Monday, January 15, 2018

Do Wacka Do

January 15, 2018;

Do-Wacka Do: 

 This sounds like a rather unlikely name for a bike ride, I know. But bear with me, and it will become apparent why it was named this odd name. 

First, let me apologize for the long time between postings. I have not abandoned my bicycling, but rather had a severe case of "writers block" ..... at least for a little while. I decided it was about time to bring it back. The riding has been on hold for a bit as I'm recovering from a broken femur that happened as a result of a crash on another ride. I will catch you readers up with that on another post. But first ..... let me take you out to the wilds of "The Breaks" south of Erick, Oklahoma. Erick, the second town after leaving the Texas Panhandle coming into Oklahoma on I-40 was the home of Roger Miller, a recording artist of the 60's, as well as his brother-in-law Sheb Wooley, (Purple People Eater). One of Roger's songs was "Do-Wacka-Do" ..... like most of his songs, a silly little ditty that told a tale. His biggest hit was "King of the Road". During the 60's, I always enjoyed his songs. So, when I found they were holding a bike ride named after one of Roger's songs ..... Yep ..... I had to go. 

A Roger Miller pamphlet from his museum in Erick. 

The ride started at first light, barely. I had decided to go for the Metric Century distance, which proved to be almost more than I wanted. I was really glad I did not cave in though, and went the entire distance. There were other options for shorter miles, and these were also much easier to navigate. They saved the hardest miles for the last ten on this ride, and by the time I was done ...... I was DONE! 
As I stated, the ride started at the crack of dawn .... I couldn't even get a decent photo because it just wasn't light enough. 

Sue and Tabitha, a couple of riders I knew from other rides. They rode with me for a while, but we later became separated. 

The roads were as primitive as the entire area. 

Here you can get an idea of the lay of the land. We went downhill a long ways to the valley floor below. 

Whatever goes down, however, has to eventually come back up. This is the nature of "The Breaks". A very rugged landscape, ever changing, and very sparsely populated. I believe in the entire 62 miles, we saw one motor vehicle.  

The reward for the climbing was the view.

An abandoned schoolhouse ....

I had one other companion who accompanied me on the entire 62 mile ride. It was so nice to have someone along. At this time, I had no idea of the rugged terrain that awaited me the last ten miles. I would have been very apprehensive to go that last ten miles alone. 

There were a few old homesteads scattered throughout this route. Not very many, and most all were abandoned. 

Prickly Pear cactus ..... common in the west. Not so common out where I live. 

There were several water fords throughout the ride. As the temperature heated up, the speeds through these fords got faster, throwing up some of the cooling water over us. 

One of the homesteads that was not abandoned. This private road was one of the best maintained on the route. 

Typical red sandstone formations on the southern portion of the ride. Western Oklahoma is noted for it's red soil. Here in the western part of the state, it is mostly sand. 

Fish Creek in the background. 

An Oasis in the desert!! This was so inviting, I had to take off my shoes and sit on the edge of the tank and soak my legs and feet. It felt SO good. 

The water coming out was not a huge flow, but clean, clear, and good to fill up an almost empty water bottle. The water skaters didn't seem to mind my washing my legs and feet, or snitching a little water. 

From here on the road (if you can call it that) changed dramatically! Very rough, primitive tracks with some impossible grades. I wouldn't have missed this for the world!! It was SO beautiful, and a part of the country few will ever see. At this point, I was already getting tired, but the constantly changing scenery urged me onward. 

It was in here that we scared up a small herd of cattle that may not have ever seen humans before. They looked at us with wild eyes, and took off running, leaping fences and cattle guards like they weren't there. In three minutes, there were no cattle in sight. We saw some deer, and a few pronghorns on this portion of the ride. 

Matt, starting down into a rugged area. 

After several miles, the long downhill ended in another water ford, this one with a loose bottom with large rocks. Discretion had us walking our bikes through. There were no vehicles back here that we saw, help would be a long time coming. Also, no cell service. 

After the long downhill, we had to climb back up an equal amount to get back to where we started. Almost done here, just about 4 more miles to go. Steep, hard miles. I walked places of this. 

Finally reaching the end of the ride. I was tired, but they had good food waiting, great barbecue and liquid refreshment. It was good! 

After leaving the ride, and traveling through "downtown" Erick, I couldn't resist a few pictures of the town. This old building had character! Open for business, it was a souvenir shop, and they also served sandwiches. Just fun to poke around. The owner was as much of a "character" as the building!

Main street, downtown Erick, Oklahoma at 2 pm on a Saturday afternoon. As you can see, the town was packed with Saturday shoppers. How many places could a photographer stand smack in the middle of the main drag for a picture without having a single car come by? 

The Roger Miller Museum

The ride Tee. 

If you are looking for something different than the average run of the mill bike ride, and are able to handle the primitive conditions of this ride, do NOT let this one go by! Without a doubt, one of my very favorite bike rides of all times. 

Monday, April 24, 2017

Black Kettle Gravel Ride

April 22, 2017:

Cheyenne, Oklahoma:
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?