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The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated

Big Ride 22

Day 8, 9, 10

Oklahoma City, to Amarillo, to Santa Fe, to Flagstaff

I am alive.

So, this is going to be a monster post because I have been involuntarily incommunicado for a few days. The internet is just not the same everywhere and in some places, it apparently has yet to make an appearance.

In our last episode, I was in the very cool Brick Town district of Oklahoma City. Brick town is really pretty and has a lot of cool restaurants, pubs, and breweries, all situated within walking distance of their baseball stadium, where a farm team of the LA Dodgers plays.

They have a Brick Town canal that runs through the middle of the area, very similar to the one in San Antonio. It’s very cool.

Mickey Mantle is from here, as is Jim Thorpe. Both are sports legends. The main street here is Mickey Mantle Avenue and he even has a steak house here.

I left Oklahoma City and the morning was pleasant enough, about 75 degrees and sort of partly cloudy, a perfect morning for riding. The first stop of the day was at the Cherokee Trading Post, about an hour west of OKC.

The Cherokees have been here since they were forced off their lands on the east coast back in the 1820’s on the infamous “trail of tears.”

As I rode toward the post, I saw a sign that said “The Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes welcome you to Native America.”

Several of the Native American tribes own huge tracts of land here in Oklahoma.

When I got to the trading post, they had…everything – belts, boots, hats, beautiful jewelry, moccasins (not just the Minnetonka ones made by the “Indians” in the Dominican Republic, but real, beaded ones made from buffalo, locally), and all kinds of other things. It was colossal. They even had tee shirts. One said, “Oklahoma: home of the buffalo, where they let the chips fall where they may.” I thought that was pretty good.

As I was mounting up to leave, a trucker walking past me asked me if I was headed west. When I said that I was, he told me that the weather was “raising Cain” about 30 to 40 miles west, and to be careful.

Then I crossed what was called the Pony Truss Bridge. It is a bridge made up of 33 adjoining steel truss sections. Very cool. An engineering marvel back in the 1920’s.

As I rode on, I watched the sky turn darker and darker. Soon, even though it wasn’t even noon yet, it was almost as dark as night. I have never seen anything like it. I stopped and put on my now battle-tested Frogg Toggs and rode on. What started as a foggy, misty drizzle soon intensified into a torrential downpour, complete with cloud-to-ground lightning. West of OKC the distances become enormous and the exits are few and far between, so one can get trapped on the interstate with nowhere to go. This falls into the “not good” category when one is on a motorcycle.

I rode until I could see a road passing over the interstate and pulled into the emergency lane and stopped under the overpass. The wind was blowing pretty hard, so I climbed up the concrete embankment under the overpass and got as high as I could, out of the blowing rain so I could stay as dry as I could.

As a former career infantry soldier who has been too wet, and too cold, for too long, too many times, I have an aversion to that kind of thing now, so as I sat there under the overpass watching the rain come down in buckets and listening to the wind howl as it tried to blow the rain sideways, I did what any good dog-faced, eleven-bravo would do.

I put my earplugs in, pulled my hood up, got in the fetal position, and took a nap.

I stayed under the overpass for about an hour and a half, until the rain slackened a bit, and decided to saddle up and try to get farther west.

Not too long afterward, I arrived at the Oklahoma Route 66 Museum.

Route 66 reminds me of an athlete that has played way past their prime – so much of it is just rubbish from a bygone era, and so much is just touristy crap designed to separate the unwitting from his money.

But this museum was different. It’s extremely well done and very educational. It tells the story of how the road and the history of our country are intertwined from the 1920’s until the 1970’s and beyond. It starts with the fact that there were only dirt roads in America in the 1920’s, but that with the advent of the invention of the automobile, Americans became more mobile and so roads needed to be improved. As I moved through the museum, each room represented a decade of the route’s existence, and the story was told of the dust bowl in the 1930’s and the migration of families west to California to seek work, the mobilization of troops and supplies to support the war effort in the 1940’s, the era of prosperity and leisure travel in the 1950’s and so on. It was something from which any young American would benefit by visiting. They had “scrap-books” in each room with photos and clippings from the news of the particular decade, the most popular movies and songs, and they had period music playing in the background. Lots of artifacts and things were there to see from each decade. Very informative.

