April 22, 2017:
There is really no better way to celebrate Earth Day than to commune with Mother Nature, rollicking through the wilderness of the most unseen parts of her Earth, and to do it on a self propelled mission, without disturbing a fern on her skin. A non polluting vehicle to carry us delicately and gently over the hills and valleys and into the most private areas seen by few just adds to the experience. A back country route traveled by bicycle over routes that included much privately owned land, land seen by only a few, is an experience granted to only a few. Think of it as an erotic experience with Mother Earth! Mother Nature got in a bit of the experience as well, treating us to high winds as well as the visceral experience.
It certainly didn't start out as a "Hot Time In The Old Town Tonight" thing ..... cold ..... cold wind from the north, with temperatures in the mid 40's and winds approaching 20mph (they would get higher) even early in the morning, brought the wind chill into the low 30's. A chilly start to our day brought out the winter riding togs for many of us.
This ride was held in the small community of Cheyenne, Oklahoma, in the wilderness of the western part of the State. Home to the Washita Battlefield National Monument as well as the Black Kettle National Grasslands, a large expanse of land through which our ride traversed and where the name of our ride originated. Our ride also coordinated with Cheyenne's Old Settlers Reunion, which is held every five years. On hand for the festivities was the 7th Cavalry, Troup J from Ft Sill, Oklahoma, who came with their complete encampment.
The 7th made sure our ride got off with a bang ...... literally ..... a very LOUD bang as they fired off their artillery with much noise and smoke ....
And off we went ...... directly down the middle of Main Street, Cheyenne with a police escort!
There were a total of 42 riders at this event ..... a good turnout for a gravel ride the day after a heavy rain, and with high winds predicted. This was a first time for this ride, and I'm sure if he has another, the turnout will be much larger. Several distance choices, a 100 mile, 50, 25, with a 37 mile paved option certainly made it a ride for everyone.
Starting out with wide open expanses of territory, looking much like it did in the days before settlement.
I made sure that Shadow Rider was along for the ride.
I had thought that there was only one other rider behind me, and that he was well behind, so when I stopped to snap this picture, I didn't bother looking back ..... caught this young lady by surprise. She did manage to avoid me without incident, however, and we later became friends.
In fact here is Sue, admiring the wind farms that were all over this region. This is notably a major oil producing region, but now is also producing power with the abundant wind in the region. Some say non polluting, and I guess that is so, if you don't count visual pollution, and the impact on wildlife .. (notably birds).
Water, Grass, and Wind ..... Oklahoma's version of Earth Wind and Fire. It was in this area that I had noticed a howling sound and after a bit realized it wasn't coming from the turbines, but rather from the wind itself, joining us this Earth Day, and serenading us along our journey.
Part of our local Shawnee Peddler's Club. There were a total of around ten of us from Shawnee there at this ride, almost 25% of the total riders. A good turnout from our little riding club.
Beautiful roads and stunning vistas.
The hills and scenery (I like to stop and enjoy the scenery and take pictures) eventually took a toll on our group, and the faster ones went on ahead. Our group eventually became four, and we were all compatible in riding style and speed. No one in a hurry, just enjoy the beautiful scenery and time spent together.
Big Sky and Endless Earth come together dramatically in this photo.
Our first rest stop at mile 26 provided a pleasant respite from the wind and a chance to get off the bike for a bit and use their facilities. Water and cookies available too.
The road into Skipout Lake was a short, but enjoyable diversion.
We finally found some of the red dirt roads that abound in this area.
I also found a 1947 John Deere model "D". This photo op brought out the two four legged protectors of the farmstead, but they turned out to be more curious instead of protecting. With much tail wagging, they allowed me to take my photos and then leave unmolested .... I think they were sorry to see me go.
It was starting here that we got our first taste of private ranch land and what a wonderful experience awaited us.
It is this sort of thing that bicycles were made for!
Exploring new territory, and doing so under our own power .... an unforgettable experience!
A small spring fed stream.
I never tired of the diversity of scenery
The views were endless
An over-the-shoulder shot of our group including our ever present SAG vehicle following behind.
The hills seemed never ending as well. This ride had right at 3,000 feet of climbing, (a friend's GPS noted 3,046) most of it into a 25-30 mph wind. This was much steeper than the photo shows it, it was a brute of a lowest gear climb up out of the valley you see below. These are just ranch roads, so gradient control is non existent.
Toward the end of the private area we were reminded that this is primarily an oil producing area and the large truck traffic had really torn up this section of road going in and out of a well site.
Old homesteads like this remind one that the area once had a few more people than today. Most of these old home sites were abandoned during the dust bowl and eventually taken over by larger and larger ranches. I enjoy seeing the historical references and they add a lot to my enjoyment of a ride like this.
I thought we were so slow .... turns out, it was only Wayne and myself that were slow. The two ladies in the group took second and third finisher's awards for the women's 50 mile distance.
A nice tee went with the ride. One could not have asked for a more beautiful and unusual bike ride if you had designed it yourself. We were so fortunate to have a local rider who organized this ride and was able to obtain permission to use all the private roads and traverse through all the private property that we did. Properties seen only by a very few lucky people, and today was our day!
Who was that old man anyhow?
He didn't leave any silver bullet ... but I think it was "Rich" himself!!
As I told one of the riders, reflecting on the difference between a road ride, and a gravel ride. When you finish a long road ride .... you think .. "well, that was nice, I finished". When you finish a long gravel ride, it's "WOW ... I'm AWESOME" ... Tired I was for sure after this ride, but feeling very fulfilled. Just a note of interest here about technology .... one friend's GPS unit said 48 miles and 2826 feet of climbing .... another friend's GPS unit had 3,046 feet of climbing and 50.4 miles .... I just had a mechanical speedometer, so I couldn't measure the feet of climbing, but my distance was 51.3 miles ...... three different units of measurement, two touted as the most accurate ever, and all three with different readouts .... so which is accurate?