By: Pat Austin
SHREVEPORT – I am guilty of sitting around in my insulated world and not tapping into the wanderlust that is deep in my soul. I am perfectly content to sit at home under the branches of my magnolia tree and read books. Thankfully, my husband is more proactive and so every so often we get in the car and actually go someplace.
It is seldom anywhere romantic or exotic like Europe; usually it is to the Midwest to see his family in Iowa. We have just returned from a two thousand mile trip through six states and while it wasn’t Paris, it was just what I needed.
I love getting out and meeting people on the road, hearing their stories, and tapping back into the heart of America. I spend far too much time on the wrong side of the computer screen.
We drove Route 66 through Oklahoma and, armed with my maps and research, we explored The Mother Road and its roadside attractions. We located original alignments and near Sapulpa, Oklahoma even found a patch where the asphalt had worn away right down to the original Portland concrete.
Sometimes it’s the little things!
We met a couple there who were doing the same thing; they had done half of Route 66 last year and were back this year to finish it up. “We thought we could do it in two weeks,” he explained, “but each time we stop and talk to people or look at something, well, two hours have gone by!”
Near Catoosa, Oklahoma where The Blue Whale is, we met a man on a motorcycle who was taking the Mother Road east to west on his bike with his daughter; she learned how to ride just to do the trip with him.
In Baxter Springs, Kansas, where the Rainbow Bridge is, we found the friendliest people of the entire trip. We talked to a man over breakfast who was originally from Louisiana so we had a lot in common.
This is what is so restorative about our little summer trips to the Midwest: we meet the nicest people, hear the coolest stories, and see the neatest things. It’s not Paris, it’s not London, it’s America. Real America, real people, and the roots of who we all are. The trip restored my faith in us as a country and as a people. To read the news, we are all angry about something or injured in some way by a monument or a bias.
This isn’t really true. We are a land of proud people who love their communities and who have the capacity to reach out and be human. We show kindness and can welcome strangers into our cities and towns. We take time to talk to each other and find common bonds. We share stories and meals and we always can appreciate the simple joys and the beauty around us.
Get outside this summer, y’all!
Pat Austin blogs at And So it Goes in Shreveport. She is the author of Cane River Bohemia: Cammie Henry and her Circle at Melrose Plantation. Follow her on Instagram @patbecker25.