Then it was on to Amarillo. It had stopped raining, and my frog togs had kept me dry (I now want to be buried in them instead of my dress blues) but my boots were wet and the temperature had dropped once the front moved past, so by the time I got to the Big Texan Hotel, my feet felt like they were frozen.

The good news is that it really is true that everything is bigger in Texas, and that included the foot-wide shower head in my motel room. That, and the fact that the water was scalding hot and the pressure could take the paint off a car thawed me out pretty quick…that is, as quickly as I had used all the hot water in the whole motel. It was so good that I just didn’t want to come out.

The Big Texan is a phenomenon in itself. It boasts that it is the home of the free 72 ounce steak. The catch is that one has to eat it, complete with all the fixin’s, in an hour, or it ain’t free.

The place is HUGE. It looks like an airplane hangar on the inside, but one done up in early-American Texas. They have a monster-sized dining room, a bar, a gift shop, and an indoor shooting gallery for the kids. They even brew their own beer there.

I sat at the bar by myself and was soon joined on my left by Jim, who was celebrating his birthday. If it is your birthday and you can prove it by showing an ID, you get a free steak dinner! Soon Stu sat down on my right. He is a retired Air Force Special Ops guy, so we three had a nice conversation together, complete with cake to help Jim celebrate. Hope was our server and she was very sweet, as was her mother.

Sometimes I meet folks and we talk and they tell me things that I cannot put on this website because it is just too personal or painful a struggle for them. That’s why I ask you who look at this to pray for me – but not for any gain for me, but that I might be of help to those I meet. I need your prayers because they need your prayers. I need you to pray that the people I touch are helped, because some of them really need help.

The next day was supposed to be only partly cloudy, but when I opened the shades, it was overcast and drizzling. I waited about 30 minutes for the drizzle to stop and headed out.

As I rode through Amarillo, I hit the 6th street historic district. This area was full of neat, old buildings that were all shops, restaurants, and bars…all of whom seem to have somehow found a way to make it in spite of the demise of Route 66.

The rest of Amarillo was bleak. There was obviously a strong Mexican presence, which wasn’t a surprise, but there was also apparently an equally significant Asian population, as I passed several active and abandoned businesses catering to those folks.

Not too far west of Amarillo is an oddity that could only exist on Route 66, the Cadillac Ranch. It consists of a clearing in the middle of a cornfield just maybe 100 yards off the road in which ten Cadillac cars are buried nose-down with their rear ends skyward…for no apparent reason.

But folks love it. And even on a cold, overcast, misty, foggy morning, dozens of people were there, spray-painting their names on the hulks in bright, neon colors.

It’s one of the goofiest things I think I have ever seen.

After that, I made it to the mid-point of Route 66. Here, in Adrian, Texas, one is exactly 1,139 miles from Chicago or Santa Monica. That’s impressive, but consider that in order to get to Chicago, I rode 968 miles – just to start the trip!

While I was in Adrian, I met three guys from Switzerland who were biking the route, and a very sweet lady from Holland who was driving it in a car.

From Adrian, I made it to the New Mexico line and shortly thereafter, to Russell’s Travel Stop, where he has a free museum that has a bit of everything – cars, toys, jukeboxes, old gas pumps, anything and everything having to do with Marilyn Monroe. It was amazing.

After a breakfast of huevos rancheros with some EXCELLENT salsa verde, I continued west.

The weather was clearing and it was beginning to warm up, so I began to hope that I had ridden out from under the clouds and was bound for some clearer, warmer riding.

I got to Tucumcari, New Mexico, where the iconic Blue Swallow Motel is.

