Hot Springs, 3rd April
Goodbye to Memphis, to its blues bars and its vintage cars.
For the moment we’ve seen enough of big American cities. Somehow they all look quite similar around here. Thus we need something else; turn westwards in direction of the famous Route 66.
Thru the middle of America. A region mostly described as very rural and very conservative. The place of origin of many evangelistic churches and the playground of numerous Christian fundamentalists. Many call it America’s Bible Belt. Let’s see, what is awaiting us. Besides, it’s the stronghold of America’s Republicans in its Trumpian dimension.
We move on. Now to the west, to Little Rock: the proud capital of Arkansas and somehow considered the hometown of Bill Clinton. Thus, a reason to visit.
The highway to get there: plenty of trucks. Supposedly on the way to Mexico before Uncle Don will close the border for reasons of his political survival. Maybe not.
Little Rock: definitely a small town, rather provincial.
Somehow symptomatic for this place: even police cars are smaller than somewhere else.
A visit to the downtown. Quickly seen.
The next morning we have to see the Clinton Presidential Library.
Well, it’s not exclusively because of Bill we visit. No, as everybody else we’re very interested in knowing all these tales and details about a certain Monica and a cigar.
Maybe there’s even a chance that we can admire this cigar in the exhibition. Or, at least this famous piece of cloth. Our esteemed readers who followed US politics in the 90ties surely still remember the story …
At the entrance we have to pay a fee and we’re asked by a very distinguished elderly lady about the motivation of our visit. We imagine we should tell her how honored we feel to have the unique opportunity to learn everything about Monica Lewinsky and her cigarillo adventure. We don’t dare to do so – she may look a bit too disappointed after that.
Whatever. No reason for Monika (not Bill’s 1) not to exercise her future role in Clinton’s replica of the Cabinet Room.
Then we explore the library. As usual in the US there’s a lot to read. All presented in a very patriotic and heroic manner. Maybe a bit too much for us.
We can also admire a showcase with many beautiful gifts President Clinton received from his counterparts all over the world. And immediately you feel sorry for him. Imagine how much energy and diplomacy it needs to remain friendly once this stuff is presented to you.
Still, we’re searching for this story about Monica and Bill’s famous cigar.
Difficult to discover anything. Maybe in America this kind of story is not considered suitable for kids.
Who knows. The only indication we finally find is about the Reps failed attempt to impeach President Clinton. What a pity. So much interesting stuff – and not a single word about it.
On the way out again we pass by the noble lady with her distinguished charm. Probably she still remembers our imagined question about the cigar. And we think her poker face reflects her pain in the ass.
Then we’re out. While the mystery about the cigar’n’Monica remains disclosed we’re definitely astonished what different thinking must have prevailed in the US of the 90ties. How open-minded and willing to network all over the world they were. What a difference to the current political mainstream of splendid isolation and … whatever – definitely a pity.
We drive on to Hot Springs. A small town in the heartland of Arkansas. Astonishingly a place not having an American flair. It rather reminds us to an old fashioned French spa resort.
It’s a place with a row of old baths. No longer too functional, mostly taken over by the National Park Service, 1 converted into a brewery, …
… another 1 into a museum. A place to feel all the tortures the poor spa guests had to sustain.
Then another room. It’s full of warnings and good or bad advice on how to behave – and immediately we feel back in the US.
Of course, further downtown there are more indications that the town is in Arkansas.
Tulsa, 7th April
What a terrible weather today. Cold, constantly raining. We cross the southern part of the Ozark Mountains. Mountains? Well, maybe slightly overrated. It’s more about some forested hills.
On the roadside you can see clear signs of people’s patriotism (see picture right) and often to which degree they don’t care about their country (flag-raising patriotism for a certain Mr. Trump).
In the afternoon we arrive in Fort Smith. A rather small town with some nice houses, …
… some great murals and …
… the great Bricktown Bewery.
Next morning. Fortunately weather has improved immensely. A short drive to Van Buren’s historic downtown – just 1 street, a few meters long. It seems the place still waits to be discovered by the tourists.
On thru the northern part of the Ozark Mountains to Eureka Springs. Well, the mountains remain rather flat, wooded hills.
Eureka Springs. A hotspot for LGBT life, bikers and Christian fundamentalists. A kind of weird mixture of different lifestyles in this small historic town. Add
We move on to Tulsa. The 1st town on historic Route 66. The road we may follow the whole way up to somewhere in California.
A stop in Bentonville. A place extremely important for American shoppers. It’s the location where the very 1st Walmart was established in the 50ties.
You know these huge supermarkets you find in every suburb of any American town. These supermarkets so huge they even provide electric trolleys to their customers. So they can shop their everyday greasy burgers, frozen pizza, healthy mayo salads, sweets and all these snacks for the huge hunger in between their regular meals without taking a step along the shelves. How great, so many calories to munch for so little energy.
Further north, thru rural areas towards the famous Route 66.
As we’re approaching Route 66, of course, some roadside must-have-seen-sights of the glorious 50ties.
Then we’re on Route 66. Can you imagine. After having left Tsoere Road in Maseru, Lesotho more than 7 years ago, now we finally drive on this famous road.
