Wyoming Deja Vu

When I got up Friday morning and checked the radar, I could see that I'd most likely intercept some serious winter weather about the time I got to Rawlins, Wyoming.  That struck me as extremely ironic, seeing as how the last time I came through Rawlins, Nate and I were forced to spend two nights stranded along that same exact stretch because the interstate had been closed.  Evidently, it doesn't matter if you come through in January or May, be prepared to get snowed in when you go to Rawlins!

I prepared myself to encounter the storm in Rawlins, but my calculations were less than perfect and the weather actually hit me in the worst possible place - right in the middle of the mountain pass between Laramie and Rawlins.  Ice and snow came down in a thick blanket, reducing visibility to nil.  It's April 30 and I find myself cowering behind a Walmart truck so I can skid along in the icy ruts he's left behind, creeping along at 35 mph.  Snow plows!  Massive 18 wheeler jackknife accident!  Winter wonderland!  Oy vey.  Nerve-wracking, but very beautiful.

To my relief, when I got to Rawlins I found that I'd outrun the worst of the weather for the time being.  My destination for the day was Logan, Utah, and I was eager to get as much distance between me and the weather as possible before I drove over the mountain pass at Bear Lake.  As I neared Utah, I began looking for a place I might take an afternoon walk and decided to stop at a little park called Fossil Butte just this side of the Utah border.  I struggled before getting out of the car - the temperature was hovering around 37 and the wind was blowing steadily, insistently, swirling random snow flakes past the corner of your eye from time to time.  Could I work up enough of a sweat to make 37 feel brisk but not freezing?

The walk sounded perfect: up a mesa, across the ridge, and then down - just a little over an hour and a half along a well maintained loop trail.  What I conveniently forgot was that meant I'd be walking up a pretty steep hill for about a 1/2 hour to start, but it actually felt good to push myself that hard when it came right down to it.  The vegetation and scenery weren't all that spectacular, but what did end up being absolutely electrifying was the sound the wind as it rushed past the sage bushes.  I found a bench high up on the side of the mesa where I could see at least 30 miles in every direction and just sat and listened to the wind rush past my ears.  I let myself be completely present to the feel, smell, taste and sound of the moving air for quite a few moments.  I was the only living person that I could see anywhere and it was awesome.

Well, all that solitude was fine and good until I started to spook myself coming down the hill by imaging that the tracks I saw all along the trail were those of a big cranky bear.  How could those tracks belong to a dog?  They were almost as big as my hand, for crying out loud!  I wished for a can of Aqua Net and a lighter to make me feel better. 
I made it back to the car unmolested, and as I left Fossil Butte to start the last leg of the journey toward Logan, the snow began to fall in big heavy flakes.  I'd be passing the beautiful jewel toned Bear Lake, and then heading into the mountains that form a long lovely canyon of about 30 miles between the lake and Logan.  I'd been down this particular stretch several times before and so knew to expect a rest area high above the lake that offered one last dramatic view of the wind whipped lake before entering the mountains.  When I pulled into the rest area to take a look at the lake, it was snowing so hard I couldn't even see past the edge of the parking lot!  I went inside to watch the swirling flakes from the warm safety of the tourist information center and decided to bust out the first of the magnets I'd brought with me and leave it in the ladies room on the hand dryer.  I made five tiny collages before I started on my trip and then transformed them into magnets so I could leave them in random places that inspired me along the way  On the back of each, I've inscribed a note encouraging whoever finds them to take them and do whatever they want to with them and then maybe send me an e-mail and tell me the story if they feel so inclined.  We'll see if any of my random leavings generate a story - I'd really like that.

The drive through the canyon was deeply satisfying with the snow coming down in swirling curtains and icing all the trees and foliage with lacy caps of white.  The bright white made a perfect backdrop for the vibrant reds and oranges of the plentiful dogwood bushes that grow along the length of the river.

When I arrived in Logan, I drove out to meet Bruce at the house we'd be working on together over the next week.  We finished up a few things and then met his girlfriend Elin at a downtown eatery for some late dinner.  When we emerged, we found that the slushy rain hadn't let up.  When I got to Pat and Judy's house where I'd be staying for the next week or so, I gratefully burrowed down into the covers of the bed and dove into the darkness of a deep night's sleep, safe at last from the persistent ice.


