Or “would you like the 24 ounce coffee or the Large?”
Last night we had dinner at the Springfield Brewery Company. A fantastic bar, restaurant, brewery, pool hall & venue combined! The food was epic! I feel like I’m repeating myself but I had one of the best pizzas ever, at least an 8/10 and Mike & Mick returned the same verdict! The brewery obviously had a selection of their own beers and when I struggled deciding (I know less about beer than I do about quantum mechanics), our waitress (Amanda) brought me a selection of tasters in shot glasses.
This kind of brilliant service is commonplace so far in my experience of the US and quite honestly puts our service staff in the UK to shame. It also goes quite a way to explain why Americans have such a bad rep out of their own environment. If you’re used to this level of service it must be a culture shock arriving in the UK and having to deal with grumpy checkout girls in Tesco or getting evils for taking too long to count your change in the chippy!
Springfield is a charming place which has embraced the Route 66 tourism angle with open arms. This morning was the first overcast day we’ve had and even with the rain that followed the temperature stayed around 80! We had breakfast at the hotel and instead of a flavourless, generic hotel canteen we found ourselves sat in a diner with a 1950’s brown wooden phone booth (Back to the future diner style,) leather spin top stools, booths, chrome piping with vintage Baby Blue V8 Ford Carolines and retro gas pumps finished in polished maroon and cream adorning the entrance.
The 50’s piped music soundtrack set the mood beautifully, all that was missing was a Wurlitzer Jukebox and a waitress on roller skates. This is the second time I’ve really felt like I’m on Route 66. There’s a cookie cutter, generic feel to a lot of American towns. Once you’re out of the city, Springfield feels like, Oakridge Florida feels like St Louis feels like Austin Texas… There’s subtle differences but you really have to pay attention, largely due to everywhere being so flat. The roads undulate when you’re doing 60 but because you can alway see for a couple of miles you don’t ever feel like its hilly.
Between Springfield and Oklahoma the landscape colour palette which has so far been full of lush greens with the occasional flash of yellow from flowering crops starts to take on shades of brown and beige. It’s a subtle shift but its there. Perhaps the drop in humidity as we head west is responsible for the dryer grass and vegetation but whatever the reason it feels like we are finally heading out into the great frontier!
The historic route 66 road gradually got smaller and smaller to the point where it was a trail. Mick was wrestling with the steering at one point, the paved part of the road was almost the same width as the wheelbase of our ride so it threw us around a bit. With the terrain mastered and control regained, a brew was required so halfway to Oklahoma and in need of a coffee we pulled into a little place called Vinita. The lonely wail of a freight train drifted hauntingly across the town. The sound surrounded us as we pulled in the parking lot of The Wood Shed, a large gas station with wooden clad walls, skulls and horns on the walls and a cafe inside.. The freight train continued getting louder until it appeared on the track right next to the Wood Shed. This thing was colossal, it must have taken a good 5 minutes to pass with 100 plus cars!
Inside the Wood Shed we discovered a new side of America… White Trash! A guy came in with his 4 or 5 children. I’m making a new rule, you should have more teeth than kids! I think my rule would improve dental hygiene or contraceptive sales because there is clearly only two things to do in Vinita, sex or slushies! These people are obsessed with cold sugary slushies, caffeine & bumper stickers! There must have been 20 different caffeine shot drinks to choose from, caffeine pills, and coffee available in 20oz, 32oz & 44oz cups! Having been here for 5 minutes it quickly became obvious that staying awake in Vinita for any length of time would be unpleasant! So Mick, Mike and I abandoned our sugary coffees and high tallied it the hell out of there. On the way out of town it struck me that I was mistaken about the freight train, it wasn’t a lonely wail, it was calling to us, a cold shrill warning …. “gooooooooo!”
I took the wheel for the last leg of the drive to Oklahoma and what a drive it is. Once on the interstate there was little to do but kick in the cruise control and sit at 75 for best part of 100 miles. Long stretches of this road are perfectly straight and although the terrain gets hilly, the straight line of the road does not falter. Cresting the peak of the highway to see the road fall and rise as far the horizon hints at the scale of this land. The road continued like this for half an hour, as did our voyage, a wave of wheels rolling on a black river of endless asphalt.
The greenery started returning as we neared the outskirts of the city and by the time we reached our hotel, the shadows had lengthened and the blazing crimson sunset backlit everything with its fiery hue. Mick suggested steak, a reassuringly expensive steakhouse was located and off we went. The city skyline is dominated by Devon tower, 259 meters of foreboding looking architecture. A triangle of yellow caps this dark tower giving you the unnerving feeling you’re approaching Mordor, if Lord of the Rings were set in 2050. Oklahoma is all about cattle. Every other business logo uses the same font as those wild west ‘WANTED’ posters.
The Cattleman Club was the venue for dinner (smoking or non smoking again!) and was complete with stetson wearing, booted cowboys (genuine or wannabe they looked the part) and despite the dark wood wall panels and feeling like we were in an episode of Kojak we settled down to some fine eating! M&M’s steaks came in at a solid 9/10 as did my broiled salmon & shrimps, delicious!
On the way back to the hotel we tried to buy some wine from a Seven Eleven. The look Mick got from the staff was hilarious, like he’d just asked for a 7 foot, diamond encrusted figure of Vishnu! They already sell beer so it didn’t seem like a push to us but apparently, us crazy Brits have some strange notions about what to expect from a late night convenience store. Should we be successful in our mission to win back this colony, there will be changes! Right, next stop Amarillo (I’m begging the guys to let me stop and ask for directions..)
J Dubya D x