we set off on saturday morning at 11 a.m. from tulsa oklahoma. me on stella (vespa), my bro in law on his stella and my best friend loyd on a suzuki sport-touring pig otherwise known as the katana 750. our destination was to the ouachita nat'l forrest, nestled in the southeastern corner of oklahoma. i had a northface pack of about 60lbs. strapped onto my handlebars backwards, back between my legs. worked brilliantly! we took all 2 lane roads and the stella faired really well. non-kitted bike and cruised at 50-55 mph the whole way! verified 55 mph on the suzuki too, so must have been accurate.
stopped for a leisurely lunch in checotah oklahoma at a mom and pop diner called "our place." had the our place burger and it was a dang fine medley of french toast, swiss cheese and grilled onions...superb. stopped at robbers cave state park to stretch our legs and guzzle some water. talked with a guy and his 14 year old daughter riding an 80's honda 600 cruiser he picked up for 400 bucks. was a really nice guy and he dug our stellas. he was a local and gave us advice regarding certain towns we should really watch the speed limit in.
took back off and ran into a torrential thunderstorm in talihina. had to ride through it for about ten minutes and the rain felt like little needles piercing my skin. stopped at a gas station and sat under the onning for about an hour while watching sheets of rain pour down from heaven. no riding jacket cause it was way too hot, i know, i know. helmet, gloves, pants, shoes, had those. watched about ten halliburton trucks crusie by driven by men in red jumpsuits. i dont know what they were doing, but they were all really friendly. something about a gas line breaking. ate some doughnuts while watching the lightening flash, it was nice.
when the rain stopped, we forged onward and finally made it into the ouachita mountains on the scenic tahlamina drive. i've been to paris, london, rome, swizerland, the pacific northwest, along with many other places and i can safely say that this road is one of the most gorgeous drives in the world. i checked my gps at one point and we were at 1600 ft. elevation! really breathtaking. before we knew it, the sun started to go down, so we double timed it through the winding mountain roads to get to our camping destination.. horsethief springs. well, it was pitch black when we finally arrived and then realized that my map was wrong. in spite of the little tee-pee marking on my map, there were no camping grounds as indicated. great, we now had to find a place to sleep.
we took off down the road a few miles into the absolute middle of mountain nowhere and stopped at a place called winding stair trail and campground. got off, noone was there. cars anyway. a sign pointed into the black forrest and said "camping 300 yards down." this would mean that we would have to leave our bikes at the entrance and camp a good ways away from them. we unmounted our bikes, walked past the rock restrooms and into the forrest. about 30 yards into it, i stopped and said that i had a wierd feeling about the place and i didn't feel comfortable without my gun. i turned back to my scooter to get it. as soon i turned around, they both said that they had a VERY strange feeling as well and wanted to leave.
we walked very quickly back to our bikes and loyd and pat jumped on their bikes and left before i could even get mine started. natural feelings of uneasyness amplified as i realized i was alone at this creepy place in the dark. as i finally started my stella, the light shined onto the brickhouse bathroom. right as it did, the metal door slowly started to open! i slammed it into first gear and flew out of that parking lot in a cloud of 2-stroke-smoke!!! keep in mind this is the middle of nowhere, 15 miles into the mountains, dead of the night, no houses, and no cars in the parking lot. i think my 6th sense, or intuition of some sort saved me from something that could have been bad! i had a bad feeling and it proved to be right!
we all met up at a roadside stop a few miles down to discuss what we would do next. i consulted my oklahoma topographical map to see where we were. luckily, we were not far from a campground that loyd and i were very familiar with, billy creek. that is where we always start out and park the car when we come down for our bigfoot expeditions. it was late, we were tired, hungry, been on bikes all day.. familiarity was something we desperately needed. after inspecting the map, i informed them that there was a county road that cut through the forrest for 8 miles and would connect us to the dirt road billy creek was on. we could take that one, or take the highway there, which would be about 30 miles. i asked them which one they wanted to take and we all 3 voted on the country road. here's where it gets good.