The Wonder of It All

Thursday morning I hopped onto the interstate so I could hurry along to the next stop on my itinerary, which I was very much looking forward to.  On I-70, about halfway between the western Kansas border and Denver, sits an old roadside attraction called the Wonder Tower.  It was built in 1926 by a fellow referred to as the "P.T. Barnum of Colorado," Charles W. Gregory, and his partner Myrtle Le Bow.  The rambling structure consists of 23 rooms and originally held a saloon, stage, dance hall and cafe.  Before the era of the interstate decimated its clientele, the Wonder Tower had become a popular stop, boasting that you could "See Six States!" from the top of the tower, built on the highest point between New York and Denver.

A couple named Jerry and Ester Chubbuck have owned the place for the last 20 years, and have essentially hijacked Gregory's original notion and made it into something truly and beautifully their own.

Jerry meets you at the door when you walk in and is notorious for being a big prankster. After collecting your $1 admission fee, he promises he'll give every penny back if you can only guess what each of the 10 items he's about to show you are.  This is how the hilarious and delightful roller coaster ride that is the Wonder Tower begins.  See if you can figure out either of these two items and if you can, I'll give you 20 cents of my admission fee!
Oh...alright, alright.  Here's one answer:

Rooster eyeglasses to help keep them from seeing each other so they won't get in fights!  I bet you give up on the other one, too, don't you?  Inside the tiny wooden box are three parched kernels of corn - a veritable 3 piece chicken dinner!  Tee hee!  Jerry's got a million of 'em.

Almost every room of the place is full to the brim with bottles, Indian artifacts, bottles, geegaws and whatnots, lamps, bottles and pictures (did I mention bottles?) - it's really pretty staggering how many items have been crammed into those tiny rooms.  Most of the items are for sale and I, of course, left with a bag full of amazing treasures including a tiny glass vial that I feel certain is an opium bottle, purpled by the sun and time.

The tower itself is a series of colorfully painted impossibly steep staircases, connected at each level by a landing area lined with dusty windows and packed full of items for sale.  I of course found a monstrously heavy piece of moderne machinery on just about the top floor and had to lug it all the way down to the bottom to put it on my pile of goodies.

As you approach the top level, the sound of the prairie wind blowing ninety to nothing just over your head reaches your ears.  When you pop out the hatch onto the uncovered deck at the very top, it really is a heady view.  Hell, I could even see six states attached to the side of my car in the parking lot! 

Jerry has a small collection of animal oddities on display at the Wonder Tower, the most famous of which is a stuffed two headed calf that exhibits a docile and trusting gaze from its dusty corner.  The Frankenstein lips really add to the feeling of pastoral bliss, don't you think? 

After I'd been poking around for a couple of hours, I asked Jerry if they had a bathroom I could use, and he replied, "Well, it's nothing fancy, but you're welcome to use it.  It's out back."  He handed me a roll of toilet paper since it had rained recently and the roll in the outhouse might be a bit soggy.  I stepped out into the cold prairie wind and started wandering toward the back of the property to find the outhouse.  I busted out laughing when I found it.  I may have laughed pretty hard, but by damn, I used it!  Without tumping it over, even!

Before I settled up with Jerry and Ester for all the treasures I'd managed to locate and couldn't live without, Jerry asked me if I wanted to see the $100 hat.  Well of course I did.  "That's a pretty nice hat, right?  Something you'd find in a fancy store, right?  Go ahead," Jerry urges, "pick it up and try it on!"  You pretty much know the drill by this point, so you lift it from its well worn spot on the counter and SURPRISE!  There's a fake rattlesnake hidden underneath, coiled just like it was ready to strike!  Jerry posed me for a photo wearing the hat while holding his Saudi-Arabian flintlock rifle with the special hilt designed for shooting while riding on the back of a camel.

If I've said it once, people, I've said it a million times - places like this are rapidly disappearing.  And one thing I've learned is the importance of a single vital personality in perpetuating a place like this.  I guess what I'm trying to say is there aren't that many Jerry and Esters left in this world, and you better get out and see them before they're gone.

As I left, I could hear Jerry showing the next couple around, referring obliquely to the walrus bone that was part of his shtick as something "a mama walrus didn't have."  It somehow felt awesome to see the cycle begin anew, knowing I wasn't the only or last visitor to this marvelous place.

