Wednesday, November 10, 2010
Oklahoma Vacation, Day 3
Next on the sort-of agenda: Christmas card photos. Or an attempt at same. Jury’s still out on whether any of the actual photos taken will make it front-and-center, but I could produce an entire “making of” documentary with the outtakes and corresponding narrative. Hmm . . . guess we know what tomorrow’s blog topic will be!
When we parked at the nature center where the attempt at memorializing feigned family harmony – I mean, the picture-taking session – was to take place, I took note of a roll of silver duct tape on the hood of a white vehicle parked next to us. Parnell and I joked, rather uneasily, about the creepiness of seeing a roll of duct tape in the woods, although the specter of kidnapping-by-drifter did not stop me from advising the kids to remember that “silence is golden – duct tape is silver.” (Lord, how I wished I had that duct tape on me ten minutes later, when the kids were acting up big-time, but again, that’s for tomorrow’s post.)
After photos were taken, we were headed back to the car when I heard someone shout “McGlincheys!” Proving once and for all my theory about Fort Worth, there were our friends the Woods – Wilson, Alicia, baby Charlotte and dog Major. Charlotte called out for Parker, Connor made a beeline to pet Major, and the adults (UT graduates all) lamented the Longhorn’s loss the night before, marking the first time that the ‘Horns failed to rate a bowl game in Lord knows how long. We compared lodging, and they recommended a hiking trail.
Then Parnell took note of the duct tape on Wilson’s finger (a quick-and-dirty way of handling a cut), and I gasped, “Oh – so you’re the crazed mountain man with the big roll of duct tape on the hood of his car.”
Wilson looked appropriately chagrined. I think Alicia was amused. And I was happy to know that mine was not the only “interesting” spouse out on the trail.
By this time, the bait shop had opened up, and we procured fishing equipment for both boys along with trout permits. Parker puffed up quite a bit at the notion of having a license – well, for anything – and proudly recited his name, date of birth, address and telephone number, and then printed “PARKER M.” on the dotted line.
The next couple of hours were a blur of (in no particular order):
Dad muttering to himself while tying hooks;
More muttering from Dad after Connor jammed his reel after just a couple of casts;
Mom conducting surgery on Parker’s shirt with a pair of scissors after he managed to hook his sleeve;
Watching with amusement while Parker cast his line OVER and OVER, each time immediately pulling the line back in and saying, “Darn, didn’t catch anything that time”;
Parker dealing with the reality that “fishing doesn’t work that way” and the fact that you have to sit there and let the fish come to you;
Watching twenty large trout swim around in a shallow part of the river, sniffing the kids’ bait but not taking it; and
Being glad, in the end, that said bait was not taken after realizing that the kids had drifted into a “Red Zone” where barbed hooks were forbidden and fishing with anything other than flies or live bait could cost you a $180 fine per fish (wanna guess what kind of hooks and bait we had?).
Connor’s rented rod and reel were returned to the bait shop, but Parker got to keep his – a snazzy Sponge Bob model with a Plankton-shaped bobber. I predict more fishing outings for us in the future.
After a spot of lunch, we headed north for the Talimena Scenic Byway – and near-divorce. Just as we got on the byway, pointed toward Mena, Arkansas, the “low fuel” light came on in the car. This, AFTER we stopped at a gas station for directions and supplies, but did not fuel up. Parnell’s reaction was, I think, typical for the male of the species: denial, with a capital D.
“We’re fine until we get to Mena.”
“But we don’t know this car, and we don’t know how many miles we really have. And we have no idea how long it actually takes to get to Mena. Or whether there’s a gas station on the way.”
“We’ll be fine.”
Here’s the thing about the Talimena Scenic Byway: it’s very scenic. As in, it’s two narrow lanes winding up mountains, with ABSOLUTELY NO SHOULDER, and a very steep drop-off. It’s also a byway. As in, you don’t pass anything, except signs that warn you of the possibility of bears.
