Dec. 23, 2014: Nashville to LA on I-40
We set out across the great U.S. almost three weeks ago, propelled by a burning sense of adventure and the open and welcoming arms of I-40. Nashville to Los Angeles, we made our way through Elvis’s home, land of BBQ and the blues, across the dangerous waters of the ol’ Mississip’, and on through Little Rock and the fine evergreens. Past the small town neighborliness of Arkansas we moved through to the Great Planes of Indian Country.
Oklahoma, home to many, many Native tribes, is a state whose name literally means “Red People” in the Choctaw language. We stopped at the KOA in Cherokee to stay the night and see some of the beautiful and intricate art and handiwork of the local Indians. In the Cherokee Trading Center we found picturesque scenes depicting old and new ways of life for a people bound to the freedom of the wide open sky, the prairie grasslands and the red earth mesas.
Amarillo by morning Up from San Antone Everything that I’ve got Is just what I’ve got on
“Amarillo by Morning” by George Strait
In this part of the country the drive is long and lonely without much of anything around except a hundred miles of signs leading to the Big Texan in Amarillo, a place otherwise known as home of the 72oz. steak, which is free, as long as you can eat it all! Men from all over the land have tried and failed, and the record is held by a skinny little lady, who devoured it in four minutes! With a shooting arcade, a brewery, a nice gift shop, and giant everything, the place is well worth the stop even if you’re not going to belly up to the challenge. The food is good and growlers of home-made brew are available to take home. I recommend the ‘Sour Mother Pucker’, which is surprisingly good considering it harkens to something like Sour Patch Kid ale. A stop at the Big Texan definitely breaks up the monotony of the vast land imbued with the wanderings of tumbleweeds.
Safely through Tornado Alley, we moved into the Navajo Territory of New Mexico, a state that takes it’s name from early Spanish colonization. However, New Mexico was inhabited long before the Spaniards came. Paleo-Indians settled in that area of the Great Plains at the end of the last Ice age, roughly 18,000-8000 B.C., when brave men hunted mastodons with arrowhead spears. Somewhere around the 1500’s, when Mexico was called New Spain, the Spaniards named the area New Mexico for the Indian population which reminded them of the Mexica people in Central America. Later in the 1800’s, Mexico was named.
The flat-topped mesas of red earth continue in Arizona as does the wide open sky, which makes sunrise and sunset equally thrilling. Here we kept our nose to the grind stone and kept pace with the big rigs and over the road drivers. Our Arizona outing was a quick but memorable trip to the Meteor Crater site. Somewhere around the time when those Paleo-Indians were fighting mastodons, an iron-nickel meteor hit Arizona at 40,000mph and made a crater 550 feet deep and large enough to fit 20 football fields on it’s floor. It lifted the earth up and created high ridges around the hole.
Pedal to the metal we made it ‘home’ by nightfall and just in time to see the beautiful Santa Monica sunset! But this was only the first leg of the journey. After a great party, we headed to the O.K. Corral in Tombstone, Ariz., then on to Corpus Christi, Texas, and on the New Orleans, La.