Berry Tramel


Memphis travelblog: Adventures on I-40

by Berry Tramel Published: May 3, 2014

We drove home Friday from Memphis after a memorable 36 hours. And we had more adventure. We introduced one of our team to chicken and dumplings. We ran out of gas and it didn’t cost us. We took multimedia to new heights.

Let’s start with a late lunch. We left Memphis around 10:20 a.m. and reached Russellville, Ark., about 1:30 p.m., by which some our crew was getting hungry. Johnny Damon is a Cracker Barrel fan, Bryan Terry Burden is not, RFD and I don’t really care one way or the other. But the tie was broken by this. A.C. Slater, a son of Northern California, never had heard of Cracker Barrel. Didn’t even know what it was.

So we had to introduce him. We pulled in to the Cracker Barrel, walked in and I immediately exclaimed, “Hey, they’ve turned it into a general store!” A.C. got the funniest look on his face. Had him going for a minute.

We moved on into the dining room, and I pondered whether to order the cod or chicken and dumplings. A.C. never had heard of chicken and dumplings. So we proceeded with a big discussion about the Southern delight, and A.C. considered ordering it. I made a deal with him. If you don’t like it, I’ll swap. He could have my cod. I’d eat the dumplings.

Our food came, he tried the chicken and dumplings, and was, eh. He thought it was OK. Nothing too excited. I didn’t tell him that while I like Cracker Barrel’s chicken and dumplings, the chicken and dumplings I get from my mom or my 91-year-old aunt or my pastor from Tennessee are much better.

But I lived up to my offer. I swapped with him. So while I get a little bit of cod, I got a whole lot of chicken and dumplings. So that was cool.

On Saturday, I did a quick poll of people around me to ask about chicken and dumplings. New AP writer Cliff Brunt, from Nebraska, said he had chicken and dumplings as a kid because he grew up in a black neighborhood in Omaha, with a lot of people who had moved up from the South. Jenni Carlson, who grew up in Clay Center, Kan., never heard of them until she got to Oklahoma.

I love chicken and dumplings. Truth is, they could hold the chicken. I’d just eat the dumplings.


Johnny Damon drove from Russellville back to Oklahoma City, and Johnny Damon has a little bit of gambler in him. He likes to push the empty gas tank. See how far he can go without pulling over. Which is cool, until you run out of gas.

Which we did, just past Lake Eufaula. The Ford Expedition started sort of chugging. The Burden turned off the air conditioner, and we were sort of going downhill, since as you travel west, you leave the foothills of eastern Oklahoma. Someone checked their phone GPS and discovered we were eight miles from the nearest exit. Then Johnny Damon did something brilliant.

He pulled behind a gas tanker, going about 70 mph. Rode his bumper a little close, but it worked magnificently. Gave us a draft that finally explained a little bit of NASCAR to me. When we were right behind the big truck, we drove relatively smooth. We drafted several miles, hit some downhill stretches and rolled into Henryetta, completely out of gas but able to coast into a station.

RFD said he had never run out of gas before. Welcome to the club.


RFD and A.C. have been podcasting after every game, and I often have joined them. A.C. brought some kind of recording contraption, sort of new-age technology that looks like an old-fashioned big tape recorder, comes in a little carrying case. And so we podcast driving down the highway. We talked mostly about the headline heard ’round the world and the process of how headlines are written and carried. Tried to educate people on how the system is supposed to work.

I also did about three radio interviews in the car Friday — Phoenix, NBA radio on Sirius and my regular Sports Animal gig — and worked on my column for Saturday and a chart about Game 7 facts. Finished up just as we pulled into OPUBCO headquarters at 6:30. In the old days, I would have had a long night of work ahead of me. Instead, my work was finished. Sometimes, technology is good.


by Berry Tramel
Berry Tramel, a lifelong Oklahoman, sports fan and newspaper reader, joined The Oklahoman in 1991 and has served as beat writer, assistant sports editor, sports editor and columnist. Tramel grew up reading four daily newspapers — The Oklahoman,...
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