we rode down the highway, where i accidentally ran over a ten foot long black snake that was slithering across the road! it freaked me out! we eventually found the road, sitting far back from the main road, and adorned with two yellow markers at it's entrance. this "road" was dirt, gravel and steep. i asked them once more, "are you sure?" they said yes and i led the way. i took off not 20 yards down the road when i look in my rearview to see a headlight on the ground. i instantly stopped and turned around to see loyd and the katana lying on the ground. i ran back, he was okay, just lost control in the steep gravel. i helped him get that thing back up and it was flooded. i told him the trick of nailing it full throttle while turning it over and it started back up. that big, plastic pig was scratched and mangled with pieces of gravel stuck in the fairing. the least likely candidate for off roading was about to take the beating of it's life. that katana was about to be drug through hell. since we were not even 30 yards down the road, i told him that we can turn back and get back on the main road. he said no and insisted on forging onward.
we took off again and somehow i got way ahead of them. this road was steep. i'm talking mother of all steep steep and rougher than a cob. i swear that there were rocks bigger than basketballs on this road. i don't know any vehicle other than a 4-wheeler or a motorcycle that could make it down this thing. it was astronomical! after a little while i noticed that i didn't see any headlights behind me. so, i stopped and killed the bike. pitch black. pitch, pitch, pitch black. no sound of bikes behind me, no lights, no nothing. i sat there thinking of bigfoot on my stella. giant trees hung down over the road that was no wider than maybe a honda accord. then, something happened. something that scared the holy moses out of me and i almost had an emotional breakdown. unfortunately, i am on my lunch break at work and it is over in 3 minutes. the rest of the story later. i swear.
okay, a brief recap just to get my bearings and re-start the flow of the story.
i wasn't being as considerate as i should have been while leading the way down that dark, trecherous, road, but i was focused on what was ahead of me, not behind me. i assumed that they had things under control back there. what i wasn't really taking into consideration was that my bro-in-law, (pat) had just been riding for about a year and my best friend (loyd) was on a super queer sport tourer that was longer than the titanic and heavier than 16 heliexes. after about 20 minutes into the descent, i glanced at my rearview mirror and didn't see any tail lights behind me. i assumed that they were rounding a corner or something, so kept going, but glancing at the mirror every now and then. after about 2 more minutes of not seeing taillights, i killed my bike on the steep gravel road in the still, dead night. no headlights, no sounds of loyds cruiser, or even worse, pat's simonini. i knew that they were back there, WAY back there.
(bigfoot preface relative to story)
as i sat there on my stella on a pretty impressive down-slope, i realized that the night was as still and black as i had ever remembered a night being. i looked up at the stars and saw more than my eyes had ever seen. now some of you know, i am a serious (for whatever thats worth) believer in bigfoot and an active amateur cryptozoologist. myself and a few friends go to the ouachita national forrest several times a year to camp in the deep woods and research possible bigfoot activity. most people scoff at this type of behaviour coming from a grown man, but i don't really care. they are usually the same people that ask me when i'm going to get a "real" motorcycle. facts are facts and now the cryptozoological community has obtained solid proof that bigfoot or "an unknown, previously undiscovered" primate is indeed lurking in the dense forests of north america. this proof exists in the form of DNA abstracted from hair samples retrieved from the scenes of bigfoot sightings and dermal ridge castings analyzed by FBI forensics analysts. dermal ridges are both finger and footprints which like all dermal ridges, are unique and cannot be synthetically produced. upon analyzation of the prints when compared with human prints and ape prints, the foresnsic scientist was shocked to find that they could be neither species. keep in mind, the forensics guy was an FBI expert and didn't even believe in bigfoot. human prints are circular and ape prints are twice the size in width and run horizontally. these prints ran diagonally and were twice the width of an ape's! the forensics scientist ruled that the prints were from an unknown species. the DNA proved to be indeed primate, but when compared with all known primates, there was no match. not to mention that there are no wild primates living in north america. (with the exception of humans) therefore, we have scientific, biological proof of something...out there, an inknown giant primate of some sort. (dvd Bigfoot, legend meets science) also, the most