Friday, August 12, 2005

"Get your kicks on Route 66..."

We had been following Route 66 since New Mexico. We’d left Utah's Arches National Park two days previous, and after hitting snow in the Rockies, detoured out of Colorado to locate the famed Route 66.

After spending a very sleepless night in a dodgy motel in Amarillo, Texas, we beat a hasty retreat from the Lone Star State. Somehow the Texans knew we were vegetarians in the Land of Cattle. Maybe it was our tie-dyed t-shirts in a swarm of red plaid that gave us away, but we certainly stood out amongst the locals, who glared at us with contempt in diners, at petrol stations and from inside their big, gun-rack toting, dually diesels.

It was with great fanfare, then, that we entered Oklahoma. We were so relieved to be out of the Texas panhandle that kissing the Okie tarmac seemed like a fine idea. A fine idea, that is, until we slammed on the brakes to avoid hitting a gigantic spider, who happened to be meandering across Route 66 in an orange sun dress. Never in my life have I seen a spider large enough to require its own zip code!

Brad was fascinated. He leapt out of the car to photograph the bastard. I pleaded with him to get back in the car, for fear the thing would attack and drain his blood before my very eyes. There are three things in life that send my phobia-meter pegging the red: One is spiders, and the other is blood. Put them both on a metal –truss bridge and call the morgue, because I’m done for.

He paid me no mind as he fished into his jeans pocket and pulled out a quarter. “What the hell?” I thought to my hyperventilating self, “he’s paying the spider to ensure safe passage?”

Nope. Brad put the quarter on the roadway NEXT TO THE KILLING MACHINE and stepped back to take a picture.

The spider paused.

*snap* *snap* Brad circled the beast, taking shots at various angles.

The spider, which seriously was the size of my hand, commenced creeping, and paused again, this time on top of the quarter.


Now we were going to have to sit there until it decided to either eat the coin, or continue on its merry way, because there was no chance that Mr. Skinflint was going to leave a perfectly good quarter behind. My hysterical pleadings fell on deaf ears.

After an eternity, the massive arachnid moved on, and Brad scooped up his precious quarter and climbed back into the Camaro.

We were still talking about the Monster of Death when we rolled into the dusty jewel of the Mother Road, Oklahoma City, and stopped at a Route 66 memorabilia shop. The tiny, ancient lady working the counter welcomed us brightly and proceeded to regale us with stories of her childhood during the Great Depression, and the role the road took in her family’s lives.

When she finally stopped for breath, I wedged in a question about the gigantic spider, asking if seeing them was a normal occurrence in Oklahoma. She chuckled and patted my arm with a miniature, weathered, brown hand.

“Them’s tranchulers. Oklahoma Browns! They won’t hurt ya none.” She declared impishly, and launched into a tale of tales about how she and her little brother kept them as pets and played with them in the dirt cellar of the old homeplace, and how, during the height of the depression, her daddy would catch the “tranchulers,” spear them with a stick and roast them over an open flame, like marshmallows.

“Us kids loved the legs!” she sighed with a devilish gleam in her eyes, “deliciously crunchy!”

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