North America

The long haul to Tennessee via New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma and Arkansas

posted by Stuart Wilson0 comments

When I planned the trip which was to be driving right across the USA I always knew that there would have to be the odd day of hardcore driving. It would have been far easier to fly but would have meant that we couldn’t have bought things for the duration and we wouldn’t have had the whole road trip experience.
So the idea was we had to get from Flagstaff to Jackson Tennessee. Once in the deep south we could start excursions such as Jack Daniels in Lynchburg, Six Flags in Atlanta and start to see some great things in and amongst Southern and Eastern USA.
The first day was to be the heaviest; it was a 630mile drive on a single road (the I-40) from Flagstaff to Amarillo, Texas. I planned to stop of in Albuquerque New Mexico for lunch which conveniently would have been about ½ way. Now, 630 miles is a long way, but on the same road with cruise control it is a very very long way. Anyway we set off and headed east. I would absolutely love to say that the scenery was breath taking, but in reality it was simply rocky desert for the duration. We were stopping about every 100 miles or so and when we finally reached the half way point of Albuquerque I decided that rather than stop for lunch we would continue on to Amarillo. I mean, we did stop at a service station for Chicken Quesadillas and Soft Taco’s at Taco Bell but a long – very very very long 9 hours later and we were in Amarillo, Texas.

I was tired and couldn’t even muster up the energy for a few cold beers. The following morning after a quick viewing of Cadillac Ranch (where some millionaire got bored and so planted a dozen or so Cadillac’s in the ground) and we were on our next stretch to Oklahoma City which is of course in Oklahoma. The drive was about 350 mi and again the plains of Texas are not mind blowing and the day passed pretty slowly. Gutted that we realized we had missed a huge Rodeo the previous day and we called it a day over a Logan’s Steak and a few cold ones.

The third day and it was headed for Little Rock, Tennessee. However, before setting off we decided to visit the Oklahoma City memorial museum. Basically in the Nineties the US government decided to do something which a certain 2 individuals didn’t agree with. They headed for Oklahoma and drive a 20ft lorry into an unloading bay under a building in the centre of Oklahoma City. The bomb killed over 160 US citizens. The building is no longer there but a pristine and beautiful garden has been created. There is a single chair for every single person who died that day and on the fence at the front hundreds of personal memorials left by loved ones and friends. Quite a somber place I was very proud the kids showed such respect.

Another long drive at 300 or so miles and we were at Little Rock. Now, we were staying in a proper dodgy hotel. It was in the middle of a really dodgy area, I have no idea why I booked it, and I must not have researched it properly. Anyway whilst sleeping the hotel phone rings, I looked at my clock and it was 1.20am, I answered the phone and could barely hear someone on the other end of the line. I couldn’t understand what he was saying. I kept saying “what? Eh? I don’t understand” The words I did hear and understand were “we’ll come for you” I put the phone down and rolled over to go back to sleep, but I kept playing through in my mind what I had heard, I got up and checked the car from the window and then laid back in bed. The kids were sound asleep but I couldn’t stop thinking about what was said on the phone. In the end I decided to get out of there. I packed our things and within 10 minutes we were getting in the car. A woman approached me, she was saying how she was in labour and could I help her by giving her some cash for Gasoline, I told her she should call an ambulance and she was saying how she had a vehicle and could drive, in a rush to get out of the hotel and Little Rock I just told her “Look, the best thing I can do for you is advise you to call emergency help” As I left I was convinced she was trying it on, but it all seemed just too weird.

Back on the I-40 and within minutes the kids were fast asleep I as I was comfortably heading out of Arkansas in the small hours of the morning. The kids had asked why we were leaving and I told them I had seen cockroaches.

Although the journey was 260 miles it didn’t seem to take long to cross the bridge between Arkansas and Tennessee with an illuminated Memphis to the right at we were cruising through the night. Having actually been to Memphis the year previous I can say that it looks a lot better at night than it does during the day!
Another 80 miles and we were at our hotel in Jackson Tennessee. It was 5.30am and I went to check in to see if I could pay extra to check in early. To my absolute astonishment the guy said we could check in now at no extra cost. We went straight to bed and awoke about 11am.

I had visited Jackson Zoo a year previous and loved it. So there I am in the car trying to find it on the Sat Nav, it was having none of it. I got out the laptop and could not find it anywhere. Then I realized, we were at the wrong Jackson. For whatever reason I had booked Jackson Tennessee when I should have booked Jackson Mississippi. A bit gutted we simply headed for the pool. We relaxed a little and did some laundry. Then we went to Wal-Mart where I bought Charlie a Blue IPod and Abi a Pink one. Hopefully the long journeys might become that bit more bearable for them.
That said we are now 2/3 of the way across the States. It’s been long and tiring, but we are still loving every minute.

Next Stop Chattanooga and Atlanta…

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