Seeing the recovery underway in Joplin, Missouri was an end point to a chapter of my trip. I’d done the Great Lakes, the East Coast, the South and, now, the Midwest. As I drove out of Missouri, the great expanse of the West loomed, a monstrous stretch of America to cover in the less than two weeks that remained in my trip.
I wasn’t looking forward to it. After eight weeks in the car, on the road, sleeping on floors, in tents, in anonymous hotel rooms and cozy bed and breakfasts, I could feel the end of the trip creeping closer, my end goal of Los Angeles in sight, if more than 2,000 miles away by the sinuous route I’d plotted. But first, I’d spend the night in Oklahoma City.
After passing through Tulsa, with a quick stop for lunch at the Dilly Deli and coffee at DoubleShot, it was on to Oklahoma City. Like Atlanta, it’s a place much changed since the ’90s, when Timothy McVeigh killed 168 people with a truck bomb at the Murrah Federal Building. A beautiful and contemplative memorial to the dead now marks the site, its reflecting pool shimmering in the scorching August heat.
In the sixteen years since the attack, the downtown neighborhood of Bricktown has developed into the city’s preeminent nightlife and entertainment district. Anchoring it, at least for someone fascinated by baseball as a cultural touchstone, is RedHawks Field at Bricktown, the home of the Houston Astro’s AAA affiliate club. I was determined to see a game despite the triple-digit heat and bought a $15 ticket that would park me right behind the home team’s on-deck circle. I was in the second row.
I didn’t know it at the time, but it would turn out to be the last ballgame of the trip. There was too much road to cover, too much to see in Texas and New Mexico and the vast spaces of the American Southwest. It was a bittersweet game, this last minor league battle, a sign that my trip would soon be over, even if I had thousands of miles yet to go.