Well, when it comes to quickness, I might just win a race these days with a slug -- if I cheated by pouring salt on it first, that is. Two weeks late, I finally post.
The Muley family did indeed make it to Branson. Overall, we had a great time, but there were moments and aspects of the trip that made us realize why patience is indeed a virtue.
When leaving Waco the first day, we opted to go the "fast" route (a highly relative term) by heading straight north on Interstate 35 and then U.S. 75 through north Texas and then eastern Oklahoma. Just before you cross into Oklahoma, there is a huge "Texas welcome center" that we always stop at, even though we're really leaving. Most Texas rest stops look like they were built with prison labor and modeled on the prisoners' own toilet facilities, but they do things up right here when they think tourists are coming in ready to blow money. There are lots of shady places to park, and inside are fancy bathrooms, an air-conditioned lobby with soft music playing, and rack after rack containing brochures on every imaginable Texas city and event ("Come to Smithville for Worm Wranglin' Weekend!"). I even thought I saw Miss Texas 2007 passing through with complimentary Lone Star wine and cheese.
But, then it was time to head back in the van and cross the bridge over the muddy Red River into Oklahoma. I know that I don't have the appreciation of Oklahoma that I should have, because the rare times I am in the state are when I'm doing my level best to speed through as quickly as possible on the way to somewhere else. This does not allow for the slow, quiet and searching meandering through scenic spots that causes one to grow to love a place.
If you see Oklahoma only from the highway, it seems as if there are just two important facts about the state: there are lots of Indians living there, and they want your money in the worst way. It hits you not 20 miles across the border in Durant, where you see the huge Choctaw Casino with what appears to be thousands of pickup trucks and campers parked outside of it, and a marquee announcing a future concert by some 50s crooner or 80s heavy metal band.
I counted three different Choctaw Casinos along U.S. 75 as we traveled. The one in Durant was the biggest, and as the towns they were in got smaller, so did the casinos themselves. The final Choctaw Casino I saw was in a little two-pump gas station town, and looked like maybe it was housed in a remodeled 7-11 convenience store.
There were lots of billboards for other temptations like bingo parlors and cheap cigarettes to see along U.S. 75, and what must have been about five thrift stores and flea markets for each small town. However, I was still sad I didn't have time to investigate a bit, because in some of the towns (with really cool Indian names hard to pronounce) I could faintly see blocks away from the highway lakes and trees and the beginnings of hills. But there was no time available in which to explore.
At some point we took a big right turn eastward and headed due east toward Arkansas. After what seemed like forever, we passed through northwest Arkansas, turned north and made it into Branson just before dark (passing about 342 Wal-Marts en route). I'll try to pick up the story in my next post. (We're heading out of town this weekend to attend my 30th high school reunion, so that should make another good post at some time in the future).