My First Road Tour
(Written in February 2000 while I was recuperating from a broken leg suffered from a slip on the ice while trying to retrieve my mail.)
Since I haven't been on a bicycle tour for far too long, I'm down to reminiscing about tours past.
I suppose most everyone remembers their first car, their first kiss and their first bicycle tour. I remember my first tour very well but the details of the other two are getting rather hazy.
It was 1989 and I had been riding for perhaps a year at the most. I'd done several club rides and a couple organized events where you pay your money, ride 50 miles and get a T-shirt. I'd heard people in the club talking about doing various tours and it seemed like a good idea. After all, I'd ridden 50 miles in one day so why shouldn't I be able to put several days together into a real tour.
I'd attended a Route 66 Rally in our motorhome and since Oklahoma has the longest single stretch of the historic highway of any state, 405 miles, and I lived there, it just seemed a natural. It's about 160 miles from the western border to where I live so I'd do that in three days, stay home a day or so and then ride the rest. I decided to ride Historic Route 66 across Oklahoma as my first tour. But, as they say, the best laid plans of mice and bicycle tourists…
No problem with maps, I already had them and no problem with the route, I had been over it. No problem with a suitable bike, I had a Schwinn World Traveler. With a name like that, it had to be a real touring bike. It also had two water bottle cages, a rear carrier and saddle bags to haul my gear. Yes, saddle bags, two bags connected by a strip of fabric that fit over the carrier. Fifty miles a day for eight days, plenty motels and restaurants along the way, piece of cake. People were bound to jump at the chance to ride across Oklahoma with me.
Well,,, maybe not. First, no one seemed even slightly interested in going with me. No big deal; I'd just do it alone like a real bicycle tourist does. But, how was I going to get from my home to the starting point. Someone in the club suggested the bus which seemed as good an idea as any. The driver wasn't too thrilled when he found my bike not in a box, but since he was running nearly empty, together we were able to slide it into the rear bomb bay which went all the way from one side of the bus to the other.
We were barely out of town when a drunk tried to strike up a lifelong relationship with me by offering me a pull from his bottle in a brown paper bag. A few minutes after I declined his offer, he threw up on the floor and the driver kicked him off at the next stop. The next diversion was a lady breast feeding twins in unison; I wondered how she would have handled triplets.
Four hours, half a dozen stops and one hundred fifty miles later the driver and I dragged my bike from the bowels of the bus and I was left standing in a cloud of dust and diesel smoke in front of Cal's Cafe, five miles short of the Texas border. The sign read, "World Famous Cinnamon Rolls". I went inside; 1:00 O'clock and they had long since sold out of rolls. I settled for a greasy hamburger.
A couple miles south of Cal's at Exit 5 on Interstate 40, The Main Street of America formed the main street of Erick; I turned west toward the almost ghost town of Texola for the start of my tour. A pair of Bartles and Jaymes look-alikes sitting in the shade of the old bank building with the strange angled corner facing the intersection watched me ride past.
I leaned my bike against the pole with a Texas sign on one side and Oklahoma on the other. It marked the 100th Meridian, the line officially declared by the US Congress in 1846 as the separating point between the State of Texas and Indian Territory. I took a photo of each side of the sign and reached for my water bottle; they were empty. I had forgotten to fill them. Not a very auspicious start for a tour.
Click here to see some pictures taken on this tour
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