We’ve been through Oklahoma before, but never stopped except to refuel…..in this, the birthplace of gasoline. Pointed southwest toward Tulsa, my dog, Jack, is dreaming of girls, squirrels, and something to eat. Stop one is the visitor center on the turnpike.
I’m welcomed warmly by the docent; a lovely, petite, silver-haired lady in her 80s, which also happens to be the temperature at nine AM. Offered free coffee, a map, any of hundreds of brochures, and a clean restroom, I turn down the coffee offer, the very reason I had to stop for the mensroom. After exiting the building, I hesitated, briefly, then returned.
“Ma’am, you wouldn’t happen to have any dog biscuits, would you ?”, I asked politely.
Jack was outside just craving a munchie.
“No sir, all we can offer is free coffee”.
He doesn’t swear, drink coffee, or even smoke, the perfect tourist, I thought to myself.
“Wasn’t Will Rogers the native son of Oklahoma ?”, I inquired.
“Yessuh he is, right up the road, from Claremore, only about thirty miles, we have a wonderful home and museum, named the turnpike afta’ him, would you like a brochure ?” she replied without taking a single breath.
“No, no I would not. But in 1931 Will Rogers was asked to define a friend. With the familiar stroke of his chin, he drawled, ‘a friend is a man, who, before he invites you, asks your dog if he’d like to stay over….that’s a friend’. So maybe you should have some little dog treats”, I reminded her dryly.
“Well I’m sorry suh, we only have free coffee”.
You know you are in Tulsa when you realize the people on the frontage roads are driving faster than you are on the interstate. We settle into your average redneck trailer park, complete with speed bumps, barely a deterrent to the rugrats on skate boards. The residents are friendly, have most of their original teeth, an abundance of tattoos, and an infatuation with monster trucks and country music.
The next-door neighbor, armed with Coors Lite, admires our old Excella rig and asks me, ‘whatcha you call it’ ? I reply Suite Home Alabama, in an attempt to remain both adaptable and flexible south of the 37th parallel. He chuckles, offers me a cold one, and reminds me that the weather, as promised, is the world’s largest outdoor sauna. If they were to hold a “dry tee shirt” contest here, there would be no winner. Everything measurable is in the 90s, even some waistlines.
We’ll be back, weather permitting, in a few days, to taunt Tulsa.