Tarantulas…Did We Meet Toby Keith?…A Bar Called Salty’s….and Getting Hurt From A Bike Drop.

Oklahoma, Back Road Riding

Well we made it through our last night at the sketchy motel in San Antonio and it was time to move on.

Texas is hot. Even on a motorcycle its hot. Usually you want to wear your leathers (aka chaps and jacket) when riding, but not so in Texas. It wasn’t probably the safest thing to do, but Iwas riding in jeans and a t-shirt for this day. And it was still hot…but….I didn’t mind…I was on the road to new adventures again.

We had put alot on miles on the tires so far. It was decided we ride to a Harley dealership and and get new tires and a good check up on the bike. We made an appointment at Grande Prairie, Texas, Longhorn Harley (such a cool name!), and headed that way. We did ride pretty quick to make our appointment, but there were a couple of towns we passed through that need to be mentioned.

One was Round Rock. Founded in 1851, this town was named for a huge round rock found in the creek flowing through it. The rock made the water slow down, thus making it a great crossing spot for the wagons, horses and cattle of the settlers heading North. Of note, Jessie Chisolm used this crossing to take his cattle from Texas to Abeline Kansas. This is part of the famous Chisolm trail, which as you will see we did travel on a few times.

The Round Rock of Round Rock Texas

The next memorable town is Waco. Most people remember Waco for the Waco Seige, and the Branch Davidians. This actually took place 13 miles from the city. Waco is home to the first suspension bridge in the World. Built in 1870, it spanned the Brazon River running through the city and became part of the Chisolm Trail. Many settlers chose to pay the toll to cross the bridge, while others loaded their cattle and wagons onto rafts and drifted down the river. Waco is also home to the World’s largest dinosaur fossil discovery, which includes 24 mammoths, 1 large cat and a camel. Notable people born here are comedian Steve Martin and rocker Ted Nugent.

Suspension Bridge, Waco, Texas

We finally arrive in Grande Prairie and head to the dealership. Wow….what a place. Two floors of everything and anything you could ever want to wear or ride by Harley Davidson. We went to the lounge area for a coffee and met a wonderful local couple also in for repairs. They owned a ranch not far away and talked about the challenges they faced with the wild boars of the area. I didn’t even know that there were wild boars here…learn something new every day. Apparently they are quite the problem for ranchers and so they are hunted, especially at night. A bright light is shone on the field and the boars come towards the light….and sadly they are shot. The ranchers do eat the boars and share their harvest with others. The couple told us that under no circumstance should we be on the road once it starting getting dark. The boars are huge and will run out without warning and that would be a serious accident on a bike.

The woman then said that she made bandanas for fiking and wanted to give us some, so she went home and came back with her goods. They were really nice, but I didn’t have the heart to tell her they were too small for our human heads. The bandanas did come to good use once I got home to fancy up my puppies.

We only intended on staying for a couple of hours, but the repairs took all day and finally around supper time we were able to take the bike and head out. Since it was getting dark, and we were remembering the warning about the boars, we decided to stay at the first place that we could find for the night.

Longhorn Harley, Grande Prairie, Texas

We ended up in Gainesville, Texas at a motel on the edge of town. Gainesville, due to stage coaches travelling through, became a supply hub for all of the cowboys on their cattle drives to Kansas. It is also where the very first roll of barbed wire (created and made only in Illinois), was sold in Texas. That was in 1875….can you even imagine how many rolls have been sold in Texas since then…nope…I can’t either.

Gainesville, Texas

The next day, filled with coffee and a sense of adventure, we are off…we are now heading towards Oklahoma. As soon as we can, we leave the Interstate to drive along the beautiful country roads. We rode through small towns in Northern Texas like Henrietta and Burkburnett, and finally crossed into Oklahoma.

Tornado in Oklahoma

Oklahoma has some beautiful country roads to drive, where you are either in thick forest or open fields. Oklahoma lies in middle of three geographical areas; the great plains, the cross timber and the Ozark Highlands. This puts it into Tornado Alley, and causes severe weather, including tornados, hailstorms, blizzards and derochers (wide, long lasting wind storms that move in a straight line). We were having great weather so none of this crossed our minds…but it will in Kansas and Wisconsin. Stayed reading for those upcoming blogs.

We rode and enjoyed the sights until about 3:00 pm when we decided it was time for a quick brewski and riding break. We went into the town of Norman, Oklahoma. Norman is a cute little town, and every April it is home to the State Medieval Fair, which brings in over 350,000 people to this tiny town. Vince Gill, Nadia Comeneci, James Garner and The Flaming Lips are from here….I do not believe I had ever heard of the Flaming Lips before, but the name sure sticks with you.

