Monday, July 22, 2013

There's no historical marker in Alfalfa

Some mornings I truly question my sanity. How is it that I'm here? Not just here physically, but mentally. I mean who in the world decides to get up at  0500 in the morning (who would have thunk one of those existed in the morning, too?!?) on a Sunday? Only to pound the keyboard with my head... I knew there was something missing. COFFEE!!!!!

Even with the amazing power of coffee, I wonder about my sanity. The tasty, black, cowboy energy juice which provides me with happy feelings, and thus happy thoughts, tells me to forget all this sanity jazz and get to work:

After getting off of work, I was in the need of some quality time with my baby. My poor neglected baby. I'm still waiting for the rebellion to kick in and for those teenage years to shine while keeping my fingers (and toes) crossed that they don't; I would hate to have a spat with Blueberry over attention issues. The Oklahoma summer was just getting into the swing of things, a warm (hot!!) breeze (gusty gale) swept over the plains as I pushed Blue out of the garage. I'll admit right now that I'm trying to pacify Blue with a little materialistic attention. Yessirriebob, more kitsch was added. It looks pretty damn spunky, if I do say myself. Biased opinion since I like spunky kitsch. The sky was blue with a little cloud coverage here and there. A ten percent chance of storms was predicted by our occasionally accurate meteorologists, but what's ten percent? A tiny piece of pie, that's what it is.

Not only is my sanity questioned on a regular basis, but the methodology I have for picking riding destinations. I'm pretty sure I decided on this ride's main stop while playing around on Google Maps. But, who could resist a town named Alfalfa? Not the girl who insists upon calling Lake Eufaula (did eu-faul-a down the rabbit hole?- hm, maybe I'll be able to remember the name now) Lake Eufalufa (like oompa-loompas). Sure, I planned a huge detour through Red Rock Canyon State Park and Hydro, but the highlight was to be Alfalfa.

Camelbaks are pretty awesome. No, I didn't happen to run into that evasive camel, but I did remember to pack some water in a camelbak which landed in my neon pink backpack. The standard camelbak harnesses are just too normal for my taste. The camelbak is actually pretty convenient, considering that I choose to wear a helmet, to be able to drink (...water) while riding. Yep, I'm not one of those cool cruiser riders who can chill out in their whatever rag whilst smoking a cigarette and reaching for the coffee in the coffee cup holder. Okay, so that coffee cup holder is more of a Goldwing thing.It makes those "Oh my God! I think I'm going to die of heatstroke" stops obsolete. At least in theory or until one of the lame non-camelbak bringing riders has to stop. How many times can camelbak be used in a paragraph? Let's find out. So all is good as we're cruising to detour stop numero uno, home of MVP Johnny Bench - not that I know who that is... As I'm casually sipping on my water, I ran into some technical difficulties with my camelbak. Leave it to me to find some way to get a free shower during the ride. Theoretically, turning off the water supply is easy. But, somewhere in the process something went wrong and I had the water hose in one hand and the spout in my mouth. None of which were connected. It wasn't until after my shirt and Blueberry's gas tank were soaked through, that I realized my H2O plan was quickly deflating. That makes seven. To pull over or not to pull over was almost the question as we ambled down a lonesome country road. Smarty that I am, my left hand ignored the clutch as it was occupied saving my water. How to get the mouth piece back on the water hose with one hand and no idea what's going on under my helmet? I would have thought I have a better chance riding that camel. With a little ingenuity and a whole lot of luck, I stopped the geyser which was my camelbak and saved my water stash. And, the camel is successfully elusive yet again. Who could have stopped at seven?

