Monday, October 23, 2006

Roman Nose State Resort Park, Oklahoma

The "Field of Empty Chairs" at the Oklahoma City National Memorial

11:00 PM

This campground, just northwest of Oklahoma City, feels a bit rough around the edges, well-worn. I set up my tent, then, after the sun went down, a streetlight came on directly overhead. (It had been camouflaged by the trees earlier.) "Jeez! People come here to camp for god’s sake!" I picked up and moved about 50 yards to a new site. Across a little valley, the noise of exhaust fans at the country club clubhouse (and trains in the distance) carried all too well in the still night air.

But I enjoyed a warm shower, and this place is only $8, so I can’t complain too loudly. For dinner, heated up some Cajun rice with sausage.

Listened to "NPR" on my $100 pocket transistor radio. (From the "Aerostich" catalog, it was one of the more ridiculous purchases in memory.) The weather forecast is calling for rain tonight. I wonder if by following a Northwest tack tomorrow, I might keep ahead of it?


At the Arkansas campsite I got up to pee at 2:30 a.m. It was frigid outside, but I lingered long enough to look up at the sky and finally identify Orion through the branches overhead.

Acorns were falling like rain. Little thuds all around. The only sounds: birds, insects, water entering the rapids just downstream and the acorns.

Tossed throughout the night. Lying on my back (with more ground contact) was too cold. But on my side, I remained "toasty". Developed a sore throat. ("You're so sensitive!")

7:00 a.m. too cold to emerge, though the sun was up over the horizon. Mist rising from the river. Lots of dreams, all forgotten. A truck making the rounds forced me out at 8:45. "Gotta move!" Nothing can be accomplished in bed. (Well, on second thought...) On the road within the hour, returning to westbound U.S. 270.

Thoughts turned to the crazy corporate world of Mondavi, in which a lack of leadership gave rise to a kind of anarchy in which individual personalities who felt "their" project was the most important matter on the planet, could disrupt, undermine and re-allocate the work of so many others. A culture of vanity filled the void that absent management had left. I will never permit myself to endure such a business culture again.

Stopped at a Sonic Burger in Heavener, Oklahoma. Double burger, fries and a chocolate malt (made with ice milk). Forgettable food. "So-so Sonic." Shed the fleece, as the day was warming.

Out here in Eastern Oklahoma, it's clear that natural gas extraction is a huge industry. Across the landscape there's a vast network of wellheads, pipelines and compressor stations.

The slogan “Native America” appears on many Oklahoma license plates and on welcome signs upon entering the state.

I had not planned it, but a sign for the Oklahoma City National Memorial drew me off the highway and into downtown Oklahoma City. The city center was strangely quiet at 3:30 in the afternoon. Easily found my way to the memorial, at the site of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building, destroyed by a terrorist bomb on April 19, 1995.

I parked across the street and wandered the grounds in the warm sunshine. It was almost too beautiful and tranquil an afternoon. Over ten years later, a chain link fence bordering the site is filled with fresh mementos and tributes to the victims and to their families and friends.

Oklahoma City National Memorial.

The reflecting pool occupies the site of N.W. Fifth Street, and to the right, the "Field of Empty Chairs" covers the footprint of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building. The building was destroyed by an act of domestic terrorism on April 19, 1995.

A bronze, stone and glass chair represents each of the 168 victims, including 19 children

A chain link fence stands as part of the memorial. Visitors leave tokens of remembrance and hope.

Returned to Interstate 40 for a brief stretch to the U.S. 270 turn-off. From the highway, I spotted a Starbucks just west of "OKC" and doubled back for a caffeine fix. It was surrounded by all the usual chain stores and outlets. Good coffee is hard to find on the country's backroads. (In fact, I find myself considering a return to Moab and Gunnison motivated primarily by coffee, I think!)

I'm back in the land of the grackle. Enjoyed sitting outside with my coffee, taking in a golden late afternoon and the lively chatter of the gregarious birds. I have fond memories of enjoying the sounds of these birds in Austin's urban landscape.

Among the landmarks out here, are the Dollar General, Family Dollar and Wal-Mart stores. And the churches! I'm surrounded by...Christianity!!!

A common billboard seen in the Midwest: “You may call it abortion, but God calls it murder.” (Who is it who speaks for God? I would like to meet them.)

I trust these same Christians must also be outspoken critics of the War in Iraq, which is a most un-Christian affair. None but a hypocrite would label abortion murder, and condone the War in Iraq, or any war, for that matter. A true Christian, by definition, must oppose war. And the same would be true for capital punishment. "Those who live by the sword shall perish by the sword."

The wind has shifted to the southwest, milder. An incredible day! Cloudless and even breaking into the low 70s in some areas. Broad horizons out here on the plains. Above the southwestern horizon, a wisp of cloud. A sign of change?

A billboard advertises: “Amarillo. Free 72 oz. steak dinner*. If eaten in 1 hour.” Great. Let’s celebrate gluttony.

The FREE 72oz. STEAK dinner is still flourishing at the "Big Texan". More than 40,000 people have attempted to consume the Free 72oz. Steak dinner since 1960. About 7,000 have succeeded. People from all over the world continue to visit us to take the challenge and claim the bragging rights.

Americans are not too smart. Nothing specific elicited the conclusion, just a growing verification as I travel this country. I also know that I'm not too smart, so again, I feel at one with the nation. With all nations, really.

I was thinking again of the differences in travel experiences on and off the interstates. On a busy interstate, such as I-40, I'm continually occupied monitoring traffic, especially the multitude of trucks. Once off the interstate, there seems much more time to think, maybe even have a few long thoughts!

375 miles today, 430 yesterday and over 300 the day before. My butt is getting achy. That’s now becoming the determining factor for how long I'll be on the road each day.

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