Most of our days so far have been about scenery and fun locations. Today was about people. We left Amarillo headed ultimately for Tulsa.
Tim was navigator and DJ with me at the wheel. I listen to music like John Prine, Bob Dylan, Bonnie Raitt, and especially the Grateful Dead. Tim started the day with Justin Timberlake, Carry Underwood, and Beyonce. There was a “discussion”. We talked about where our tastes might overlap, and the music moved to some middle ground. I suspect this story line is to be continued.
40 miles outside of Amarillo is Groom, TX, the site of the massive Cross of Our Lord Jesus Christ. It is 190 ft tall and visible for 20 miles! I was tipped off to this cross and had Tim on the lookout, which was ridiculous because Stevie Wonder could have seen this cross! I was told it is the largest cross in the western hemisphere, but a little googling tells me that several giant crosses in the US make this claim. Nevertheless, it is huge.
Next we made a stop in Shamrock, TX at the Conoco Tower Station and the U-Drop Inn. This art deco stop on Route 66 was part gas station, part cafe. If you’ve seen any of the Pixar “Cars” series, this station is ground zero, “Ramone’s Body Shop”!
We crossed into Oklahoma and made it to Lucille’s drive-in. This is a re-built replica of the original, which we would see after lunch. We sat with GusGus at the bar and because it was late, we were literally the only patrons in the room. Our server Brook was a sweet young woman and we talked with her the whole time. She told us how she had just been to Enid to look at wedding dresses and was getting married in April. Enid registered with me because I spent the first year of my life at Vance AFB in Enid. We heard about how they got engaged on a special weekend in Arkansas, Brook had a quality, aware that there’s a whole world out there and ready to take advantage of it. I ate the best pot roast I’d had in years, I found myself wanting to invite her to join us on the road…but I didn’t! We left the Lucille’s replica and found the original. Closed, yet in good repair it was a worthy find.
From here it was on to Oklahoma City. We really only had time for one thing, the National Memorial for the victims of the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing. What a beautiful site it was. Sadly I have visited a number of memorials following these tragedies. Flight 93, Ground Zero, the Pentagon, and like these, the OKC memorial is so tasteful and thoughtful.
This site has a variety of components There are empty chairs, one for each victim and smaller ones for the children. There is a plaque for survivors, a reflective pool, and an orchard of trees. It is all surrounded by the original foundation of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal building, parts of which still bear burn marks, rebar is visible from degraded concrete. it is haunting, but also peaceful.
the bombing happened at 9:02am, and the giant gates at either end of the monument bracket this. One says 9:01 which represents “innocence”, and the other says 9:03, the moment “healing” began. It is a place where darkness meets light. Tim and I sat for a while and just took it all in. It was an aggressively beautiful day and that seemed to figure into the whole experience.
From there we had an hour and a half to Tulsa. We listened to “Living on Tulsa Time”, a song that has been covered by pretty much everyone. We heard Eric Clapton, Billy Ray Cyrus, the Pistol Annies, and many more. The music divide seemed to be resolved for the moment, and for much of the drive the speed limit was 80 mph!
We arrived in Tulsa to a hotel that Tim had found and what a fantastic choice. The Ambassador Hotel is a really chic boutique hotel. Our room is ridiculously posh and the restaurant downstairs turned out to be an ideal find! We sat outdoors chatting with another diner (6 ft away) and listening to a guitarist who was chatting with us as well.
Mark Bruner was our entertainer. His guitar was superb but when I told him I play, he kindly proceeded to give me the inside story on his style, his songs, and the many places he’d played in his life as a professional guitarist. I was in heaven!
Dinner was probably the nicest one we’ve had since the trip started. Food hasn’t really been the star of the show, but tonight we slowed things down a bit. The weather was perfect to eat outdoors, the company at surrounding tables, and of course Gus is a friend-magnet to wait-staff, other diners, and passersby!
It was a really nice evening and I will always have a fond memory of Tulsa because of it. The friend at the next table was a pharmaceutical sales rep from Lubbock,, TX. When we told him our Amarillo story he literally apologized on behalf of Texas! We talked about our kids, about work travel, and our lives at home. The night seemed almost normal!
At the end of the meal, as our guitarist friend was packing up, we ordered a round of local whiskey. The waiter brought us two glasses of a fabulous bourbon, Michters. Made in Kentucky, I think it’s a stretch to call it “local” in Tulsa, but it was fantastic.
Line of the day:
Tim: “Facebook just reminded me that 3 years ago today Denise, Jeanne, and I were in Florence…Italy, not Henderson”
Tomorrow we head to Arkansas, my 49th state! We may get a late start.