JadeRider Journeys

Tag: Dallas

Day 14: A route and a trail

by on Jan.11, 2010, under 2009, Adventure, Motorcycle

You notice that this entry is way later. Yes, I let myself fall in the trap I set up last year on my Memphis trip, I took notes, thinking I would get this done quickly after my arrival. Well, here I am, almost 12 days late, just getting to it. Thankfully, though, I still have notes and photos, so I can reassemble the last two days. Also, thankfully, my faithful reader Adelina, poked me about it today. So, hearing the harp music in the background, the image turning to black and white, and the focus of the camera turning soft at first, and then sharp again, we land back on the 14th day of the trip.

Last night, after writing my journal entry, I visited the campsite store. They were serving dinner and I took the opportunity to get it on site, instead of riding out to a restaurant, and then, looking through the souvenirs, I noticed a Route 66 pin, which I got for my collection of mementos from the trip. It would go well with the pins I had gotten at other stops, as well as the bone-carved cross I had bought in Hondo, NM, and the elk antler tip I had gotten in Colorado. The Route 66 pin, along with the museum I had seen in Elk City yesterday, made me think I should include some actual riding experience on this famous, and continuously fading landmark that spanned the US for so long. I must interject here that the dinner I got seemed like a museum preservation of an elementary school cafeteria lunch. Enough said on that, but I do have photos to prove it.

When I got back to the cabin, I pulled out my paper maps, along with the computer, and found tracts of Route 66 not to far away from Elk City, towards Clinton, OK. The GPS suggested route took me West from the camp site, so I overwrote it, added some miles to the day’s ride, and prepared to add a new, and unplanned brush stroke to my journey.

With the sun already up, I packed the bike one more time, and set off towards Clinton. What was supposed to be Route 66 ended up being one more piece of super slab covered with black tar, and with a wide median. I recalled Peter Egan’s wonderful story of his trip on 66, “Lost Highway: In search of old 66”, published originally in 1981. In it he talked about all the undocumented segments of old 66 that still remained back then, 28 years ago now, as frontage road pieces of new interstates. According to him, you could often tell this old road apart from more modern byways by the rectangular pieces of asphalt, sewn together by black tar, like a fossilized quilt of road engineering tradition. Incidentally, back when I arrived in this country, I was often baffled by how many exits there were to Frontage Rd., and often thought that this must be the longest road in the United States.

Seeing that Interstate 40 was not it, I took the next Frontage Rd. exit, and sure enough, I was riding the quilted pattern of what was indeed Old Route 66. The morning sun reflected off the iron oxide colored soils of western Oklahoma, and old, abandoned farm buildings beckoned for photos to be snapped before they would crumble into oblivion. With a deep feeling of satisfaction, seeing others speed by on the modern highway parallel to me, while I rode as a solitary journeyman towards Clinton, I continued to reflect on the many, and unique blessings that every single day of this trip had brought to me. I am two days away from home, and it still does not feel like I am on the return segment. It is one more day, and it feels just right. Like another part of a chain.

I ran across a few signs that confirmed that I was indeed on Old Historic Route 66, and eventually I came across an abandoned Phillips 66 gas station. What a perfect combination. I parked in the parking lot, and took delight, besides a pile of photos, in the broken light fixtures, faded signs, cut wires, and rusted metal plates. History, after all, has a fuller taste to it when it has not been reconditioned, complemented with plastic renderings, and dusted off ‘for your convenience’.

Just before Clinton I veered South. After passing a car dealership that celebrated the old tradition of The Route, I came to a train bridge underpass. Yet another treat. Rusty nails, nuts, and bolts, in a criss-cross pattern of old wooden beams. Also, a few cracked remains of what seems to have been, at some point in history, a kind of ceramic coating on the wooden base of the bridge. Ah, the things that have surrounded, and sustained our lives, and silently disappear without us even knowing that they were there to begin with. More photos. More time for contemplation, while local drivers pass by, looking at this strange man with a fading Mohawk, and big side burns.

As I traveled South now, I soon began to see signs that indicated I was on another historic road, the Chisholm Trail. To be honest with you, I had no idea what this one was about, except that it sort of sounded like an old Western movie that I should have watched because it was a classic, and someone would mention it at a dinner party.

Down US 183 I rode through New Cordell, Oklahoma.  I usually make a stop at a cemetery on my trips, and as I saw the sign that pointed, as it often happens, from the main street that crosses the town, to the cemetery. I turned East, looking for it.  About one mile down, on E 1180 Road, a small hill with a number of tombstones pointed the way.  The unusual thing was though, that the road leading to the cemetery seemed to end in someone’s property.  I saw what looked to be stables, and, yes, the tombs somewhere beyond.  Puzzled, I almost turned away, but decided to continue on, and ask whoever would come out running, pitch fork in hand, threatening the life of a lone biker invading their property.  Fortunately, I did not come across an angry farmer.  Instead, the road took a small turn, taking me to cemetery hill.

