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Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The caravan moves on

Heading in to Missouri (MO) we visited Pine Woods lake. Hardly a trek, this was a chance to walk off lunch before more driving. After Big Springs later that day, where the river runs a natural shade of green, we stopped at Van Beuren, where a motel, a general store, a funeral parlor and a couple of restaurants serve the local populace and, more importantly for the local economy, the canoeists for whom MO is a greater focus than hikers. Van Beuren's avuncular owner told us that this out of season hamlet was a "party town", something hard to believe, even when the canoeists are in full pelt. He told us that the general store was the place for all culinary and libation needs. Dinner was classic southern fried, breakfast the next morning was bollocks, largely due to our own ineptness and lack of cafeine. We purchased a couple of CDs from the counter however, one of Powdermill, a rootsy MO mix with rock sensibilities and genuine musicality, authors of Trailortrash (check it out on on youtube), the other Shund, who should be renamed Shite: it has the same opening two letters and a total of five, is easier to pronounce and entirely encapsulates their oeuvre. Shund are totally local: the bass player was the shop server's nephew and the singer ran the machinery shop next door. The Shund schtik is lumpen metal and the lyrics of those whose relationship experience sounds like the equivelent of playing air guitar. The next night we stopped off in Monett (no silent t's for this town) which appeared (from our motel room) to be largely strip malls but had the distinct advantage of a Bayou, a New Orlins-style eatery right next door. Feeling ripped on a bottle of Sam Adams each, drunk chilled from the boot of the car on an empty stomach, we went on to dine in the bar and enjoyed steaks and beers. The sad part was being back in the motel room without anymore beer. However Are You Being Served on cable for the first time in 30 years was quite a hoot. We left Monett late after a slow start and a weird breakfast overseen by an Indian watchdog who menacingly studied the TV a few feet from where we trying to stuff the muffins and doughnuts into our pockets. We got to now the road from MO to OK (Oklahoma) pretty well as a few hours later we were back, wife having forgotten her wallet (stashed under the pillow in a high security move that obviously foxed both of us). For a second time we traversed the border, observing as best I could from the driver's seat Native American casinos (legal when on reservations) and an interesting arrangement of rusting tractors in a long line on a hillside. That night in Tulsa we supped beers and ate well in a Ruby Tuesday (the same sh*t we have in the UK, right?) but something wasn't quite right in Motel City, the phalanx of two story motels arranged one side of town. A bad night's sleep in the Super 8, and an impossible to fathom tourist map, led to us making a premature exit from town. Less than 24 Hours in Tulsa, as the song might have had it. We stopped off in Stroud that lunchtime, hitting the Route 66 trail, and enjoying the first of many OK themed venues, trying to milk a key part of US culture. The Rock Cafe was originally built in 1939 when the US was still sitting out the battle against fascism and The Kansan Wizard of Oz was wowing movie goers. In fact a reinvention burned down only a few years ago, but the stone building and artifacts make for a pleasant ambiance. The staff, like many Americans, are very friendly and the food was damn good. Graffiti is officially encouraged in the unisex restrooms and you can watch the cooks at work as you follow the yellow highway lines to the crapper. That night we stopped along Route 66 in Chandler, where a fairly new lazy motel owner was milking the originality of the 1930s Lincoln Motel to the extent that the wooden cabins are falling apart. I mean, do you really want an original bog seat?

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