Escaping Oklahoma; the Truck Stop Chronicle

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Hitchhiking involves lots of waiting. Took three days to get out of Tulsa, the first before the storm hit, the second after the snow had stopped, both days standing outside a truck stop all day with a cardboard sign, because there was no good place to stand on the highway with the snow and ice. But either because of the conditions of the roads or just the location of the truck stop, no one was headed into Texas. Oh well. Being at a truck stop ensured warmth and coffee, so all I had to do was be patient. On the third day, a guy offered me a ride within 5min of showing up at the truck stop. Just had to wait for the right person. Thanks, Oscar Flores. Riding in the cab of a tractor-trailer, one dream fulfilled.

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Ride #1 took me out of Tulsa, to another truck stop just before the Texas border. Again, everyone was going north, so I slept overnight in the Burger King there, with intermittent wifi. Finally got a ride the next day with an SUV driver going to pick up her son. She dropped me off on the other side of the Texas border, and a guy driving to Louisiana to spend the season planting trees took me into Dallas. It was only half an hour until dark, so I made my way to another truck stop where it seemed plenty of truckers were headed south and brought out a sign for Austin. Some truckers just shook their heads at me, others said no way would I be able to get a ride for me and the bike, others said sorry, they were headed north. But a fair number just stopped to chat, and within 3hrs I was sitting in the cab of an 18-wheeler en route. Rolled into Austin around 10:15pm, only a few days later than expected. Rested for a day then set out to Houston. Hitched one last time to get there in a day, Will pulled up alongside me on the road and drove me into the city, stopping at a gas station that could only be in Texas along the way. Huge place, food, so much jerky, cast iron skillets, state flags, anything and everything Texas. But no tractor-trailers allowed.

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Will, thanks for all. 2hr bike ride left from one side of Houston to the other, dropping in on one last Stanford friend before heading down to Mexico. In Houston for the weekend, back by the water, and back in temperatures above freezing!

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What to do in Tulsa in the snow? Race bikes.

Daniel and Tara took me in for a few days. Daniel is a top mechanic at Spoke House, a great bike shop in the city. Tara is a coffee expert and goes to grad school, I got a lesson in coffee roasting. There was a cyclocross race today. People were simultaneously excited to ride the snowy course, and dreading how many layers they needed to wear. Temperature didn’t rise close to freezing all day. My toes would have been cold if I could feel them.

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Ride to Daniel and Tara’s apartment. The bike path hadn’t yet been plowed.

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Cold water.

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No snow under the covered bridge.

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Tulsa.

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Bikes everywhere, all so light.

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Mass start. Can you pump your legs fast enough to warm up?

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Across the frozen canal.

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Daniel, getting past the barriers.

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At the end of a race. Easier to collapse than to climb the hill again.

Thanks guys for the shelter from the storm! Tulsa is not a bad place to be stuck.

Stranded in Tulsa, OK.

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View from Tulsa truck stop. Winter snow storm descended today. I got a ride into town for a one-day opportunity to see a friend. That worked well, but the plan for leaving was to grab another ride out this morning before the storm landed. Got up early, got out to a good spot, waited, nothing. A few people stopped but no room for the bike. Suggestion was made to go to the nearby truck stop, probably a good suggestion, but nearly everyone was headed north and east, not south and west. Stood outside all day, watched my water bottles freeze. Cold not too hard to deal with, wore enough clothes and could go inside to warm up, harder was the feeling of powerlessness. Roads no good for biking. Rolled over to a nearby motel right before dark, a trucker very kindly paid for half of my room. Thanks. Will see what tomorrow brings.

Day 143. Paducah, TX to Lawton, OK.

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4:30pm. Roll out of the gas station where I’ve stopped for a Coke, 20min later than expected because a man on a Harley pulled up then. He looked at Ace like he wanted to talk, so we did, though the conversation was pretty one-sided since he could never hear me. Leaving town-Frederick, OK-google routes me onto the maze of dirt country roads that are laced between all the farm plots here, each at least the size of a square block and filled with crops. Dirt’s all dried from last week’s snow, so cruising is good. Pass cotton fields still filled with the white flowers, they look like a sea of snow until you get close. Cattle graze or rest in some plots, and others have cornstalks left from harvests, or green grass. Three and a half hours from Frederick to Lawton, promise of seeing someone again keeps me going, already been on the bike for 100miles today, woke up before dawn, got to see the sun rise. Temperature drops at the end of the day, not cold but cool. Even the slight valleys here are noticeably cooler in their bottoms, making the return to the top feel that much warmer. See nearly no cars, listening to podcasts for company in the emptiness. Arrive safely, into a warm house and warm embraces.

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Too bad it’s winter now and the sun sets at 5pm.

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Back to the present: next stop, Oklahoma.

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Following great visits to Deanna and Christian in Phoenix and then Colleen in Tucson, right now I’m bouncing between homes. I’ve crossed back into New Mexico headed east a ways. New Mexico is easily becoming one of my favorite states, with friendly people and sights and food, none of it to be missed. I rode and then had to hitch the final few miles into Las Cruces to the home of the Currys, who welcomed me in just as a storm came rolling into town. If anyone finds themselves in the area, Coas Bookstore is go-to destination. Headed next to Ruidoso to investigate word of a delicious little hole-in-the-wall Mexican restaurant, leaving the towering pecan trees here to return to the pines before crossing a reportedly empty stretch to Lawton, OK. After that, Texas bound. I’m ever so slowly finding my way south to Mexico.