Wendy and I left for the flatlands of Oklahoma City at 12:30am two Thursdays ago. Yes, it was a bit early. Wendy had to close her store at 10pm the night before. Of course, the idea was that I would get plenty of sleep in the early evening in order to be fit to drive the rest of the night and early morning. I ended up staring at the ceiling for several hours, and I drove out from Pensacola on three hours of sleep earlier that day with Wendy snoozing in the passenger seat. However, I was fueled by Whataburger's tasty breakfast menu and a bountiful supply of coffee (not from Whataburger, but from yours truly). Lack of sleep didn't really become a problem until about an hour before Jackson (or an hour after?), when I had to sing along to the Rushmore soundtrack to stay awake. I replaced "Yoko" with "Wendy."
We rolled into Jackson by dawn, where I doubled my weight with a Whataburger patty melt, and Wendy and I made a Starbucks stop in Ridgeland - my third visit to that store, trusty ol' Ridgeland Starbucks. I succumbed somewhere past Memphis, and Wendy drove through most of Arkansas. Then I took the wheel again, refreshed, taking us to Edmond, OK. No rest for the weary, though. We arrived at the rehearsal dinner, quite hungry, just in time to find everyone leaving (curses!), and we followed the caravan to the Tres Suenos vineyard for the wedding rehearsal.
I made a curious discovery on this latest trip to my Oklahoma homeland (from which I've lived nearly my entire life in exile), that there seem to be as many vineyards now in the former Indian Territory as there are oil fields. How unexpected! The 21st century sees the state entering a new era of sophistication, or so it seems.
Christa and Joe's wedding was the next day, of course. The wedding was marvelous! It took place outside in perfect weather, and only one giant hornet attempted to take my head off. We stood in the dusk amidst a small grove of pines. The vineyard contained a great hall with pleasant south-midwestern decor for the reception, where we enjoyed a fantastic dinner and an amazing array of cheeses that my parents brought from Germany. The greatest part of it all, of course, was seeing my sister enter into holy matrimony, but seeing family and old friends was a close second. All in all, a most pleasant experience. I'm sure the toxic train wreck that occurred in the vicinity the day before was a complete coincidence.
Tres Suenos sits a little north of Luther, Oklahoma, a historic town straddling Route 66. Just west of Luther, one encounters the Valhalla of rest stops: Pops! The weary traveler first spies - could it be? - an immense soda bottle promising limitless refreshment! A bottle that lights up like Joseph's resplendent coat in the night! To the right of this monument to quenching thirst, one sees a crystalline, strangely modern steel, glass, and stone building housing several gas pumps and a gleaming white restaurant and convenience store that makes you wonder if you're not actually on the Starship Enterprises' holodeck. But this is no mere convenience store. Oh no. This is soda pop heaven. It contains soda drinks from all over the world, including my favorite, Manhattan Special's Pure Espresso Coffee Soda. Yum! The pizza place on Palafox in downtown Pensacola also serves this drink of the gods, thankfully.
Wendy had difficulty parting ways with Pops. Don't worry, honey, we'll return someday.
Wendy and I loved spending time with family and friends of family, and we had a hard time leaving. Alas, Pensacola called. We set out the following Tuesday, exploring the fabled Route 66 to Chandler. We headed south to the I-40, encountering several vineyards on the way (though we did not stop to taste their fruits - maybe next time), drove east on 40 (a bumpy ride), took the Indian Nations Turnpike south from Henryetta (beautiful country with the worst rest stops ever), enjoyed a peak around Paris, TX (with the nicest Methodist church I've ever seen), drove east to Texarkana (not terribly exciting, but the R.E.M. connection was irresistable - but no Braum's!), south to Shreveport, and across Louisiana on the dreary I-49 to Lafayette, where we turned east and spent the night outside Hammond.
The next day, Wendy and I enjoyed coffee and breakfast at St. John's Coffeehouse in Covington, Louisiana. I wanted to introduce Wendy to this neat little town, home to Walker Percy, one of my favorite authors. Cafes, art galleries, English tea shop - the works. We walked down to the landing. It was a refreshing stop.
We arrived back at the Trailer of Former Paradise last Wednesday morning just in time to go to work. Reality strikes. Then came Gustav, making landfall on Monday, our one year anniversary. Inauspicious? Mais non! Wendy and I spent the day watching the extended versions of The Lord of the Rings and enjoyed a nice quiet day at home. Our cake tasted as soft and fresh as it did one year ago. Gustav was kind to us as well as the rest of the Gulf Coast. It could have been much, much worse.