Day 13 (July 24th): WINDING STAIR NRA, OK to IRVING, TX
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I awoke just a few minutes after 6 AM. I was disappointed, though not entirely surprised, to find that my clothes, which hadn’t fully dried when I had retired for the night, had of course taken on more moisture since then. This would actually be a benefit for the jeans I was going to wear, since it would make them cool me off while passing through the wind, but the other stuff might require attention lest it all become a mobile petri dish while wet inside the hot trailer.

Breaking down the tent and packing up took longer than I’d hoped, for no specific reason(s) I could identify. Still, I managed to hit the road by around 9 AM, which represented one of the earliest departure times yet. Just before I did, I used the remaining shower bag water to clean off, but its having sat outside overnight, the water was rather on the chilly side…HELLO!

It seems unusual to see a 65 MPH speed limit on all these secondary roads, but hey, for the most part they are well-paved and little-traffic, so I like the spirit of it. Of course, they also feature the occasional “35 MPH” warning sign ahead of the steeply-banked turns, so don’t think that all of Oklahoma is just flat, or even necessarily warm, as this picture will attest. More beautiful views presented themselves on both sides of Rte. 271 as it climbed down from the remnants of the Ozarks and Ouachita Mountains, and the temperature grew noticeably higher as I descended.

Having mostly completed descending into Talimina, OK, I passed “Barbara’s Laundry” on the left and, noting the time -- still well short of 10 AM -- then doing some quick thinking, I U-turned before making another move and came on back. Why not dry out those damp clothes right here, right now? Throwing them into the dryer (but being careful not to break the rules), I attempted to make cell phone contact with a few folks, not having had any signal at all up in the mountains, and this met with similarly limited success both indoors and out. I put the thing away and waited inside the wonderfully air-conditioned laundromat, though for some reason I neglected to bring the hydration pack in with me.

Moments later a fellow pulled up in a giant four-door Ford pickup truck – even longer than the one The Chief (tm) had recently owned for the past year or so -- and, his also being a biker, began to chat all about long trips out west and so on. Turns out I had already had several of his recommended spots on my radar, and his commentary clinched a few of them for me. In return I was able to tell him a little it about parts of upper North Carolina and eastern Tennessee that he hadn’t yet had enough time to visit. Even the proprietress, who unbeknownst to me had been ironing in the back room, came out to weigh in with comments on places out in CA and OR. All travel, all the time!

Heading back out after this nice little break, I eventually came to learn that a road sign indicating something like “Business District " usually meant that there was a feed store down the street somewhere, and not necessarily anything else. Passing through Clayton, then Finley, then Snow (sign on general store: “Welcome Hunters”), what were to pass for “towns” became smaller and smaller -- at the Snow “crossroad”, there was that store and two other structures, then I was on the other side of Snow again. There wasn’t a single vehicle within view in front of me nor behind for about forty miles, and eighteen vehicles passed in the other direction in those forty minutes or so, because I was counting. I had also taken to making a mental note of the odometer reading whenever I passed any home or otherwise occupied building, so I would have an idea how far back I’d have to walk if I encountered motorcycle (or trailer) trouble. I watched a rabbit decide to sprint across the road almost right as I came upon it, and later had to quickly negotiate around a deer carcass that occupied practically the entire width of the pavement.

Here and there passing whimsical signs for places such “Jumbo” and “Hugo”, OK -- joining earlier faves such as “Bunkie” and “Plain Dealing”, LA -- I eased into somewhat thicker traffic (read: more than “absolutely none whatsoever” -- Ed.), on the outskirts of Antlers, OK. One of the first things I saw was a sign offering gasoline at just $3.65 per gallon, representing the new low for the trip. Knowing I’d need fuel somewhere between here and Dallas, I figured why not, right? Well, one possible reason why not was because of the second thing I saw, which was that this was a Conoco, and so what would the dreaded “Conoco Effect” me this time? Ah, for that price I had to risk it. Walked inside, was greeted by the sight of two very pretty young ladies -- lifeguards somewhere, they said -- waiting for ice cream or something or other. Guy behind the counter was sporting an original-design Met hat, though it was clear he did not hail from NYC. I paid, I got my change, I got out of there, and nothing went wrong!

Aside from the fact that a mile down the road, both a Shell and a Valero were offering it at $3.57.

(Just twenty miles away, still in OK, the prices were back up into the high-$3.80’s/mid-$3.90’s. At forty cents’ worth of discrepancy, it would make financial sense, based on the price of the gas only, to drive the forty miles round-trip if your car got a minimum of only 20 MPG. Driving there to fill up a Prius, which could make it there and back on about eight tenths of a gallon, would cost you about $3 to get there and back, but save you $6 on the fill-up, if it holds just fifteen gallons. Of course, you’d have to decide what dollar value you put on your time spent making the trip. As they say, your mileage may vary!)

