Day Three: Clarksville, Arkansas to Elk City, Oklahoma; 370 miles; No baby yet; Interstate-40 blues.

My daughter’s due date for her first child is about five days away so I have plenty of time to get there. But I do start to think: what if she comes early? It would be good to be a bit closer, were she to go into labor. So, I decided to hop on I-40 and get a few miles under my belt. The speed limit there is 70 mph and the road is straight, really straight. Still, it’s pretty country, verdant forests and fields and decent roads – well, until I came to a stop on the interstate in Oklahoma City, due to construction. You can’t count on much in this old world, but you can always count on their being construction in Oklahoma City (or Chicago, or Atlanta, or Belfast for that matter).

When I left Georgia, the temperature was 49 degrees and it was now in the high 80’s. High temperature and tedium can wear you down. I spent some time on prayer, and gratitude, and then I resorted to boredom and exhaustion, my old standbys. Don’t get me wrong. I love riding it’s just that it’s a long, long way to California. Still, I would choose it over flying or driving.

My health has been good, but the fatigue began to hit me and soon I wasn’t doing many miles between stops. So, I booked a place in Elk City, The Flamingo Inn on Route 66, and set my sights for it. It was a nice, old style, remodeled motel on the main street. After collapsing on the bed for an hour, I got on my walking shoes and went traipsing around town. I found an old biker bar, cash only, dollars stuck to the ceiling, beer posters and pictures of Marilyn Monroe on the wall. A sat a couple of stools down from a man with a forlorn expression on his face. He told me about his years in the Merchant Marine and of his travels.

“You must have seen a lot of interesting places.” I said.

“They ain’t interesting if you don’t have anyone to share them with. Nothing to remember. No one to remember them with.” He replied.

“That’s tough.”

“I had a leather jacket once. Damn thing was made in Turkey! Gave it to my daughter. Don’t have her no more either.”

I didn’t know how to respond.

He stood up, paid his tab and wished me a safe ride.

I thought about last night, in Clarkesville, where I watched and listened to a bunch of older folks singing karaoke at a sports club. My favorite was a short, white haired man in faded overalls who sang country western love songs. They were a community of people who knew and supported each other. We all need love and a sense of community in whatever lyric we can find it.

Back in Elk City, I watched the old sailor walk slowly out of the bar. He raised his hand in a wave to the goodbyes a few other regulars had shouted at his back. A song began playing on the jukebox: “God is great; beer is good; people are crazy.”

I know I am. God bless them all.

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