significant piece of evidence the bigfoot community has is still bulletproof when it comes to all who have attempted to discredit it. this being the world famous footage captured by roger patterson in 1967 on film (16mm) at bluff creek california, in the mountains of the pacific northwest. original patterson sasquatch footage many have tried (and failed) to disprove it, 3 different men have said they were the man in the suit in an feeble attempt for fame, all have been proven to be liars. no suit, no evidence, no nothing. the bbc even paid a hollywood company several thousand dollars a few years back to recreate a suit exactly like the one in the film to disprove it. that in itself was the biggest help the bigfoot community ever recieved! hollywood's attempt at the suit is an absolute joke and is so obviously fake it's hilarious. we can't re-create the suit in 2003, but are expected to believe that such an intricate, well designed suit complete with moving muscle underneath, pendulous breasts, fur going naturally toward the spine like a real animal, was created with the crude materials available in 1967? and not to mention, a giant wearing the suit who has a gait that cannot or has not been able to be recreated by a man, wearing 700 lbs. of weights under the suit, and still able to walk. visual proof captured on moving film that has yet to be proven wrong in spite of thousands of skeptics. but the best proof is in the tens of thousands of eye-witness accounts who have nothing to gain and everything to lose. these are usually poor, rural people who get 30 seconds on the nightly news and a reputation for being crazy by the rest of the community. the proof is in the witnesses that date back hunderds of years. even teddy roosevelt, the great american outdoorsman wrote about an encounter! i could go on for hours. if you are interested, i urge you to check out www.bfro.net
anyway, no, i have never seen bigfoot. however, in the oklahoma portion of the ouachita national forrest, where there are hundreds of sightings every year...i've found prints. GIANT prints. i've also heard calls or "whoops" identical to ones on tapes of alleged bigfoot calls (stimulated by hanging primate pheremones in trees) and as a whole, experienced some very, very weird things out in that forrest. i have absolutely no doubt in my mind that bigfoot exists. previously undiscovered mammals are discovered every year. human beings in general are very arrogant to assume that they have everything figured out, to know of everything on this earth. these days people don't believe in things unless they can see it or touch it and frankly, i think it's sad. nonetheless.... back to the story at hand.
there i am sitting on my silent stella wondering where my friends are in the blackest black one can imagine. one would assume that the stars and moon would illuminate my surroundings, but vegetation as thick as this absorbs every tiny trace of any light projected. giant trees with hulking branches covered in leaves hung over the tiny road almost like a canopy. i turned to look behind me, hoping to see lights...nothing. now keep in mind, that this trip was created with the sole intention of 2-wheeled appreciation, so bigfoot hadn't even been on my mind. but when your several miles down an unimaginably rough fire road in a national forrest, alone, with nothing around but the black night, one can easily stop thinking about scooters. i got scared. i hadn't had enough time to think about the bears, wolves, mountain lions, or even bigfoots that could be lurking through the forrest, i was just scared of being alone. my mind started going a million miles an hour and i wondered if they had turned around for the main road, due to it being too rough for loyds bike. did they leave me? what if my bike wouldn't start? i was on a major slope and there was no way i could even turn it around on foot, let alone push it miles out of the woods! surely they didn't leave me. i turned around again and listened as hard as i could....nothing.
i contemplated what to do. should i wait, or should i try to turn around and find them? then something unexplainable happened. before i could even think about what i should do next, a baseball sized rock came sailing from within the woods and slammed into a tree near the edge of the road just to my left. the silence was shattered with a huge KNOCK of the rock hitting the tree, landing on the ground and rolling down the steep embankment, stopping at the gravel road. i then encountered the only time in my life that i was frozen in absolute terror. i sat breathless, immovable as a stone statue. my mind became flooded with quintessential stories of how threatened bigfoots always throw rocks toward unsuspecting humans. this is classic activity that every bigfoot researcher knows and it just happened to me. i wanted to move. i wanted to tear through my pack searching for my gun, i wanted to find my flashlight, i wanted to be anywhere but there. i was powerless and surrounded by the almighty, unpredictable force of nature, enveloped around me like thick, black fog.
