Sandi Wheaton's photographic journey from Chicago to LA with a Jeep, an Aliner trailer and a bunch of cameras

Portland concrete and Oklahoma mud

Friday, October 9th, 2009

after the muddy turnaround

after the muddy turnaround (not Route 66 Portland concrete - this was after the mistake)

Jerry McClanahan says in his E-Z 66 Guide that the stretch between Fort Reno and Hydro is one of the best drives on all of 66.  I’d have to agree.  There’s a lot of the 1930s original Portland concrete in the west of this state, and it’s so neat to drive on.  There were like no cars on the Route last night, and the road hugged the contours of the land beautifully, up and down the gullies and across the fields.  It’s so cool: where there normally is a yellow or white center line, there was just a thin line of natural green poking up right along the center seam of the road.  There was no shoulder, just a thin curb next to the dip in the concrete that ran along the sides (water diversion), so the fields and trees grow right up to the edge of the road.  It’s pretty thin compared to the width of road we’re used to.  The lack of interstate nearby really gave the sensation of driving along the old Route 66 – it was a lot easier to imagine how it looked to the millions of people who have traveled this thin concrete ribbon across America to the promised land in the west.

1930s Portland concrete under the wheels as westarn Oklahoma whizzes past the windshield

original 1930s Portland concrete under the wheels as western Oklahoma whizzes past the windshield

That, and the “chu-chunk, chu-chunk” of the tires crossing the seams of the segments of concrete.  I’ve read many references to this sound.  People who travel and love Route 66 refer to the desirability of that “thumpety-thump” sound, almost like it’s music to their ears.  I do like the noise and appreciate the nostalgia in this old-school road trip sound, I really do… but remember: I drive a Jeep.  And I am pulling a trailer.  As much as I love my Jeep (and I really do love my Jeep, everyone knows this), a smooth-riding vehicle it is not.  The poor Aliner has to be shunted around with all of the bumps the Jeep makes – so bouncing over concrete seams for miles at a time is not quite desirable for me.  In fact, seriously: if there were a camera mounted on the dash facing the other way, and you couldn’t tell I was driving a Jeep – I SWEAR you’d think I was riding a horse.  It’s that jerky.

the "pony bridge" in western Oklahoma - this bridge was featured in The Grapes of Wrath film - apparently it's where they buried Grandpa

Last night I parked at an ex-Wal-Mart parking lot.  (That’s a first – a closed Wal-Mart?)  It was much more peaceful than an open one!  Less traffic and people buzzing by.  Alas, another sort of noise kept me awake – namely, a thunder and lightning storm.  I felt so vulnerable in the trailer, and wondered if I should go sit in the Jeep until the storm passed.  I kept thinking that this peaked metal roof is like a big triangle pointing at the sky, saying, “hit ME!!”   I tried to imagine what would happen if lightning struck the trailer, thinking, is anything touching the ground?  Will a lightning bolt be grounded, should it strike?  Maybe the rubber tires will save me… (of course I forgot that the metal stabilizing jacks were down- – duh!)  I’m pretty sure that Peggy Burner was thinking that I picked a bad day to leave OKC.  She would be right.  So between writing the blog late and the storm, I was trying to sleep in as much as possible this morning.

front page of The Oklahoman - check out the photo at the bottom!

front page of The Oklahoman - check out the photo at the bottom!

A high note today, though, was getting the online comment here from Peggy that my story was on page 2 of The Oklahoman – and that they put a color picture of me on the COVER!  Wow!!!  I bought five copies of the thing at the nearby Shell station.  David Zizzo did a nice job on the piece, as did  photographer John Clanton.  Thanks so much, you guys!!

Then another extremely cool thing happened:  I received a call from the CEO of Aliner!  The Burners put a bug in their ear and they want to help – so he is setting me up with an Aliner dealer in Amarillo, where they will fix/replace my converter, and help out in any other way they can.  I am so happy about this!!!  Tech support from Aliner, and a new converter!  No more attaching a separate battery charger!  No more buying a million 9V batteries for the gas leak detector!  I can get questions answered!  And, the timing is really great because the little gadget that holds my fridge door closed broke the other day.  I went into the trailer to get something when I was at the KFOR studios, and I opened the door to find the contents of my fridge had spilled out all over the floor.  Nice.  So hopefully they can help me with that, too.

OK, I need to go on for a moment about all this.  I am frikken blown away by the amount of interest and support I’m getting, I truly am.  It had occurred to me to try to get sponsorship before I left, but naturally I didn’t feel confident that people would want to.  I mean, this is just my thing, something I wanted to do, you know?  Would you expect people to support you when you’re just doing something that you love, something that is important to you on a personal level?  I know I wouldn’t.  Which is why I’m so amazed at how much people seem to be enjoying this blog.  I’m just trying to explore and share, like I always do – it never occurred to me that people would be willing to put out money or product for it, or that strangers would take an interest and look forward to the next posting…  I’ve read many times about how you should just follow your passions and things will fall into place, bla bla bla…  I’m starting to have hopes in this idea.  So far it looks like it might be true – but I’m scared I just jinxed it by saying that!

As well as everything else is going, the weather is NOT cooperating.  It rained heavily most of the day today and I spent most of it in the trailer trying to get caught up with backing up files, etc.  It’s been taking me AGES to get the files off the SD cards and onto the backup drive (like, hours).  I finally figured out how to turn off the automatic backup program – I think that will help a lot.  I think it was using up all the brains in my little laptop.

red Oklahoman mud on Jeep tire

red Oklahoman mud on Jeep tire

I drove a few hours but didn’t really get many photos since it was raining so much… I may have to do a lot of stops on the way back just to get infrared photos of Oklahoma – I have almost none!  The film really needs sunlight to work best, in my opinion.  The time lapse is going to be pretty grey and wet-looking!  …and it is COLD.  Wet, windy and cold.  Like, need-my-gloves cold.  Thank god the furnace works.

I missed a turn today because I was enjoying the scenery too much – and ended up having to turn around miles down the road, in this small dirt turnout.  Actually scratch “dirt”: MUD.  Thick, wet, red, mud.  Turning the trailer around is a real challenge for me at the best of times.

poor little dirty Aliner!

poor little dirty Aliner!

But on these thin roads with no shoulders?  In the middle of muddy fields?  Quite a sight.  I managed to do it without getting stuck and without someone coming along and hitting me – but not without a mess.  The gorgeous color of the red Oklahoman dirt makes it pretty impressive.

Time to heat up the leftover chicken fried steak for a late supper.


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