Lewis & Clark…fast trak to Arkansas

Let’s just get to it. Some states are sincerely “welcoming” and others are not. We touched on 4 states today (New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma and Arkansas) and the “welcome factor” is very important to my hoopmania vibe as we travel cross-country.

New Mexico
-Paddy found starbucks coffee at the Silver Moon Cafe next to our hotel
-the morning starts out swell for Paddy
-there weren’t any rest stops with signs…actually there weren’t any rest stops at all. The land was completely desolate…but all was good because I had already hooped in New Mexico yesterday

Texas — I have a few concerns…
-their idea of a rest area – consists of a gravel pit pull off on the side of an INTERSTATE with 4 dumpsters. What’s up with the dumpsters?
-Texas calls this a “Picnic Area”
-there are no gas stations or “oasis” towns along I-40
-their “Information Center” is 76 miles inside of the state border. Hello??? I’m halfway thru the state panhandle by now….
-instead of “welcome signs” in the state of Texas, they post “Don’t Mess with Texas” signs every 20 miles
-I’m not feeling welcome in Texas
We make a beeline for the bathrooms as we finally reach the “Texas Welcome Center” at exit 76. Now it’s time to have a few words with the lady behind the desk at the Welcome Center. I have more than 2 cents on my mind about this state of Texas. But….before I could get a word out, the welcome lady was WAY too nice, and WAY to friendly, and WAY to helpful, and soooo freakin delightful…that before I knew it – I had promised her that I would visit about 5 different tourist attractions within 30 miles of Amarillo, TX. I had bonded, and walked away feeling like we were best of buddies.
Since there is no “welcome” sign in Texas – Paddy and I had to come up with Plan B. We found a few large cattle sculptures just outside of the welcome center – and decided that these would suffice for my hoop mania backdrop.
With hooping complete, we hopped back into the jeep – and continued east along no-frills Texas I-40. I had my fingers crossed that Oklahoma would be a tad more welcoming.

Oklahoma:
WOW. Oklahoma KNOWS the meaning of “WELCOME”. Check this out:
-the Welcome Center is located at MILE #2 (not 76 or when you are about to exit the state…but MILE #2!)
-they have a magnificent sign that identifies the state as “OKLAHOMA”. You really know RIGHT where you are here
-inside the welcome center – was free coffee or tea, a large leather sofa to just chill in, and the most contemporary bathrooms I have ever seen.
-I was feeling very WELCOME

So, I had to tell the ladies behind the welcome center desk – just HOW much more welcome I felt in Oklahoma…over Texas. I explained that Texas has dumpsters…and they call it a picnic area…and there is no sign…and I went on and on and on. The lovely ladies patiently let me ramble, and nodded their heads in complete understanding. “We hear this from everyone”, the wonderful welcoming lady responded in her uniquely Oklahoman accent.

With hooping in state #12 complete, we traveled pedal-2-the-medal thru 330 miles of Oklahoma in hopes of getting to Little Rock, Arkansas for the night. The sun was setting, and it appeared more likely that it would be dark by the time we reached the Arkansas border.

Arkansas:
Within seconds of crossing the Arkansas border, we had a police escort. It was as if cop-boy was waiting for US….no one else…but US. We were the only car on the road, and the VERY moment we crossed into Arkansas, he raced out and was ON us like an annoying tailgater. Were we speeding? No… hmmm. Why is he still tailgating us? He doesn’t put on his flashing lights…he just tailgates. He stayed on our butts for the next 3 miles – until we exited at mile 5 for the Arkansas Welcome Center. I was sure he would follow, but as we pulled into the welcome center, he continued on I-40. I have to admit, I was a bit nervous about pulling out my hoola hoop on a dark night in western Arkansas. But I did. And I made it quick. Real quick. And, I was suddenly feeling more welcome in Texas.

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