As you may recall, I am writing a series of posts on our recent vacation with my best friend from college at the University of Missouri, Steve and his wife Janet. In 1976, we took a trip during spring break to the State of Arizona; and two girls, Lori and Dori, rode along, to be dropped off in Phoenix for the week. A year ago, Steve suggested that we two couples re-create the trip again, this time with sight-seeing along the way. We agreed and Steve planned the trip. We now take up the trip after spending the night just outside Wichita, Kansas.
Then As I stated last time, forty years ago, we were on a non-stop carnival ride straight to Phoenix to drop off our two female passengers, which meant we didn't see any sights, so there isn't much to write about, right? Wrong! I wrote about our running out of gas once before but I think it merits mentioning again here briefly, during this post.
Remember, it was 1976. No cell phones. It was the days of CB radios and 8-tracks. I had both in my car. My CB handle was "The Silver Slipper". Oh yeah. I'll hear about this by many and bring back memories by others. Why that handle? Because my bowling shoes were silver. Nothing else needs to be said.
We were flying along US 54 in New Mexico at two in the morning and fuel was running low. I was driving. We had an atlas. A town was coming up and then not another one for fifty miles. We crept through it, a small town and not a thing was open. Our hearts sank. We pressed on. I knew that car and gauge because I had run out of gas so many times before. We passed a trucker and had a conversation with him, making sure there weren't other towns before the next one we knew about, Tuleroosa. There wasn't.
Long story short, as we crested a butte, about five miles from town, the lights of the city in our faces, the tank ran dry. I pulled the car off the side of road and got on the radio. Steve decided he would go to town to get gas. The trucker we had been talking to stopped for him and took him to town, to a truck stop, where he bought a can and some gas. He then found a trucker willing to give him a ride back north again to the car. This is where it got fun and interesting.
Steve, even at six-three, had never ridden in a truck, and found it tough to get in carrying a can of gas. The truck was one of those with a sleeper and there was a guy apparently asleep in the back because there were a pair of boots laying in the floor of the passenger side as he climbed in. When Steve finally got in, the driver said, "Hey, when you get situated, roll down the window and hang that can out, will ya? I don't want no fumes in here."
Well, as Steve swung his legs around, he accidently kicked one of the boots out the door of the truck. He glanced over at the driver. He said he didn't notice, so closed the door. It was a long way down and he didn't want to go through all that again. Off they went toward us.
When they got to us, he thanked the driver, rolled up the window, opened the door, swung around, and accidently kicked out the other boot. The truck took off and Steve ran across the road to us with the gas. He was laughing, but said, "We got to get out of here. There's going to be one mad driver when he wakes up."
"I'll explain. Let's go."
Now It was Sunday morning. Steve had us on such a schedule that we had to leave at a specified time each morning, usually eight. Mind you that is fine with me as I get up or wake up at 4:30 or 5 each day, but for Lana, who is now retired, not so much. Get her up early and she is grabbing a board to hit you with it. You better be handing her a check or jewelry.
We ran through Micky D's for coffee and then guess what? Oh yeah, a round of cookies!!! First stop...Dodge City. Now, I was really looking forward to this. I am real history buff and especially about the Old West. Having been in Tucson in my high school days and with Tombstone not far away, I became an avid reader of such things.
Imagine my amazement when we got there and Dodge City was closed. Yep, closed. On Sundays, it was not going to open for another two hours from the time we got there. And get this. We sat there and looked at it. It was a joke. They don't even have buildings made to look of the time. In Tombstone, everything is authentic. Not Dodge City. We sat there deciding what to do and looked up the place on the internet. They have a Boot Hill tour. Don't take it. No one famous is buried there. I'm serious. Every famous lawman and gunfighter of the west went THROUGH Dodge City, but they didn't die there. They got the Hell out of Dodge.
Next stop...Liberal, Kansas. Why? The Wizard Of OZ Museum. Why? This is truly embarrassing. Remember the silver bowling shoes? One of my teammates, and I don't remember who, when they first saw them, said, "Oh wow, you have silver shoes, just like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz". Of course I said something to the effect of no, you moron, she had ruby shoes, but it was too late. It stuck, and forever more my nickname on the team for the entire four years was at first Dorothy, then Dottie. Then we had others on the team who became the rest. Steve was the Tin Man. We had the Cowardly Lion, Toto, The Wizard, you get the idea. One year we had a Halloween party and we all dressed in costume and shot a film. I have the film. We used to have some of the football players hang out at the bowling alley a lot and got to know some of them. Kellen Winslow, who became a Hall of Famer and Henry Marshall, who played wide receiver for the Kansas City Chiefs, both called me Dottie every time they saw me around campus, or at the bowling alley.
We spent the night in Tucumcari, New Mexico at a wonderful little motel that had been restored to its glory days right on old Route 66. It is called The Blue Swallow. The have a fire every evening and make s'mores served with wine.
The next day we stopped as close to the spot as we could guess we ran out of gas forty years ago and took pictures and looked for a boot. We pressed on, eating cookies as we went, visibility out the back window getting better as the miles piled up. We stopped at White Sands National Park, an incredible place if you never have been there. It is like a big white beach in the middle of the desert.
By the end of a very long Monday, we pulled into my favorite place I have ever lived, Tucson, Arizona. More of our trip next time. For now, Lana and I would like to wish you and your family the very best Thanksgiving Day possible.
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