– Nov. 1 – 7, 2013
It’s been one full week of us travelling now, and we plan to be all the way in Austin, Texas by tonight! We’re currently in Durant, Oklahoma, about 1.5 hours from Dallas, Texas, and have driven about 2,400 kilometres. We planned to take things slower, but that will have to wait, as the cold weather exists further south than we anticipated. By tonight it should be warmer and then we want to take our time from there on out.
The first night [Friday, November 1st] we slept near Kalamazoo, Michigan, and then we were going to spend a week in Chicago, but the weather was so cold that on the second night [Saturday, November 2nd] we drove very late into the night and ended up in Pontiac, Illinois. Pontiac near the highway doesn’t seem like much, but we followed some signs the next morning to a Route 66 museum, and both the museum and the town itself were very charming. The weather was nice that day, and we spent half the day wandering around Pontiac. An older couple named Owen and Pat “Kush” Lyons came up to us at a gas station because the trailer interested them, and we talked to them, and then they gave us a tour of the town and offered that if we come back to Pontiac, we need to stay at their house and use their showers, etc. They raised 4 boys in that house and now have 4 empty bedrooms and said it would be nice for us to come back and visit them whenever we like. They were very nice people! We spent the rest of the day taking the historic Route 66 road from Pontiac to somewhere near Springfield, Illinois where we slept at a rest stop.
Somewhere along the way [Sunday, November 3rd] we crossed over a time zone, and and it now gets dark as early as 5pm. By 6pm it is pitch black, and darker than I have ever seen a night get. I had no idea how dark it could be, it doesn’t compare to any night I can remember, whether in Cambridge or elsewhere. I think this is partly because the moon was fully waned, and partly because we are in a different time zone, but I had no idea how dark it would be – I’ve never heard anybody comment on this while travelling before, but to us it has been the most stark difference between here and home. We’ve driven very far from Illinois now but the darkness and the early nights have not changed, and we’re not sure if or when it will.
We drove in to St. Louis, Missouri the next morning [Monday, November 4th], and spent the whole day there. Route 66 is sometimes hard to follow, and it’s also slower going since there’s stops and turns along the way, so we tend to switch back and forth between the scenic route and the interstate. The tourist-y downtown of St. Louis is beautiful, and neither of us realized that the Gateway Arch (the giant architectural arch that is symbolic to St. Louis) can actually be travelled up to the top from the inside. There are pod-like elevators that you sit inside of (they are too short to stand, probably no more than 4 feet in any given dimension, though their shape is spherical and not cubic), and the pods take about 4 minutes to ascend up the inside of the arch, to the very top which is 630 feet high. The pods and the arch itself are about 50 years old, but still seem somewhat futuristic today. From the top at 630 feet, you can look out little windows to the entire city of St. Louis. It was quite spectacular. We then decided on a night-time bike ride to a different area of town where somebody said a cool area would be. DO NOT ride your bicycles or walk in the REAL city of St. Louis at night! The disparate contrast of scenic beauty downtown versus the slummy ghettos which make up the real population is astounding, and very sad actually. We biked about 3.5 miles to the area we were told to check out, and every 5 minutes or so of our bike ride, the surroundings became more impoverished and felt more dangerous than before. For some reason we stuck it out until we got to Cherokee St. which was a downtown-y feeling area, but we abruptly just turned around and went back to the safety of the Potemkin facade of the tourist district. It was sad to see the separation of poverty and wealth, which serves as a symbol today of America in general. We agreed to take this as a note of caution for our next bike-ride idea.
We drove to see the Meramac Caverns in Missouri [Tuesday, November 5th], famous both for being large scenic caves, and also the hideout of Jesse James and his outlaw gang, but the cave admission was $20 per person and we decided against it. However, along the way back to the highway, we saw an American Bald Eagle in the wild of the Meramac River. He/she was perched on a tree and I got a photo from about 20-30 feet away before the eagle flew to the other side of the river, probably to get away from us. Then we stopped at an unlikely animal zoo that was poorly advertised, and we almost drove right past it, but for some reason went in, and they had a lion, two tigers, and a lot of reptiles and other creatures, including some ring-tailed lemurs. The guide was very nice and informative and we had a great personal tour of their zoo for only $8 each. We slept a bit further down the road at a Walmart in a town called Cuba, Missouri.
The days are somewhat warmer than in Ontario, but the nights are just as cold, so we put in a day of driving to get all the way to Tulsa, Oklahoma [Wednesday, November 6th]. On the way, we drove over a small corner of Kansas, but that was only for about 20 minutes, and then we were in Oklahoma. The drive from Kansas into the city of Tulsa, however, is a 1.5 hour (maybe 100 kms) descent, completely downhill, with only a couple of exits for the entire stretch, and with no turns or flat land or hills – just pure and straight descent, as if from the top of a mountain, straight to the bottom. We slept in a different Walmart parking lot in Tulsa, which was directly beneath a flight path to the neighbouring Tulsa airport. We could see and hear planes very closely that night and the next morning.
We then parked our car on the outskirts of the city of Tulsa [Thursday, November 7th], and biked around all day, stopping for a while in a cafe to use their internet. It was a nice city, very condensed, so it appeared to be a major metropolis, but we could bike around and see all of its streets in only a few hours. It seems like the entire city has been built up and its old buildings revitalized, all within the past decade or so. Everything seemed new, and even the old buildings were refinished. Very scenic for a medium-sized city. STILL not escaping cold nights, we decided to divert from the Route 66, which would have had us travel to Oklahoma City and then eventually Albuquerque, New Mexico, and head straight south towards Austin, Texas. We got about half way and slept in Atoka, Oklahoma, a very small town.
This catches us up to the present, where we are not far from Dallas, and hope to be in Austin tonight. Also, gas has been as low as $2.69 / U.S. gallon, unbelievably cheap! I can fill my tank for $30 where it would cost almost $50 in Ontario.
It’s been a living adjustment to get used to our small space and having to keep all of our things organized in just a car and small trailer, but everything has been really great, and we look forward to everything else we will see. Hopefully tonight we will be in warmer weather (it should be 10 degrees Celsius at night in Austin), and we can slow our journey down and just relax without all the driving.