Apparently I am on a multi-state crime spree. I got pulled again today. This time, it was about the hundredth time I lost the Route 66 thread this afternoon. I had to zig onto I-40, then zag back off at the next town to try to find it again. I followed instructions heading into Erick, OK, and went from 55 mph, to 45 mph, to 35 mph, according to the clearly posted signs.
One block later, there were blue lights in my rear-view mirror.
I handed the nice officer my license and registration. “Was I speeding?” I asked him. “43 in a 35,” he said. He had the grace to look a little bit embarrassed. “So, um, a little bit. Speeding just a little bit.” And he took all of my paperwork and left me with the Dawg to wait.
We had only made sure to turn off at Erick because I wanted to see the Roger Miller Museum. I mean, he wrote “King of the Road,” after all, and that’s kind of Route 66’s unofficial theme song. I could see the Roger Miller Museum from the spot where I pulled over, with the blue lights still flashing in my rear-view mirror. I do not believe in crying my way out of tickets. I believe in taking it on the chin when I get caught, because I probably deserved it, and I do not use the Girl Card for that. Not going to lie, though, when the nice officer walked off with my paperwork, I got a little emotional behind my giant sunglasses. Because one speeding ticket equals an expensive inconvenience, but two speeding tickets in five days equals making phone calls to out-of-state attorneys. In two different states. For eight miles an hour over the limit, transitioning from a 45 to a 35, that just feels personal.
Other than that, it had been a nice day, but it felt all day like my wheels were spinning and we weren’t getting anywhere. We were an hour outside of Oklahoma City when we woke up, and we had to visit the fabulous giant boot store my uncle recommended as our first priority. Tragically, there were no boots there that were exactly what I needed. No boots, and no fringe dresses. (I actually have an unreasonable amount of fringe in my life already, for someone who is not a country western star.) I was also tired of all of my road music, and I needed something that wasn’t gas station food. I stopped for a handful of $5 CDs and apples at Wal-Mart. We stopped at a couple of playgrounds to get Dawg and me both some exercise, after all that driving. I kept seeing signs for Amarillo. They always said “Amarillo: still one million miles away.”
I woke up this morning thinking about Lonesome Dove, because I had it in my head that Clara’s farm was in Ogallala, Oklahoma. I kept hearing Angelica Houston say, “So what if you ain’t never lived in Oklahoma before, and you ain’t never raised horses before. You ain’t nailed down, and you ain’t stupid.” An argument, in fact, I have used many times. I passed a place that looked exactly like her horse farm, and saw miles and miles of fields like this one:
And it was a beautiful drive. Beautiful, but challenging. The good people of Oklahoma are not quite as concerned about signage as are the good people of Missouri. I lost the Route about every half an hour. I’d drive for really long stretches, not even sure I what road I was on, and then see a gas station with a cheerful “Route 66!” sign and figure I was still heading in the right direction. At several points, I had to pull back onto I-40 and find the Route again an exit or two down the road. I pulled off to give Dawg a break around Weatherford, OK, and bought us water at a gas station. The gas station had a little booth off in the corner with cowboy boots. I saw a pair I liked, asked if they had them in my size, and the clerk said, “Sure, hon, go on to the back and see what we have.” So I did, and there was a whole boot store back there.
Oklahoma magic. I bought a pair of gas station boots. I instantly felt better about a few hours of being on and off the road and getting absolutely nowhere.
I looked up Ogallala on my phone. Damnation. Turns out it’s in Nebraska. We could not go re-enact any scenes from Lonesome Dove. Dawg and I kept driving. I kept seeing signs for Amarillo. It kept being an eternity away. I thought we’d hit Cadillac Ranch, then find a place to stay for the night. While I was figuring out a plan and listening to my $5 Merle Haggard CD, we lost the Route again. Cursing. I went from Lonesome Dove to True Grit. “Trail’s gone cold. Ah bow out,” I told Dawg in my best Jeff Bridges accent. I was feeling road-weary.
The song “Highway Is My Home,” the one about the fugitive, was playing. And then we turned off for the Roger Miller Museum, and I got pulled, and cried very discreetly behind my sunglasses. The nice officer confirmed that I was not truly an outlaw on his radio, and handed me all of my papers back, and said, “Everything’s fine. I know you’re just passing through town. I’m just going to ask you to slow down a little.” I thanked him kindly and told him that was great news, since I’d just gotten a ticket on Monday. Just as I realized I probably shouldn’t have told him that if he didn’t already know, he actually apologized. He told me to have a nice day.
We took a picture at the Roger Miller Museum. I figure Roger would have gotten a kick out of the blue-lights-flashing scene across the street, with the strangers passing through town tryin’ to make Texas by sunset and the Merle Haggard outlaw song playing.
We did not make Amarillo tonight. I was feeling fragile after The Incident, and when we stopped again a few miles later to take a picture at the Texas state line, Dawg flopped down by the side of the road and refused to move. I didn’t blame him. I had to bribe him back into the car with peanut butter. We were driving into the sun when we saw another one-million-miles-to-Amarillo sign, we hit a sleepy little Texas town with the Cactus Inn Motel, right next to the Red River Steakhouse. Dawg and I think we could get used to this.
Amarillo in the morning.