It was a little amusing that Binger is currently undergoing road improvements when there ain't much road to be had. Not that they don't deserve paved roads, but what used to be such a charming little town to curve into is now just about as dull as some other places. They even removed that Caution steep decline sign...and the steep decline. Unless I blinked and missed the treey, steep decline into Binger. It is Oklahoma, after all. Or maybe someone just realized that the decline really wasn't all that steep to justify a caution sign.Eventually, I'm going to have to find a different cover story to get some folks to ride with me. My definition of cool town compared to theirs seems to be a tad bit different. Some might argue a couple galaxies apart. As my bored companions chilled out infront of Binger's (hopefully) abandoned medical clinic, I walked the streets. After all, it was the home of Johnny Bench...whoever that is. Maybe I ought to Google him. As we took that non-camelbak wearing rider water break, the sky began to change in the direction of detour stop#2. It really didn't look all too bad, but as we packed our stuff together and left, the chills of the old funeral home sent us into the eye of the tiger. The closer we got to Red Rock Canyon, the worse the sky looked. As much as I love rain, I'm over riding in it. Been there, done that. No need to repeat. I'm no dog; after repeating the same lesson 32 times, I've finally had it. I'd consider this lesson learned. Until it's forgotten, of course. With six miles left and a nasty looking wall cloud awaiting our arrival, I pulled over to confer with my caravan. Now, I don't know a whole lot about weather. God knows, I've driven in some awful stuff, but to just ride right into an avoidable storm sounded slightly daft even to me. How helpful they were. We follow you, they said. So if everyone jumped off a cliff, would you? If it looked like fun... It's kind of disturbing when I'm the sensible one. Speaking of dogs, the bright side would seem to be that the members of my caravan are as loyal as dogs. Flip a B, we did. And, we curved right back through Binger. An elevation change was not to be found.

It looks Binger was the talk of some other towns recently. And, no it wasn't about what's his face(?). It seems that high noon in Binger ended up on Facebook and the news. Looks like some teenagers need to find some productive hobby, other than fighting that is, to replace their boredom. Well, and some mothers apparently. It's kind of sad that no one steps up to the plate when something like that happens. It's a small town, you'd think someone would step in. Well, I guess you thought wrong. Speaking of plates, it's time to move on to the next one. Johnny Bench. Bench played two seasons in the Minors before moving on to a 16 year home-slide home run in the Major Leagues (baseball) with the Cincinnati Reds. Did you know they have sites on baseball vernacular? I do now. And, to think this baseball legend started in Binger, OK; He was valedictorian of his graduating class at Binger High School. Exactly how he made the jump from high school to the minors, I do not know. I guess in the land where sports are worshipped, the impossible really is possible. Playing in the major leagues, according to Wikipedia (professors just love that source), was the childhood dream of this small-town boy. Daddy's advice helped make it happen. Hm, maybe it was daddy's childhood dream, too... Binger was settled in 1901. That year was an exciting year as they also got a post office. Binger is supposedly the home of close to 30 businesses... All of which are closed on Sundays. Back in the good old days, Binger was also the home of a hotel and Deer Head Saloon (don't want to know how it got its name). Nowadays, it's got a museum dedicated to that one guy. Personally, I'd rather have that saloon with the deer head. Binger even has some ghosts to call its own. Some hauntings have been reported in Binger (homes and old high school); I'd make some connection to the funeral home, but I just don't have it in me. That and I'm pretty sure the funeral home isn't as abandoned as it looks...
It turns out Google Maps isn't as accurate as I keep hoping it is.From the map I looked at earlier, I would have thought that hwy 58 is a straight shot down from Hydro to Carnegie. It turns out it is not so. As I try turning into a field expecting hwy 58 to miraculously appear and take me to Alfalfa, it was obvious that the little Google car had not been on this stretch of road. As we got closer to the main stop, a historical marker warning sign was posted on the side of the highway. Location of alleged marker was Alfalfa. What could it possibly be for? I didn't know, but I planned on finding out. Having the tendency to keep the eyes moving, I spotted an abandoned barn tucked away behind a forest of undergrowth and trees. Of course, the caravan had to turn around and park in front of a redneck looking house so I could walk the fence line back to the barn. I half expected someone to come out with a shotgun to investigate where that loud muffler noise was coming from. Guess it was just too hot to open the door. Not that I'm complaining. I've learned my lesson when it comes to barns and pictures. On the way to Hobart there used to be this gorgeous three-story red barn. I always wanted to stop to get a picture of it; It's something one doesn't see very often. One day as I was preparing to stop (it happens occasionally) for this barn, I noticed there wasn't a barn to stop for anymore. Therefore, the risk of an angry redneck was worth it. 

