My version of “The Talihina Sky”

And, the moon never looked so beautiful, like it did that night. It brightly shone on everything that fell on its path. The road ahead looked like a stream of milk, in the moonlight. Bob Dylan never sounded as perfect as he did in this rendition of “Tambourine man” that night in our car. I don’t know if this was all real, or, it is just how things appear when one is intoxicated in the excitement of new love. Personally, I think it was both.

We marveled at the beauty of the night and drove through the beautiful countryside, looking forward to our first destination as a couple, Talihina, OK. The drive from Dallas, Texas was very eventful and I felt like the protagonist in an unusual love story. My new boyfriend, even with the cautiousness that accompanies a newly courting lover, pushed a little too enthusiastically on the gas, ensuring us a pullover by a police car. A few tense moments later, we were on our way ahead after a friendly warning and a statement that massaged our anyway fat travel ego, “Just checking on you guys, because we hardly ever see people from India in this part of the country”.

“Kiamichi Inn” was the highest rated hotel in the small sleepy town and it was the perfect place to rest our tired selves that night. We then walked up to the “Alley bar and grill” via a really dark alley, right out from an American horror movie. It was a shady bar, yet it oozed comfort; pornographic literature and pictures dotted the rundown walls, yet it felt surprisingly safe. Gulping down a few beers, we resigned for the night.

Next day was assigned to a drive on the Talimena Scenic Drive, driving up to the Cedar Lake Recreational Area, where we quickly started on an easy and short hike, around the Cedar Lake. I had once read somewhere that the best way to know if you want to be with someone the rest of your life is to go on a trek with them. Though it was hardly a trek worth mentioning, it still was a measure I was testing and was tested against, and at the end of the trek, I still felt the same love and admiration for Jay as I began with. This was validated again on the toughest trek we ever took a year later, the Inca Trail, to Machhu Pichhu. Well, that’s another trip and you can learn more about it on the husband’s blog.

We drove back from the Cedar Lake area taking pictures and stopping over at “viewpoints” that dotted the scenic drive. That night, we chose to dine at a wonderful restaurant with a unique name, “Pam’s Hateful Hussy”. It definitely was one of the best American meals we ever had (and yes, this includes most of them pretentious NYC restaurants). Later, we drove to one of the most beautiful viewpoints on the scenic drive, panoramic vista point. It was a dark night and with no streetlights, only moonlight and the car’s headlights showed us the way. As we stood up the viewpoint, the city and civilization seemed so far away and forgotten, with only the small blinking town lights reminding us of the life we came from and the life we will eventually have to go back to.

Next morning had us set, our standard for measuring any small town breakfasts in the US. Pam’s Hateful Hussy welcomed us again, with an exceptional breakfast. As the marshmallows melted into my hot chocolate, I could feel my heart fill with warmth and happiness. A hearty breakfast later, we started back towards Dallas, looking forward to the many journeys ahead. But this one, a weekend trip to an unknown small American town, will forever be etched in my memory as the one that started them all.
Oh, and check out the song “Talihina sky” by Kings of Leon, which I discovered unknowingly, after the trip.

The Travel High

1. The planning ritual – back and forth emails with ideas with my favorite travel companion, the one I am married to. We transform into little kids planning a sleepover. And, for those few (in most cases many) days, we are the happiest kids on earth. The world feels like our oyster and we let our dreams weave our itinerary

2. The excitement – every time I plan to travel, even if it is just a few hours travel, my stomach inexplicably ties up in knots, the night before, for the fear of weather keeping us on the ground or mechanical failures with the craft. I do not sleep the whole night, tossing and turning, checking weather on my phone and the “on-time” ratings of the airline. But, I love that feeling. It reminds me of how every trip is vital to my being and how bad I need them to live and be sane

3. The sight of people different than me – It’s almost liberating in a weird way to be a foreigner, to be an outsider wanting to gain acceptance and trying to breathe in the new place and to feel belonged where language, color and passport dictate that I am not

4. Be a local – one of my favorite things to do in a new country is act like a local. Eat their food, travel the way they do, even do groceries to feel like I have always been there. That’s the closest second to actually living in all these countries for a couple of years. Sigh!

5. The city walk – whether it was walking the narrow uneven streets of Cusco, or, walking the dark night at Red Lodge, a town remembers our footsteps so much better than the rubber from the tires of our taxis

6. The food – anyone who knows me knows that I love food. I believe food is a great unifier. And, as long as I shall live, I will try to expand the horizons of my taste buds. Every country that I am in, I strive to eat as much local food as I can and learn something from there. It’s fun reminiscing and evoking nostalgia into the husband and I, when we recreate a meal from a land beyond. Not too long back, we recreated Gallo Pinto, a rice dish we loved from our travels to Costa Rica and Nicaragua and memories crept in as quickly as the waft of the rice and beans concoction hit our nostrils

7. The smells – travel touches all my senses. It exposes all my senses to alter in ways I never think it could. Every time I travel to a new place, my olfactory senses are widened and their horizons opened a little more. Whether it is the heavenly smells emanating from the freshly baked Roosterkohek in a small South African town or the fishy smell at the little town of Portland in Maine. As I travel, more and more smells become palatable to me. It could sound trivial, but I grow as a person every single time