Nov. 14: Texas!Nov. 14: Texas!
[posted to the Wheeled Migration Yahoo Group on November 14, 2004]
Hi, folks! I made it to Texas! Last time I wrote, I was poised to ride into Oklahoma City from the north.
Wednesday dawned clear and dry in Edmond, but with rain clouds moving in at an astonishing pace. I got rained on all the way into town as I rode past childhood landmarks: Enterprise Square USA, the Kirkpatrick Center, the church we used to think looked like the Legion of Doom from "The Superfriends," several familiar parks, and finally my grandparents' old house. Shepherd Mall, a block from the house, has finally found its calling as an office park; I never saw its parking lot so full when it was a shopping mall.
The rain finally stopped as I reached the Oklahoma City National Memorial, so I left the bike uncovered. The museum was very well done, very emotionally intense, but I found the babble of recorded voices overwhelming and had trouble paying attention. My bike stayed dry while I was inside, but as soon as I started riding again another cloud burst over the city!
I rode south in a downpour, and the tornado sirens blew just as I found a motel. The place was named the Swank Motel. Near as I can tell they misspelled "Skanky," or perhaps "Squalid," but it provided a dry, well-lit place to repack my bearings again (after the rain), and the Mexican restaurant next door was excellent!
I woke Thursday morning with a new pain in my left knee, in addition to the aches that had been with me since Bartlesville. Between that and the wet, cold morning outside, I had trouble getting going, but the stale smoke inside was worse! I decided I would ride as far as Norman and seek medical attention there, reasoning that a town known for its football team would be familiar with sports injuries. But the address Blue Cross gave me for an urgent-care clinic turned out to be a hole in the ground! Fortunately I was feeling so much better that I laughed it off and went on down the road (US 77).
In Purcell I was tempted to stay in a motel, because the day had gotten quite chilly and the night promised to be below freezing, but the motels were expensive, so I kept going. In Wayne I asked at a few farmhouses, but the people suggested I try the town park, and I was unable to reach the police to ask if it was OK to stay there. I wound up camping in a fallow back corner of an out-of-use pasture outside of town. I wore every piece of clothing I had and stayed nice and warm, despite the wind and cold. The sky view was incredible!
In Paoli Friday morning, I stopped for coffee and wound up talking with the cafe owner about the cattle driving he did in the '70s. He gave me my coffee for free and assured me that I'll remember this trip for the rest of my life. I certainly hope so -- it would be a shame to forget it all! US 77 turned out to be a great ride, since it parallels the interstate, but I didn't dare follow it south of Davis because it heads right into the Arbuckle Mountains, and my map showed a double hairpin turn near Turner Falls! So I turned east at Davis and rode into Sulphur.
Sulphur is just like I remember it from several childhood visits, only there's more to both the town and the Chickasaw National Recreation Area than I realized. Black Sulphur Spring is as smelly as ever, and the spring-fed Travertine Creek continues to offer a spectacle that's rare in Oklahoma: transparent water! It's enough to make an Okie question whether all bodies of water are really supposed to be brown. I camped in a secluded, southern part of Chickasaw because it was the only campground with showers! That decision meant that I started out Saturday morning with two miles of steep hills to scale with my stiff, sore knees. But they stopped hurting around 10:00, so I was able to keep going all the way to Texas!
I was tempted to stop at Lake Texoma State Park in Oklahoma, but all my fond memories of that park are specific to early August, so it just wouldn't be the same. Instead I crossed the lake farther to the west and found a campground just south of the state line. I noticed that there are still live insects at Lake Texoma: mosquitos, crickets, and grasshoppers. At Lake of the Arbuckles, one day's ride north, all the insects had already been killed by frost. I could do without the mosquitos, and I sure could do without encountering any live fire ants in Texas, but it's lonely camping without crickets singing.
I had a wonderful visit in Oklahoma! It was really good to be back in my homeland during the warm weather for a change, and to see it from a bike, and to connect all the dots of the places I remember on the human scale of pedal power. Favorite Oklahoma quirk: In nine days of riding, not one Oklahoma motorist yelled anything rude at me like "Get off the road!" This is remarkable not only because people have yelled in every other state I've passed through (not counting Minnesota and Kansas, where I spent only a day each), but also because they used to yell at me all the time when I lived in the state and would bike or walk places. Maybe they were shocked into silence by my appearance, or maybe they just had their windows rolled up!
When you receive this message, it means I'm near Dallas. I plan to be there until Wednesday. Happy trails! --Ben
to Edmond, OKto Edmond, OK
I slept in this morning, secure in my concealment from view, but when I emerged well after dawn to dig a cathole, I found that although I'd been concealed from headlights, drivers in daylight could see me just fine! Fortunately if anyone called the state troopers, they had better things to do than check up on me.
I strained my back wrestling the bike out of the ditch, and it hurt all day along with my knees. I followed Route 66 all day, passing through Davenport where I had a penpal once, but I couldn't remember his name! Got into Arcadia Lake later than I'd hoped but well before dusk.
