By Erin Allen & Sara E Walker
Now that the road dust has settled, we can reflect upon our week-plus journey that took us cross country from D.C. to Colorado. We both made pit stops to visit family in Nashville (Sara) and Mississippi (Erin) for a few days but met up in Little Rock, Arkansas, to begin our life-changing adventure. Both of us have similar reasons for taking this leap, which you'll no doubt continue to read about as we take our chances in his digital nomadic lifestyle.
After meeting up in Little Rock, the goal was to find cheese dip! Apparently, Arkansas is known for the snack and actually has a cheese dip trail. We stopped at this cute little bistro in a rather well-to-do neighborhood with nary a soul in the restaurant. However, our table in front of a warm fireplace was the perfect spot to catch up and commiserate, deciding how much further to go down the road.
Though we thought we might make it to Oklahoma City, we ended up in Fort Smith, Arkansas, for the evening. The town was sleepy as we drove in a little after 9 pm. In our efforts to find a hotel we passed Ed Walker's Drive-in, and we both knew that was dinner for the night. The diner looks like it is straight from the 1940's.
Apparently, this gem is not only where to get the best French dip sandwich ever, but is the only place that will deliver a cold beer to your car as it was grandfathered in before the blue laws of the state were passed. No, we did not enjoy the historical beer-to-car delivery, but we did indulge in the best ever french dip and an order of the make-a-southern-proud fried pickles. The food and the drive-in lived up to the hype. We will never think of a french dip the same again. No drive-in dinner is complete without a piece of homemade peanut butter pie; we saved that for the next morning.
We decided we would make it to Amarillo the next day by way of Oklahoma City. With neither of us having experienced the winds of the mid-United States we were both fighting to stay in our lane as we gripped the wheel while driving through what felt like gale force winds. The wind turbine fields were majestic and seemed to stretch along the interstate no matter how far we drove.
Once into Oklahoma City, we pulled off to find the local fare. (If it wasn't obvious, one of our "road trip goals" was to eat the dish the location was known for.) We decided on Tucker's Burgers for their famous Onion Burger. We both felt quite confident in ourselves and ordered the double onion burger. The burger was enormous, messy and delicious. And yes, we finished the burgers.
Jumping back into the windy drive, we drove to Amarillo
where we made a beeline to Cadillac Ranch, a local art installation right off Interstate 40 and along the historic Route 66 that showcases 10 half-buried caddies, supposedly at the same angle as the Great Pyramid of Giza, according to Roadside America. It was about this time that we noticed Erin's car had decided to fall apart. You can read more here.
With the evening just approaching, we thought it was a solid idea to hop in the car and drive another two hours to Fort Sumner, New Mexico, so when we woke the next day we would be a short drive from Billy the Kid's grave. Right before we found our exit for the back road to Billy's, we realized we were approaching this weird haze that we both thought was fog. We found it odd because it was coming on us all of a sudden.
Unexpectedly, the blanket of manure stench hit us! Amarillo literally smelled like crap. As we drove mile after mile in the dark, desolate, flat and barren Texas land with no one else in sight, we began to have second thoughts about our last minute idea. It's like we were the dumb teenagers in the stereotypical horror movie driving down backwoods roads and setting ourselves up to be mutilated a la "Texas Chainshaw Massacre" (duh, we were in Texas) or our skin to become a monster's new clothes a la "Jeepers Creepers." We decided to listen to our instincts and head back to Amarillo, where we found a fun taco joint called, Torchy's Tacos. The tacos were pretty good, but it was the green chili queso that had us. (Apparently, this road trip was also about the cheese dip.)
We left Amarillo with excitement as we knew that the once elusive grave of Billy the Kid was just a couple of hours away. We soon left the comfort of the interstate and spent the next 90 minutes on the back roads of New Mexico, where we saw a total of five cars and three buildings the entire drive -- at least it was daylight. The favorite parts of that drive were passing the Quay Firehouse and seeing absolutely no person or building around and then the little post office in a town called House where, again, we weren't sure who they were servicing.
Billy the Kid's grave is in a pretty unobtrusive place, just off the beaten path. In fact, it's essentially located down a residential street of sorts. The little graveyard does hold a few other gravestones, but the notorious outlaw is the focal point. Billy's grave is protected in an iron cage and his gravestone is actually shackled to the foot of his tomb. Apparently, the gravestone has been stolen a few times over the years. William Bonney (that was his real name) shares the space with pals Charlie Bowdre and Tom O’Folliard. However, it's likely that none of the three are actually buried in that exact spot. Their graves went unmarked for years. (You can read more about Billy the Kid in a blog post Erin wrote for the Library of Congress.)
We knew a few hours down the road was Albuquerque and we were getting giddy at the prospect of being home to Durango that evening. As we drove into Albuquerque, we knew we wouldn't be leaving without eating Mexican food at a local place. We always pick a new place each time we are there. To our delight, we found Papa's Nachos. The food was so good that it might be our new go-to place in town. Hands down, probably the best salsa either of us has ever had.
Ready to call it a day and stop the endless driving, we were only three hours from our final destination. The tired feeling and aches from sitting so much were getting to us, but knowing we were so close to the prize fueled us. The stretch of Highway 550 between Albuquerque and Durango is desolate and beautiful. Fans of the show "Westword" would feel a familiarity with the scenery. We finally arrived to our new home. Elated, tired, giddy and ready to conquer this new life, we settled in for the first night in our new home.
A person cannot help but love the state in which they were born or grew up, but having spent just a little time driving and experiencing states with which we were unfamiliar, we both have a new appreciation for these states, which are all wonderfully majestic in their own way. The windy lands of Oklahoma, the barren and flat country of Texas, the rocky, colorful mountains of New Mexico and the thin air of Colorado are all the things that make each state unique and enchanting. Though we are looking forward to some time out of the car, we can not wait to hit the road again.