The American Road Trip

Big red and sand dunes (2)Last month I went back to the States for some R & R. I just finished up my project with the Clinton Foundation and wanted to go home. I own a ’88 Chevy 1500 extended bed, extended cab, 5.7L V8, 2X4 back in the States. A classic piece of Americana in and of itself. (You find that when you live abroad such things become even more special to you). I call her Big Red, you can see her there on the left. Since I’ve lived abroad various friends have been kind enough to keep her running for me.  Recently my good friend Adam McQueen was keeping Big Red for me in a small town close to Little Rock, Arkansas. However, his company moved him and gave him a company truck, so Big Red needed a new home. At almost the same time Adam’s brother, Ian, wrecked his vehicle and needed some new wheels. Adam asked if I’d be interested in driving Big Red from Little Rock to Denver, where his brother lived. Obviously, I wanted to do this.

Carrie and John (4)For this particular trip I recruited Carrie Stanley(right) as my Co-pilot and in vehicle DJ. She also did a wonderful job coordinating logistics for the trip. We flew into Little Rock on Tuesday April 13th. One of Adam’s co-workers picked us up at the airport and took us to Big Red. We gassed-up, cleaned the windows, and hit the road.

little-rockWe first stopped for lunch where we had fried fish, shrimp, and sweet ice tea at the Flying Fish in Little Rock along the river front. It was delicious. I love fried seafood and sweet tea. It felt good to be back in the south. If you’re ever in Little Rock I highly recommend the place. We had decided to avoid interstates when possible and enjoy back roads, so we took off on high way 10 heading West.

Bed and breakfast (4)We ended up stopping in Fort Smith, AR where we stayed at the Beland Manor bed and breakfast (right). The place was super nice. The room was comfortable, we had our own TV and DVD player and shower. I suppose this sounds a bit trite, but to me, it was heaven. Beland is run by Mr. and Mrs. Smith. Mr. Smith let me have one of his home brewed IPAs while his wife cooked an amazing breakfast. Then Mr. Smith gave us the run down of all our options for getting to Denver and things to do a long the way. He informed me of salt flats in OK. I asked if we could drive on them, and he said yes, so I was there.

Jesus shirts (2)We hit the interstate for a while to make good time. We had some wonderful hot dogs at Jim’s Coney Island in Tulsa, Mr. and Mrs. Smith both recommended it. While on the interstate in OK we stopped at a gas station poorly named Kum ‘n Go. Where we found this assortment of t-shirts on sale. I was particularly found of the Facebook rip off. This was another, “Ahh, I’m back in America,” moment. I had also just bought the book Stuff Christians Like by Jonathan Acuff. In the book he mentions Christians’ propensity for trademark infringement.

Carrie salt flatsAround 4pm on Wednesday we made it to the Salt Plains National Wildlife Refuge. It was awesome. You could just bend down and taste the saltiness. I was super excited to drive on the salt flats, big red salt flatsand may have even lost static friction on my rear tires. I was a bit disappointed that, unlike the Bonnavile flats, I couldn’t achieve any land world speed records. But it was till way cool.

After that we drove on to Dodge City, KS. Dodge was a nice little town. We went all out and stayed at the nicest hotel in town… the Best Western. I know. We did have two rooms each with 30″ flat screens. I thought it was cool. Other than that there wasn’t much to see in Dodge, so we got out.

sand blowing over dunesThen we were in CO, where the landscape quickly changed and became really pretty. It was so nice to drive through all these small high ways and roads. While in Colorado we visited Great Sand Dunes National Park. This place was super cool as well. It was like we walked out of the mountains and into the Sahara. Colorado plainsThe picture at the top of Big Red was taken here. We walked around for a bit, but the wind was super intense and cold. We weren’t prepared for the cold, and being sand blasted, so after walking around for a bit and then left. I’d like to come back some day and camp up there. It’s absolutely gorgeous.

mountain roadsAnother highlight of this trip was the people. We went through a lot of small towns and met some wonderful people. When traveling on this road we stopped and helped a lady change a flat tire. A few hours later we drove by ADX Florence. In OK we met some lovely ladies that ran a small restaurant. When I jokingly asked if I could have my milk shake with pineapple, coconut and a shot of rum, the grandmother of the two looked and me and with a straight face said, “No, I drank it all last night.” In CO we were in another small restaurant and asked how many people lived in the town, “I don’t know… 80. There are more cows than people in this town.” was the response. All in all a great trip.

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