Long story short, I got hysterical at the idea of running out of gas on said winding road bereft of shoulders, the prospect of being rear-ended on said wind-y road, or being stranded in the approaching dark, with doubtful cell phone service, and did I mention the theoretical bears? Connor joined in, and we collectively shrewed Daddy back down the mountain. Then we white-knuckled it until we mercifully rolled into semi-civilization and were able to gas up the tank which, I am fairly confident, was bone-dry.
Parker, God bless him, slept through the entire crisis.
Being a male of the species, Daddy downplayed the entire thing (but ultimately apologized for panicking us unnecessarily) and insisted that, having driven halfway up and then back down the mountain, we retrace our steps yet again and continue along the byway as planned. For the record, it’s an absolutely gorgeous drive along an undulating road, with mountain peaks and valleys stretching out on either sides, and because the Great Gas Shortage of ’10 delayed our start time by an hour, we got to take in the view as dusk approached. Thus, the mountains to our right were bathed in the pink glow of sunset, and the mountains to the left were shadowed in a blue haze.
Pretty stuff, and I got some good pictures – but none of the leaf pictures that I had hoped for. Remember how I said that Sunday’s theme was “never put off what you can do RIGHT NOW?” Like, for example, PUTTING GAS IN YOUR CAR? Well, it turned out that the leaves did get more dramatic as the elevations increased – but there were zero places to stop and take photos of said dramatic leaves. ZERO. All of the scenic overlooks were at the tops of the mountains – where the trees were (understandably, given wind, sun and other harsh conditions) short and scrubby. After awhile, it became a joke. We would find a place to pull over, with great panoramic vistas, but nothing worthy of a close-up. I tried taking shots out of the window of our fast-moving car, but none of them turned out particularly well, even using the “action” setting on my camera.
But we did drive into Arkansas, meaning that Parker can cross that state off of his list. And, on the long drive back to the Lodge (we took the low road – an unspoken acknowledgment by Dad that he had scared the bejeepers out of Mom), we decided that we were grateful to live in Texas, where the Blue Laws are all but a thing of the past. Didn’t pass many establishments in rural western Arkansas that were open on a Sunday night, other than churches. Getting a drink clearly was not on the table, but, of more concern to our rumbly tummies, all of the restaurants were closed, so food – literally – wasn’t on the table as well.
In the end, we were grateful when we pulled into Broken Bow and into the parking lot of a Mexican restaurant that was all too happy to serve us fajitas and quesadillas to our hearts’ content. Parker gave me a much-needed laugh by insisting on spelling everything that he said – including the pauses, and there were a lot of them, since he was tired. Thus, we were treated to gems like:
“M-O-M, U-M, C-A-N I H-A-V-E S-P-rite instead of milk?”
Yup, he spelled the “ums,” and when he got tired of spelling, he would just stop mid-word and say the rest – hence, “S-P-rite.”
On the way back to the Lodge, we passed at least ten deer, all of them very much alive. This was a refreshing change from the drive between DeQueen, Arkansas, and Broken Bow, on a road that Parnell and I have nicknamed the “Wildlife Road O’ Doom.” I have never seen so many dead deer/dogs/possums/raccoons/squirrels/etc. in one place, and we saw a number of soon-to-be-dead animals standing by the roadside as well, clearly hell-bent on plowing into oncoming traffic. (I swear that one of these animals was long and reptilian; is it possible that it was some sort of alligator, or were my eyes deceiving me at that point?) The true saving grace of our very long, and occasionally trying, vacation day: four more deer grazing just outside the exterior door to our room at the Lodge. They allowed us to pass without spooking, and even tolerated a few photos (none of which came out – they look like they were taken via night-vision scope). The four of them looked to be a pretty good team, which reminded me that I am part of a pretty good four-man team myself, even when my team members are hooking their clothing with illegal barbed fish hooks or, you know, bringing us all to the brink of death on the side of a mountain. Trivial stuff, really. Right? RIGHT?