[originally posted to the Wheeled Migration Yahoo Group on November 1, 2004]
Hi, folks! I'm still vegging out in Bartlesville, Oklahoma... It looks like I'll be here until Friday.
A few highlights of visiting my hometown in this way at this time:
- I hadn't ridden a bike in Bartlesville for probably 8 years. Compared to other towns its size, it's a lot of fun to ride in. Never mind the excellent Pathfinder Parkway; the streets are noticeably wider here. Maybe I'll find that elsewhere in Oklahoma, too... I hope so!
- It's also been 6-8 years since I was in Oklahoma during warm weather. I got to see the woods while there are still a few leaves on the trees. I also finally got to try out my dad's souped-up electric lawnmower. I wish I'd had that when I was mowing lawns as a kid -- it's so quiet!
- More than two months of camping in ten states have given me a new appreciation for the wildlife in Bartlesville. The Pathfinder passes through a floodplain that floods just often enough to keep people from building there, but not often enough to keep a forest from growing to its climax stage. There's a lot of dead wood, which urban ecologists in other towns value highly for the birds and things that live in it. There are also a lot of vines on the trees -- not kudzu, thankfully, but Virginia creeper and wild grapes -- giving the forest a fanciful quality like a monkey habitat at a zoo. And now that I recognize pawpaw trees, I can see that Bartlesville is full of pawpaws. All someone needs to do is figure out how to make them fruit, and the town could host a regional pawpaw festival!
- Speaking of fruit, as much as I miss the fresh produce I got to sample in Wisconsin and Michigan, I'd trade it in a minute for Oklahoma in the pecan season. People are scavenging wild pecans all over town, and I don't blame them. I've never had a truffle, but I think wild pecans could compete with them in the delicacies-you-can-step-on category.
- I got to town just in time to volunteer in the last few days before the election. My parents and I went door to door to get out the vote and had a surprisingly good time. And tomorrow we'll attend a big party with friends to celebrate -- if we're lucky -- a conclusive end to the election! If we're really lucky, some of our candidates might win!
- Yesterday morning I gave the Sunday service at my parents' church, and it was very well received. If you're interested, you'll find the complete text at www.benstallings.name/Tycho/Sermons/OfWhichWeAreAPart .
- I visited my high-school physics teacher on my 29th birthday and was startled to learn that he's still under 40... which means that when he was my teacher 10 years ago, he was younger than I am now! Morale appears to be up at the high school, thanks I'm sure to millions of dollars' worth of additions and new facilities. Some of the new classrooms are nicer than the ones we had at Grinnell College while I was a student there! But although the BHS building is bigger than it was when I was in high school, the student body and faculty have both shrunk. Unlike the mythical Sunnydale, CA, they can't blame a "hellmouth" under the school for the declining population; I think it has more to do with something else under the town... black gold... or the lack thereof...
Q: To what extent is your route "destination based" and to what extent is it based upon "trails"?
A: Well, as I expounded earlier, I consider trails and roads to be among my destinations, because I'll go out of my way to travel a good road. My route through Missouri was a good example. I had initially thought I would go from Indianapolis to St. Louis, then north along the river to Rutledge, MO (Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage) and Fairfield, IA (Abundance Ecovillage), and southwest from there to Kansas City. But when I looked at the topographic maps of Missouri -- and in particular at the Katy Trail, which is the only flat route through the hills near St. Louis -- I realized I'd be a fool not to take the Trail west from St. Louis. That meant going to Iowa first, which in turn is the reason I went through Peoria (instead of farther south) and had the adventures I had there... I hadn't considered Peoria to be a destination until I got there, but now you'll see it's a green dot on my map! A counterexample is my route south from here into Texas... I had a route in mind that would take me due south from Tulsa to Dallas, but now I'm thinking of visiting a "destination" in Oklahoma City, which will require a whole new route.
Q: What information resources were used and what process was followed to select the route? How long did it take you to plot the route?
A: Well, the general plan of heading south through the midwest and north along the east coast took about 2 hours to plan, and it was based on maps of average low temperatures I got from weather.com. If you look closely at my map you'll see gray dashed lines labeled "OCT", "NOV", "DEC", and so on, indicating how far south I need to be each month. Stage two of route planning is to get detailed maps of the next state I plan to visit ... I've been using DeLorme's Atlas and Gazetteer series because I know there's one for every state, and they're easy to find. These maps tend to show and/or describe about 75-90% of all campgrounds, bike trails, and other amenities I'm looking for; the rest I find via the Internet and draw on the map. (yp.yahoo.com is a good tool for finding campgrounds... even though most states have associations of campground owners, I find their Web sites are unreliable as sources of info.) Once I know roughly what's available, I leave the specifics of the route open until a day or two in advance, or sometimes less.
Thanks for the questions! Don't forget to vote! It might not hurt to pray, too... --Ben