|Bluebonnets, a Texas paradox: they're toxic to cattle.|
Arkansas is a strange state. For some reason, it always feels small and claustrophobic to me. Except for Buffalo National River, of course, but we didn't go anywhere near BUFF on this trip.
I used to think the worst drivers in the world were in Atlanta. Not anymore. They're in Texas. Not only did we get to see the classic right (or left) turn done at the last possible moment across 3 or 4 lanes of traffic multiple times, we also witnessed gems like the woman in Waco who sat through a really long red light (i.e., lots of time to think about what she was about to do) and then turned the wrong way on to an extremely busy one way street. How a person can sit there witnessing 3 lanes of traffic all going west and then decide to turn into one of those lanes to go east is beyond me. And you know that business with speed limits being set at 75? As far as I can tell, one of the unintended consequences is it encourages impatience -- and a whole lot of deciding it's a good idea to pass vehicles despite the double yellow line running down the middle of the road. There seemed to be a plethora of roadside memorials in Texas. Coincidence? I think not. . .
And, to continue speaking of Tejas, everyone tells me the state is wonderful place to live because there's no income tax. Hey, tax haters, take a good look at the bottom line on a sales receipt the next time you go shopping: you're paying a sales tax that's over 8% , Even worse -- Texas taxes groceries. I noticed the receipts from HEB and Lowe's (two of the supermarket chains we patronized) had a provision for "nontaxable" items. What those items might be is a mystery. Every time we went shopping, everything we bought got hit with sales tax, and most of what we bought was food.
On the positive side, Texas has great roads (no doubt another reason so many people drive like they believe they're running a qualifying lap for a Sprint Cup race). Of course, the climate helps. It's easy to maintain good pavement when frost heaving isn't much of an issue.
Why is Texas so famous for cattle? It seemed like we saw a lot more goats grazing in various pastures than we did cattle. Lots and lots of Boer goats, which makes me wonder just what type of meat is going into the chili and/or barbecue in the state. Not that it matters much. Goat is edible. I did not realize, however, that the market for goat meat was extensive enough to warrant raising a gazillion goats anywhere. I wonder if the goat meat is for the export market? I've been told that goat gets eaten a lot in Mexico, but I've never seen goat meat on a menu in a Mexican restaurant in this country. The only restaurant I've ever patronized that admitted to serving goat meat was Ethiopian.
And what does it say about me that I actually recognized what breed those goats were?
Just where do the Amish in Missouri actually live? Once again, as we traversed the state on US-60, we saw the "Share the Road" signs and even witnessed assorted Amish persons with their horse-drawn buggies and wagons. Where do these people actually live? I've never seen a wagon parked in a farm yard in Missouri; all I've ever seen are the usual pickup trucks and cars along with humongous tractors. How far off the beaten track does a person have to go to actually find an Amish residence? It can't be too far because the effective range of a horse-drawn wagon is a lot shorter than that a motorized vehicle. It's a mystery.
The signs are a mystery in themselves. Why do they show a buggy with side curtains when the only things I ever see the Amish driving are buckboard wagons?
Intersections with traffic signals that disrupt the traffic flow on a major 4-lane divided highway that has a posted speed limit of 70 mph are a really, really bad idea. But if you are going to stop traffic flow, at least make the signals last long enough for the Amish to make it through that intersection without having to whip the horse into a trot that turns the wagon into a racing sulky.
What is the per capita ratio of Indian casinos to state residents in Oklahoma? I could be wrong, but it did appear that the Indian nations have seriously overbuilt. We saw multiple casinos as we cruised up US-69 and none of them appeared to be doing a booming business. Granted, it was on a weekday, but when a casino has fewer cars in its parking lot than a typical Kmart, it's not exactly doing a booming business. They may attract some out of state gamblers, but somehow it seems unlikely that Miami, Oklahoma, is going to turn into a destination that rivals Las Vegas, its cluster of casinos notwithstanding.
I did notice that REO Speedwagon was headlining at one of the many Indian casinos we passed. Next stop for those guys? Branson. I can see it now: The Take It On The Run Theater, with a dinner show starting at 5 p.m. so aging fans are guaranteed to be back at their motels before it gets too dark to drive.
The most expensive gas we purchased on this road trip was in Oklahoma. And, going by the prices posted at the gas stations closest to the casinos, we got off cheap compared to the gamblers. General rule of thumb for traveling through the Sooner State: Never buy gas at a service station located adjacent to any of the Indian casinos. You'll be paying at least a dime per gallon more than you will at the other gas stations in the state.
And, one last thought on the Indian casinos: the architectural design for every single one was garish and ugly beyond belief. Truly horrible. Here's hoping the construction was so cheap and shoddy that none will last long because, holy wah, calling them eyesores is a massive understatement.