Aahh, that’s the Mississippi, the mighty Mississip, the Old Miss, the Old man….Deep River!”- Clark Griswold, National Lampoon’s Vacation.

Leaving Memphis was a simple to-do. A couple of turns and I was heading across the Mississippi river. I realize that it’s not the midway point of the country but it’s was a visible reminder that I am not on the east coast anymore. Up through that point, the terrain, topography, trees all looked somewhat interchangeable. There are obviously differences between WV and western TN, but if you looked at certain angles they could stand in for one another. Eastern Arkansas is different. There’s no mistaking it for another state. It’s almost completely flat and the trees are different. The roads are smoother than anywhere else so far. I could get used to roads like those.

The topography changed almost abruptly as I entered Little Rock. It reminds me of Charleston, WV with rivers and hills. I found a bakery online that had a decent section on their website about gluten free options. Any GF person knows that options are not always what they seem. Many times they say things are GF but those items will be out of stock. Or, they only have 3 day old items. I had high hopes for Rosalia’s Family Bakery and they didn’t disapoint. I showed up at 1pm and expected that there would be few options. Instead, I stumbled onto a few great choices. I bought 4 items to nibble on. They included a Coconut Cornbread, Chocolate Brownie, Energy Bar, & Cassava rings. My favorite was a tie between the the coconut cornbread & the cassava rings. They look like big onion rings but are made with cassava(yucca) flour. They have are cripsy with a similar texture to Cheetos, meaning they stick to your teeth. I could see myself a regular here if I lived in this town.

I found a coffee shop next door that was cute on the outside and had a number of people sitting in the front window. Mylo Coffee Company has a full service restaurant alongside some quick grab and go items. I chose a bottle of Rose Mint Lemonade. It was just the right amount of sour & sweet. It was the perfect thirst quencher after a few minutes of rest in the sun.

Back on the road again, this time I was headed to Oklahoma City to visit my friend Glen. He and I were briefly roommates 20 years ago in Los Angeles. It’s been that long since we’ve seen each other. Luckily, social media has kept us somewhat current, first on Myspace, then FB, now Instagram. He is also an entrepreneur who started a successful home staging business as well as a thriving realty career.

My friend Lynn is from OKC and had previously touted its cool-factor. I knew a little about the city from Aerial America but it’s completely different seeing things in person. Glen was the perfect host since his job is literally selling the city. Our first stop was dinner at Osteria. The restaurant recently opened in a former Starbucks location. Nothing says supporting local more than taking over chain space! Osteria is an Italian word that usually references a small informal family owned restaurant. They have a GF section on the menu and are knowledgeable enough to offer suggestions for me to stay safe. I got a chicken marsala, which was one of the best meals I’ve had in a long while. The plate was scattered with roasted cauliflower, charred tomatoes, toasted chickpeas with chicken skin chicharrones. Glen was very happy with his choice of wild mushroom gnocchi. The meal set the tone for a wonderful nighttime car ride through the city center.

Oklahoma City has a vibrant downtown that seems to be ever expanding. There are cranes and work sites scattered throughout downtown. Within the past few weeks, they just opened a streetcar route that circles downtown. I’m a sucker for a city with convenient transit! The downtown’s vibrancy is enhanced by accent lights that accentuate sides of buildings & sculptures. The new Skydance Bridge is a pedestrian walkway that will connect downtown with an area that has not received much redevelopment. I asked about gentrification worries and he told me about ongoing discussions with developers and city officials to help folks qualify for mortgages. This is definitely a place that I’d like to spend more time in.

We got up somewhat early in the morning to head out for coffee. Glen lives in an area off 23rd street near the Paseo Arts District. The neighborhood has recently built up with a mixture of restaurants, bars, & a theater. Once fully caffeinated, we hopped in the car and headed a mile away to check out the State Capitol building. It is the only state capitol with active oil wells onsite. The building is made of buff limestone with Oklahoman pink granite. A 17-foot tall sculpture caps off the top of the dome. The entire building (inside & outside) is under renovation but the murals and the dome are still easy to see.

I needed to get on the road before noon so that I could make it to the next planned spot… but first I needed to find a GF bakery to hit on the way out of town. Green Goodies is in a new shopping center called Classen Curve. While they have traditional pastries, I was pleased that over half of their items were GF. I chose a snickerdoodle cookie and a cinnamon roll. The cookie was out of this world delicious. It had a good deal of cinnamon and a soft & chewy texture.

Now fully sugared up, I continued west on I40 to Amarillo. I’ve had several people tell me, “there’s nothing to do there.” That meant that I had to prove them wrong. There’s a state park that is just a few minutes south of town that boasts the 2nd largest canyon in the US. Palo Duro State Park is simple to locate, easy to navigate, and simply gorgeous. It costs $5 to enter but it is so worth it. There are trails from very difficult to kind of easy. I chose a midpoint between the extremes. The red-soil makes for great photos. I spent about 1.5 hours down at the bottom before the sun started to set, meaning it got cold very quickly. Getting cold was a great excuse to head back up into Amarillo proper.

I stumbled onto Evocation Coffee and what is so far the best Americano that I’ve had so far on this trip. I can also say that it is the best-presented drink that I’ve seen in a while. The drink was served on a plate with a hand-made mug. Most of the coffee was in the mug a little was reserved in an Erlenmyer Flask. I admired the dink as I started this blog and looked online for the evening’s accommodations. The options were to stay in Amarillo or continue driving on to Tucumcari. I found a cool motel in NM and had just enough time to make it before their front desk closed. Luckily, Evocation was located beside a natural food store where I picked up snacks for the road. If there are any Amarillo naysayers, send them my way. I would say for them to rethink their perception.

More to come…

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