WanderlustBy Sam Lepore
(Click map for full size)
Mena to Ardmore
Subject: Wanderlust 33 - Ardmore, Oklahoma
Date: Thu, 8 Jul 1999 21:42:36 -0700

Way down yonder on the Indian Nation ...

        These short days are killing me. Having been a marathon runner, I always hated doing sprints - not because I couldn't do them decently but because it seemed a waste of energy to put so much effort into covering such a short distance. So it is now when I only grind out little more than 200 miles in a diurnal period. Does the oil even get hot if I use less than one tank of gas in a whole day? Yeah, I know ... stop and smell the roses. But a nostril can only take so much before it wants to "put the petals to the metal", so to speak.
        My "normal" mode of preferred travel would zip off between 750 and 900 miles. Nice round destinations ... San Francisco to Tucson - 850, SF to Salt Lake - 765, SF to Seattle - 810. All in a day's ride. But at the end of 220 miles, why am I so bedraggled? It must affect the male body like the way women's shopping patterns fatigue most men. Has anyone done a study of female riding patterns to see if there is a correlation?
        Well, I can't really complain. The foot dragging is because Lubbock isn't getting any farther away, and my appointment is set. But at least I did have a surplus of wonderful places to stop. The Talimena Scenic Byway (more commonly known as the Talimena Trail, although the road actually follows the Ouachita Trail) is everything the Blue Ridge Parkway (BluRP) should be, but isn't. The BluRP is one of those 'mystical' motorcycle roads everyone (who has not ridden it) dreams of riding. Everyone should ride the BluRP once - to get it out of your system. Then ride the good roads like the Talimena.
        The Talimena, unlike the BluRP, has views as you ride along, not just at stops. The Talimena, unlike the BluRP, is signed for greater than granny speed - 55 instead of 35. The Talimena, unlike the BluRP, has frequent passing zones. And most importantly, the Talimena, unlike the BluRP, does not have a federal revenue collector behind every tree. This is a fast road that, unlike the BluRP, you don't *have* to ride fast for it to be interesting.

        The road surface was playing tricks on me, though. Because I was enjoying the scenery, I kept getting mental warning jolts while doing abbreviated scans of the road surface. It appeared to be moderately strewn with sharp, pointed, black triangular stones and my automatic reaction was to avoid each one. Good thing. They were dark wing butterflies with their wings up and together after alighting on the road to feed on something. Hundreds of them. The passing wind of the bike would swirl them up and spiral them out behind me, undamaged, to float away.
        Somehow crossing the border from Arkansas to Oklahoma made me feel like I was in "the west" again. I associate Arkansas with being an eastern state while Oklahoma is 'Indian Territory', place of the great land rush, and source of the dust bowl migration - all things which root in western history. There is no obvious demarcation, but it felt real enough. And the melodious names of the towns called from native languages: Talihina, Kiowa, Wapanucka, Tishomingo (the Capital of the Chickasaw Nation). The land between the mountains began to clear into horse plains as I continued west, and the oak trees resumed their stately staggered staccato across the hillsides which I found reminiscent of California.
        Talihina High School is the well marked "home of the golden tigers". Unfortunately, whoever painted those giant yellow paw prints along the road into town, and up to and onto the building, should have consulted a local tracker - or perhaps there are no golden tigers to study ... the paw print outline used is that of a canine, not a feline. The pads are arranged differently. Ooops.

        Like that 'one unexpected dirt road' in each trip, it never seems to fail that I always encounter at least one roaring 18-wheeler way out in the boonies where you would think it would not fit. I took a secondary state highway toward Kiowa. It was so narrow that all the bridges were marked one lane, had no center line, and most even had wooden cross-plank 'tracks' for the tires. Where the road was straight it was more like one and a half lanes wide. Bingo. Chugging around the bend comes this monstrous cab-over. Wasn't nearly as much fun as the time a logging truck did a locked brake drift around a corner into my lane on the Lost Coast ... but this was fun enough. After that I tried hard not to think about the bridges I was about to cross (from whence he had come) that specified a load limit: Maximum 5 tons.

FuelPlus 220 miles, 4:17 hours, 52 mph average
Mena AR88/OK1 AR63 US69 AR131 AR31 AR48 AR7 AR99 AR199 Ardmore

Sam Lepore, San Francisco
Wanderlust Rider

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