Days on the Road: 5
Miles covered: 481 miles
On our way through the rolling green hills, pastures and farmlands of Oklahoma heading to Tennessee, we stopped in Checotah, which boasts with a giant green sign “Home of Carrie Underwood.”
There we ate at the Boom-a-rang Diner. I had an incredible egg sandwich served on Texas toast, which I learned is not meant for carbo-phobes. Texas toast is twice as thick as regular bread and they slathered it in butter and toasted it. Perfect road trip fare.
Before I hopped back in the car I snapped a couple pictures and did some recon to discover I’m wildly in love with the Oklahoma redbud. It spruced up the leaf-less, tree-lined highways with its light, boisterous purple blooms.
We stopped in Little Rock, Ark., at a place called E.J.’s for lunch (thanks to Yelp). We quickly scarfed down sandwiches, sodas, coughed on some jalapeno-powdered chips, walked Agnes around the block, then hopped back in the car. We would have been more ambitious with a drive/walk-through of Little Rock, but it was rainy and we felt like keeping the day moving.
I jotted in my notebook that Arkansas was “super boring.” And I recall telling my parents on the phone I wanted to turn the car around and head back to New Mexico and Texas. Driving through those states, while you might be on a straight road for hundreds of miles without a terrain change, was definitely the highlight of the trip so far. I love experiencing vast, untouched landscapes, far away from our daily reality, and all while encountering very few people. Take a look at this “nobody lives here” map, and you’ll get a sense for what I mean and why I love the West so much. In Arkansas, the big skies had disappeared, the population had risen and we were back to being ants marching in the assembly line, schlepping along a boring highway with the rest of the population.
We got stuck in traffic on Rt. 40 between Little Rock and Memphis, which put us back about an hour, and made for some stressful driving since we were trying to make the 5 o’clock duck parade at the Peabody. That’s right. Duck parade. FoxyLady recommended it, and while it wasn’t the first time I’d heard of it, I’d forgotten it was in Memphis. 4:56 rolled around and we miraculously had amazing parking karma. We flew onto the street where the Peabody was located, parked, ran in the hotel, and met hundreds of people congregating around a beautiful, multi-tiered lobby with an enormous fountain in the middle. We missed the beginning, but caught the ducks meandering out of the fountain as the “duckmaster” wrangled them onto a red carpet and into the elevator. You’d think Brangelina had just left the bar! I haven’t seen so many people lined up with flashing cameras since a NYE Disneyland parade. Footnotes: MainMan’s great aunt used to work at the Peabody, my father-in-law told us via text. And my former coworker/friend from ABC, SirDatesaLot, was duckmaster for a day as he used to be the travel writer at ABC before moving to AP to cover airlines.
MainMan and I treated ourselves to a hearty Tito’s martini at the bar in the Peabody lobby before leaving. I wish we’d been able to stay there for another (and overnight), but the rooms were pricy and the martinis were $18 a pop.
From there we checked into the Vista Inn. We chose it for its proximity to downtown, not realizing it was on the outskirts of town and close to what felt like an unsafe area. I would not recommend it, but with Agnes our choices were limited.
Apart from wanting to see Graceland, we had no itinerary for Memphis. One of Kola’s best friends lives there and he recommended Central BBQ for dinner. I don’t eat meat, but I certainly wanted MainMan to enjoy some barbecue on the trip.
We walked in and saw the big chalkboard menu and lots of instructions. MainMan had to pick between a slab or a half slab (?) and a bunch of sides. It was the typical barbecue joint where you order at the cash register, then pick a seat and wait for your food.
I ordered the house salad and it was surprisingly delicious and fresh (you don’t count on a bbq joint to serve a good salad, but this was tasty — I licked the bowl before eating it as it was a crispy tortilla bowl). The manager caught me snapping photos and he rightfully called me out and asked if I was a local reviewer.
“Not exactly,” I said, embarrassed, “But I do plan on publicizing our trip here via all kinds of social media networks!”
He laughed and smiled, “In that case…”
Then he insisted on giving us a grand tour of the place when we’d finished our meals. We walked around the back and saw the ovens where the pigs rotate on the spits and met dozens of the chefs/cleaning staff. As far as the ‘cue, MainMan loved the ribs, but we both agreed the sides (slaw and mac and cheese) were meh.
After dinner and a couple of beers, we called it a night.
For previous posts in this series:
Intro to Cross-Country Adventure
From L.A. to Flagstaff, Ariz.
Flagstaff to Yukon, Okla.