My days up to this point were relatively manageable. A couple hours here and there with plenty of stops to break up the monotony of the open road. But Day 4 was different: 600+ miles from New Mexico, across Texas and Oklahoma and into Missouri. With my gas tank full and my audiobook loaded up onto my phone, I was ready to take on my longest day on the road.
I only had two important stops on my way through the rest of the Southwest, the first of which was Adrian, TX. For those who may not know, Adrian, TX is the exact midpoint of Route 66. 1139 miles from Los Angeles, 1139 miles to Chicago. I arrived at about 10AM to this little strip that was pretty much just the sign, a little tchotchke store and the cafe across the street.
It was a weird feeling to be standing there by that sign. I was as far away from LA as I was close to Chicago. There really was not turning back. And I don’t know if it felt like relief in that moment, but it was a serene feeling to know that only way for me was forward.
Even though it was an awkward time to eat, I said, “What the hell” and when into the Midpoint Cafe for a meal. It turned out the cafe’s kitchen wasn’t open that day, and all they were serving was pie. I was all about that. I ordered myself a slice of chocolate and went to town.
My waitress was a kindly woman around my mom’s age, who asked if I had a spare tire and a jack in case of emergency. When she apologized for being “pushy,” I told her she was fine. After two years in a city where I was invisible, it was nice to feel the seen, looked after, even in a small way from a stranger. I bought a Route 66 beer glass in the adjoining shop, signed their visitor book, and with a last, heartfelt “thank you,” was on my way.
After Adrian, I drove to see the famous Cadillac Ranch. Like a number of the stops I’ve made along Route 66, Cadillac Ranch is a blink-or-you’ll-miss-it sort of attraction. Tucked in a corn field, it is an art instillation made of a dozen cars with their noses in the dirt that have since been spray painted by the thousands of travelers who ride Route 66 every year.
I didn’t come prepared with spray paint, but luckily for me, a three-year-old sprayed herself in the face with some aquamarine spray paint (don’t worry, she was not harmed; just frustrated her already flustered parents), so I picked up the paint her family left behind. I didn’t paint anything particularly meaningful — just my initials and some hearts — but that’s not the point, is it? Not everything you do has to be wrought with meaning. Sometimes, participating is enough.
Then, it was seven hours of just me, George and the open road. No offense to Oklahoma, but Oklahoma is not a fun state to drive through. Very repetitive. Very boring. I definitely lost some sanity in OK. And while there were a few places in OK I could have stopped, I had a come-to-Jesus moment in the parking lot of a Burger King, in which I decided I’d rather get to Missouri while the sun was still up than see the Blue Whale of Catoosa (Sorry, Blue Whale).
The big hero of the day was Audible (and by extension, my cousin, Stevie). For Christmas, Stevie gave me a three-month subscription to Audible, which gives me a free book for each of the three months. I’m glad I saved it for the trip, because listening to an audiobook offered a much-needed distraction as I completed the longest leg of my trip. Getting wrapped up in a story didn’t distract me from driving, but from the time that had passed, so the six hours straight passed quickly.
Side Note: For those who are interested, the book I was listening to was Beneath a Scarlet Sky by Mark T. Sullivan, which a biographical novel focusing on how World War II and the German occupation affected Italy, as seen through the eyes of an idealistic, romantic Italian youth named Pino Lella. I only got six hours into it (which may seem like a lot, but I still have 11 hours to go), but I was charmed by Lella’s boyish confidence and need to do good. So, history buffs and book clubs that cried over The Nightengale should definitely give it a try.
My audiobook kept me rapt with attention as I sailed into Joplin, MO, where I treated myself to a nice steak and an early night’s sleep after a long day, feeling very satisfied (and a little sad) that the biggest leg of my trip was over.
Until Next Time,
Casey Brown | Gal about Town