Made corned beef hash for dinner and never will again -- it cooked just fine, but it left horrible grease all over the dishes!
to Oklahoma Cityto Oklahoma City
This morning dawned dry, but with a front moving in with astonishing speed. I packed up my gear -- all dry -- and waterproofed it. Rain started sprinkling as I was leaving the park.
I rode past Enterprise Square, the Kirkpatrick Center, the Legion of Doom, and several familiar parks on my way to Janmother & Ralfather's place, which looks exactly the same. Shepherd Mall is booming now that it's no longer a mall -- it houses a high school and lots of offices. The rain finally stopped as I reached the Oklahoma City National Memorial, so I left the bike uncovered.
The museum was very well done, very emotionally intense, but I got sensory overload from the babble of recorded voices and had trouble paying attention to anything. My bike stayed dry while I was inside, but as soon as I started riding again another cloud burst over the city!
I rode south in a downpour until I found a cheap motel and the tornado sirens blew. The place was named the Swank Motel. It turned out to be a bad misspelling of "squalid," but it provided a dry, well-lit place to repack my bearings again (after the rain), and the Mexican restaurant next door was excellent!
to Wayne, OKto Wayne, OK
I woke in the motel this morning and had trouble getting going, between the wet and cold outside, the horrible stale smoke inside, and a new pain in my left knee. I put on a new knee bandage I had bought yesterday at the phone nurse's recommendation, but it just bunched up immediately and became more painful than the pain it was supposed to treat!
I decided I would ride as far as Norman and then seek urgent care there, reasoning that a football town would be familiar with sports injuries. But by the time I had stopped at a bike shop in Norman for parts, my knees were feeling better, as was my overall outlook. I agonized over whether or not to go to urgent care and finally decided to stop by on my way out of town. Surprise: the address I got from Blue Cross was a hole in the ground!
Fortunately I was feeling so much better that I laughed it off and went on down the road (US 77). In Purcell I was tempted to stay in a motel, because the day had gotten quite chilly and the night promised to be below freezing, but the motels were expensive, so I kept going. In Wayne I asked at a few houses, but the people suggested I try the town park, and I was unable to reach the police to ask if it was OK. I wound up in a fallow corner of a field of winter wheat south of town. Between the wind and the cold it promises to be quite a night! At least it's not raining.
To Sulphur / Chickasaw NRATo Sulphur / Chickasaw NRA
Today was supposed to be a short ride, but knee pain necessitated a lot of stops, and the only campground with showers turned out to be a lot farther south than I had anticipated!
In Paoli, I stopped for coffee and wound up talking with the cafe owner about the trail riding (cattle driving) he did in the '70s. He gave me my coffee for free, but I tipped generously.
US 77 turned out to be a great ride, since it parallels the interstate, but I didn't dare stay on it south of Davis because it heads right into the Arbuckle Mountains, and my map shows some hairpin turns near Turner Falls! So I turned east at Davis and rode into Sulphur.
Sulphur is just like I remember it, only there's more to the town than I realized. The Chickasaw National Recreation Area comes right into town, and there are campgrounds in town, but they don't have showers. So I went south to the Buckhorn part of the park and followed a deserted, very hilly stretch of road to the campground. The showers turned out to be solar heated, which I was all in favor of until I got naked and had to wait almost 5 minutes for warm water! It all turned out OK, though.
to Texasto Texas
I started out today very discouraged. My knees hurt more than ever, and the first few miles getting out of the park were all hills. I got off and walked, but even walking hurt. I didn't see how I could make it to Texas -- I'd have to change all my plans, etc. etc. I thought about calling Mom & Dad, but I decided they had enough to worry about with 'Becca's baby shower, so I put off calling until evening.
But by noon the pain had stopped! Or at least reduced to a tolerable level. I rode on without incident all the way to Lake Texoma, and across to the Texas side. I noticed that mosquitos and grasshoppers are still alive at Texoma, though they were killed by frost at Lake of the Arbuckles.
to McKinneyto McKinney
The plan today seemed simple enough: ride from Texoma to Wiley, set up camp in a park there, and have dinner with Sara (Ballard) Moore and her family. Two problems: my knees hurt more than ever, and the Texas maps are a smaller scale than I'm used to. This is not to mention the rain, which was just a bother.
Around 3:00 I called Sara to say that I wouldn't be making it to Wiley, but I thought I could get a hotel in McKinney by dinnertime. We made plans to meet there. But by 4:00 it was clear I wouldn't be in McKinney until about 8! Her three-year-old son is on a tight schedule, so we had to cancel.
It's a good thing, too, because shortly thereafter I discovered a flat tire on the trailer... don't know how long it had been flat. The sun set right about then, so I fixed the flat by the side of the road in the dark, and not a single car stopped to ask if I needed help. I was pretty ticked.
The good news is, I did get to McKinney before 8, and I got a very nice room with a hot bath and ice packs and a pizza and a bottle of wine and a silly movie, and I had a nice little pity party for my knees.