It’s often called the mother of all roads. A road even more mother than South Africa’s Garden Route, China’s G 318, the Transsiberian or Alaska Highway.
Well, surely you have seen all these romantic pictures of Route 66.
Surely, those among our readers with artificial hip joints and their 3rd dentures will remember the pictures of Peter Fonda in Easy Rider on his fancy bike on the lonely desert roads. Pure Road 66 romantic. Even if he hardly drove on the 66, the image remains.
Well, since Peter Fonda passed, it seems the guys have slightly modernized Route 66. By now they call it I40 (sometimes with a small Route 66 sign below; for the tourists).
How great. Probably another indicator to proof how advanced the country is: today even Route 66 has 6 lines.
Fortunately, these incredible sights along the road remain. All these sights especially created or at least souped-up for the enthusiastic Route 66 tourist.
The 1st 1 we discover is Route 66’s famous Blue Whale. This attraction is not really linked to anything on Route 66, it’s just a clever businessman who had the idea.
Remains the question why the hell odd tourists have to visit this awfulness.
Then we’re in Tulsa – the 2nd largest city in Oklahoma. A town famous for its very rich past due to the oil boom of the last century. Thus lots of fancy Art Deco buildings to admire.
Not surprising for a town in Oklahoma they have an entire district for cathedrals. Well, for all different evangelistic churches present in town. And there are many of them. Supposedly all in fierce competition to each other.
Time for a beer – in an Irish Pub.
Amarillo, 10th April
Now, after Tulsa we’re really ready for Route 66 and its sensational attractions.
We even discover the real Route 66, running parallel to I40. They call it the Old 66. Just 2 lanes, farmland on both sides, the intact, trouble-free world of the glorious 50ties that never existed. The time when real American men still were the boss – at least at home. And women knew their role in their sheltered world of a happy marriage with their lord and master. Well, …
… eventually some 1st signs of the approaching change of certain God-given issues are already visible on the roadsides. Frightening.
Whatever. Mr. President please take note of this small paradise on Old Road 66. It’s the proof, America in all its splendor still exists. And the earth is a disk.
Then we arrive in Davenport. A small, lost town in the middle of nowhere. Maybe still a heaven for guys living in the romantics of the 50ties – for us it looks rather sad with its closed shops, its deserted main road and its decaying buildings.
To attract some tourists they painted some murals on the houses and call the whole thing Route 66.
Nevertheless, at the entrance to Davenport there’s an old fuel station. Probably it really has served to Route 66 motorists. Finally, something authentic – even if it’s just a closed-down service station.
We leave Route 66 for the town of Guthrie.
Early afternoon we arrive in the old capital of Oklahoma.
To start with an oil change for Prado. It’s overdue. Of course, everybody has to have a look at Prado. These poor guys have never seen before a Landcruiser with a diesel engine.
Then to downtown to marvel at these historic brick houses.
The next morning. After a couple of excellent IPAs last evening, we decide not to be entirely discouraged by these rather strange sights along Route 66.
At least, yesterday we’ve driven the whole day on the old, 2-lane route. And the town of Guthrie is ok too.
Today we head for Shamrock. A rather tiny place – in the middle of nowhere in Texas. At the beginning still a 2 lane road. Big Sky country.
Many oilfields on the side.
A short visit of El Reno. A rather depressing place. True, there are a few historic buildings and they added a few murals to attract tourists.
Nevertheless, all these empty windows of shops for lease are quite gloomy.
On. Now on the new Route 66. 4 lanes, called Interstate 40 / Route 66. A highway like any other in the US.
We arrive in Clinton, Oklahoma – not related to Clinton, Little Rock.
A signboard of a formerly formidable motel on Route 66. Of course the motel has been remodeled long time ago.
And the famous Y- Service Station. Now a seller of so-called pre-owned cars.
We drive on to Elk City. Here a Hotel to admire where tired Route 66 travelers could spend a wonderful night. Nowadays a crumbling ruin.
And some reconstructed old houses with a museum: the memory lane.
Late afternoon in Shamrock. Of course, they have their famous Conoco Service Station.
Some more Route 66 memorabilia exposed along the road.
And they have the Big Vern’s Steakhouse. The only place to munch something if you’re not absolutely keen on greasy fast food.
The next day we continue our trip on the Interstate 40, sorry Route 66. To Amarillo.
On the way, in Conway, a visit to the VW Beetle Ranch. A parody of the nearby Cadillac Ranch. And a place where everybody may improve his skills as a graffiti sprayer.
It’s also the place of our rather strange encounter with a real Texan Sheriff. Don’t imagine late Clifton James in James Bond’s movie Live and Let Die. No revolver, no chewing tobacco in the cheek, no shouting. No, this sheriff simply wants to know where we’re coming from, if we like Texas and if we’re aware that we could call him anytime should a rattlesnake attack us. We receive his business card – and off he drives.
Finally we arrive in Amarillo. A bigger, though absolutely nondescript town.
But we’re not here for the town, but for some great alternatives to the famous Route 66. And because weather service announces a severe winter storm and blizzards in areas not that far from us.
That’s it for now. Hopefully, you’re not too frustrated about Route 66 – we’re neither. It’s just slightly unusual what kind of attractions are promoted along this road which does no longer exist in most places.
Next time there will be less Route 66. Promised.