They sat me at a table that had a magnificent view of the Arkansas River. The sunny clear day allowed a view that went on for twenty-plus miles each way, as this is a very flat part of the country. The view was just staggering. Why was I not told of the beauty of this part of the country? This majestic river bordered by beautiful tree-lined areas was captivating.
The staff filled me with some pretty fine grub and plenty of ice tea as I settled in to await the arrival of my son. I took out my book, muted my cell phone and started soaking in a part of America that I had never experienced. Other than driving through Oklahoma on my way home after 9/11, my closest experience in this state had previously been provided by Rodgers and Hammerstein. I had no comprehension about what a wonderful area this part of the country had become.
Early evening faded into nighttime and people started arriving for dinner. Two couples were seated in the table next to me. One of the ladies spotted my KU cap parked on top of my luggage. She mentioned she had graduated from KU in 1954 as had her husband, although their dinner guests were both Oklahoma Sooners. After I again apologized for my informal attire, we engaged in conversation. They had me pull up a chair and delayed ordering their dinner for almost an hour as the five of us talked as if we were long lost friends. They told me all about their wonderful city which Forbes magazine recently ranked the 5th best place to live in America.
I begged off so they could finally order their dinner and I called my son who was near arriving. The picture perfect weather had now turned into rain as can happen in this part of the country during spring. When my son landed in front of building, we stood there hugging in the rain for what seemed like an eternity.
We pushed on from there to Oklahoma City. The next morning we visited the Oklahoma City Memorial, dedicated to those who died at the Federal Building bombing. We drove on to Amarillo where we stopped at the Big Texan – home of the 72-ounce steak. Only in America could you have an experience like this where people would challenge themselves to eat this behemoth. A man had come from Norway to try his hand at tackling this chunk of sirloin. The experience was pure Texas.
For the next two days we drove through New Mexico, Arizona and finally to California. Interstate 40 parallels the historic route 66. As we motored through, we passed many iconic towns well known to Americans through popular songs.
This entire journey reminded me how very fortunate we are to live in this magnificent country which, for the most part, is underappreciated. To many of us, Memorial Day has become the unofficial start of summer. The fact that we are meant to spend the day remembering those who have sacrificed themselves to allow us to live this fine life is often lost.
Hopefully from reading this, you have focused on your own family and friends who make your life special. You have recalled a day when strangers may have done you a good deed simply because you are a fellow American. Maybe you will spend just a smidgen of time remembering those great people who loved our country and what we stand for enough to defend it and pay the ultimate price for that love. And possibly you might remember how blessed we all are to call ourselves Americans.
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