TJWE 16: Day 3&4

The headline event is that  Ranger turned seven yesterday. We headed off any disappointment about the lack of presents (we did them early at home) by exclaiming that he is our only child to turn seven in Oklahoma, Texas, and New Mexico. Ranger is a very easy-to-please kind of guy. He was happy with that.

As the youngest of the family, Ranger is highly accomplished in passive-aggressive pestering. “Stop making that noise!” from an older sibling means he will infuse his noise with great enthusiasm. He doesn’t go out of his way to be annoying, though. He’s actually a sweet boy, a thinker rather than a chatterer. When he comes for me, I know he’s either going to kiss me or body-slam me. Sometimes both. His is a vigorous love.

Every once in a while, a blanket will come flying over the back of my seat. It’s a really fun game, 7-year-old sources say.

He likes being one of the big kids, joining in with Gamerboy’s and Sparkler’s goofiness. But he’s also just fine living in his own world, thinking his own thoughts, and making sound effects that—bonus!—drive his older siblings mad.

Happy birthday to our only tri-state seven-year-old!


Day 3 (Tuesday) was unremarkable. Lots of driving, nobody throwing up. We drove along some smaller highways in Arkansas; it looks so much like my Mississippi home that I felt like I’d already seen it all. Oklahoma is, indeed, flat. Our Virginia-born kids missed blue hills on the horizon.

We had grand plans to “do something” once we got to our hotel. Instead we ate instant mac&cheese, pasta cooked in the microwave, and spent the evening playing games and watching TV.

Day 4 (Wednesday)

A long day of travel—from Oklahoma City to Albuquerque.  Eastern Texas is so flat that DJ and I kept expecting to see ocean on the horizon. No ocean, just hundreds of miles of ranchland, farmland, and enormous wind turbines. The turbines lined the fields, turning lazily in the wind. They looked like something out of an apocalyptic landscape.

It was startling to get into New Mexico; there were hills again, but much redder, rockier, and rugged than the Blue Ridge. I hope what we were seeing dotting the wilderness alongside the interstate was sagebrush because that’s what I’ve always read about.

We ate supper at an old Rte. 66 restaurant. It had very good pizza, or so I was told. I didn’t eat the pizza. I couldn’t eat my salad.

Instead, as we left, I threw up on Historic Rte. 66!

Well, I got the bucket first. Then we pulled over and I got close-up and personal with the dry, rocky ground. The kids are pretty casual about throw-up at this point. They all said they were very sorry for me but otherwise weren’t too alarmed.

It was still a two-hour drive to the hotel. The exotic landscape made up for my unhappy stomach.

Sometime back in Arkansas, we’d told them about the Bugs Bunny line when he and Daffy end up in the treasure chamber of Ali Baba’s forty thieves: “I knew I shouldn’t have taken a left at Albuquerque.” As we entered the city, Sparkler said, “Be sure to take a right turn. We don’t want to turn left at Albuquerque.” Over the laughter, she exclaimed, “I have been waiting for literally hours to make that joke!”

Fortunately DJ had planned for us to stay an extra day here. I crawled into bed by 8:30 (10:30 Eastern Time, and I was sure feeling it), and slept all through the night and most of this morning. Now DJ is at a laundromat and the kids’ room looks like a college dorm, but we don’t have hours to go in the van today.

Stops and Pictures:

The Crater of Diamonds State Park in Arkansas. A friend told me we had to see if it we could—because she wanted to and never had the chance. I never heard the whole history of it, but basically there’s a huge field out back. You rent shovels and buckets and dig for diamonds, gemstones, and a whole lot of mud and rocks. We didn’t find any diamonds, fyi. It was much too hot to dig very long. (Hot? I hear my Western friends laughing from here.) But we did come back with some cool rocks and Sparkler found a sliver of an amber-colored glassy mineral.

Broken Bow Public Library, Oklahoma. Nothing special about this, just a place to stop for an hour or so. Joneses love libraries. Plus this one had a Wii setup, a goldfish pond out back, and Bookgirl discovered a new series to look up at home.


West (Western?) Bowling in Amarillo, Texas. Just a bowling alley, something to do for fun. We’re bad bowlers but had a great time. Please ignore the low scores—just look at Ria’s three strikes in a row. That was pretty darn good. Ria was very proud of herself. (I was Ria.)

The player names, for the record, were EnderKitty (Sparkler); Trelian5 (Gamerboy); Bookbeast (DJ); Ria (SJ); DragonEmpress (Bookgirl); and Pip (Ranger).


Mesaland’s Community College’s Dinosaur Museum in Tucumcari, NM. Since we made really good driving time, which always makes DJ very happy, he found a small dinosaur museum for a rest stop. It was really good, very kid-friendly. You know why this part of the country is so flat? It was once a seabed—a sea covered the land from the Arctic down to the Gulf of Mexico. We saw fossils of similar animals found in such disparate places as Indiana, Argentina, and China. We learned a little bit and killed a happy hour or so.


This topographical map was merely a box full of sand. It projected water and contour lines on your creations. You could build a high, dry mountain and then scoop it out and watch it fill with (digital) water. We almost didn’t get the kids away from here.


This box full of crushed walnut shells let Gamerboy bury bones, and Ranger dig them up.


A selfie with a triceratops skull.

The landscape between Oklahoma and New Mexico, including a rainstorm. We don’t get views like this in the tree-packed East.


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