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Westward Ho: Day One

Twelve hours down, six to go.

Mom and I hit the road this morning at 6:30 with strong coffee, kisses from dad and a full vehicle. I declare, if we don’t have it in that Ford, we don’t need it. We have landed safely at the quaint, really lovely little KOA in Elk City, Oklahoma. Oh, Oklahoma. What a BO-RING piece of our nation (my apologies to all native Oklahomans). I drove the second shift today which means I had the pleasure of honking the horn upon crossing the state line (a Coates family tradition) and then navigating the bulk of the state. The roads are abominable, the drivers are asinine, and the landscape less than inspiring. That is, until you get almost all the way across and close to the Texas line, then it starts to unfold and display red clay in the hills and scrubby sideways trees and dreamy windmills against the backdrop of even dreamier clouds. You know you’re entering the west when the clouds seem higher, firmer, and more defined, like cottony creatures.

Our traveling music included selections from (of course) Ben Shive, Neko Case, Lyle Lovett, Robert Palmer (little-known jazz album), Katie Herzig, Mindy Smith, Robert Plant and Alison Krauss…..ummmm…that’s all I can remember, but that sure doesn’t make up for twelve hours of driving.

So we had a harmless little wager (‘harmless’ meaning absolutely nothing on the line except the satisfaction of being right) as to exactly what minute I’d be gliding up the exit ramp to this blip on the map. I bet 6:08, mom bet 6:15, At 6:09 on the dot, as the exit sped toward me, I found I was going a bit too fast (is 90 too fast?) and felt that I needed to ease it to a gentle stop, but the stop occurred about ten yards past the actual exit. Thankfully, no one was behind me so I put the thing in reverse then slid stealthily off the interstate. After a slightly exorbitant trip to the grocery for dinner and breakfast provisions, we drove into our little slice of heaven at the campsite.

Now, mom and I love to ‘camp,’ but it usually involves a tidy little wooden cabin rather than a tent, clean, bleach-scented bathrooms rather than a tree, and fine, ingeniously concocted meals rather than weenies and marshmallows. (although we are certainly not above such.) Tonight we began with organizing/readying our ‘icebox,’ our ‘stove’ and our ‘pantry.’

Dinner was as follows (on blue speckled tinware, naturally): romaine lettuce, warm black beans with green chiles, sliced avocado, spiced flank steak, chips and salsa, fresh roasted corn on the cob, and cold beer. We had a slight crisis when I was taking the pie pan from the flame and some of the oil spilt over and caused a considerable fire, but I, thinking as quickly and efficiently as I do, grabbed the carton of salt and sprinkled it generously over the flames until there was nothing but a black smudge. We laughed nervously, clinked beer bottles and toasted to “twelve hours down and no burnt appendages.”

After a walk down the lane to the restrooms, past all of the monstrous RVs and trailers, we returned refreshed and ready for a nightcap. We opened a really nice bottle of Spanish red, had just a tiny splash each, and now mom’s getting her pajamas on inside. She has just informed me in her best fake naggy-mother tone, “It’s after ten, Evie!” She makes me chuckle. She is a tireless nester. This means that, even though we will be residing in this little wooden abode for no more than twelve hours, she is in there, fluffing pillows, probably lighting candles, and making it ours. I got this trait from her, and it has served me well.

I’m being dive-bombed by block-headed bugs of all sorts, my pajamas are still in the suitcase in the Ford, we’d like to arrive at the Albuquerque KOA tomorrow at a decent, plenty-of-time-for-lazing-by-the-pool time, so it will be early to rise (and boil water for our French press coffee and fry up a couple of eggs and slice tomatoes and toast some English muffins), and I had best close for the evening. The soft, constant hum of the semi trucks and the happy chirping of crickets and turtle doves will be our lullaby.

Good night.


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