Today was our biggest driving day yet, hitting the road from Albuquerque at 8:30 a.m. and pushing through until we got to Oklahoma City at 8 p.m. It was a long stretch much less about scenic sites and more about each other’s company.
Everyone warned us that passing through Texas is the longest part, but I didn’t believe them because the Northernmost tip of the state didn’t look significantly more daunting than crossing other states. But, it’s easier said than done since the drive is straight through on I-40 – no turns – surrounded by flat land and acres of lulling windmills that start to look like adult versions of mobiles that spin above babies’ cribs, tempting you to sleep.
We broke up the drive in two shifts: I took the morning (I hate driving at night), and Sean took the night (he didn’t really have a choice). We planned on a few signature stops, but weren’t too worried about missing out on Texas since we have friends and family who live here. So we coasted through knowing we will be back for other visits.
Among quick stops was a drive through Cuervo –a New Mexico ghost town right off Route 66. Eerie photos and stories lured us to take the exit, but I was too scared to get out of our car because of a news article questioning acts of mysterious crime in abandoned buildings. Not trying to be part of a sequel to Texas Chainsaw Massacre, I got back on the I-40 to Sean’s disappointment. There honestly wasn’t too much to see aside from rundown buildings, but its emptiness does present a unique kind of nostalgia.
Next stop was to the famous Midpoint Cafe, situated at the halfway point of Route 66 (Adrian, Texas) between Las Vegas and Chicago – where this historic route will take you if you stay course. We were bummed to find this cafe closed and wandered next door to the Sunshine Station, run by two sweet friends named Fran and Bud. But first we were greeted by Brody the yellow lab. We later learned this 8-year-old sweetheart is famous for being the “only dog on Route 66,” with his own postcard in the shop and all.
Seeing Werkley, the owners immediately ushered us to the back of their store where the two dogs could run around. Questioning when the cafe was set to open, Fran explained that the new owner (who took over in 2013) changed its operations to seasonal. It had just closed for the winter and won’t open again until April. She was the previous owner for more than two decades before starting The Sunshine Station, a Western decor and souvenir boutique. Turns out, too, that Fran is the woman who inspired Flo, a character in Disney’s Cars movie. I only wish we had seen the movie so we could’ve talked more about that – but now, we’ll definitely have to watch it when we get to Maryland. She was so kind.
For food, we stopped at the Big Texan Steak Ranch an hour later in Amarillo, well-known for its 72oz steak challenge that was featured on The Food Network’s Man Vs. Food. If you can eat it all in one sitting, in one hour, including sides, you get it for free. We didn’t stop to take on this challenge, as we didn’t want to be deathly ill by food coma, but we stopped to more or less try their steak and BBQ (When in Texas).
Sean laughed when the waitress offered an 8 oz steak, 18 oz or 21 oz. “8 or 18 oz?” I guess it was either small or go big. He got the 8 oz sirloin with mashed potatoes and fries, while I got a smoked BBQ brisket sandwich with coleslaw (the closest thing I could find to a vegetable on the menu). We also tried their fried pickles for an appetizer and were surprised with a bonus round of buttery rolls that apparently were necessary to ensure we had enough carbs in one sitting. It was entirely bad for us, but forgivingly delicious.
As we kept driving on, we couldn’t help but laugh at all of the billboards back to back advertising BBQ steak joints. One after the other, there are enough BBQ’s in Texas to feed the whole country. Seriously. I joked to Sean that I could never fit in if we moved to Texas, needing my yoga studios and healthier dining options, to which he half-seriously responded “I don’t think there is yoga in Texas.” Oh, Sean…
We could’ve stopped for Cadillac Ranch, an iconic art display and sculpture along the route created by a group of artists in the 70s, but we were feeling the pressure of another four hours ahead, so we pressed on. It’s a classic stop, though, for others who may be interested.
This whole trip we’ve been diligently going the speed limit, since I accidentally let household goods (the movers sent by the military to pack up our belongings) take important papers, including my vehicle registration, title and insurance info. The only reason these papers left my car in the first place is because of the car shipping company that required everything be emptied before shipping. The only reason I’m going into this much detail is in the event it can save someone else the trouble of making this same mistake when moving on military orders. Lesson: the movers pack everything – literally everything in their line of sight.
But, tonight was the night – we got pulled over. Sean was going 6 mph over the speed limit. I almost called 911 to verify the officer’s identity because instead of asking us to stay in the car, he asked Sean to sit in the passenger seat of his car. I thought that was weird. Not that I get pulled over by cops frequently, but any time I have been speeding I’ve never had to sit in the officer’s car. After 20 minutes of what felt like an eternity defensively staring at the blaring red and blue lights behind me, Sean came back safely with a warning for driving with our fog lights on.
We suspect the cop just wanted some company during his night shift, and we were able to laugh about it afterwards – diving into our own funny stories of past encounters we’ve had with cops (including one time Sean had to ride home with officers because him and his brother sprayed girls with shaving cream in high school). It’s probably a good thing we started dating in college.
At last, we have made it to Oklahoma City where I got a hot shower in and did some reps of squats and calf raises to overcome the sedentary day we just had. Exciting, I know. We will have much more to share tomorrow after a day spent touring Oklahoma City, returning the focus to these beloved communities and less on our silly selves.