Electronic billboards said it was between 105 and 107 degrees now, down here where the hills and the cooling breezes had long receded into the distance. Yet another excellent street sign went by in Atoka, OK, telling me that I had experienced “Chicken Fight Road” at last. I passed a “Sinclair” gas station, which I used to love when I was a kid because of the company’s dinosaur logo, and crossed over the Red River into Texas, where I stopped at the attractively-designed and ultra-clean Visitor Welcome Center. This was in an attempt to correct what had become a very annoying right contact lens, though the effort met with little success. Could do little other than push on…

Passing by the headquarters and manufacturing plants for both Texas Instruments and MEMC -- apparently in the middle of nowhere -- the road began to get wider and the interchanges began to come more frequently and the traffic definitely got much heavier. Soon I was well within the incredible suburban sprawl of the Dallas area, and if I had been starting to get a little tired before and the contact lens continuing to annoy, there would be no rest through this stretch as the road was now jammed with traffic moving at varying speeds through the narrow lanes. I had to bring the “A” game here and kept it in fourth gear to maximize passing power, which I did frequently in order to avoid the rolling roadblocks and trucks changing lanes (compare this to the “traffic” described in eastern Oklahoma just a few paragraphs ago). Nominally, this was a Triumphant Return to the area, having visited for a work engagement back sometime not later than April of 1991 -- ah, the IRSA days! But the truth was that even after negotiating several “loops”, “beltways” and roads designated with such bogus numbers as “I-35e” (which ran north-south) and possibly “DFW-27-H” (whatever the hell that is), I was barely able to see Dallas proper in the distance, and then only for an instant or two before needing to avoid being obliterated by yet another tractor-trailer.

Having mentioned IRSA, I should explain that it was the first company I worked for after graduating from college. Our hosts during my previous visit here, the Dallas Convention & Visitors’ Bureau, had piled a bunch of meeting planners from all over the country onto one of those luxury “party buses” and took us to a game at Irving Stadium. Not only were the Cowboys playing the Giants, but the Jints rode an early kickoff or punt return TD to a “W” over their hated rivals! And now, as it turns out, nearly twenty years later the route to my hotel took me right next to the stadium again -- and I have to say, it is looking pretty dumpy from the outside. Football fans, help out The Chief (tm) here; are the Cowboys waiting on a new stadium these days?

Thanks to the generosity of a cousin’s husband -- who shall remain nameless to protect the innocent -- I had been sitting on a pretty healthy stash of Red Lobster gift certificates. Now, having logged two decades up in New England, typically there had been other, more local choices for seafood, and so I had never actually been to one. Having thought about it, I figured this would be the most likely place where I’d be near one somewhere, and so I wanted to put them to use, which would also help me keep a low-dollar spending stretch alive (having laid out only eight bucks on non-lodging, non-gas expenditures in the past fifty-some odd hours). Keeping an eye out for a restaurant, in between trying to stay alive and straining to make sense of the GPS’ directions (rendered tiny by the sheer length of some of the roadway names), I hadn’t yet seen one of these restaurants, so I figured I might have to research a location and ride to one. That would limit, if not preclude my ability to consume alcohol with dinner, not to mention cause my butt to ask my brain, “Why the hell are you climbing back on this thing?” Then, suddenly, I spotted one. Wanna know where?

Across the road from my hotel the Best Western Irving Inn. COUNT IT!

I registered in the nicely-appointed lobby and went to my very nice room, with thoughts of (1) cancelling “radio silence”, i.e., getting back into cell phone contact; (2) firing up the laptop (free wi-fi in every room); (3) doing a quick push-up “workout”, then (4) jumping in the pool before going to eat.

Step one: check. Step two: check. Step three: 116 pushups in the first round -- you gotta be kidding me! There must be another explanation beyond the elevation/gravity/O2 equation recently proposed by a learned scholar. The pool? Enjoyable, and also featuring a hot tub, which helped loosen up the muscles nicely.

Waltzing back into the lobby to print a boarding pass for tomorrow’s flight -- and no, I’m not telling the destination, because you’ll just have to wait for that  update -- the dudes behind the desk shot me a few questions. Was I  going to the airport? Did I have a vehicle? Because they have free parking for up to one week beyond one’s stay, and they offer a free shuttle service to and from, beginning at 5 AM.

Hmmm, I thought, and you could have seen the smoke pouring from The Chief (tm)’s ears. Aside from the difficulty of having to plan to get dressed in safe riding gear, then get to the airport, then park a bike and trailer, then change into traveling wear, then find my way around what I knew was a gigantic facility, my biggest fear was what if they bagelled me at the garage for some unknown reason, Guantanamo-style? That would be a DISASTER. And here it was that all of it would be taken care of for me? Yes, yes, YES! The system works! Sign me up, I said.

Out into the heat and across the road -- probably one of the only pedestrians ever seen in this area, ever -- I ambled over to my "local", the local Red Lobster, that is. Sitting down at the bar and being immediately greeted by bartenders Stewie and Felix (think “capable young gun” and “savvy veteran” here), we got right to it, and my “Steak-Lobster-Shrimp Oscar” hit the spot like you read about. Hey! First time at one of these joints, and I must report success. Not only that, but I’ve still got a like amount of certificates burning a hole in my pocket, and you’d best believe that those’ll be put to good use somewhere on down the line.

Only bummer here was that my contact lens had continued to be very bothersome, so I went to the men’s room to check it out. It almost looked like it had become misshapen, and having worn the set for many days consecutively, I figured that had about had enough and tossed it. With the left lens in and the right lens gone, vision was a little odd, but not terribly so, especially since I wasn’t driving. Problem was, my right eye continued to hurt, and so I think I may have had something on my eyelid, not a problem with my lenses at all. Bottom line, I’ll be starting with a brand-new set!

Sure, when I went to bed it was late -- 1 AM for a 4 AM wake-up -- but what can I tell you? Time stands still for no man, and The Chief (tm) does not stand still for time. See you tomorrow, or, um, “today”, just a few hours from now!

Not So Warm

Eastern OK View

Barbara's Laundry

The Rules



Room 1

Room 2