Tilting at Windmills
The East Peak, West Fork, Royal Gorge, and Black Forest fires in Colorado during the spring of 2013 were raging......all positioned to make our original plans less attractive, so plan "B" was instituted and looks something like this:
As the miles and days ticked away, the adventure matured on its own.
Many points of interest along the way originated from ride reports of adventurers who went before us. Endless hours of lurking here have shown me things I never would have known existed and I am grateful for the shared knowledge. "Tilting at Windmills" is an attempt to give back to the community at the time of year when the cold plants us here, looking at pictures, lusting for the road less traveled. The phrase is an English idiom meaning, "attacking imaginary enemies."
Day 1, August 10, 2013 - Wichita Falls, TX to Black Mesa State Park, OK
460 miles, ~9 hrs 45 minutes
Packed and ready.
The plan: LA drives the Xterra on the main roads, Red and I take the backroads and we meet at the end of the day at Black Mesa SP, OK.
We head to Colorado every August for a couple magical weeks to escape the oppressive Texas heat. Today is a cool 95, earlier in the week we had hit 108.
Rather than taking US 287 to Amarillo, I hit the backroads and headed north for Oklahoma. This road I've ridden hundreds of times was blocked at both ends as they were replacing an old bridge with a metal culvert. My first obstacle only 25 miles from home. An omen, perhaps?
Crossing the Red River, a visual border between states on US 70 into Oklahoma, where US 70 becomes US 70/183.
It was here that I realized I forgot my rain gear. Another omen this soon? Fortunately LA had not departed yet and a quick phone call remedied the oversight. I guess cell phones aren't so bad. When there is an alternate means of transporting your gear, it is simple to do a slouchy job of packing the bike. Tools, tire irons, spare front and rear tubes all stay in the pvc tube and ugly faded green backpack permanently.
Look forward to more. Love the size of those pics. :wink:
Keep it coming.
A few short miles north on US 183
and then OK County Road 215 north.
That's more like it. Not much to see out here, but it's unexplored territory for me and Red. A couple white tailed deer cleared the 5-strand barbed wire to my right with grace, bounded across the narrow road in front of me, and floated over the fence on my left, reminding me that I was not alone. That's entertainment.
The rows of old trees along the plowed fields are the remains of "shelter belts" that were planted by the U.S. Forest Service in the 1930's in response to the devastating droughts that helped create the Dust Bowl. Sadly, we are that dry again today in this area.
I had to circle back and photograph this sign, as it is a "sign". With a little luck, we will visit Humphreys Peak, AZ in the not too distant future.
I joined OK SH 5 north which doglegged west at Tipton. Rather than following it north again as it joins US 283, I dropped a mile or so south and then west on County Road 175.
Not much to see in Elmer, OK.
Unless you find this an odd combination.
The pavement ends,
and in the far distance is the promise of something other than flat farmland and mesquite trees.
Now we're talkin'.
A few more deer graced my presence. Miles from nowhere, not a soul in sight. Bliss.
I included this otherwise boring picture as a tutorial for folks who may not ride dirt roads often. There were no other indications a hazard was waiting just over the crest of that rise. You learn to anticipate things like this, you slow down and stand on the pegs....and focus. Had I come flying over this and found the deep, water filled rut in the middle of the picture, well, it could have been ugly.
This red clay "shortcut"
eventually spit me back out on SH 5 west in Eldorado, OK. A sharp right curve pointed me back north again and into a changing landscape.
I eventually worked my way west to SH 30 heading north. My belly had been rumbling for about an hour, and Sandy Sanders Wildlife Management Area, just south of Erick, OK made a fine, albeit hot, picnic area. Peanut butter tortilla roll-up, some home made beef jerky, and a couple handfuls of trail mix and hot water to wash it down with.
A fine time for reflection. Yep, here's where the windmill theme was born.
Not much to see in Erick, well, other than I had unintentionally routed myself for several hundred feet on this piece of history.
Signs are up high so they don't get jacked according to a buddy of mine that knows everything. I gassed up at a big truck stop as I approached Interstate 40, went under the bridge and pulled over in a closed down restaurant parking lot to call LA. She was on US 287, a bit south of Amarillo, TX, way west of here, happy as a lark.
I continued north on SH 30
and as it entered Black Kettle National Grassland, then turned west on SH 47 heading for the TX border and then Canadian, TX. No clear cut boundary here like the Red River provided.
Along the way to Canadian, FM 277 west was a paved roller coaster as it traversed the landscape, fun riding.
A short side trip took me here
Approaching Canadian on US 83 is a
I enjoy river crossings for whatever reason, and crossing the Canadian River in Canadian, TX added to the allure.
I can't express how excited I am to be giving this a whirl.
I had been riding for around 5 hours by this time
and began to question taking on such a large chunk on the first day. I began to feel pressured to get to Black Mesa before dark. As a rule, I never ride in the dark and did not want to start today. Doubt was starting to set in when a "historic landmark" sign caught my eye just as I was getting to the bridge....
So I pulled off in order to waste more time. This is an adventure after all.
I started out with my helmet on, intending only to snap a quick pic and book it. I was drawn to the Canadian River Wagon Bridge and wound up spending 30 minutes or so knocking around. Oddly enough, my "bridge day" was slated for tomorrow. Who would of thunk it?
As seen from US 83
About 20 miles northwest of Canadian, SH 281 heads due west. I took it, and you always get this when there are time constraints
A zig-zag north on SH 70 then west on FM 759 all the way to Spearman, TX where 759 becomes SH 15 heading west northwest. This was a redundant, painful jog.
