We never did make it to Palo Duro Canyon State Park. The day started out fine. We loaded the car and checked out of our hotel. Our first destination was still in Tulsa, a new children’s playground called The Gathering Place. It was on my list even before Molly, our neighbor who hails from Tulsa, recommended it. It opened in 2019 and currently stands at 66 acres and is slated to go to 100 acres. It is located along the Arkansas River, whose riverfront already boasts an interconnecting network of recreational attraction that is connected by a biking and running trail. The nearest thing that I can compare it to is the City Museum in Saint Louis, except this is so much more spacious. It also doesn’t sport the attitude of the City Museum, but is more Disney in nature. The herons were my favorite play structure, but they were no way unique in their creativity. Some exhibits, like the boathouse were closed due to Covid, but most were open. We got there early and it was not crowded at all. Also, it is free.
We finally got out of town and ran into Oklahoma’s network of tollways. The worst were around Oklahoma City, where we twice had to feed two one-dollar bills into a bill change and then feed the resulting quarters into the actual tool basket. Once without any quarters and no bill changer, we even had to blow through a toll booth. I’ll be looking for the ticket after we get home again. Around Oklahoma City the car decided that the twenty more miles of range that was shown wasn’t really there and we needed to gas up ASAP. After some fussing around we filled the tank paid another toll and headed west, out of Oklahoma City. We were running late, but our schedule was still doable, then disaster struck. We were doing 75, the speed limit, when our front passenger side tire blew out. Anne safely got the car stopped on the shoulder, but the tire was shredded. We should have gotten a photo.
There was a lot of traffic, so frequently semis couldn’t move over a lane and had to barrel by scant feet away from our car. We moved away from the vehicle and I called USAA, my insurance company, who I have roadside assistance with. Luckily for us a state trooper arrived soon after, asked if we had a spare and said, “Let’s get that tire changed.” Tall and lean he was ever inch the image of the western lawman assisting the hapless settlers on their journey west. I got the spare and jack out and he went right to work. He was just about done when two County Mounties arrived. They even joked that they had waited until the trooper was almost done, cop humor. We thanked them all and limped the next ten miles on our compact spare to the next town. On our second auto shop stop in town, we scored. The mechanic went right to work. All told we only lost an hour of time. Even so, we were still feeling traumatized from the event. Besides severe weather was brewing in tornado alley. Two storm tracker vehicles passed us while we were stranded. We decided to bail on the campsite and instead selected a motel in Amarillo. Some two hours later, we were checking in when I got a call from the USAA hired tow truck subcontractor, three hours after I had called USAA. I told him that the tire had been changed and he got all snippy about having already sent out a tow truck. Some people fail you, while others amaze.