My First Road Tour
Everyone having breakfast at the DQ was talking about the twister that missed Weatherford by only a mile. Of course, there were also stories about the strange things twisters do, like blowing straws through trees and blowing away a barn without hurting the horse in it. Few of them are true but they do make for good telling.
Route 66 continues to be the north frontage road for I-40 with the constant thunder of the 18- wheelers as they pounded the four-lane. It would take me a few more tours next to an interstate to learn that there are far more pleasant places to ride. I pedaled past the Thomas P. Stafford airport and museum on my left and a few miles further, I came to Hydro, the peanut capitol of the world, or so they claim. Their other claim to fame is that angle parking in the middle of the wide, brick main street is not only allowed as in the days of horses and buggies, but encouraged.
A couple miles past Hydro sits Lucille Hamons' tiny gas station and store. It's been in continuous operation by the same little lady since the dust bowl days when a third of the people living in Oklahoma picked up and left. I stopped for a few minutes to listen to her stories, which seemed to be endless as they flowed one after another. She told of the time when a man came by riding a high wheel bicycle and another one who was riding a thing that you propelled by moving the handlebars back and forth sort of like a handcar on the railroad. She even had a fading picture of it. Strange looking thing with full size bicycle wheels and you stood on a platform between them like riding a kick scooter.
About 20 miles east of Weatherford I came to a roadside park that seemed totally out of place. For all the years it has been there, there has been absolutely nothing around it. It's called Hinton Junction, most likely because the town of Hinton sits about five miles to the south. There are now a couple restaurants just across the interstate so I stopped for my second breakfast of the day.
The next fifteen miles is the worst part of Route 66 because the first four serves as a shortcut to Highway 281 through Geary, Watonga and points north and as such, is a favorite of truckers. It's narrow, two lanes and no shoulders, plus a narrow bridge half a mile long. Once past the bridge, you begin to see a hill that just seems to go on forever as it climbs out of the Canadian River valley. The road also changes from the usual two lane pavement with normal edges to one with sort of a curb on either side that forms a trough to keep the water on the pavement and not allow it to run off. I've never ridden such a road after a rain but I'll bet it would not be pleasant.
At the top of that killer hill is the Cherokee Village Truck Stop, Indian Trading Post and a good restaurant so I stopped there for lunch. There are half a dozen fake Indian teepees there that were rented out as rooms at one time. I had thought about spending one night there just to stay in one of them but not only was the timing wrong, they are now only used to store old truck tires waiting to have new treads put on them.
The next eight to ten miles are nothing but steep rolling hills where you use only two gears; your highest or your lowest. You fly down one side and then go through all the gears until you are puffing along at barely walking speed long before you reach the top of the next one.
The road flattens out as it travels through wheat fields and past the road to Fort Reno. On the south side is the entrance to the El Reno Federal Penitentiary with its guard towers and rolls of razor wire along the tops of the fences.
Route 66 becomes the I-40 business route through El Reno with four lanes and nice, wide shoulders. It passes the El Reno City Lake and park. There are a number of camping sites as well as a dozen RV spaces with hookups. It has picnic tables, grills and nice showers. There is also a store, laundry and gas station making it another ideal camping spot for touring cyclists. Across the road, next to the fairgrounds, is an area with live buffalo, elk and longhorn cattle.
It was only the middle of the afternoon and I had ridden only 39 miles. It was too early to stop yet still about 40 miles to my home. Even if I was up to riding 80 miles that day, the timing would put me into Oklahoma City right in the middle of the traffic zoo called Drive Time. I had just discovered the bicycle tourist's "rule of too". Everything is either too close or too far. I called my wife and asked her to meet me in Yukon, ten miles away.
I was home in three days as planned but having ridden only about 145 miles, counting the trip to the state line and exploring the dead end. Certainly nothing to get excited about as far as a bicycle tour goes. While I've never gotten around to finishing my Route 66 Tour (and probably never will) it was certainly a learning experience and provided the basis for all my tours since.
I was now an experienced bicycle tourist and I could nod knowingly when people discussed touring.
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Copyright © 2000 by Jim Foreman