Hop Along's Ride to the Ride

Granted, it's now Sunday evening and I left hot, sunny Norman, Oklahoma on Friday after work.  But hey, it has been an interesting ride so far. 

One of the things I thought would be fun-and a great way to cool off while riding-would be to stop at natural springs where possible.  When it's hot out, and you're on a motorcycle, it can be a challenge to stay cool.  When there is no shade, and not much of a breeze, it can be taxing.  Occassionally dipping into a clean pond, river, or spring helps.  It's one of those things that can be done to make the ride enjoyable, and indeed, I even found a pretty useful website to assist in this search: swimmingholes.org.  And lo and behold, my first night would be at an Oklahoma State Park, called Boiling Springs.  Now, I don't know about you, but a place with that name brings to my mind something akin to what you can find around Old Faithful: lots of hot water, steam, rapid bubbling.  But the deciding factor here was a convenient Friday leave-after-work 3 hour ride to a campground.  I got there in time to set up *just* after dusk had ended.  So it was fun setting up the hammock tent while holding a flashlight, figuring I'd see the spring in the morning.

And what a pleasant surprise: Boiling Springs could also be called Bubbling Cool Springs.  So after packing up camp and having beloved Sweet Potato Pancakes for breakfast, I took a dip in the cool springs and hit the road.  And by dip, I mean boots, gloves and all, which has a very refreshing cooling evaporative effect as one rides on a motorcycle.  Lots of airflow.  Did I also mention it was near 90 degrees by 9am?  Thus, the enjoyment of the cool water.  By noon it was 105.  Yowzers.

Saturday's ride was through the Oklahoma Panhandle.  For the uninitiated, it is referred to as 'No Mans Land', as neither Texas nor Kansas wanted the land, and so when the territory of Oklahoma wanted to become a state.. they got to take on this slice of land.  It is like the Kansas most people think they see (you know how everyone says Kansas is flat?  It's not, you just need to get off of I-70).  The Oklahoma Panhandle *is* flat, with an uphill grade as one heads towards the Rockies.  Not much to say about this part of the trip, except for some great beef jerky to be had at No Mans Land Beef Jerky.   Apparently they ship 2500# of jerky per week.  That's alot of Jerky.  The folks there were very helpful in describing some roads I wanted to take.... I'm a sucker for taking dirt roads and had one in mind, as a shorter route.  They kindly described it using words such as 'rocks' and 'basketball' in the same sentence, as in "The rocks in the road are the size of basketballs".  Okay, I'll go the long route, thank you very much.

Somewhere during this part of the ride I smelled a smell in the air.  It's something that I love about travelling, smelling the smells.  Motorcycles are very, very good at allowing you to do that.  And here now, in the Oklahoma Panhandle, where the only things that seem to be growing are prairie grasses, a few cattle, and irrigated fields of corn, I smelled  something that took me a few miles to figure out.  It was sweet.  I could almost taste it.  I knew this smell, but I couldn't place it.  And then I realized what it was; I was clued in by the small puddles on the side of the road.  I had just missed a small rainshower, and passed a field that was being plowed over.  It was the smell of sweet, wet soil freshly turned over.  It's a smell that could make anyone want to be a farmer for life.  But for now I'll stick with riding my motorcycle.  Surely there are more smells to be had in life yet.

One had better believe the heat stuck, but the scenery improved as I approached Raton, NM and I-25.  There it was a blast up the slab to meet LRLR rider Josh Prues, who sadly can't join the ride this year.  I think he got his fill recently on a 6 week trip to Alaska-a dream trip for many riders, young and old.  Josh and I tried to go up Pike's Peak, but with the amount of lightning reported we decided to instead to take the scenic route into Denver. Now, remember, Josh just came back from Alaska right?  He likes dirt roads.  And so it was, through the rain-ironically, how much I had now cooled off!- on a dirt road.  At least Josh gave the option of the 5 mile or 20 mile route.  I choose the 5 mile route.  Remember, I'm on a cruiser, which does't always take well to dirt roads.  Josh is on a bike made for dirt roads.  He was sure to rub it in by doing what is best for these kinds of roads... stand on your footpegs.  Which I couldn't do.  But it was fun.  And believe it or not... relaxing.  It was the first part of my ride where I actually stopped thinking of outside things-work, oppressive heat, or that small canyon at the edge of the road.  Finally, focused on the ride.  We celebrated by meeting a few of my other friends here for dinner at a Nepalese restaurant.  How cool is that?

And this brings me to another great point about riding.  It's enjoyable.  It's relaxing.  It is an event that requires no small amount of focus.  Remember trying to learn to ride a bicycle?  I don't remember much, other than focusing on keeping the bicycle upright, peddling, peddling, peddling... "then: Dad?  Dad you back there?  You still pushing this thing?  Hey you're way back there!  When'd you let go!?!"  It was a moment of intense focus.  And on a motorcycle it still is, even after 100,000 miles.  There are lots of healthy habits-looking before crossing roads.  Always knowing what's going on behind you.  Scanning the sides of the roads for armadillo.  And other animals too of course.  Monitoring your speed, your spacing with other vehicles, and wishing that teen in front of you would stop texting while driving because they are using well over half the road to drive in.  As a rider you spend alot of time observing, amongst other things.  I've hauled baby high chairs strapped to my bike, and people in cages don't seem to notice.  There is just a different kind of requirement from a rider who is focused on riding.  And, yes, it IS relaxing as it requires one's focus.

Sunday has been a rest day.  Which is to say, only 5 hours or so on the bike.  Josh was kind enough to lead the way to Mt. Evans, highest paved road in North America.  I figure I'm not sure when I'll be back again, so it's important to reach for this goal.  Of course, we got cold rain again (wish I'd had it in Oklahoma!).  The roads were twisty, with more steep drop offs and no gaurd rails.  But we sure did enjoy it. Josh is a great leader, I have to say.  Often in group riding like the LRLR does, whomever is up front points to road debris that other riders may not see... things like potholes (no fun), roadkill (already dead, why run over it again?) and loose grit in the road (potentially really not fun).  Let's just say Josh is very good at pointing with his feet.  Much appreciated.

Monday I'll head up to north central Colorado.  Steamboat Springs is the goal.  By way of some nice roads I've heard about in a little park called Rocky Mountain National Park.  Should be fun.  More cold rain in the afternoon and steep dropoffs on the side of the road are expected.  It's great to be focused on the riding, I can't wait.  Tuesday is planned to meet up with Frank Stewart, who is crossing  Colorado from Missouri, by way of a more southern route.  We'll meet at some point north of Salt Lake City and continue from there.

I'm very excited for this year's LRLR ride.  I haven't slept well recently because of it.  I usually don't sleep well just before a longer ride.  Now that I'm en route... I'm sleeping well.  I even managed to forget to pack a few things.  Like a hair brush.   And that little cord that allows you to take the pictures you take off your camera, and onto your computer?  Yep, forgot that too.  It's even on the packing list.  I must be *really* excited.

Hop Along