I’ve been riding for decades and outside of South Florida I’ve never seen the size and depth of the storm systems like what I’ve seen on this trip across the United States. After analyzing the path of the biggest of the storms on my weather radar app it looked like I could avoid the heaviest rain between the hours of 6am to 11am, and for the most part it was true. However, I was still peppered with sporadic light rain from the edge of Eureka Springs to the Oklahoma state line.
For a while it seemed like I would only have to deal with a lot of overcast skies until I neared Cherokee Country. From that point on I was pelted with rain that grew heavier with every mile. It didn’t help that I didn’t have enough traction to keep ahead of 18 wheelers that were pounding Westbound and down like the Snow Man in the movie “Smokey and the Bandit,” so I was periodically sprayed with buffeted wind and rain water.
I finally gave in, pulled off the road and parked in a large open covered utility shed on a large track of farm land. I pulled out my rain jacket and pressed on. Halfway through Oklahoma you get the feeling that if you missed a gas station you would be out of luck making it to the next gas station on a motorcycle. I can’t figure out for the life of me why I continued on past the only gas station I could see for miles. Just so happened that 5 miles past the last gas station I passed my fuel light slowly started to glow.
I passed two exits that looked as if they had roads that went nowhere in either direction and was forced to take the third exit as a last resort. So, here I am cruising at a minimum of 70mph, which dropped to 60 and eventually 55 mph and still no gas station in sight. Nothing for miles in a 365 degree scan except for oil refineries far off into the distance. Finally, I came up on a small town with little more than a handful of buildings and low and behold a gas station! After filling up I scanned the area and spotted a tiny watering hole. This was my shameless opportunity to put on my cowboy hat and pretend to be a cowboy passing through town looking for a little trouble to stir up. After a couple cold beers and conversation it was time to press on.
What became nice warm weather with clear skies turned into a constant blast of winds that forced me to ride at what felt like a 45 degree angle for the next 150 miles. I made a few stops at various campsites but many just didn’t look like the place I would like to spend time in, so again I pressed on until I reached Oklahoma City. It was a beautiful city that was a cross between Birmingham, and Atlanta with a touch of New Orleans. At this point riding sideways for hundreds of miles and my bike adjusting to the change in elevation I decided to treat myself to, yes, a hotel. Of the many trips I’ve taken this was the first time I had so much gear that I couldn’t carry it all in one trip. It felt weird needing a luggage cart to unload my gear. Having recovered from crossing Oklahoma I continued through to the Texas state line. I crossed central Texas before but this was my first time in the panhandle. I tell you, luckily I fueled up at a lonely gas station smack dab in center of a crossroads. For the next 80 miles it was like crossing the Serengeti. No visible life from horizon to horizon. On occasion I would pass an 18-wheeler each one trying its best to knock me completely off my bike or a car. Occasionally I would pass a long dirt road that would end at a lonely shack that looked like it had been abandoned for 200 years. Even once I got into populated areas the towns I passed through looked like they were struggling to recover from nuclear fallout.
While descending a hill I entered a horribly designed intersection where the dip was unnoticeable until it was too late. I hit the dip so hard I could hear a bold pop in the frame of my sissy bar. The way I had it loaded there was already about 150 more pounds than required strap to the rack. Miraculously, the Sissy bar and rack didn’t even so much as bend but upon closer observation the bolts that broke had already partially rusted through.
Once in Fritch town limits I made a mad rush to a tiny motel where I could unload my gear and race back to a Walmart I passed down the road to by the tools I needed and replace the rusted bolts. I was a man on a mission and both times I passed an outpost-looking bar called “Wizzards Bar” and both times a bunch of guys sitting outside the bar waved me down. After dealt with the sissy bar I noticed that the rough Texas asphalt and triple digit heat had prematurely eaten the rubber off of my rear tire until was bald. as if the tread wasn’t already disappearing from my multiple motorcycle trips Texas ate up what was left.
As I dismounted my bike one of the guys, a rough, hippy type with a long, wholly beard and wearing an old school gas station attendant shirt with the sleeves ripped off yelled out: “Hey man what the hell took you so long to get over here!?!” Everybody at the table commenced to laughing. I knew right then and there I was a welcomed biker. “I had to deal with the issue of fixing my broke sissy bar.” I replied. “Well hell man, go inside and get you a beer. Have a seat with us” the old man said with a large smile. I proceeded to introduce myself to the rest of the patrons and dragged my dusty boots inside. The bar was empty except for one bartender, a wiry biker chick type, busy stocking the bar with various supplies. “What will you have sweetie?” she asked. “I believe I’ll have a Stella” I replied. She quickly grabbed a cold one out of the cooler and popped the cap. “Wanna start a tab?” I wasn’t looking to stay for long but what the hey. “Sure.” I said in my downhome voice.
I ventured back outside for some small talk with the guys. We chewed the fat about bikes, women, good places to eat and whatnot. Upon closer observation of one of the patrons I noticed what looked to be a Bandido tattoo on the inside of his lower leg. The tattoo told me all I needed to know and no questions needed to be asked. “You guys know where I can get a rear tire for my bike?” I asked. “Sure man” the guy with the Bandido tattoo replied. “There’s a Kawasaki dealership in Amarillo. It’s a good shop.” After a while of hanging out with my new friends I rode back to my room where I could plan out my next few days in Fritch.
A quick Google search revealed all I needed to know. Amarillo was only 35 miles away but factoring in that Texas is notorious for rough asphalt and triple digit heat, which wasn’t a good combination for a damn near bald tire. Amarillo was dangerously far away and every other shop was 100 miles or further away. Well shit–I’ll just deal with that bridge when I cross it. Meanwhile my immediate focus is Lake Meredith, which was only a couple miles from the hotel. The next day I stopped by the ranger office to learn the rules of the land and ventured to the campsite. The camping area was nestled on a large hill that rolled into a large, lake.
As with most parks the campsites were a little too close together for my taste. Nevertheless, I scouted around until I found the perfect spot. A stretch of land that veered out to the lake. I walked out to investigate a little closer and saw that at the edge was a straight drop about 100 feet down into the lake. I scanned around the entire edge of the lake. This was the highest and only point in the entire area. Viola! the perfect campsite! My Army training instantly kicked in as I popped up my tent, secured the footing and reinforced the top on all four sides with twine and moved my gear inside. Just as I finished my layout a spectacular sunset began to bathe my campsite with a glorious orange hue.