We have reached the West.

We started the day in western Arkansas, and by eight we were in Oklahoma.  i was somewhat surprised that we did not see more oil wells, although we did see piping that could be for oil, could be for natural gas.  We did see a number of Indian casinos, along the highway, and frequent signs as we passed from one Indian reservation to another.  In Oklahoma City, we got off the highway to see the memorial to those who died in the 1995 bombing.  We did not stop long–one cannot stop long in this heat with a dog–but long enough to get a sense of how huge the building was that one man brought down with a truck bomb.  The sad thing is that, although federal buildings have been strengthened, a terrorist could target a commercial office building with more or less the same technology today.

We continued on route 40 west, stopping to purchase lunch at a Panera on the outskirts of OK City, but eating it as we drove along.  Our only other tourist stop was at Cadillac Ranch, on the western side of Amarillo, Texas.  Doug Michel, one of the artists, was a neighbor of mine in Washington many years ago.  I doubt he would recognize his creation today:  the cars have been spray painted so many times that they are more paint than metal.  There was a large sign prohibiting spray paint and that, too, had been spray painted.

We are now in Tucumcari, New Mexico, a small town surrounded by the immense New Mexico desert.  The town survives because it os both Interstate 40, the modern road, and old route 66.  At dinner this evening, at Del’s Restaurant, almost everyone else was obviously a “route 66er,” exploring the old road.  Why, Lydia asked, would anyone opt for an old road rather than a new one?  Not an easy question, especially when half the motels on the “main drag” of this town are defunct and boarded up:  it is not an especially charming bit of road.  The past has a fascination, however, and for some people the most fascinating period is that of the past century, ie, early and mid twentieth century.