Aug 27, 2011

Road Trip Day 7

It doesn't seem like a week since we've left. The days have been full, either of driving, sightseeing, researching tourist sites, eating, and occasionally attempting to catch up on emails and chatting briefly with friends. Day 7 started off with a debate of where to go. We could stop off in Oklahoma, but the most notable city was Oklahoma City, and we've been told by multiple parties that it's not a particularly exciting town. Alternatively, we could continue straight through to Little Rock, Arkansas, but we didn't know much of what to see there either. Finally we found an old New York Times article on 36 hours in Fayetteville, AK. It sounded interesting enough, so we made that our destination.

The storm from the previous night seemed to have blown over, with a lot of lightning, but not much thunder and just a bit of rain. The sky was clear and the temperature was rising. It was already in the mid-20s as we left, a little before 10am. We got back onto the I40, and just drove, watching the landscape change. For the first two hours, there was little variation. We were surrounded by flat fields of golden grass. Occasionally cows could be seen grazing. The radio stations contained mostly Christian and country stations - I'm not sure I noticed any spanish language stations anymore. As we crossed Texas into Oklahoma, we lost data access on Verizon. we stopped off for lunch at Lucille's Roadhouse off the highway, an American burger/diner/steakhouse kinda place running on the Route 66 theme. The patty melt and deep fried chicken bites were surprisingly tasty, for a roadside diner. While greasy, the portions weren't outstandingly huge, which made me feel a bit better. The temperature outside had jumped to 35C at this point, though as we got back on the road, the brush started appearing in the fields, first brown, then turning green. Green watered farm fields also began appearing. About four hours into the drive, we got to Oklahoma City, with surprisingly tall high rises in the plains of farmlands. About 15 minutes later, we were past the city. Route 66 would head northwards towards Tulsa, and onwards to Chicago. We would take the slightly longer route through to Memphis, but we'd eventually get to the east end of Route 66. The plains got steadily greener. Brush turned to trees and the plains got a little less flat.

By the time we got to Arkansas, another four hours later, the landscape reminded me a little of the Ontario countryside, with a highway cutting through small deciduous forests. The temperature had peaked at 37 somewhere through Oklahoma, though it was still stayed in the 30s. We finally got data access in Arkansas, and called up the Inn at the Mill in Johnson, just outside Fayetteville. It was featured in the NYT article, and was only $89 on a Thrusdays night. We finally broke off of the I40, which we had followed four states ago since LA. The highway curved through the foothills of the Ozarks, and the green hills rolled on into the distance. The Inn at the Mill was definitely the most beautiful hotel we had stopped at up to this point. It incorporated an old waterwheel mill as the main lobby, with a separate building for rooms, as well as another new glass building for their upscale restaurant. The aqueducts that fed the waterwheel were fashioned into mini waterfalls, and there was plenty of bubbling water running through the property. I had imagined Texas being a wealthy oil state, and Arkansas being somewhat of a backwater. In stark contrast, Amarillo seemed like a suburban, underdeveloped wasteland, and Fayetteville, a university town, a center of Confederate history and culture.

After checking in and showering, we drove down to Fayetteville. We stopped by the Confederate Cemetary for some photos on our way to downtown. The semester at the University of Arkansas starts next Monday, and students had began filling the town. Dickson St, the main street running through the town featured a variety of bars, pubs, and even one upscale lounge. There was a biker convention at one of the bars, with a lve band on their outdoor patio. There were at least two other live bands on other patios on the street though. We grabbed dinner at Hugo's a student burger joint with more going with the ambiance than the food, though the food was good enough. I had pretty low expectations for Arkansas, but this town was one of the nicest places to spend the night so far.

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