when the rock stopped moving, i heard one sound of shuffling from where the rock came, then complete silence. at this point, logic was trying to make sense of an impossible situation. it was a deer, wait, no deers can't throw rocks. it was a human, wait, no human or would be here, twenty miles from any town or house. i was miles away from any pavement, on a fire road that leads to nowhere but more forrest. no midnight hiker would be hiking here and no camper would pick a non-designated area like this, on the middle of a mountain slope where it's tough to even stand up straight. no human would launch a rock at another human in a situation like that. if they were up to no good, they would try to avoid me and if they were in trouble, they would approach me for help. not to mention that this human would have to be very, very strong to throw a rock of that size and weight as hard as it was thrown. logic was soon overpowered by reality and human instinct. there was a sasquatch watching me and i had no doubts in my mind.
it's really strange to be frozen by fear like that. i wanted to do something, but couldn't. perhaps, staying still at that time was the best thing i could have done, but i didn't have the luxury of making that choice. free will was over-ridden by my natural mammal instincts and i froze in the face danger. i just sat there on my stella looking straight ahead into the black forrest thinking to myself how thrilled i should be to possibly be in the presence of something i've so longed to witness. thinking back, i wish that i would have had my surefire flashlight in my pocket instead of the bag, and sprinted into the forrest for investigation. however, it then sounded like a poor idea. 2 minutes, which seemed like an eternity, passed. dead silence, nothing moving but my heart. i slowly became able to move again and looked in my rearview mirror. still no lights. i then decided that the rock was a warning and the best thing to do was to GET OUT OF THERE!
i turned on the key, pushed the starter button and she started off instantly. familiarity! my un-corked simonini chamber screamed in defiance to the solemn night as blue smoke crossed in front of my headlight. i then frantically turned around on the steep hill, which included many ride forward and push backs. it was hard, steep and took forever. my pipe was loud enough to drown out anything that may be happening around me and i was glad. as much as i love bigfoot, i didn't want to see or hear anymore from him that night. finally, i got the bike to an angle that was good enough to go back up the trail and gunned it. i blasted up that trail like jeremy mcgrath, dodging rocks, spraying gravel, pulling wheelies and praying. this time, i didn't look in my rearview mirror. after about 5 minutes, i reached the rest of my party. it was a familiar scene. katana on her side, loyd and pat lifting it back up.
they were mad that i left them, even though it wasn't purposeful. even though i grew up riding dirt bikes, i was going down the trail faster than i should have been. i learned to ride in the country on dirt roads, so gravel and mountains came naturally to me. they had enough trouble of their own and were angry, so i decided not to share my strange encounter with them. they were in the mood to fully appreciate it's magnificence. loyd's anger compounded as he mounted his plastic steed to find that the shifter side foot peg had snapped completely off! yeah, it was gone, lost in the dark. no more footpeg. upon closer inspection, i found that the alloy plate that the footpeg was bolted to is what broke, so, there would be no repairing it. loyd was so angry, he didn't even begin to look for the peg on the steep road, so we forged on.
i lead for about another hour (yes hour) down a road that never changed, rarely turned, or showed any signs of ending. what had we gotten ourselves into? the trees all looked the same, the night got darker and the rocks got bigger as our sanity grew smaller. i apprehensively looked down at my gas gauge and the needle was almost on empty. a fear in the back of my mind was being realized and i had no clue how much farther the road would be, or if it was even the right road. this road was unmarked, i just picked it and hoped that it was crd4664. being the leader, i was really scared, unsure and hoping and praying we would make it out of there before running out of gas. however, to the rest of the group, i maintained an air of authority and assured everyone that this was the right road. when they doubted the direction or questioned anything, i acted as if their assumptions were ludicrous, when in reality i felt the exact same way. in reality, i was more scared than they were because i was in the front. if a bigfoot did decide to punish someone, i'd be first in line! i found that their gauges were on empty as well and we had been on the road over an hour. a road that was supposed to be 8 miles long.
