Oklahoma to Arizona Road Trip
Hello, from the sweltering heat of summer in Palm Springs, California. I am currently on a road trip with my family, who are visiting from Australia and I thought I’d take some time, while sitting poolside, to collate bits and pieces of journal entries from the trip I took out to Tucson, Arizona, where I met my family for some close friends’ wedding.
Instead of doing things the conventional way and just driving to Tucson from LA, I decided to fly out to OKC and do the drive there with my good friend Lexi, who was also attending the wedding.
We left Oklahoma City and drove over 24 hours through 4 states; Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico and Arizona, with an unexpected mega-detour to the Grand Canyon!
This road trip was, indeed, a wild ride west! Here's my experience in the form of snippets of journal entries that I wrote along the way:
August 20, 2019. 09:34:
I am currently at altitude, en route from Los Angeles to Denver, Colorado, where I’ll switch flights and head to Oklahoma City. The captain just announced over the loudspeaker that we’re flying over Las Vegas. I’m on the aisle, so all I care about is my complimentary Stroopwafel, which is getting warm and gooey over my United Airlines instant coffee.
August 20, 2019. 23:14:
Lexi’s room in Norman, Oklahoma smells like a concoction of Victoria’s Secret perfumes and I smell like I’ve just spent a day flying and in the 38 degree Oklahoma heat. When I landed, Lexi and I squeezed each other so tight that we almost exploded. We headed straight to the famous Ferris Wheel and OKC sign before heading out to Shawnee to meet Lexi’s super sweet family, with a detour through the Sonic Drive-Thru, of course! We spent the evening drinking margaritas in the country air and playing a game of Categories over Chinese take-out. I met Lexi’s close friends and family who were fascinated by the novel “Australian” in Oklahoma. There were so many laughs as we played the game where we tried to explain topics or things without saying the actual word. That was until someone said the word “Braum’s” and we were quickly out the door for ice cream at this iconic Okie fast-food chain.
August 21, 2019. 14:04:
We hit traffic this morning but once we’d finally made it out of OKC, the road was clear and open towards Amarillo, Texas, where. I stopped for lunch. The cute little Coyote Bluff Cafe was bustling with tubby, tall-hatted stereotypical Texans. We sat down at a booth and ordered the Hickory Burger with a side of fries. One portion was enough to share between the two of us but it was one of the best dang burgers I’ve eaten in my entire life! We then headed to Cadillac Ranch to snap a few pics with the wrecked cars. We even spray painted our names onto the side-of-the-road attraction before continuing our drive.
August 21, 2019. 20:38:
We’re pulled up at a gas station just out of Albuquerque. Lexi has lost her bank card and we are in a bit of a frenzy trying to figure that out! We decided to cancel our accommodation in Santa Fe and drive through the night to meet our friends from Sydney, who earlier messaged us to say that they were heading to Tucson to the Grand Canyon for sunrise. We did, however, stop into Santa Fe for a couple of hours for dinner. This New Mexican city & it’s timeless, earthy ambiance left me longing for more. We crossed the Texas/New Mexico border and drove through a wild storm to a surprisingly sunny Santa Fe. We explored some the area around the plaza at the heart of the city. The sidewalks were lined with Southwestern patterned mats with merchants selling all kinds of turquoise trinkets. Each shop was merchandised in the city’s signature style and the restaurants sweated the smell of tacos, tequila and Southwestern spices. After wandering the town, we were lured into the rooftop at the Coyote Cantina for chips, queso, churros and turquoise-tinted margaritas. The storm had made its way to Santa Fe and as we finished up our food, we wandered the streets, in the warm rain, in search of coffee to keep us driving through the night.
August 21, 2019. 23:45:
Lexi and I are stuck on a closed road between Albuquerque and the Grand Canyon. I am writing with the torchlight on my phone and Lex is reclined in her seat getting some rest before the overnight drive.
August 22, 2019. 00:01:
Traffic is moving and Lex is awake and driving, singing “Mo Bamba” to herself to say awake. The other side of the road is also congested now - with more ginormous trucks than I’ve seen in my entire life. After a day spent in the 40°c heat, I smell worse than ever. With no showers tonight, just baby wipes, will be greeting my family in Tucson tomorrow with stinky hair, tired eyes and legs as prickly as a cactus. But that is the least of our worries right now. We are driving through the night with nowhere to stay. Lexi also has no access to money and we are kind of freaking out! This is the kind of chaos that tends to come with the territory of travelling with me or anyone related to me. My mum and two of my younger brothers have just landed safely in San Francisco after thinking they’d miss their flight after my youngest brother, Levi, lost his passport in a baggage chute at Sydney Airport!
