Wednesday, April 25, 2012

The ultimate childfree vacation - Day 4: St. Louis, Missouri to Tulsa, Oklahoma

Tulsa VFW
Here’s what you need to know if you are going to drive cross-country, east to west: you hit bottom on day four.  This is when everything becomes a blur of Jesus, fireworks, and adult superstore billboards.  The promise of the West turns into a death march in which you cling to the mid-century kitsch of Route 66 like a promise of salvation, only to find out that irony is a fleeting entertainment.

We ended day four in Tulsa.  We were staying on the outskirts of the city and decided to stretch our legs with a walk into the CBD.  It was dead, so we returned to the neighborhood surrounding our hotel in search of something, anything, more uplifting.  On Cherry Street we discovered a nascent boho scene.  You had to look hard, but it was there: a pub with retro stools, an indie coffee shop with a collective of Mac users surfing the free-wifi while burrowed into second-hand sofas.  We drank our coffee outside on aluminum porch sliders before stopping into the Corner Café on historic Route 66 for dinner. 

Frito Chili Pie
I REALLY wanted to like this place.  There was a server named Bobbi Jean and fried green tomatoes on the menu.  I ordered the tomatoes to start, then doubled down on Frito chili pie.  I am pretty sure I ate half a can of Dinty Moore beef stew over a bag of Fritos before I admitted how gross it tasted.  Still hopeful we could salvage the evening, we headed to the nearby VFW, the only bar we had seen, for a pre-bed beer.  We joined one other couple at the bar; that the woman was celebrating her birthday in this desolate hall just made us more depressed.  I nursed my domestic-imitating-a-foreign-beer and watched a bad sitcom on the giant TV. 

On the way back to the hotel we spotted the “art bar.”  Inside was a cement room hung with oil paintings, mostly of cowboys and Indians.  A square bar, also of cement, dominated the center of the room, and we took two stools with a view of a giant oil painting of Lake Havasu party boats tethered together.  Tulsa must have been getting to me, because I was taken with the artist’s rendition of the dusky sky over the lake.  There was only one other person at the bar, a standard issue hipster sporting a standard issue hipster beard, truckers’ cap and inner tube earrings in each earlobe.  He was busy impressing the barmaid, a sweet girl in a black racer-back tank top and lip ring, with his suitably inaccessible musical selections on the jukebox.  I nursed a beer and took the scene in, but I wasn’t persuaded to wait the hour until karaoke started.

We were ready to leave Tulsa at 6:30AM on day five, but Tulsa wasn’t ready to let us go.  Road works conspired to keep us off the interstate until, on our third attempt, we found an open on ramp.  Later in Oklahoma City we would meet a similar barrage of road works.  We set our sights on Texas, and didn’t look back.

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