I resumed my push west for a short while before turning north to avoid Denver and the snow storm that a concerned Visitor's Center employee had advised me was some "pretty bad weather.  Vail had been shut down because of heavy snow and a bad accident on the highway.  That pretty much convinced me the best route to take was through Wyoming.  Just before arriving in Laramie for the evening, I pulled over by the side of the road to watch the sun set on a wind turbine farm in the distance.  The sound and feel of the roaring wind in that beautiful light gave me a moment of perfect solitude.  Because it was Wyoming where people are every bit as friendly as Texans, two different people stopped to make sure I wasn't having car trouble.  No car trouble, I responded, just watching the end of a perfect day.


And Kansas She Says, is the Name of Her Star

Spring lilacs in the backyard of Garden of Eden

When I opened my motel room door Wednesday morning to cart my first load of overnight necessities back to the car, I was buffeted by a chilly gale force wind, blowing steadily from the south(!).  It was actually shocking how cold and gusty it was, even considering I was in Kansas.  I could hardly hold the car door open to keep it from crushing my leg when I got in, for crying out loud!
Nevertheless, I had a long list of places to visit, so I hopped to it and hit the road.  I mapped my route so as to hit as many little towns as possible on my way toward Lucas, traversing long stretches of straight ahead highway that neatly bisected the rolling prairie.  On both sides of the road, as far as the eye could see, lay a dun brown cloak of winter-dead vegetation, with a hint of bright spring green petticoat just beginning to appear at the margins.

As lunch time rolled around, I started scanning each little town I passed through for just the right place to sample some of this famous "skillet fried" chicken I'd been reading about.  I chose Diane's Diner in Great Bend, Kansas and felt courage in my conviction when I walked in and it was packed with locals even though it was barely 11:30.  When I saw a pan full of golden fried chicken on the lunch buffet, my heart leapt with flour dredged deep fried joy.

I restrained myself and paused before falling on the fried chicken like a starving wolf - the place actually had a substantial salad bar and I've pretty much always got a hankering for a salad.  I grabbed a plate, mounded it with some respectable salad greens and then...um....aren't there supposed to be some other vegetables on the salad bar?  Out of what surely must have been about 20 options for augmenting your lettuce, I could find only one other vegetable in evidence: pickled okra.  There were about 6 or 8 different kinds of macaroni salad and slaw, a vat of something that looked like cool whip with Oreo crumbs stirred in, and numerous wholesome dairy selections, but I couldn't detect a single other vegetable excepting those already slathered in mayonnaise.  I sat down with my salad style creation and watched Fox News as they debated the merit of setting fire to the BP oil spill currently dirtying the Gulf.  I think I made the trio of good old ball cap wearing farm boys sitting at a table near me a bit nervous when I talked back to the t.v.: "They need to quit debating it and just go ahead and set that thing on fire!  Can you imagine how cool that would look?!"  No response, just nervous stares.

There were plenty of tasty luncheon items to choose from on the buffet, and I even pushed a few spoonfuls of other buffet items to the back of my plate in small heaps beside the chicken.  But in the end, why?  The chicken was so good, so perfectly delicious that I barely touched anything else lest it subtract from the space available in my stomach for fried chicken intake.  Two wings and a thigh later, I daubed the last traces of chicken fat and salt and caramelized flour from my trembling lips and pronounced Kansas's bragging rights to the best skillet fried chicken on earth legitimately earned.    

After lunch it was only a short drive to Lucas, home of one of my favorite  folk art environments called the "Garden of Eden" which was built by the inimitable Samuel P. Dinsmoor beginning in 1905.  I had made a visit to the Garden of Eden many years ago and fallen in love with it, but I was eager to return and see it again.  For me, it has special relevance because it's one of the earliest examples I've run across of someone with both roadside attraction mania and a talent with sculptural concrete.  Dinsmoor actually set out to make a destination that people would come to visit when they stepped off the train in Lucas and even installed costly and exotic electric lights in the elaborate network of concrete figures high above the house so that travellers would be attracted to the place like moths to a flame. 

