by R.V. Gundur
“You’re gonna have to get your redneck on,” said Dave as he handed me the keys to the red pick-up. I had never driven such a large vehicle before. Two weeks later, its bed was loaded up with nearly everything I thought I’d need over the next year. I was happy to be going. The past few months had been taxing. My father died and I delayed this planned trip to help out with the chaos death invariably brings to those who live. The winter had been especially cold and icy and the winter break was in name only. I said good-by to my teary-eyed mother, got into the red pick-up and began my trip to Dallas, where I planned to stop and visit a friend for a few days.
I had forgotten how boring the drive to St. Louis is. Going down that flat and straight section of I-55 affords you the great scenery of corn and soybean fields. In the winter, all you see is the brown earth going on and on seemingly forever. So the only excitement you have is the possibilities that the state highway patrol pulls you over for speeding and plays the “meow” game with you. At least in Illinois, I would come to appreciate, folks tend to use the left lane for passing and then move over to the right lane to cruise along.
As you approach St. Louis, the topography changes a little. A giant hill gives way to a view of the St. Louis Arch as you approach the city. Crossing the Mississippi river brings the joy of being able to drive a little bit faster as the speed limits in Missouri increase to 70 miles per hour, but not immediately. No, you are punished with 60 and the hell of big city traffic, where everybody is in a hurry to get to their destination exactly 14.7 seconds faster than if they did something that resembled the speed limit. As you clear the St. Louis metropolitan area, the speed limits finally bump up and it’s back to cruising down the freeway.
I took a little detour to enjoy the markedly prettier Missouri countryside along part of the old Route 66. Route 66 runs through Springfield, Illinois too, where I started my day. There are always quirky little roadside restaurants and “attractions” which may or may not be as described. I got lucky and found a smokehouse. Gotta be a real American; gotta eat meat. I was working on my redneck.
I always find it funny when the smokehouses use logos of smiling pigs, especially ones that are portrayed to be eating. I guess if the pigs feel like the eats are good enough to cannibalize each other, the food inside can’t be bad. I wasn’t disappointed. My big plate of barbequed meat was served promptly at my table where a decidedly impressive array of barbeque sauce sat to the side at my disposal. The choice was difficult and time consuming. I painstakingly tasted a little bit of each sauce, only to discover that the original was indeed the best. After a quick trip to the growler, I was on my way again.
As the trailers snaked across the highway, I realized that it was quittin’ time. Stopping in Oklahoma isn’t always easy. Sometimes there are stretches where there don’t seem very many good options of where to bunk down for the night. Tired of the constant speeding up and slowing down on Highway 75 as I headed southbound through Oklahoma, I finally stopped at a Motel 6 in McAlester. It had the main requirements: a place to park the red pick-up and a room that qualified as being indoors. The slogan might as well be “Well look here -- we’ve got space and you’re outside so come on in.” I was happy the tiny bars of soap were made in the US of A. I felt like a patriot, and I guess that is one of the key steps to getting my redneck on.
It hit me upon pulling into the Texas welcome center not that Texans are proud of their state, I knew that already, but that Oklahomans clearly didn’t give a damn if you even knew you were in Oklahoma. I guess you figure it out quick with the road signs, but if you don’t have a map, there isn’t a friendly person who is excited to help you as you broach the border.
The Texan was the epitome of Southern hospitality; made me feel welcome. I kind fell like I was being invited into the club. Maybe I was doing a pretty good job of getting my redneck on. Unlikely; I was new at it. He was just probably doing his job. He gave me a quick history lesson where I learned what the original Confederate flag looked like and loaded me up with some Texas sized maps and guide books before sending me on my way.
As I approached Richardson, traffic ground to a halt. Oh, the joys of city traffic were upon me once again.