loyd wrecked his bike again during a bout of unusually loose gravel, and was thrown far from the bike. i was about 50 yards ahead of them when i saw the bike's headlights go down again. i turned off my stella and called back to make sure that everyone was okay. they were. however, they were screaming for me to come back to them with my flashlight because he hit the ground so hard that it knocked the helmet off of his head. the helmet was lost in the dark. i felt like screaming at him and telling him that if it were latched tightly and properly, this wouldn't have happened, or telling him if he dropped his bike 3 times going down a stupid mountain, he doesn't even deserve to own a bike. or to ask who on earth goes camping without a flashlight? however, i bit my tongue, swallowed the blood and took a deep breath. i remembered that he was on a giganto, heavy street bike that shouldn't even see a gravel road in it's lifetime, let alone be ridden down the roughest road that mankind has ever built! also, he hadn't grown up on dirt bikes like me, it wasn't his fault that he kept wrecking. i was on a lightweight scooter and his suzuki was getting beat into ratbike status. the worst i had to do is help him pick the bike up, or wait for him, i was being preposterous and stress was beginning to make me think irrationally. i managed to finally wrestle my stella on it's kickstand, as stable as the road would permit, and turned to walk uphill with the flashlight. on my 5th step, i heard stella fall onto it's side and slide a few inches across gravel shards and imbedded, pointy rocks. in silence i walked back, picked up my bike, started it and rode it up the stupidly steep road to the guys. by the time i got there, they had already recovered the rouge helmet. i felt like taking a sledgehammer to the tank of a certain sport-tourer in the party. but instead, i turned around and lead on.
shortly thereafter, pat went down in some loose gravel and scratched his right side cowl a bit and knocked his simonini loose, producing deafening blasts of explosive 2-stroke thunder. loyd also wrecked one last time. at this point, i stopped asking them if they were okay after their wrecks. i didn't have to because their faces spoke volumes that words could never express. as loyd and pat struggled to lift the might road-warrior upright, i remembered that i had my handheld gps with me and decided to give it a look. finally, something right happened. on our last bigfoot expedition, i marked the billy creek campsite as a point of interest on the gps and i could see it! we were going the right way and a giant feeling of relief swept over me. now, the only obstacle was to make it out of the forrest before running out of gas. we rode for about another ten minutes or so when we came a fork in the road. we had no clue which way to go, so i decided to make the decision. i used my instinct and took it. we rode for about another twenty minutes and came to another fork in the road. this time, i pulled out my gps to view our position in reference with the campground. WARNING BATTERY DEAD, WILL SHUT OFF IN 5 SECONDS. black screen. i felt helpless. i was at the mercy of a national forrest and she was ruthless.
the motor-party was very angry by this time and though no direct comments were made, i had an overwhelming feeling of passive aggression hovering all around me. even though we collectively decided to take the "county road," i was the leader, therefore, i was the target. i made the decision to take the fork on the right and we disappeared into the darkness. we got about 60 yards down the road and something inside told me...."this is the wrong road." it was an unmistakable feeling and i couldn't deny it. if it was the wrong road, we would all run out of gas and be stuck deep, deep into the forrest. i stopped immediately and told them that i thought it was the wrong road. i trusted my instinct, turned around and we took off down the other road.
after about 30 minutes, the road became a little "less rough" and i saw a fox, a doe, 4 fawns, an armadillo, and a couple of wild horses. this was a good sign. wildlife. the first ones since bigfoot... animals go to water. billy creek? my confidence jumped, i shifted into third and blasted on. i lost their headlights a couple of times and had to stop, (with the bike running this time!) and we finally crossed a bridge and arrived to a sign saying "billy creek one mile." yes! we made it! i was extatic. i had been terrified up in those mountains and didn't think we'd find our way out. after encountering bigfoot, almost running out of gas, and not knowing where we were, that sign was one of the most beautiful things i had ever seen! i turned left at the sign onto a normal gravel road, minus the basketball-sized rocks! i went about 45 down that badboy and sailed into billy creek at around midnight. noone was there, we had the camp to ourselves! we had been on that torturous, nightmare road for 2 hours! can you imagine?