We found a little bar and went in for a drink. Of course, I start chatting with a local who is kindly giving us a run down on the things to see in and around Norman. At one point he mentions that Toby Keith has a ranch just out of town. I damn near spit out my beer….”Where”, I asked, intent on getting his answer. He mentioned where it was and then said…”my best friend is the ranch Manager for Toby there. Why don’t I call him and see if Toby is around. Then you can go meet him”….sweeeet. I love all music but to meet Toby Keith at his 160 acre HORSE ranch would be amazing. The call is made, drinks are finished, I am packing up ready to roll…and then…he returns to the table to say…it wouldn’t have been a problem, but Toby isn’t there….he is out of town. Now, most folks would go anyway, but what’s Toby Keiths’ ranch without Toby Keith….likely its a private property invasion of his family. So, sadly we did not get to meet Toby, but I have to admit that I was so happy being offered the opportunity. We thanked our friend and hit the road.

Entrance to Toby Keith Ranch, Norman Oklahoma

We made a reservation at a motel because it was close to Norman, and we were getting hungry and ready to settle for the night. I will be honest to say I don’t remember the name of the town. But I do have quite a few memories of this night to share with you.

About 5 miles out of town, we hear the rumblings of Harleys behind us and then one passes us….no problem….yes….problem. The folks on these bikes all wore patches on their vests…Hells Angels. As we neared a stop sign, the lead guy ahead of us drops beside us, so we are surrounded by about 5 bikes. The lead guy says “where you from”? My partner says Canada and the guy says “get the fk out of here”! My partner, always one for a laugh…maybe at the wrong time…says “No, you get the fk outta here…we were here first”. And then the guy…laughed so we all laughed although mine was somewhat nervously. We are now at a set of stop lights and have to turn right to our motel. Unfortunately they were going right too, and they asked if we wanted to join them to party at their club house. What a nice group right? We said no thanks and they went on their way. We pulled into the parking lot of our hotel, and then decided to cancel the reservation and just move on to another town….we just didn’t want to take a chance on the bike being recognized and then we might have company.

So, we headed down the road a few miles and found a motel…about the only one that had a room vacant. We had landed in a town that was holding its annual fencing competition ..what?….and the town was booked. The nice clerk recommended a place a county over and so away we went….tired, thirsty and just wanting a place to call home for the night.

We find this large motel, nothing fancy, but with hardly any cars in the parking lot….perfect. We pull in, and go to the front desk. There is no clerk there so we ring the bell. And then something that I will never be able to describe to you properly happened. As we stood looking at the wall behind the check in counter, the wall started to move…actually….well… the wall started to slide. Just like a sliding door. And out stepped a very hospitable man…the owner of this motel. Now as if the wall moving wasn’t enough…there was something of interest behind this wall…a room. Now this room was closet sized and from my vantage point I saw a bed, clothes, a hot plate and this gentlemans’ wife sitting on the bed making dinner. This was their home….at the motel, behind the wall. I don’t know what expression our faces had, but I do know that I have not experienced hospitality like we were shown by this man. Taken to our room, given fresh towels, more pillows and he just could not do enough for us. We asked were the nearest bar was….and no kidding….we were told it was a dry county on Sundays…and today…was…Sunday…ugh! He told us that the restaurant across the street was open and had a buffet. So since it was within walking distance, off we went.

This was a really big restaurant…one side buffet, booths in the middle and a bar (dry today) on the other side of the room. We took a booth and I ordered a sweet tea….yuk…its true to its name…sugar in tea. I drank my water instead. We grabbed our grub at the buffet and then heard a funny conversation. Two men were sitting across from each other in the booths behind us. They were chatting and the conversation turned to diets. The one guy said…and I quote…” Well, damn, if I lost 20 pounds I’d be nothing but skin and bones”. Now that in itself is not funny but what made it hilarious is that this guy was at least 300 pounds. I don’t think the 20 pounds lost would have had such an extreme impact as skin and bones.

We finish our meal and head to the bar to pay the bill. Sitting there were two guys who looked like they had not bathed in a year, ever used a comb and certainly had no need for a dentist. Not judging…this is just how they appeared. They were each holding a book. As we paid the bill, they started an articulate book review that would have put Oprahs’ book club to shame. I mean a deep physicological analysis of whatever book they were reading. I was without words. Just validates to not judge a book by its cover…ever.

Well, after a good nights sleep, we head to the lobby to check out. The owner had his entire family in the lobby…and it was alot of people. Not sure if they reside behind the wall together or not…guess I will never know.

We eventually end up in Caldwell, Kansas which has some really interesting history and is part of the Chisolm Trail. It was a notorious cowtown, with the highest murder rate and the greatest loss of law enforcement of any other. Cowboys were known to go wild here in the “Border Queen City” after months of driving cattle on the dusty and dangerous trails. This is the place where true stories were written into the romanticized ideas of many American Cowboy novels. There is a building in the downtown called The Stock Exchange Bank. It was erected in 1881 and cost $5,000 to build. It is in the same spot and to this day is still in use as a bank, with a set of longhorn steer horns gracing the entrance to the vault. On top of this bank are cutout figures of gunslingers, and others across the street. It makes for an interesting feeling of being in history as you drive by.

