This day feels like we crammed in about three days' worth of action, most of it while sitting still. We packed the car and picked up the house (a little), while Boo went to her last day of second grade. We picked her up at lunchtime and were on our way.
The Scenic Route
Down country roads and state highways, through twenty tiny hamlets and half a dozen small towns, and around three or four population centers large enough to count as small cities; for six hours we picked our way across rural Texas to reach the state line.
We didn't choose the scenic route because we prefer to experience a sense of connection to the land through which we pass. To the contrary, the only Interstate that would take us where we are going would have us backtrack about 70 miles by passing through Dallas on the Friday afternoon of Memorial Day Weekend. Yeah, no thanks. We'll try the scenic route.
Before we moved to Texas, I always thought of Texas as a giant piece of mostly empty land, with four cities holding 95% of the people. Now that I have driven the scenic route a few times, my mental picture has changed. Seems you can't travel five miles down any given country road without passing a sign announcing a population center. I have seen signs counting populations as low as 147 people.
The frustrating part for those of us who like to make tracks on our 1300 mile trek is that all these little hamlets require a change of speed. Fast, slow, fast, slow. Get behind a big rig or Ford F-350 pulling a boat, slow. Wiggle around the pair of motorcycle riders, fast. Stop light. Take an exit to stay on the same highway.
Oh. My. Word.
I feel plenty connected with the land now, and I have experienced the scenic route. Next time, we'll just suck it up and count the extra 70 miles as part of the required distance.
The wonder of the day is that we left an hour later than scheduled, yet still hit our mark for dinner at Outback Steakhouse in Texarkana only 15 minutes later than planned. I was frankly astonished, given our usual struggle with sticking to any kind of schedule.
We stopped to eat lunch before setting out, which delayed us an hour. Poor Rooster had to request three potty stops. The Captain, as he was working while I was driving us through rural Texas, had to put up with spotty cell phone/internet service. At one point we stopped for half an hour and the rest of us had a play/snack break while he sat in the car and attended a conference call.
Sweet Lulu never worked in a nap, which made for a bit of tension. But she did well whenever one of us could look over and give her our full attention. I bet it's hard to understand what's happening when you suddenly get put into a car and expected to sit there with no explanation. We did turn her car seat around finally so she can at least look out the window and watch the world go by. The good news is that somehow we were able to keep going despite her fussing, which helped us keep making progress toward our destination.
I knew we would arrive at our hotel sooner or later, so never really worried about our timing for that reason. But I really wanted to arrive in Texarkana by dinner time, so we could enjoy a steak dinner at Outback. Boy do I love that place. I think I went on about it last year, but it's good enough that I feel comfortable repeating myself.
Several years ago we figured out that Outback offers something special: consistency. We can walk into Outback anywhere in the country and get good service and food that tastes the same every time. Anyone can make a good steak. But this chain has figured out how to combine good food and service, and turned it into an exact science. And when I am on the road, I want predictable food.
So tonight, thanks to our willingness to go the scenic route, and our surprising ability to stick to a schedule, we made it to Outback by 6:15. It was everything I wanted it to be. Lulu even enjoyed some bites of steak, and Boo declared it the best food she ever had (it always helps when you are starving). I love Outback.
The rest of our trip after Texarkana is confined to the Interstate system. I love the Interstate. We get to go fast.
And I love that we stop tonight in Arkadelphia, Arkansas, 360 miles (80 of them on the Interstate) closer to my family.