August 22, 2019. 14:30:
We just woke up after taking an hour-long nap in the carpark of a Love’s truck stop. I’m going to drive this leg of the journey, through to the Grand Canyon. Wish me luck. And if we die, and someone finds this journal, we were murdered while sleeping in a carpark in middle-of-nowhere New Mexico and I’m sincerely sorry you had to read through my dumb thoughts.
August 22, 2019. 14:30:
We’re almost passing by Phoenix on the drive south from the Grand Canyon towards Tucson. At this point, I’m more excited to see my family, for the first time since last October, than I am to take a shower - which is an awful lot right now! We pulled into the Grand Canyon carpark just in time to watch the sunrise this morning. We took in the beauty of the sun illuminating the marvellous layers of red rock and then wandered around in search of our friends from Sydney. When we hear Aussie accents from the other side of a bush, we jumped out at them! They’d left Tucson at 1am to drive and meet us and we all dragged our tired bodies to breakfast at a Mexican Restaurant in the National Park Village, planning our day over strong coffee and Huevos Rancheros. We agreed that we’d shuttle to a few vantage points and anyone who was actually serious about hiking around the Grand Canyon would have to come back another time. I was fine with that, although, my 24hour-stagnant and fast-food-filled body could have done with the exercise! I used the last drop of energy to handstand on the edge of a cliff and then we drove straight to Dairy Queen in the cute little touristy town of Flagstaff for fries and strawberry shakes.
August 22, 2019. 19:54:
After the most exciting greeting from my family, I’ve showered and raided Mum’s suitcase for a dress to wear to a dinner at the groomsmen’s house tonight. I’m just waiting for my family to shower and then we will head over. We’re in a small AirBnb, adorned with crosses and cactuses that is strangely similar to my mum’s house back home in Sydney. The best part though is seeing the familiar faces of my family, miles and miles away from home.
August 23, 2019. 11:12:
I just got back to my family’s Airbnb after crashing on the couch of the groomsmen's’ one. I woke up to a tray full of dozens of breakfast burritos, horchata and black coffee that the bride’s cousin brought to the house, to cure any hangovers after a pretty epic night. We all had a barbecue as the sky turned a vivid red and lightning struck the Sonoran Desert. I can’t get over what an awesome group of people is gathered here for this wedding. It’s like every circle of my life has collided. There are people from the two different sides of Sydney I lived in and people who know my family in all kinds of random ways. I introduced myself to the one person who I thought I was not connected to in any way, a guy who lives in Kansas City. “Hi, I’m Ella”, I said. “I know”, he replied. “You’ve come to my house when I lived in Sydney with your friend, Sym!”
August 23, 2019. 14:14:
Mum, my two brothers and I just got back from doing what Levi most wanted to do in America - visit a Walmart store. I can’t say it was overly exciting an I think he may be a little bit underwhelmed but I took him to Marshall’s and that fixed things up. I bought a cheap dress at Marshall’s to wear to the wedding (it’s not white, it’s cream!) and I’m just about to shower and put it on.
August 24, 2019. 11:30:
Last night’s wedding was relaxed, heartfelt, fun-filled and sincere - the perfect reflection of one of my favourite couples. Josh and Alex tied the knot in an industrial-chic Tucson shed in a ceremony that celebrated their love, their personalities, and their identity as a couple. The ceremony was beautifully infused with Alex’s Mexican heritage. Her day played a tear-inducing song he wrote for her in Spanish, there was an authentic taco truck and the dance floor had a Latin flair. It was a blast of a night. Once the groom had whisked his jaw-droppingly beautiful bride away, some of us guests hit the boot-scootin’ Whisky Roads for some seriously awkward line dancing and one awesomely memorable night. I’m about to head into Downtown Tucson with my brothers and then to Alex’s parents' house for more Mexican food and festivities with some of my favourite people.
August 24, 2019. 22:27:
Josh and Alex just dropped my brothers and I back to our Airbnb after the perfect evening spent at Gates Pass with good friends. We watched the sunset over the desert and the twinkling lights turn on across the border in Mexico. It was the perfect way to tie up our time here in Tucson. My flight out is at 4am tomorrow morning and my heart is full of all kinds of beautiful emotions right now. My family and I are heading to San Francisco to begin our epic California road trip.