Part 1 can be found here: http://oppositelock.kinja.com/5200-miles-from-the-mountains-of-nc-to-death-valley-r-1821205249
I awoke to the blaring alarm of my Black iPhone 7+, of course waking up at 6:30 after going to bed at 2:00 is a pipe dream. It also doesn’t help that I am not a morning person at all, but staying up until 3 or 4 am, no big deal. I hit what I thought was the snooze button, but in fact was the button to shut the alarm off. I curled back up with Jaz (my wife) and two dogs hoping to capture another 10-20 minutes of sleep before we had to get going. Instead, an hour later I jump awake realizing we needed to be on the road in 30 minutes. We both snapped to, fed the dogs, showered, and got moving! If you’ve never stayed at a LaQuinta, you wouldn’t know but they serve free breakfast (another way we saved money), so as Jaz filled up a couple plates with food, I started the truck and got us prepared for another day.
Similar to the night before, we were only in Tennessee and we were shooting for Texas before we got all touristy. Also keep in mind, I had to login at 8:00 to start my work day, Jaz took the helm and piloted the Ram through the thick and cluttered Nashville traffic. It wasn’t long before she was able to lock the cruise control at a conservative five miles per hour over the posted limit and let the quiet and efficient 3.0L diesel pull us across the land. I’m not going to lie, even though I was head down in my computer, the scenery was quite boring, and flat.
It wasn’t long after, and we were encroaching 0n the border of Arkansas. Before the bridge something shiny and HUGE (or as Trump would say UUUUGE), caught my eye. As we got closer, I noticed it was a pyramid, and the name on it read Bass Pro Shop. It has to be the largest bass pro shop in the United States, I couldn’t believe it, I thought it must be corporate HQ but people were strolling out with fishing gear.
On this Trip, we tried to get the sign to every state, we agreed on it after we had already passed through Tennessee. Believe it or not, I don’t think the act of taking pictures of the signs is all that unique. Almost every single state had a pull off where you could safely get a picture, except Arkansas, the sign was in the middle of the bloody bridge! I thought to myself, you had to put it right on the state line, you couldn’t have waited 500 yards and put it where most states would have. So instead of getting a picture of the sign with the truck, we were in the truck.
Arkansas is pretty dang flat, with a ton of fields. This was great for gas mileage, we were cracking 26 - 27 miles per gallon while keeping a consistent 70 miles per hour. But long straight drives are seriously monotonous and fatigues a person. Jaz pulled a 9 hour shift in the drivers seat, I took over as we pushed deeper into the state. I asked her to use the Bring Fido app and see if there were any local dog parks we could stop and let the knuckle heads burn off some energy. Sure enough only 20 minutes from interstate 40, in a town called Maumelle, was a dog park. We snaked our way through the secondary roads to the location of the dog park, initially we drove right by it. The park is smack dab between a public works building, and a sewage treatment plan, the chain link fence also had rusted barb wire on the top, giving the illusion it was part of one of those facilities.
Since I travel so much the boys and I see a lot of dog parks in a lot of different states. This was actually a pretty nice place with quite a bit of open room for them to run, and the other owners were great, unlike some dog parks. The only downside, every once in a while, we would get a strong smell of shit waft through the air from the adjacent sewage treatment facility.
I must digress, I feel I need to give a back story on my two boys.
Oddie - the black one - I found while hiking in Pisgah national forest, about an hour from Asheville. When I found him he was in bad shape, tore up, looked like he had not eaten in weeks, maybe even months. He lacked a collar, or any type of RFID that would identify the previous owner. Long story short, Oddie has been with us for almost two years, he is around 6 - 8.
Ullie - the white one - We believe he is a mix between Beagle and Bassett Hound. I first met him at work, for about a year and a half I ran a Subaru dealer and we sponsored the local animal shelter. Ullie came in with them, he was up for adoption because he had been abandoned. He was scared of everything, people, other dogs, cars, it was very obvious he was severely beaten and abused. Against my best judgment, knowing we couldn’t have another dog, I asked if I could take him for a walk around the building. When I returned him back he was wagging his tail, the lady informed me that since they have had him, three weeks, he has not raised his tail from between his legs. That was it, there wasn’t a damn thing that was going to stop him from coming home with me, and he did. They estimate he is between 10 - 12 years old.
Okay! Back to our trip. If you want to drive the most boring stretch of road, from the east side of Arkansas to the west may take the cake. I put on the podcast from This American Life, “S-Town” and settled in for what I expected to be a continuum of flatness. But, to my pleasant surprise as the sun started to set, the sunset lit up the sky in an unbelievably beautiful orange and pink, as we entered the Ozarks. I never even realized the Ozarks were in Arkansas, its was a great parting piece as we made our way into Oklahoma.
Though we didn’t make any stops in Oklahoma, if driving through Oklahoma city you need to stop at Packards for dinner. Its a really awesome place, converted from an old Packard dealer to a restaurant, I highly recommend it. With our time constraints, unfortunately we didn’t have the option of going, so we pushed on until we were at the Texas border.
I wanted to stay right over the Texas border, Jaz of course more intelligent than I am said we could push it to Amarillo. Have any of you ever heard of Radiator Springs? Or the movie Cars? On the upper east side of Texas just after you get over the border, there is a small town, the town had a lot of influence on the movies town. I HAD TO GO! I really wanted to see it during the day, but she talked me into going there at night, boy was she right. Just like the movie the place was light up with neon lights, it is quite a spectacle to see. If you’re making your way across I40, look up a little town called Shamrock TX, and Tower Stations and U-Drop Inn. You won’t be disappointed, I highly recommend going at night.
We pushed on, liked the old country song said, “Amarillo by morning.” We finally arrived at the next LaQuinta around 3:00 am. Tomorrow was going to be a much more exciting day, we had planned stopped for sightseeing, but overall we couldn’t wait to actually be in Death Valley. Stay Tuned for Day three, and part three tomorrow.