Day 6: Into the West

Today’s mileage: 487
Total traveled: 1753
Starting Elevation: 1296
Current Elevation: 3649

We left Bentonville (aka Walmartland) Friday morning and headed out on back roads for the Oklahoma border, which we crossed in a thunderstorm. Surprisingly green, dotted with dismal small towns and chicken processors formed my predominant impressions. Dogwoods, redbud, cedar and oak make up the the Ozark forest.

AR into OK

As we rolled on the wooded landscape continued far beyond my expectation. I think I had an image of Oklahoma as a brown, barren wasteland. The eastern half of the state is quite lush, at least this time of year.

For days I’ve been scanning the landscape, alert for tiny differences. Is it dryer? are the trees different? What about the sky? Where’s the prairie? I’ve been seeking that moment when we enter into The West.

Grasslands

It happened rather suddenly.

I began to notice a distinctive aspect to the oak trees in the Ozarks, and it became more more pronounced in Oklahoma: short twisty trees with angular articulated limbs and bushy foliage. It’s probably Blackjack Oak. Nascent leaves accent the forms. If you’ve ever seen the cover of Lev Grossman’s The Magicians it’s THAT tree.

It turns out there is a band of particular forest type that runs in a north-south band from eastern Kansas down thru Oklahoma into the Dallas area called Cross Timbers . It forms the margin between the forested East and the grasslands of the Great Plains.

Once west of Oklahoma City we went from Cross Timbers to Grasslands, then the moment we crossed the Texas line sagebrush and tumbleweeds. And WIND.

LIFE HAPPENS WHILE YOU’RE MAKING OTHER PLANS Department

Crossing into Texas, landscape getting flatter and every more windy, we heard a sudden kerthump above us, and simultaneously realized that our rooftop cargo carrier had flipped its lid and was giving away bags of clothes along the highway. Alas, no photo can do this moment justice. Momentary alarm, organized assault to collect underwear off the highway and strap the carrier down, and we were on our way! Plucky feminists avert disaster. Not one macho trucker paused to assist.

Grain Elevators

Grain Elevator in Groom, TX

The Josephine Report
We saw this one in Groom, Texas, on our way to Amarillo. We were traveling along the storied OLD Route 66 (decommissioned back in 1985) when we encountered this apparently abandoned and rusty old grain elevator. This brought up vivid memories of the summers I spent with my grandmother in western Kansas back in the 50s, when winter wheat was THE crop of the area. Riding with gramps on his house-sized combine — winter wheat is harvested in June — and watching the mile-long wheat trains pulled by three or more engines stopping at each town with an elevator, and then eventually disappearing over the horizon of this very flat prairie land.

So back in Groom Texas. I was looking at a relic of a bygone era. Railroad tracks are gone, rotting ties left in evidence, but the elevators still standing, waiting a very long time to sink back into the earth.

Don’t forget you can follow us on Twitter @patriseart or with #coast2coast. Also, Be sure to see today’s complete photo set on Flickr

3 thoughts on “Day 6: Into the West”

  1. So much to comment on nature, art, and spirit….but I love the baggage story, too! I do hope our baggage stays in tact as we go abroad on Thursday…until I catch up later….go, ladies, go!

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