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John B. Deitz

Build: 100521.2

Day 6
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Wednesday, 3 August 2005.  Springfield, MO to Elk City, Oklahoma, with a stop at the Oklahoma City Memorial.

Left Springfield a little after 9 a.m., continuing west on I-44, then on to I-40 at Oklahoma City, OK.  I-44 in eastern Oklahoma is a toll road (the Will Rogers Turnpike).  Weather continues hot, 90-100 in the afternoon. After Joplin, MO, the old Route 66 cut across the southeast corner of Kansas -- for 13 miles.   I-44 skips this little excursion and directly enters Oklahoma.  I think if I had realized that we could have added another state to our trip roster, I would have suggested that we take the detour through Kansas on the old Route 66 --  c'est la vie.

While the state boundaries in the West are apparently mostly arbitrary lines on the landscape,  as we crossed over into Oklahoma, we were struck by how quickly both the terrain and flora changed from the generally green lushness of Missouri to the semi-arid  lands of the Southwest.  Of course, Oklahoma was originally the "Indian Territories" -- wouldn't want to give them anything too good to live on!  Especially since we forcible moved many of them off of their productive lands in the East to Oklahoma and other less productive sites  --  the Cherokee Trail of Tears, for example.

The smaller chair represents a child.

On the way through Oklahoma City, we stopped at the Oklahoma City National Memorial site.  I expected more of an emotional reaction -- perhaps something like the Vietnam War Memorial in Washington, D.C.

But somehow the architectural design did not quite make it with me.  The "symbolic chairs" seemed as if it should have been a good idea, but they lacked any sense of connection with real people (their names were on a separate wall, not on the chairs).  Perhaps, if one were allowed to walk among them and read their names and occupations, it might have been more personal.  It was all very distant and sterile.  I also suspect that the oppressive heat in Oklahoma City also may have affected my reaction.

After about a three-quarter hour stay, we continued on west switching to I-40, arriving in Elk City, OK about 6 p.m.   As in Missouri, there were long stretches where the local roads adjacent to the Interstate appeared "old;" and I later confirmed that they were indeed sections of the old Route 66.

In Elk City, we stayed at an Econolodge, without doubt the worst accommodation of our trip.  All the rooms opened to the outside, and the door to our room was open when we arrived, and did not fit tightly.  The room was crowded including a full sized refrigerator (not very clean at that), and had the appearance of a welfare hotel.  But the bed and bedding appeared clean, and I, for one, was too tired to work at relocating.  An example, though, of were even if your rely on national brands you're not always sure of what you'll get.

After showering and decompressing from the ride, we putted about looking for a place to eat.  And found  "the Pig Trough -- Slop In and See Us."  Immediately thought "this means us!"  And had an excellent traditional barbecue dinner including fried okra.  Um. Um.  The waitress -- who talked funny -- said we sounded "cultured."  My, my.  But it was one of the best meals of our trip.  Highly recommended.

Elk City has a "Route 66 Museum" and we set out to see if it was, by chance, open in the evening.  No luck.  But the old Route 66 is well marked in Oklahoma with historical route markers, so we took a short ride into the country on the highway.  In this neck of the southern plains, it does not take long to get into the country.  The heat of the day was quickly fading, and so was the light.  After a half-hour or so we returned to town, and stopped at the local ice cream joint.

On returning to the motel, immediately checked for my notebook, bolted the door, and crawled into bed.

Distance:  About 400 miles. Accommodation:  Econolodge (no WiFi) Cost:  $53.20

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23 October 2007