Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Gateway To The West

First of all, wow, I can't believe it's been a month already since I left Virginia.  Like all intense times in life, it seems like its been fast but in some ways it also seems like its been forever as well.

I spent half a day in Memphis after leaving Jackson, TN where I spent a day to catch up on some rest.  From there I went to Graceland, went to the Civil Rights Museum and the Lorraine Hotel where Martin Luther King was shot and hung around the Mississippi River for a while before leaving for what I hoped would have been St. Louis...I got Joiner and Osceola Arksansas intead.

Deliver Me From Joiner, Arkansas
I was already wrestling with a fork in the road.  Little Rock was merely two hours away and I had distant relatives there I was looking forward to visiting with...good ole Great Uncle Tuck.  Had I gone to visit them, I know I would have had some stories to tell.

Instead, I decided to head for St. Louis, Missouri, which was a four hour drive but I left early enough that I could have made it there by 9 p.m.  I figured I'd hit Missouri, Kansas and Oklahoma heading west so I wouldn't have to dip so far south on the way back coming from the Dakotas and Nebraska.  I had gotten a phone call on my way out of Memphis and forgot to get gas, I noticed when I was on I-55 that my gas light was on, and there were no signs for any gas stations, so I took a chance and got off on an exit that led me to the town...if you can call it that, of Joiner.  A couple miles out I finally saw a Citgo sign.  Eureka!  Nope.  It was a run down gas station no longer open.  I saw another gas station across from a small grocery store...nope... that one was no longer in service either, and on the other side of the road another empty gas station.  I desperately stopped at this little store and was told of a gas station two miles out...I had to have barely made it, but I did...my gas light had been on for quite some time by this point.

With a full tank of gas, I headed back for the interstate a happy camper, ready to leave this little run down place....NOPE.  I forgot to mention how crappy the roads were out here, I was coming around a curve and went far over into the right hand side of the lane to miss the pot hole from hell before I noticed that the road had been washed out on the edge...both of my tires on the right side were popped.  I can't tell you what a sick feeling this was.  Luckily, this happened near the outskirts of the town near what seemed like an okay neighborhood.  I dragged the car into the driveway of an elderly couple named the Ashburns.  They were incredibly friendly people, Mr. Ashburn was blind but a real fun guy to talk to.  They waited outside with me until towman Kenny arrived.  This happened around 6 p.m. and there were no mechanic shops open so I accepted the fact that I was going to be stuck in Arkansas for the night.  Kenny the tow truck man was also a great guy, and pretty open about his faith in Christ(we had to go about 25 miles to the nearest shop in Osceola so we had some time to talk.)  He cut me a little bit of a break on the tow as well.  We dropped the car off at Smiths Tires and about two miles down the road I was dropped off at yet another cheap motel.  The next morning I had to walk about 2 miles to the shop but along the way I noticed a billboard that said "Osceola, Home of Country Star Buddy Jewel"...neat, so my music tour hadn't ended yet after all, you never know what gems you're going to come across in the most obscure places.

The guys at Smith Tires were also awesome, one thing I will say about this area is that it was full of some really nice people.  They made sure they had me out of there and on the road by 11, but before that there was a small chance I wouldn't be able to leave for another day.  The wheels on both the tires had been bent and if they couldn't be welded back I would have to purchase new wheels from the dealer in Michigan (the closest junk yard didn't have this type of 4 bolt wheel.  It would have taken a day for those wheels to come in and would have come at a very hefty price.  Luckily they were able to get the wheels back to normal, crack free.  Big thanks to Ben and Jesse out at Smith Tires.

You Never Know Who You're Going to Meet
On my way to St. Louis I stopped to get gas and a quick bite to eat, I can't tell you where I was, not Brenson, but Brenton, Missouri?  I met a girl who was working there and talked for a while and  got into a discussion about football (best thing about the midwest is you find more and more Dallas Cowboy fans) she told me one of her cousins, Lindsey Cook, is a cheerleader for the St. Louis Rams.  I now have a contact to see some games there...why don't these kind of things happen in Virginia?

Chasing Tornadoes
After leaving Missouri, stopping at St. Louis and Kansas City along the way, I entered Kansas.  Kansas by the way, is underrated for it's beauty.  It was so vast, full of endless green fields.  I enjoyed the long stretch along I-35.  I stopped in Topeka, and did some networking with some ministries there that I wanted to visit but when I set out again, I heard that there was a tornado forming in Cambridge so I raced to get there in time.  Another tornado and formed west of I-35, not sure when exactly, but I definitely felt the winds from something along this stretch of highway.  I got some video footage of this, it was tough to open your car door, but the locals (no exits, but they had McDonalds every 20 miles in the medians) seemed to be used to these kinds of high winds.  There were no exits from what I remember until I got to Wichita so I was never able to get to Cambridge.  Sadly, more tornadoes formed throughout the next couple of days and killed dozens of people in many different states.  Someone said that someone is watching out for me since I just barely missed these things(I barely missed on when I was in Florida as well)....I caught myself for a moment wishing The Father wasn't so overprotective so I could have at least gotten to snap a picture of one of those things!

The Real Cowboy City, Oklahoma City.
I didn't get a chance to spend a whole lot of time here, but from what I could tell, it was more of a cowboy culture than anywhere else I have been so far.  I liked the atmosphere there, it seemed like a laid back place.  The next morning I made it to Dallas for part of the day and saw Cowboy stadium as well as the Grassy Knoll.  I ended up in Houston that night, which is a gorgeous city.  Houston, is definitely on my list of favorite cities as far as its lay out and super clean and smooth streets.

Joel Meets Joel...The Other Joel
That's right, Joel Olsteen had the pleasure of meeting me this past Sunday at Lakewood Church in Houston.  I kid, I kid, I'm not that ostentatious.  It was kind of cool to visit there, but as you can tell I'm not a big fan of televangelism.  I think it's cheap and watered down Christianity, and sure enough when Mr. Olsteen gave his sermon he didn't use a single passage from scripture but told a bible story and followed up with a feel good message of motivation.  Not that he was saying anything incorrect in his sermon, but I always long for something deeper when I come to church.  I will say this, I was impressed that afterwards he took the time to not just meet any visitor who wanted to meet him but he would actually take time to have conversation with them as well.  I waited in line for about a half hour before I got to talk to him, told him about the trip and he asked me a few questions about that and what I wanted to do when I got back, so I explained my limbo situation, he looked me in the eye and said "You'll do Great"...me " I know".  I met a Nigerian couple who were able to snap a photo so I'll try to get that from them soon.

I'm currently in Austin, Texas...staying with my good buddy Nathan Vassar and his new bride, Jessica, they've been incredible hosts and they are the first familiar faces I've seen in a month! I'm trying to decided now between Amarillo or El Paso but either way, I expect to be in the Rockies towards the end of this week. Thanks again for reading and for keeping me sane along the way!


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