One of the other things I really admire about Dinsmoor's place is his creative use of postrock limestone.  Postrock limestone was used widely in the area to compensate for the dearth of native wood or other suitable building materials.  It was quarried in brick, post or log shaped pieces and was used for fence posts and just about every manner of masonry.  Dinsmoor had special long log shapes cut and then assembled them in the exact same fashion as a log house, even dovetailing the ends of the "logs" to provide an optimal fit.  He also used the postrock log technique to make the enormous crypt that sits just behind the house where both he and his wife are buried (left).   Dinsmoor's coffin has a glass window on top where you can peer through and observe his mouldering yet still identifiable remains.  A handmade jug sits at the foot of the coffin since Dinsmoor wasn't sure whether he was going to heaven or hell when he died and he had heard people in hell couldn't have water, so he wanted to arrive prepared.  There's plenty more to the fascinating story of his life and work, but I've got lots more to relate about the day so I'll leave it at that.

Literally, right next door to Dinsmoor's place, sits the home of artist Erika Nelson - creator of a wonderful  art car called "The World's Largest Collection of the World's Smallest Versions of the World's Largest Things" (http://www.worldslargestthings.com/).  I had met Erika many years ago at the Houston Art Car Parade and had liked her immediately, so when I knew I was going to be in Lucas I e-mailed her to see if we could meet, but unfortunately she was out of town and had to decline.  Happily, her fabulous vehicle was parked in the backyard and a sign on the front door encouraged visitors to feel free to go back and take a look.  The bus's windows are filled with tiny replicas of roadside items such as a ball of twine, Paul Bunyan and even Carhenge!  I was sorry to miss Erika, but happy to see her delightful museum on wheels.

Another place right down the road is the former home of Florence Deeble, an admirer of Samuel Dinsmoor's work who took a notion to do her own concrete modeling beginning in the 1950s.  Florence made concrete "postcards" of various places she had visited (that's Mount Rushmore on the left) to decorate her garden.  A contemporary artist by the name of Mri-Pilar has also installed some of her work in both the garden and the first floor of the home (which was unfortunately closed the day I visited).    

I tend to forget, living in temperate Texas as I do, that a lot of places north of Dallas observe winter hours or are closed until May.  A new place that's sprung up since I last visited, The Grassroots Arts Center, was also closed so clearly I'll need to make another trip to Lucas soon and maybe even get to visit with Erika to boot!

After one last quick stop at a tiny butcher store that has been making the same Czech-style ring bologna since 1922, I resumed my journey north to visit what surely must be one of the most iconic roadside attractions ever: the world's largest ball of twine.  How many times have you hard roadside attractions characterized by the phrase "giant ball of twine"?  And there it sits in Cawker City, Kansas!  I had to chuckle to myself as I drove miles and miles out into the barren prairie, deep into the recesses of nowhere.  "They got me!" I thought to myself, "They totally got me.  I am driving 70 miles out of my way to see a giant ball of sisal twine!"  Cawker City's notion of becoming a destination had succeeded, at least in part.

The twine ball rests proudly in the middle of town in its own fancy pavilion.  It's 40+ foot diameter is surely impressive, especially so to small birds that frequent the top of the ball to try and harvest bits of loose fiber for their nests.  Across the street sits a large gift shop filled with twine souvenirs and a twine trail painted on the sidewalk snakes through the tiny downtown area, leading you past special paintings that a local artist has applied to various surfaces. emulating famous artworks with a ball of twine added.  They are definitely all about twine in Cawker City.

As I headed out of town, I mused to myself that perhaps I should have tiny emblems (in this case, a tiny ball of twine) painted on the side of my car, much like the flying aces of WWII, to commemorate their kills.  I decided a good compromise was the state magnets I'm so fond of adding to the car as I drive along.  I should have about 13 or 14 them amassed on the car's flank by the end of this trip.

Cawker City ended up being where I took an enormous left turn and began my journey westward toward Utah.  I drove on small highways the rest of the afternoon as long as the light held, pausing by the side of the road to enjoy the last rays of light in the frigid wind before stopping in Colby for the night.  What a wonderfully full day of enjoying the time I have here on earth!


Non-nutritous Nostalgia

A good part of Tuesday was spent driving the two lane roads (many of them gravel or dirt) of rural northeastern Oklahoma in search of a tiny ghost of a town named Skedee.  I had recently read a brief history of the place and found it so compelling that I simply had to drive out and see if for myself.

