Our goal for Day Two was the same as Day One: put miles and miles of pavement behind us. As we ventured farther away from the east coast’s forest and rolling hills, though, the drive became more interesting as we would enter the plains with quite different scenery.
Early on during this trip, we tried to keep our bodies on Eastern Time for as long as possible so we were easily on the road by 7:00 local time. The rain that began the previous afternoon was still falling, but we made it through all of the Memphis road construction in drizzles at rush hour with ease.
Only 20 minutes into the day, we crossed the “mighty Mississip” (I apologize for any and all National Lampoon’s Vacation quotes from here on out. They’re inevitable.) to state #3: Arkansas! This was the first new state for the boys and me.
The morning drive was uneventful. I-40 brought us through the Mississippi floodplain with some of the lightest traffic of the entire trip and then onto rolling hills and the edge of the Ozarks which looked no different than North Carolina. We have to give Arkansas the incredible honor of having the most beautiful interstate rest area of the entire trip. If you’re heading west on I-40 in western Arkansas near mile 243, stop for a breather. Gorgeous flower beds, unique facility construction, and even cool trash cans – the MM 243 Rest Area’s got it all! Of course, I have no photos of this oasis of beauty because, really, who brings their camera into an interstate bathroom?!
Beyond Little Rock, wildflowers began to blanket the median and shoulder of the road, and would continue into the plains states. With around 30 miles left in the state, we stopped at a rest area to eat our packed picnic lunch and then pressed on into state #4.
Lunch at an Arkansas rest area and playing the popular game called “run to that tree way over yonder and back to tire yourself out so you’ll be ready to sit in the car for another four hours”
Oklahoma was another brand new state to us. The scenery was significantly changing and we finally felt like we had left the east and were entering new territory. After a stop at the welcome center, where Oklahoma lived up to one stereotype by serenading us with a chorus of moo’s from a cattle trailer resting in the parking lot, we hit the road through what was surprisingly one of my favorite scenic interstate drives of the trip.
Oklahoma was gorgeous, full of wildflowers, fields of cattle, rolling green hills … and casinos! Jasper enjoyed seeing oil pump jacks from his window and excitedly announced he would make one from Lego we returned home. Surprisingly, he actually remembered and over 20 days later constructed his pump jack from multicolored bricks!
Traffic had been light all day long so the drive straight through bustling Oklahoma City was almost a welcome sight. We stopped by Route 66 Park in the western suburb of Yukon so that the boys could stretch their legs. Jasper needed to be woken from a nap, a very rare occurrence and one of only two times on the entire trip that either boy would fall asleep in the car. There was even a active pump jack adjacent to the park so the boys peered between cracks in the enclosure to have an up-close look. It was a gorgeous, windy day and the boys were ready for the final few hours of driving to our hotel following a Chick-fil-a dinner.
The western half of Oklahoma was flatter than the east and hundreds of wind turbines dotted the landscape. We expected cattle and oil here, but didn’t realize so much wind power was being generated in this part of the country! The cattle-and-wind-turbine landscape remained the same as we entered state #5 (and new-to-us state #3), Texas!
Just over the border, we stopped in Shamrock to visit the Conoco station that was the inspiration for Ramone’s shop in the movie Cars. The building serves as the Shamrock Chamber of Commerce now and we peeked through the windows to see lots of Route 66 souvenirs for sale, but it was already closed for the day. We bought McDonald’s milkshakes and chased the sun to Amarillo, arriving at our hotel just after sunset.
Day two was a long yet gorgeous day that affirmed the very reason why I wanted to drive across the country instead of fly. I’m not sure when we would have a chance to dedicate a trip to the plains states like Oklahoma and Kansas, but driving through gave me a great appreciation for their beauty and I’ll now always have lovely memories of these “fly over states.”