I stayed the course until turning north on FM 119 to US 54 for a short jog into Texhoma, TX & OK. The town straddles the state line. The main drag was brick and virtually void of any activity so I took the liberty of snapping a couple pics.
Those nifty Olympia Airglide III pants are nice for ventilation, and I love the pockets. They are a recent purchase and seemed well liked in the reviews, but some complaints were posted about the velcro at the knee becoming irritating. I had sort of noticed the sawing effect on a couple test rides, but after 7 hours there was no mistaking the discomfort just above my knees, especially when I stood up. Rhut Rho, I've got 15 more days of this.
I headed north on SH 95 for about 2 miles before heading west on CR 53
The dirt roads in OK run in a fairly strict E - W and N - S grid and as I made my way to Boise City, OK I just angled west northwest until I came out on US 287, forgetting those last few County Road numbers. Sorry. The sun was in my eyes and wanting to set so I worked Red kind of hard. I stopped for gas in Boise City and then headed towards Black Mesa State Park on SH 325, casting a long shadow.
I crossed the Santa Fe Trail, causing me to consider horse drawn wagon transportation for the second time today.
What a day. I got my money's worth.
LA was waiting at a $12.00 campsite, cooking chicken ausiago on the Coleman stove, enjoying a drink. A cold beer had my name on it. We set the tent up as the sun fell beneath the horizon, looked at the stars for a while and watched non-threatening lightning to the southwest with an occasional clap of distant thunder. Glad I have my rain gear. Thanks, LA.
Very Interesting ! :D
We're just getting started.
Day 2, August 11, 2013 -- Black Mesa SP, OK to Alamosa Campground, CO.
320 miles, ~10 hours
Even though the campground was nearly full, it was quiet last night except for the thunder that kept at it for a couple hours after we retired. I got up and went for a 6 mile run on SH 325. It's fun to run in new places with different conditions. I met a couple of cowboy lookin fellers about 2 miles out in a white pickup. We exchanged waves, and having grown up on a farm, out in the country, I can imagine the laughs they shared about the skinny guy in the skimpy shorts and no shirt. I was pondering all this when the unmistakable crack of a hunting rifle nearly made me jump out of my short shorts, literally. Were they plinking at a bucket, messing with me, putting a downer cow out of her misery, shooting a predator back there that may have had its eyes trained on me? I turned and started back to camp, churning up a slow, long, uphill stretch. I felt relief when I saw the pickup go off down a dirt road heading south rather than turning to meet me again.
LA had made egg and sausage tortilla roll ups that would provide breakfast and snacks for the rest of the day. I showered and would not recommend anyone hoping for modern facilities undertake that endeavor. The cardboard toilet paper roll that served to direct the water disintegrated about the time I needed to rinse shampoo out of my eyes and the water almost got warm just as I was reaching to turn things off. I am not complaining and will likely visit this facility again someday. Freshly cleaned, I checked Red's oil level and added just over half a quart. Like I said yesterday evening, I was spurring pretty good late in the day. Good thing I brought 2 quarts.....
That green tent is the smaller of two we are carrying on top of the Xterra. It's for the one night stops. The orange tent is for extended stays. This is vacation for us and LA likes to be comfortable, so there is a queen sized airbed in there and she makes it up like a high dollar hotel. We often joke that it's more comfortable than our bed at home. Don't get me wrong, we do a fair amount of backpacking adventures and are no strangers to minimalist camping.
Packed and chomping at the bit,
we get off to a mid morning start. County road D0073 exits the park's west side
then winds around a bit and joins SH 325 heading west.
Black Mesa, Oklahoma's high point, is situated just north of here. We climbed it a couple years ago just for the heck of it. If, for whatever reason, you ever decide to conquer it, the actual marker is kind of in the middle of nowhere, but a trail leading south about .5 miles takes one to the very edge of the mesa, a shear drop off, and a fantastic view of the farmland that gets irrigated out of the Cimarron River. In fact, I relayed this very information to a solo motorcycle guy that camped in a hammock next to us last night and mistakenly told him the trail leads off north. Luckily I caught him this morning and corrected my mistake before he took off.
Both pictures I took of the New Mexico state line were blurry and I chose not to include them. OK SH 325 turns into NM SH 456 and continues west. There's the mesa extending into New Mexico. Oh lookie, a windmill.
As the landscape transforms, the relief of departing society begins to flow through my nervous system. Months of anticipation are just beginning to become reality. Into the Wild ~ Jon Krakauer
This is one of the few days LA will be following along
for the adventure....She's an avid hiker, and enjoys being outdoors. When we hike, we can travel afoot for hours without speaking. Riding the backroads in silence for hours is a time for meditation and deep introspection for me and I hoped getting LA off the crowded highway would provide her a taste of that experience. Heck, maybe she would consider getting a bike again.
And the adventure started right away. We approached a sharp 90 degree corner and this pronghorn stood in the middle of the road, staring me down with no apparent intention of backing down. He finally turned, but started running down the road on my side. This is a poor picture, but you can see his little white patootie if you look closely.
I dropped into second and just putted. He wouldn't budge from his lane. After a quarter mile or so, I stopped. So did he. I took off and he did the same for another quarter mile with the same outcome. So I pulled over and thought,
"what the heck?" Second gear all the way to Colorado doesn't really appeal. Finally I decided to push him a bit and accelerated. So did he. It was like he was playing with me. At one point I was close enough to see the ripples run through his hair with each powerful stride. What an incredible athlete. I really wanted to try a picture but didn't dare release the grips because I knew he would dart, and soon.
He eventually peeled off to the right, rolled a couple times, stood up and looked at me in astonishment, winded but otherwise unharmed.
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