Road Foodie

Some people drive simply to arrive.

Thou Shalt Not Drive

Posted By on December 28, 2008

Oklahoma sunset.

Oklahoma sunset.

12.27: St Louis to Tulsa, 395 miles. Two states: Missouri and Oklahoma (although Kansas and it’s relative, ArKansas, are lurking nearby).

“There is a tornado warning in effect for the entire area,” says the satellite weather channel for St Louis. All six of our eyes meet, take a beat, and then roll, as one. At least one of us snorts, in derision. I am at the wheel, but we aren’t moving. We’re pulled over on a skinny little shoulder, semi-trucks pounding past on the left and a short but decisive drop a few inches to or right, with warning lights flashing. It is raining so hard it’s biblical. There are about ten other cars in similar wait mode, but the trucks don’t care. We urgently need an ark.

Blast-off was late—11:am—this morning, due to all the little road customs that help one feel grounded on a cross-country drive: Harney’s Florence tea with milk and agave, a hard-boiled egg and a yogurt, perusal of the opinion section of the New York Times, a walk for Stella. At first glace it does not appear to be another day whose peace will be rent by what is coyly called “precipitation.” It is day four of actual driving (not counting the Toledo break), and each one of those days has had its own severe weather issues. Snow, sleet, ice, impenetrable fog, and now, torrential and pounding rain. We’ll hit the halfway mark this afternoon, right around Joplin on old Route 66, but since many of those 1500 miles have been traveled at 35 miles an hour, it hasn’t been quite the lyrical lollygag of past peregrinations.

When, eventually, we cautiously begin to move again, we can’t move far due to an accident in which one of the asshole trucks shoved an extended-cab Ford up and over the right side railing, presumably during the worst moments of the deluge, while we were stopped. But, it could have been us. Again four hours in, C takes the wheel and shortly we are sailing through dark grey but dry air, noticing the odd preponderance of churches and adult video stores, often next door to each other and housed in buildings of identical style, ie stripped-down concrete strip-mall.

Traveling lapdog.

Traveling lapdog.

When the weather is fair and road conditions are friendly, Stella is allowed to sleep on the driver’s lap (if it is not me). This allows her to be as warm and safe and close as she’d like to be 24 hours a day, in spite of her luxurious, sheepskin- and toy-lined berth just behind us (this is cleverly placed so that her snoozing head rests just between our two center elbows; she still prefers a lap). Has anyone traveled long-distance with a dog? They go into soporific mode, content to open one eye every so often, just to be sure you are still in the car. Since Stella abhors any temperature under 68F, it’s hard to get her out and about even at rest stops.

About an hour out of Tulsa, the sky finally begins to brighten. I feel as though I’ve been in a cavern for days, and the appearance of, first, blue sky, and then a glorious broken-cloud sunset, lifts my spirits. We are nearing my more accustomed route, nearing the southwest and the big skies, approaching the places where the wind is a friend and the air a gentle caress. Just over the next horizon lies our little home-for-the-night, a chilled cocktail, and a civilized supper.


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