Wednesday, October 20, 2010
Back on the road, and back at Walmart for the night. This feels familiar. We're moving slowly, owing to a late start Tuesday morning and another late start today. Taking it easy and only doing about 400 to 500 miles a day, stopping fairly early in the evening. Went to a couple of antique malls to buy pocket knives, and tried to see the "world's largest rocker" today, near Cuba, Missouri, but couldn't locate it in spite of signs on the road. Maybe I was looking for the wrong thing. I assume it's a rocking chair, but for all I know it could be a 900 pound guy who looks like Elvis. Actually, they have a guy like that in Las Vegas, called Big Elvis. I don't think he's much over 400 pounds, but you get the idea.
This shakedown cruise with the new motor home has been interesting and pretty predictable so far. One of the things I had hoped for was better gas mileage, but that's not happening. If anything, this one does a little worse than the other one. And when I think about it, that makes perfect sense. It's about the same size as the other one (two feet shorter). Compared to the buslike Class A Holiday Rambler I had before, this Class C model is significantly less aerodynamic--the Winnebago part of it balances on the Ford part of it like a mattress balances on a bottle of wine, as Bob Dylan would say. Also, it's about the same age as the other one (three years older, in fact), and has about the same size engine (461 cubic inches, versus 454, I think, in the other one). So it shouldn't have surprised me that it gets, when everything's going just right and I don't go over about 60, between 6.5 and 7 mpg, which is about what the other one got. And it's got less pickup than the other one, too, especially pulling the car on the dolly behind it. Zero to 60 in a few minutes.
But all of that is okay. It's feeling more like home all the time. By Friday we'll be situated in Hobbs, New Mexico, at the starting point of the resumption of the walk.
Bristow, Oklahoma, where we're spending tonight, is about 30 miles west of Tulsa. Oklahoma so far seems to be filled with some pretty seriously geeky people. I can see why California tried, albeit unsuccessfully and unconstitutionally, to prevent the Okies from entering back in the 30s. They must have definitely brought down the class average, even in places like Ridgemont High.
Here are a couple of factoids about Bristow, so you'll get that up close and personal feeling I try to impart about the places I visit. Although it was dark when we pulled into this town of 4500, I could tell right away I was entering a community where the Walmart is the biggest thing that's happened in many decades. And it is a damn fine Walmart, as these things go. Despite being under cover of the night, I did find out that Bristow was where the folk singer Tom Paxton grew up and graduated from high school. And it's a mere stone's throw from Okemah, the birthplace of another pretty serious folk singer named Woody Guthrie.
It was while working the midnight shift at the Frisco Depot in Bristow that Gene Autry (one of California's most successful Okies) would sing and accompany himself on the guitar, to pass the time. And it was while doing so that he was encouraged to sing professionally by a guy passing through named Will Rogers. And he did, going first to New York to record, and eventually out to Hollywood to become an authentic made-for-the-movies singing cowboy, and much later the owner of the Los Angeles-California-Anaheim-Los Angeles Angels.
Interestingly, one of the songs Gene Autry recorded in 1931, in his much less conservative days, was a labor anthem called "The Death of Mother Jones." And it so happens that yesterday we visited the grave of Mother Jones herself, in Mount Olive, Illinois, where she shares a monument with union miners killed in a strike in Virdin, Illinois in 1898. Mary Harris "Mother" Jones was an Irish-born labor organizer, one of the co-founders of the Industrial Workers of the World. She was born in either 1830 or 1837, and died in 1930. At any rate, she hung in there for a good long time, organizing mostly mine workers.
And I've hung in there as long as I intend to for one day.