pat and loyd rolled into camp a few minutes later, considerably less extatic than myself. i loaned them my flashlight as they inspected their damaged bikes. the katana was a wreck man. it looked as if he drove that thing to hell, spit on satan's shoes and drove her right back. the fairings were toast, rashed, scraped, mangled, you name it. it even had little pieces of rock lodged into the plastic, that thing was toast. i apologized for the nightmare and then reminded everyone that the road was a group decision and that i offered to turn around after the first wreck. only then did i remember that my bike had fallen. i was so worried about not making it out of that forrest, that i forgot all about the fall. i inspected it to find a few scratches on the right cowl. nothing major and frankly, i didn't even care. believe it or not, my bike had more scratches than pat's! i was the only one who didn't wreck and my bike still took a beating from that forrest.
somewhere thereafter, my brother-in-law and i got into a verbal fight that almost made the transition from words to fists. i was already in a highly defensive state of mind, just waiting for someone blame me for the dirt road tragedy. i thought he made a comment vaguely eluding to this and i lashed out in violent rage to defend myself. he came right back at me and the argument was soon reduced to petty insults. i said things that i didn't mean and perhaps he did too. regardless, it lasted about an hour, was very intense and poor loyd was stuck right in the middle. he attempted to stop us at one point, but decided that gathering firewood would be the better choice. in retrospect, i realize that we were both physically and emotionally taxed, each looking for an oppourtunity to distribute large amounts of penned up rage onto anyone willing to take it. i should have just took the blame and went to bed, but i opted to meet the accusation with a full blown retaliation that resulted in a horrible end to an awesome day. we eventually ran out of steam, felt stupid in our immaturity and apologized to one another. the unforgiving forrest had pulled us to the end of our mental ropes.
shortly after the round of apologies, i went to sleep while they made a fire and feasted on canned chili and roasted mallow. i was too tired to think, not to mention eat. that night was the most stressful, physically and emotionally draining 3 hours i have ever experienced. we had been on scooters from 11 a.m. to 12 p.m. minus gas station breaks and lunch. riding all day in oklahoma august, being accosted by bigfoot, getting lost in the woods on the worst road in the world, almost running out of gas, 5 wrecks, and a one hour fight with the brother in law is the perfect recipe for a nervous breakdown. however, i somehow survived and it was really, really fun. i can't believe how well the stella held up! i took that thing places that a full-blown motocross bike would have been challenged. it is an all-metal street bike and she took a beating like no other with zero mechanical problems. the last-minute oil plug repair worked flawlessly, no flats, no problems with anything! this thing is great! i gave her a thorough field testing that i doubt many, if any other stellas have been through.
we all woke up rejuvenated the next day and left camp at about ten. we pushed our scooters 55 mph the whole way back focusing on making good time and getting home. i advised loyd to take some twine and rig his center stand up to the frame so that it wouldn't go down. it worked perfectly, and he used it as a foot rest all the way home. however, his left leg was about a foot farther back than his right leg. it was really uncomfortable for him and he was very sore. we stopped for lunch in eufaula and rolled into tulsa at about 3:30. i came home, took a shower, kissed my wife and told her i missed and loved her, kissed my dog flipper and went straight to bed. i slept like a stone. some of the best sleep of my life. with the exception of that danged dirt road, this ride was exceptionally beautiful and amazing. if i could get at least ten stella speed guys to agree on going, i'm going to plan an awesome ride from tulsa to there and back this fall. like a one night camping kinda thing. the ride is amazing. all two lanes, low traffic, breathtaking scenery.
closing thoughts: 650 miles on a scooter brings out the truth in it's rider, good or bad. it'll break you and leave you bleeding and crying in the dirt. the next day, you'll ride away, wiser, experienced, more appreciative, and a feeling of oneness with the bike that can't be obtained any other way.
thanks 4 reading luke black