Skedee is located in the middle of nowhere, at the overgrown intersection of two gravel roads that emerge from heavily forested surroundings, causing its sudden appearance to be a bit of a surprise. At this intersection, in what once must have been the city's main square, sits a humble statue erected in 1926 depicting two fellows: Chief Baconrind (leader of the Osage Nation) and a business man by the name of Ellsworth Walters.  It seems Baconrind had the good fortune of being leader of the Osage Nation when a vast reservoir of oil was discovered beneath the Osage reservation.  With the help of the effusive businessman Ellsworth, oil leases were written for the Osage Nation that totaled over $150 million (in 20s dollars no less) over a 15 year period.  Many of the tribe members became overnight zillionaires, making the Osage -- briefly -- the richest people per capita in the world. Just before the Depression hit, Osage County had the largest number of Pierce Arrow luxury cars in America.  Are you getting the same picture in your mind that I have?  The Great Gatsby with war bonnets??  But wait, it gets even weirder.  In doing my research, I found that during that same era, Skedee was also the home of the Chang brothers.  The Changs were the brothers whose story inspired the television series Kung Fu and after they found one another, they settled down and lived the rest of their lives in Skedee.  I am not kidding you!  Read about it here if you don't believe me: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Skedee,_OK.

So here's this strange little town in the middle of the western plains on the Osage reservation, flush with newly minted Native American millionaires and full of characters like Chief Baconrind and Grasshopper.  Doesn't that just sound like a Larry McMurty novel waiting to be written?  I'm absolutely mesmerized by the concept.

As I explored the two burned out buildings that sat crumbling on two of the corners of the square around the statue, I noticed a young man sitting in a pick up truck on the front porch of a tiny old abandoned gas station that formed the third corner of the miniscule square.  When I walked back to my car, he hollered out through the opening in his darkened window, "I'm just sitting here using the cell phone - no need to worry."  I don't need much of an invitation, so I soon had him engaged in a conversation, about the area's history and what living in such a place was like.  His name was Jeremiah and it was his grandfather that now owned the ramshackle gas station on the corner.  He'd lived all 20 something years of his life there in Skedee and said he reckoned he'd be there the rest of his life.   

I asked Jeremiah if he knew of any old buildings or other curiosities from the 20s boom era and he shook his head hesitantly, "There's not really anything left to see except Colnel Walters' old house - everything else is gone but these three buildings here and the statue.  I'd come to Skedee to see what, if anything, remained of the story and all I found was legend.  Makes me want to write a screenplay, damn it!

I left Skedee feeling sort of odd.  That way you feel when somebody you don't really know dies, but it still weirds you out.  I meandered back to the interstate over more dirt roads, stopping to watch a crew build a water tower in the bright afternoon sun.  I headed on in to Wichita, Kansas where I figured I'd take a nice long walk before dinner.

Just west of the downtown area, I found a lovely river area where I could easily spend an hour walking.  I have no idea what neighborhood I was in, but it was full of beautiful old mansions, curving along with the river.  Very swanky.  I walked past a frisbee golf course and enjoyed watching all the geeky young boys showing off for one another.

It's really nice to have a walk just before dinner and whip up a good appetite, especially since that seems to be the most essential part of midwestern cuisine.  For dinner, I elected to sample a midwestern delicacy called a "loose meat" sandwich.  Really, the only reason I wanted to try it was I seem to have a soft spot in my heart for products with nightmarish marketing obstacles.  Loose meat sounds like a condition that should be addressed with pharmaceuticals rather than something thought of as a delicious culinary treat.
I'd read about a restaurant chain in Witchita called the Nu-Way that first opened their doors 1930, serving up loose meat sandwiches and homemade rootbeer to the adoring masses.  The original store is still open today, and it sounded like an idea place to sample my first loose meat sandwich.  I ordered the medium with cheese, pickles and mustard; side of fries and a rootbeer float.

I fear I'll sound like a bit of a curmudgeon when I give my review, but I just can't lie. Who ever thought it would be a good idea to make a sloppy joe without the joe (or whatever it's called)?  Who said, "You know what, this hamburger patty is just too...well...solid!"  I won't trouble you with any more detail, but suffice it to say, I didn't find it the least bit appealing.  I keep forgetting that I'm in the land of bland. But the root beer float was really delicious.  Oh well, time for some fried chicken research anyway!

I put a few more miles north under me after dinner, taking advantage of the extended light that comes with a summer time tour, and it felt mighty nice to get in bed when I finally made it there.


Where the wind comes sweeping down the plain

Newly improved badge on the grille of my Caddie.  Tee hee!

Wahooooooooooooooooo!  Pink Hair has left the building and is on the road again!