Before I knew it, we were in Alfalfa. Alfalfa is a town consisting of an old school and three houses if you count the abandoned farm house. We found alfalfa bales in Alfalfa, but nothing else. There was no historical marker to be found. After some research, it's not a registered historic marker. At least not a marker important enough to register. Maybe it was just a misplaced warning sign to tease people to stop in Alfalfa. Or to get them to enter the old school never to return to the light of day and buildings which don't smell of hay. Apparently, there once was an old store, fire department, and a gas station. The fire department is still there, if my memory serves me right. But, the old store must have been torn down a ways back. And, that my dear readers, was Alfalfa. After all the excitement of camelbaks, creepy still-in-business funeral homes, storms, and missing historical markers, the day called for some coffee topped with ice cream. Being as there was no store or long lost diner in Alfalfa, a gas station would have to do. One of these days I hope to find an awesome little diner in one of the ghost towns I ride through. This hope also seems to be as evasive as that camel. 

Totally off topic: Perry, OK used to publish a weekly German newspaper in the early 1900s (like 1912ish). How cool is that? Perry certainly didn't have a banner displaying that info when I cruised through there in April. Wouldn't you know it, but I clicked on a volume which mentioned the Apache prisoners on Fort Sill. 

Click here for the Facebook photo album.

This blog is brought to you by the lovely (biased opinion, we know) Stone Turtle – Lodging, a small family owned and operated hotel / lodging business near Lawton, Oklahoma, Fort Sill,  the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge, Meers and Medicine Park. Yeah, that’s right we’re a small lodging business close to all the awesomeness Oklahoma has to offer!!

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Back to Pauls Valley

I'd like to start out by saying that it absolutely drives this grammar Nazi insane that Pauls Valley doesn't have an apostrophe. Like you have no idea! Did Paul not know how to spell?!?

After all that crazy tornado producing humid nastiness, Oklahoma graced us with a gorgeous day to go riding. Not only that, but life graced me with three riders who wanted to go riding (and actually showed up). If that's not a blessing, I don't know what is. Not that having no one to ride with has ever stopped me before. It is, however, nice to ride in good company. Being that I usually ride solo, I tend to forget to give people a decent heads up before doing something. Of course, I'm usually looking at everything and anything, so I barely give myself enough heads up before randomly squeezing the brake levers. Sometimes, I do believe my hand has a mind of its own. Okay, not true. The camera has been awfully chatty with my hand. The two of which are now ganging up on my riding plans. 

So on the anniversary of the disastrous Riders in Oklahoma meet and greet, I found Blueberry and myself mozying on over to Porter Hill, Oklahoma. I tend to be a little late when the meeting location is Porter Hill because I have to stop to see if the camel is out enjoying some luscious OK greens. That and I want a picture. I want a picture of Blueberry with the camel in the background. Preferably with a nice Middle Eastern veil or five draped over the camel. Maybe with some Middle Eastern music floating in the background. Not that the music could be seen in the picture, but to create that dreamy ambiance. That's not too much to ask for, is it? It must be my luck that when I have time to chill out and scan the pasture with my camel radar on that the camel is nowhere to be seen.

Of course, all but one Lawton rider bailed on the opportunity to go on a ride that was more than 25 miles. Their loss. The official meet up restaurant in Chickasha was determined shortly before I inflated Blue's tires. Who doesn't love spontaneity? We cruised past the macho man fence (go check it out, there's a helmet on nearly every t-post) near Cement to coast down Main Street where we met the top dog. Quite literally. The beagle was not too excited about these two strange vehicles browsing down Main Street. After some tire sniffing, his droopy eyes showed the willingness to let our disruption slide this once. He'll probably round up the posse next time. High Noon in Cement. 

Time was on our side, which meant that we had enough time to take a detour through Ninnekah. Not that I think we found Ninnekah, but it's the thought that counts. In the middle of nowhere at t-intersection a sign appears relaying to travelers that city hall is to the left and the school is to the right. A look to the left reveals nothing. No main street, no town-like buildings. A look to the right provides the wide expansive view of even less plus a tumble weed blowing down the road. To the left it was. Eventually we did pass a small metal shack with a sign claiming it was city hall. Of course, it could have just as easily been a prank to lure unsuspecting souls into the script of a horror movie.

