Towns that have inspired songwriters are a lot more fun to aim your car at than the tuneless kind. On our drive to Tulsa, Okla., I kept thinking of Ian & Sylvia's "24 Hours From Tulsa."
I'd hum it until I got to the one phrase I remembered and sang, "one day away from your arms." I pushed my memory and my wife's patience for miles trying to remember the rest out loud. I finally stopped when she switched on the radio.
Actually, you can get from Lawrence to Tulsa in about four hours. In addition to having two days out of town, we wanted to check out the Tulsa Flea Market.
It took us a little longer. The monotony of traveling south on U.S. highways 59 and 169 can cause a wandering mind to think about food.
We pulled off U.S. 169 at Humbolt and took a chance on Marilyn's, a neat-looking cafe in the center of town. Lucky choice. The stainless-steel centerpiece was a small but quality salad bar. Signs on the wall touted "all-you-can-eat" pancake, Tex-Mex, fried chicken and fish nights. Our cholesterol lucked out. We were early or late for all of them.
We rambled through Cherryvale and a surprisingly active-looking Independence, hit U.S. Highway 75 and crossed into Oklahoma.
A billboard outside Bartlesville, Okla., drew us into town for five minutes to check out the exterior of the Frank Lloyd Wright building. It was a building all right.
Driving into Tulsa on U.S. 75 is like coming into Lawrence from the east on Kansas Highway 10. There's not a motel to be seen. We ended up at the Adam's Mark Hotel in downtown Tulsa, paying a little more than we had counted on.
So much for not making a 1-800 motel reservation.
The 'things to do' circuit
We hit the Tulsa Flea Market early Saturday morning. It's indoors at the Tulsa State Fairground's Expo Square. It's easy to find just look for an enormous statue of an oil field worker and you're one building away. The address is 4145 E. 21st St.
It's open year-round except at fair time, which happens this year from Sept. 27 to Oct. 7.
The flea market claims to have 200 booths. The fare ranges from Beanie Babies to class antiques.
It costs $1 to get in. Booth space rents for $25. Tables also are available if you're thinking of selling there.
Butch Hurd has been selling wood and metal restoration products at the flea market for 13 years.
"We get people in here from all over," he said, "and the market is part of the 'things to do' circuit for people who visit Tulsa."
Hurd said he'd already had buyers that day from Pennsylvania and New York.
"I've shipped to Alaska, and all over the place."
After a couple of hours we'd seen what we'd come to see and walked out with only what we could carry. Not much, but now we know where it is.
We stopped to check out The Great American Antique Mall and Flea Market, a few miles away at 9244 E. Admiral Place.
Great American is an example of how to turn an old strip mall, including the parking lot, into a weekly yard sale. It offered everything from old car generators to used clothing to a mounted buffalo head.
Heading north on U.S. 75 out of Tulsa the 60- or 70-mile stretch before you hit Kansas is dotted with dozens of antique shops and a few flea markets. We hit a few nice shops but found no dealers who were giving away their merchandise.
We were too late for the Tom Mix Museum in Dewey, Okla. It looked like fun. After I explained that Tom Mix was a long-ago cowboy star in silent films even my younger passenger was interested.
Knowledge isn't always power.
We finished the 450-mile round trip in the dark. It didn't make U.S. 169 any less scenic. It took a little more than five hours to get home and all we had to unload were a couple of small bags and our new 8-foot ladder.
Oh yeah, Ladders of Tulsa was having a sale on three-legged ladders.