I just set out on what I reckon'll be about a month long jaunt around the northwest United States and man I love the smell of asphalt in the morning!  I'll be spending about a week in Logan, Utah helping my pal Bruce with his ongoing house building project and then I figured as long as I was in the neighborhood, I'd head on up to Mount Vernon, Washington, to see me dear old mum.  Plus, of course, a lot of meandering in various and sundry states along the way.  I've got my state magnets all dusted off and ready to go.

I decided to adopt a northerly heading for the first leg of my trip.  I've spent very little time in either Oklahoma or Kansas, and there seem to be plenty of interesting things to do there from what I've read.

On my way out of Texas, I stopped northwest of Fort Worth in the little town of Decatur to check out a tiny complex of buildings built in the late 20s, each completely covered by a patchwork of carefully arranged petrified wood pieces.  There's a gas station, a restaurant and even a tiny motor court (where legend has it Bonnie and Clyde overnighted a mere week before their deaths) all decorated with an elaborate and intricate veneer of billions year old wood.   It's actually quite beautiful and quaint combined with the angularity of the 20s era architecture. 
I had some lunch in the cafe and was treated to some prime people watching in addition to the delicious homemade yeast roll that arrived still warm from the oven.  For my entree, I selected the chicken fried chicken (which is really just fried chicken, isn't it?) and I mention this for a reason.  You see, I've done some reading up, and apparently Kansas is the epicenter of skillet fried chicken.  As many of you know, I'm very passionate about fried chicken and I plan to do plenty of field research on that topic in the next few days.  The unremarkable meal I was served at the Whistle Stop ended up being a fine opportunity to collect an all important baseline reading, one which would help define the endpoints of the fried chicken nirvana scale.  Actually, I think if I'd followed my initial instincts, I would have fared better with my meal - I should have just skipped the lunch menu and walked directly over to the pie case, pointing to the slab that called my name most loudly  There were some mighty good looking pie on display, but alas, I couldn't eat a single nother bite.

Not long after concluding my late lunch, I found myself barreling along in Oklahoma, headed towards a place called Turner Falls that I'd made sure to include on my itinerary.  And just in time to take my daily walk!  Perfect.
When I got out of the car, I was elated to find that there was a chill in the air I hadn't really expected - it had been in the 80s when I'd left Austin that morning - thank goodness I'd managed to outrun the torpid spring heat, even if only for a little while.  I grabbed the camera and set out on a hike along the stretch of river that runs the entire length of the park. I guess since it was a cold Monday evening in late April, I was the only visitor hankering for a ramble.  And I sure love having a place like that to myself!  I visited the spectacular Turner Falls at one end of the park and then spent some time exploring the rambling ruins of an old stone castle that faces the river - hand built as a vacation home by a University of Oklahoma professor and his family beginning in the late 1920s.
There wasn't much of anything left to see but the crude structures themselves, but as I wandered around, I couldn't help but be tremendously impressed with the effort it must have taken to build all those crenelated walls.  The complex of structures bites deeply into the side of a steep hill facing the river, and can only be reached by climbing up a long winding set of stone steps.  It must have been HELL to haul all that rock and mortar up the hill to satisfy a whim.  And this is the 1920s, remember, when you couldn't just go to Home Depot and rent a crane for the week.  I salute you Dr. Collings!
I got back to the car just as dusk was starting to fall, well satisfied with my hike.  It was absolutely beautiful, I had the place to myself and it was cool and brisk with golden sunlight poking through in places.  Lovely!
Just as I emerged from the woods, I spied a place that surely must be in heaven and not merely Oklahoma: Fried Pies Motel!  Well, actually, it was a tiny cafe specializing in fried pies which had unfortunately already closed its doors for the evening (no motel in evidence that I could see) . I put on my best woe-begotten look for the young girl that unlocked the door to tell me I couldn't come in.  It made my lip curl to see the long list of fillings, hand painted on a sign board above the counter.  I feel pretty certain I'll be back to Turner Falls before too long - let's just hope the fried pie ladies are still around.

I hopped on the interstate, dreaming of fried pies, and drove toward Oklahoma City.  Since I'm a bit of a weather geek, I decided to stop in Norman, Oklahoma for the night.  It IS tornado season, after all, so what better place to pass the time than the capital of Tornado Alley?  Great. Now I bet I dream of a tornado made of fried pies!  Sweet dreams indeed.