The Tee Pee Curio Shop was there, too, as were several motels that seemed to be of the vintage of the Blue Swallow, but not as well kept. There were just as many ruins, too.

It’s sad, but in order to make the country run more efficiently, Eisenhower established the Interstate System, based on the German Autobahn model. When he did, the cost of progress was that entire towns were cut off and put out of business.

The weather continued to clear and it really warmed up nicely. As I rode through the prairies and deserts of New Mexico, I was reminded of how vast the American West really is. I have said it before – that any attempt at trying to capture the majesty and sweeping grandeur of our country’s terrain is really doomed to be an exercise in frustration. It simply has to be experienced to be comprehended.

Having crossed into Mountain Time, I became an hour younger. I need all the help I can get.

Soon I was in Santa Fe, a beautiful little town. My accommodations for the evening were at the palatial Cottonwood Court, a blast from the past all its own. I managed to make it downtown in time to see a few shops in the historic district before they closed and some of the things I saw blew me away.

One shop in particular specialized in sculpture and they had an amazing collection of items for sale.

At the top of the plaza was the cathedral, and out front was a statue of St. Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of Santa Fe.

It was a pleasant evening, but I didn’t stay out late, because I needed to type this!

The next morning, today, Friday the 3d of June, I was up early. But before I could get underway, I had to run an errand. It seems that the sole of my boot had decided to come loose, and was halfway detached, causing the heel to “flap” when I walked. So I had to find a store and get some glue to fix it.

Luckily there was a Walmart right on 66 and I was able to get what I needed. I was helped by a really pretty lady named Bernadette who said “we have something in common” and showed me that under her work vest, she was wearing an Indian Motorcycle tee shirt. We talked for a minute and I passed her a card and got going. She asked me to ride safe, which I appreciated.

Out of Santa Fe, I took what is called the “Turquoise Trail” to the pretty little village of Madrid. It is a tiny place and is full of little shops and galleries selling folk and native art. Sort of a hippie’s paradise. The only reason anyone outside the immediate area of the village has ever heard of Madrid is because it was featured in the movie “Wild Hogs” with John Travolta, Tim Allen, and Martin Lawrence. I stopped at the café that was in the movie and took a quick picture.

Then a ways later I found myself at the continental divide, where all the rivers to the east of that point run to the Atlantic and all those to the west of that point run to the Pacific. The locals call it the “Top of the World.”

In Gallup, New Mexico, I stopped at the famous El Rancho Hotel, where EVERY Hollywood star from the golden age of cinema has stayed. It is VERY impressive and it is filled with framed portraits of movie stars that were given as gifts to the Ortega family, who still own the hotel. I saw autographed pictures of Henry Fonda, Peter Lorre, Tom Mix, Bogie, Katherine Hepburn, Richard Farnsworth, Betty Grable, Jimmy Stewart, Errol Flynn, Spencer Tracy, Jimmy Cagney, W.C. Fields, Mae West, Lucy and Desi, Ronald Regan, and John Wayne. All the rooms of the hotel are named for the stars who stayed there. The biggest stars have the biggest rooms named after them, like the John Wayne suite. They told me it stays booked year-round.

Then in Holbrook, I got a chance to stop at the iconic Wig-Wam Hotel.

After that, I visited the equally iconic Jackrabbit Trading Post.

Some of these things you just have to do.

Later in the afternoon, I got a text from home asking where I was and what I was doing.

It couldn’t have been timed any better, as I replied that I was just standing around, on a corner, in Winslow, Arizona.

The day came to a close just a few minutes ago when I arrived in Flagstaff. Tomorrow I will go see the Grand Canyon for the first time. Very excited.

If you are not reading this on the website blog page, you are missing great pictures that illustrate this post. Just go to Riding for the and go to the blog page (on your phone it is the four or five little horizontal lines at the top right corner of your screen).

Please keep the prayers coming, and tell a friend. If you’ve made a donation, thank you! God bless all y’all.

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