18 May 2003
A Sunday drive
As American traditions go, the Sunday drive is definitely on the wane, shunted aside by our longer workweeks gotta husband that leisure time carefully, doncha know and sporadic haranguing by green types in blue states (or is that blue types in green states?) who object to any use of fuel that isn't on their Approved List. All the more reason, I figure, to take one when the schedule permits, and having gotten today's chores done early for once (clean up the bathrooms, do two loads of wash, defrag four drive partitions), I packed up some suitable tunes and hit the road. (Fred will be happy to hear that today's selections were chosen from the 1963 archives.)
Central Oklahoma, laid out mostly like a waffle iron, doesn't have anything quite like L.A.'s Mullholland Drive, but getting off the beaten path doesn't require an hour down the Interstate, either. I set the northern boundary at Wilshire, which in the city proper is noted for being halfway between 63rd and Britton Road, but which offers a quirk throughout its entire discontinuous thirty-mile length: it is at Wilshire where the section lines, and therefore the major roads which follow them, are supposedly adjusted slightly to allow for the curvature of the earth. Intersections at Wilshire are therefore decidedly non-standard, though seldom as perverse as, say, New Jersey jughandles.
I picked up Wilshire on the east side at the 9000 block, on the far side of one of those discontinuities, mainly because Douglas, which was a perfectly respectable suburban boulevard a few miles ago, shrinks as it goes; at this point, it's down to 1.4 lanes and won't go any further. It wasn't entirely clear whether I was within the city limits or not, since the intersection isn't marked. Heading eastward, I set a 40-mph pace, subject to road conditions, and observed.
Oklahoma City, for reasons having to do with ancient history "ancient" in this part of the world meaning "before 1907" is centered, not in the middle of the county, but towards its southwest corner. So this area, which starts maybe four miles from the county center, is almost entirely rural. The roads range from not bad to fairly grungy to downright awful, and they seem to change from one category to another just about every mile. Actual farming still goes on here, though it's sort of offputting to see a farm with a street address (911 insists); I saw three tractors in use, and two of them were apparently being operated by women. There were big houses and small houses, presumably designed for form rather than function; the overdesigned monstrosities in the newer developments simply don't exist out here. Someone who lives out this way who isn't farming, I have to assume, is here to get away from the rest of the world; it's hard to happen upon this neck of the woods by accident.
Somewhere around the 19300 block, there's a four-way intersection with three dead ends. Rather than back up, I chose the right turn, and found myself on a winding (well, sort of) two-lane that, surprisingly, had two houses for sale, one of which was open for inspection. And apparently I'd misjudged my location somewhat, because the open house was on a lakefront which explains the multiple dead ends, anyway. I wheeled around in a hurry and got out of there, lest I be smitten by the place.
Rethreading myself, I headed south on Luther Road and noticed that all of a sudden I was getting seriously strong cell signals. A couple miles later, I spied the tower, which happened to be a few yards from an electrical power plant. Probably the same one that supplies my juice, even. I've lived in the eastern half of the county for most of the last twenty years, and I had no idea it was even there. "I really must get out more," I decided.
And eventually I turned back westward, following Reno Avenue, the main drag through the east end, wondering what Serious Urban Planners would think of it, what with little crapbox country houses cheek by jowl with overwrought suburban McMansions, and, this being Oklahoma, a church every mile. I suspect they'd be appalled at the lack of stylistic unity, the mailboxes that haven't seen a coat of paint since the Korean War, the little gas stations where you can get your fishing and hunting licenses, and the mere fact that people are living way the hell out here a good fifteen miles from downtown and twenty miles from major shopping areas, thereby wasting precious fuelstuffs on the way. Why, I must have wasted a good two bucks' worth just looking at these things. (Which was still cheaper than dinner: $5.77 at Braum's.)
And, yes, I enjoyed every minute of it.
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