Friday, October 3, 2008

Monster tadpoles to Route 66 and finally, family!

Sept. 24, 2008
Returned to George Washington Carver National Monument this morning. Unfortunately they weren’t doing any ranger demonstrations, but there’s a fairly large working classroom laboratory where they do demonstrations and allow visitors to follow along with their own experiments. The girls finished their Junior Ranger books, then we took the 3/4 – mile loop walk through the property. WHAT a place to grow up! A little spring-fed stream runs through it, and there’s a pond that was home to hundreds of small frogs we were able to see, but not catch. I saw the largest tadpole I’ve ever seen. The body alone was at least 2 inches long by 1 ½ inches wide with a tail beyond that and not even a leg bud begun! It’s going to be a MONSTER toad when it hops out of the pond. I’d love to see it then! Saw a snake skin in the water, then the snake rangers later identified as a rat snake. Still, it was brown and in the water, so I wasn’t too keen on it.

A few minutes later down the trail we found the smallest green snake I’ve ever seen. The worm I caught on the banks of Big Piney River was larger than this snake. I caught it, then the girls and I took turns passing it around. Using the digital camera display, the rangers id’d the snake as a newly hatched Rough Green Snake which will grow to be about 3 feet long. Somehow I don’t think we’d have caught such a large specimen! We also spotted a really cool, monster bug which after much searching through their insect books, the rangers agreed was called a Spiney Soldier Beetle. They’ll eat any type of insect, beneficials or pests equally.

While we all agreed we could easily have spent an entire day exploring the pond, creek and woods here, we had to press on west as Uncle Jerry and Aunt Kathy were expecting us in Oklahoma City.

I’d hoped to hop off I-40 and onto Route 66 here and there, but upon entering Oklahoma we found ourselves on a toll road. At the first rest stop, I asked a fellow traveler who often takes this route if I’d have to pay every time we entered this section of highway if we hopped off to see the sights. Sure enough. So, we stuck the to the “turnpike” onto which we’d already been railroaded (woulda been nice if there’d been some signage with a “last chance exit”) until we’d reached the ultimate toll booth, paid our $3.50, THEN we veered off the freeway in favor of Route 66.

We stopped at the Arcadia Round Barn, which was a masterpiece. Downstairs is a funky trinket shop, gift shop and sort of ongoing garage sale of various items provided by local residents. The upstairs can be rented for special events (except square dances, the host quipped), but is left open during the day for visitors to enjoy. It’s beautiful inside, with an enormous domed ceiling in which all the structural works are exposed. The floor is a wonderfully maintained piece of woodwork.

Just a mile or so west we came across “Pop’s.” I think I may have heard about this place on NPR not long before we left. Something about the largest collection of soda pop in the world. Had to stop in and check it out. The place actually has a restaurant (burger stop), and convenience store which specializes in more than 500 pop labels! Want diet, caffeine free cherry soda? Got it. Birch beer? Yep. Root Beer? Which of the more than 30 varieties? How about chocolate soda? Even that! Now, we’re not huge soda drinkers, and I managed to steer clear of them throughout the trip ‘til Mr. B joined us in South Dakota. But Pop’s called for some exploration. I grabbed a Sioux City Root Beer (fine), Birch Beer (lots like root beer), Grape Crush (among my all time favorites, for some odd reason), and a REAL Dr. Pepper (sugar, no corn syrup) to take home to Mr. B.

Finally we found our way into Oklahoma City where our hotel welcomed us with a cool pool, hot shower and comfy beds as well as the companionship of relatives. Jerry & Kathy had traveled down to Coalgate, OK, to pick up a new camp trailer for their motorcycle so they were pretty pooped, and we’d made some tracks, too. So we agreed hanging out at the hotel, eating pizza and enjoying each other’s company would be much more enjoyable than heading out in search of a restaurant, then sitting still there.

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