I rode the motorcycle on the perimeter, and finally cut into the burial area, using one of the smaller paths.  I parked the bike, and dismounted.  I walked around a bet, trying to show the respect I feel for the people buried on the site, and for a moment, I knelt and prayed for us all. As I wandered around, I was surprise to come across a tomb from a soldier of the I Texas Cavalry that fought in the Spanish American War.

From there I returned to US 183 and continued South.  The country road ride brought to mind some of the experiences of this journey.  Animals can be unpredictable, and as a rider, I kept wondering what was more dangerous, kamikaze dogs, that bored out of their wits would wait on the side of the road, jumping furiously at passing motorcycles, or cows on Prozac, that just stand in the middle of curvy downhill roads, not worrying if a hapless rider would smash into their ribs.  I also remembered a new smell learned on this trip; rotten vulture.  I must confess that I do find a certain appeal in getting a whiff of skunk cologne riding down a country side.  It lets me know that mother nature is here, and mankind is a bit farther away.  But the smell of putrid vulture is so revolting that it even keeps vultures away.  I do not know how mother nature does its energy and matter recycling job in this case, but I do know that this experience I can chalk up to the set of unique sensory memories acquired during the “Great Ride of ’09”.

Fields of electricity generating wind mills started dotting the horizon again, as I broke the 4,000 mile marker for this journey.  Eventually I got hungry.  It was way past noon.  I arrived in Duncan, Oklahoma, where I proceeded to ride around looking for a family owned cafe or restaurant.  As I did so, I came across the Freedom Biker church in one of the side streets.  This church is described in one of the Oklahoma papers as “ a place where leathers are church clothes, helmet hair is accepted, tattoos abound and pews have been replaced with café tables. ”  Seemed like my kind of place.  Sadly, nobody was around at the time, so I had to be happy with just looking around and taking some pictures.  I did end up finding a family owned place, which was about to close, but they were kind enough to still let me have the special of the day, a kind of chili burger with lots of cheese and raw onion bits.  Just the kind of food to add to your body fat index in preparation for another leg of riding in the cold.

After the restful meal I continued south on 81, through Comanche, Waurika, and finally making into Texas, for the second time, just South of Terral, OK, continuing to track the Chisholm Trail.  On the shoulder of the road I had to make a quick stop, and take a picture of a deer that had be struck by a car.  Dark as this might be, when I got back into riding, I foolishly thought it would be cool to have a Road-Kill photo series.  On this occasion I decided to honor that memory, even though I almost became a road kill myself, as trucks barreling down the road redefined close tolerances for me.

By late afternoon, I rolled into the Fort Worth / Dallas metropolitan area.  After two weeks of being away from major towns, the enormity of this settlement, with its ever-thickening stream of cars, and trucks, felt overwhelming.  Average speed dropped to 10 mph on some areas, and soon I felt the disconnect with nature and humans alike, that cities can bring about.  Eventually, I found my way to aunt Rose’s home in Dallas.  Aunt Rose is actually Sandra’s aunt, but what a gracious and beautiful lady she is.  One feels right at home, and like family with her.  I was greeted at the door by Andrea, her daughter, and found out that Yvonne was visiting too.  All these ladies warmly welcomed me into their home, unshowered, sweaty, and scruffy as I was, and soon we were all chatting up a storm.  Sandra drove in from Houston an hour or so later, and we spent the rest of the night talking about education, the family’s ranch in east Texas, and the significance of Obama’s election for the family, especially for those in the who lived through  the civil rights era, and who chronologically are closer to the memories of slavery.  How far has God’s grace carried all of His children.

The highlight of the night was to hear aunt Rose tell us the story of how she started painting.  This happened late in her life, but what a God given talent she has.  My memory is not good enough to retell that story, but Sandra and I are blessed to have various of her carefully done, beautiful paintings in our home.  Aunt Rose and did find a common artistic bond though.  She likes to paint, and I like to photograph, old and decaying structures.

By the end of this day, I had now added two more historical routes to my travel list, bringing the grand total to … 3; Route 66, the Chisholm Trail, and the Natchez Trace. Now that is an accomplishment that should give someone a “Sense of Achievement”.  But more valuable, I have now acquired a new saying, “Ladies, it’s been charming”.

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