempted to brew me some coffee in the crappy motel coffee maker that spit and hissed hot water and left a nasty, brownish mixture that looked like someone had put out a cigarette in a cup of boiling water. So much for my caffeine fix. My ex-marine (no such thing) father is used to waking up early. I don’t think I’ll ever be a morning person but at least we’re gaining hours of sleep as we drive across the country.

I bid farewell to Tennessee as we passed by downtown Memphis. I looked over my shoulder, taking in the billboard that said, “Memphis- the Birthplace of Rock ‘n Roll,” with a large, matte picture of the King smiling and missed the “Welcome to Arkansas” sign as we crossed over the Tennessee River.  It was in Arkansas that you can tell the land begins to change. It flattens out, green against gold, and you can start to see for several miles in both directions.

I’m used to seeing dead deer alongside the road, but not dogs. I hear that in Australia you get used to seeing dead kangaroos and dingo along the roadside. But there were a lot of dead dogs in Arkansas and I don’t think I can ever get used to that. In one mile stretch there was a dead German Shepherd followed by a smashed black Pit Bull followed by a white, furry, bloody mass that might have been some sort of Collie once. When we crossed into Oklahoma it seemed to be mostly large, dead rodents and maybe a few turtles.

Somewhere in between the dead dogs and turtles I fell asleep to our Lev Grossman reader, and after waking up, gummy eyed, asked Dad where we were.

“Arkansas, still” he said.

“What’s Arkansas known for?” I asked. He said Bill Clinton. Hrmmm, Bill Clinton? I just liked the farmland and one little section in particular where a mass of trees waded waist-high in a river.

We stopped at a Cracker Barrel and had a breakfast that felt a lot more like lunch, even at 10 o’clock, but we had been driving for five hours already.  Our waitress had eighties hair and I decided Arkansas’ residents seemed somehow more Southern than Virginians.

Points of Interest:

Town named Toad Suck

Ancient lady in a pink sweater set and pearls driving a big, muddy truck

Biker-dudes tearing up asphalt in the Ozark Mountains

We stopped at an extended family’s home, just off Route 40 in Oklahoma City. I can’t believe how flat it is and how different the light is here already. Their backyard is all dappled light, and oak trees, different flowering plants, Elephant Ears and rogue cotton.

Did you know cotton is illegal in Oklahoma? They’ll tear the shirts right off your backs.


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