Time wasn't as much on our side as I thought. Blueberry's clock is slow. Who can blame it? We generally just ride to school these days. Neither of us wants to get there too soon. The restaurant, if one can call it that, was really a hole in the wall. Well, more like a hole in the street. It's so un-restaurant like that I've never noticed it before. And, it turns out that I've driven by it enough this past year that I can recite the street names from I-44 to HWY 9 from memory. Being as I didn't see it, we had to circle the block and try again. The riders from OKC pull into the parking lot shortly after us, and we embark into the simple, shady, tinted window building where the locals are mingling at the water hole. If there's one thing I would have never, ever, ever expected to see in this itty-bitty little diner, it would be exactly what we saw; wait staff taking orders on Ipads. Or e-readers. Or tablet computers. Which they were, I do not know. Beyond my technology level so such information/product classification is typically ignored.

After the slowest person finished her meal we were able to leave. As I was settling my check I was still trying to figure out where to stuff the rest of my french fries. If there's one thing I'm probably known for amongst those who ride with me, it's probably that I like to slam on my brakes to stop for a picture session. That's right: no warning stopping. Leaving those behind me confused, frustrated, and zooming by Blueberry because their reaction just isn't quite like mine and their mind reading abilities suck ( offense, guys...). And, so we came to stop in the small town of Alex, OK. It always amazes me how a town so tiny can still have a flower shop. It may have nothing else (except for 5 million churches and a volunteer fire department), but it has a flower shop. Do the men of small towns piss off their significant others on such a regular basis? It would appears so. 

It's a little known fact about Pauls (grr!) Valley: It's the center of the universe. Or so its residents claim as witnessed by the plaque at the train station. Thank you, Mr. Clavin (think Cheers, y'all). If it weren't for plaques in odd places, I wouldn't know half the stuff I know. If there's one thing I like about Pauls...Valley, it's the fact that the downtown is still alive and thriving. I think if I'd been motivated to, I could have even tracked down a good cup of coffee. Seeing as I was already on a caffeine buzz, it probably wouldn't have been the best idea. I did however admire my favorite Maxwell ad for a bit. After an hour of ambling about the train station, and seeing half the crew asleep on the sidewalk, we split and went our separate ways.

My hope was to somehow make it to Davis. It wasn't some unreasonable hope; I had a pretty good idea of where to go and which towns we'd pass through. It wasn't until we made it to a junction which looked pretty legitimate that I became a little confused. I've seen less legitimate junctions which were the right road to take. So this serious junction seemed to say "I'm it. Take me. I'll get you there." But, where was that one town we were supposed to disturb the Sunday peace at? I guess it wouldn't be the first time I made it to a junction without seeing the towns that were supposedly on the way. After all, it is Oklahoma. If you blink at the wrong moment you can miss many a town.

After a couple of miles I had the feeling I had been fooled by a serious-looking junction with misleading signs and that we were actually on our way to Elmore City. Now the proud home of Footloose (the original movie with Kevin Bacon). It was just a few years ago that the town appeared like a ghost town. Maybe that's what happens when you ban fun; Karma comes back and makes your town ghost-like. However, they now have a big banner stating that they are in fact home of Footloose (can one really be proud of that?) and mentioning something about a Footloose festival in April. I wonder if they reenact the movie. Guess I'll have to wait until 2014 to find out. I don't know if I'll be able to take the suspense of waiting so long.

It's a little known fact (a true one this time. Sorry, Cliffy) that Elmore City was once called Rock Creek (yet they didn't like rock later on...) and was settled around the 1880s. Unfortunately, that and the movie are about the most interesting things that have happened to Elmore City. Please do correct me if I'm wrong. No complaints from this rider since I was surprised to find a high-octane fuel in Elmore City...with a pump accepting credit cards. So maybe there are other unexpected surprises to be found in E.C. Soooooo who's gonna go check out the Footloose festival? You know you want to!

Detours really are awesome. Especially when you have a full tank of fuel and no concerns about time. Those two factors really contribute to detour enjoyment. Coasting around the many lakes in the Duncan area on the way home, I found someone after my own heart who had made an awesome trinket gate. I do believe that unexpected u-turn was worth it.

Picture album will be posted on Facebook soon.