Stock Exchange Bank Sign, Caldwell, Kansas
Caldwell Historical Site
A Marker for the Chisolm Trail
Gunslingers on the Bank, Caldwell, Kansas

It seems that we are on endless county roads and that now there is cornfield after cornfield. It is really beautiful. I remember being on a road that seemed to go through the cornfields, and we came to make a right hand turn. From what I remember it was a pretty tight corner but we had done all kinds of those. We did the turn….and the bike went out from under us….really slow….so like I did at Jack Daniels (see previous blog), I just stepped off the bike. We gathered ourselves, righted the bike and then….there it was…big, dark, ominous, hairy and staring right at us. A tarantula. Now, my riding partner, ever the ecologist, (not), decides he wants a picture. But the tarantula is not co-operating in this photo shoot. He keeps turning away from the camera, and my partner keeps running around to his face….essentially pissing the tarantula off. At this point I am observing from a distance and I tell my partner that tarantulas can jump…up to 2 feet and more. He says that not true and continues to snap pictures of the agitated tarantula until he realizes that I am quickly getting more annoyed at him than his bug buddy.

Tarantula Photo Shoot…Yikes

We mount the bike and keep on riding. We finally stop for gas at a town called Conway Springs. We grab some beer for later, and then get directions to the liquor store for a little bottle of Jack….how happy we would be later that we made this purchase.

At the Grain Bin Liquor store the lady was really sweet. She was a grandmother. How do I know, you ask? Well, she had her granddaughter there, a toddler, on the floor in a blocked off area with all of her toys… right there in the liquor store. Anything goes in small towns I guess.

Grain Bin Liquor Store, Conway Springs, Kansas

The nice lady recommended a bar for a quick drink….just down the street. So we over we went and as always stopped the bike, ready for me to hop off and my partner to back it into a parking space. I literally had just put both feet on the ground…when this happened. Two guys came out from behind the bar, each putting an arm in mine and walked me into the bar. This left my partner trying to park the bike, and rush in to make sure I was ok. Let me just say I was more than ok. I sat at the bar and they poured me a beer, and then things got a little flirty ( my partner seemed to take forever to get in the joint). They did their moves on me and I responded with “there had better be a beer on the counter for my partner when he walks in or…”. Instantly a beer appeared just as he walked in. Welcome to Salty’s Bar.

The owner was named Salty and appeared as though he had sailed the seven seas for years. He offered us a place to stay the night and to come over for supper. The waitress was the best…great sense of humor and soooo many questions about Canada….you see, only one guy in town had done any sort of travelling, and that was to deliver an auto part to another town about 20 miles over. We were the only Canadians that had ever visited their town and they loved us. We were given tokens for beer…that way no money was exchanged and they wouldn’t be caught “selling” us beer over the allowed limit. The bar soon was full of townsfolk who had come to see us and a mechanic even offered us his couch to sleep on if we would stay and party with them all. His couch was in his garage and it was a cinder block building with no air conditioning in sweltering heat…so thank you so kindly, but no. We booked our room in a couple towns over and got ready to leave. As we climbed on the bike, the entire bar came outside to say goodbye….they all waved as we left. It was so touching…What a wonderful bar in the middle of nowhere.

Salty’s Southside Saloon

We did not have far to go to reach our room for the night and we were in great spirits. We had a wonderful day, met great people and were loving driving the county roads amidst the corn fields. And then…

I remember the spot…I remember the right turn onto a road….I remember the road looking light colored, not dark pavement. And then I remember being yelled at to stand up…stand up. I also remember being on my hands knees and staring at all of the ants moving around on the ground. Then it hit me…we just dropped the bike….bad.

There was no stepping of the bike with this one. I know we were going slow. I remember we made the corner but then I guess the pavement was the same color as the gravel that had been kicked up onto it, and that gravel took out our back wheel real quick. I was apparently thrown off the bike and landed thankfully on my hands and knees. My partner had the bike fall onto his leg, which thankfully did not break, and although it hurt his hip, it could have been much worse.

Once the shock wore off a little we realized that we needed to get the bike up. But how. It wasn’t a one person job the way it landed and I was not much of a help at that point. Then an absolute miracle happened. In the middle of cornfields, with no lake or river to be found for miles, appeared a truck towing a big fishing boat. Yes, and it came right to where we were. The man got out, took me to his tailgate, sat me down and handed me a beer. He then went over and helped lift the bike…only a couple of scratches and a bit of a bent mirror. He offered to load us and the bike in his truck and drive us to wherever we were going. But we knew that we had miles to go on that bike and the only thing to do was to face the fear and get back on and ride. And thats what we did.

Our motel wasn’t too far away, so we headed towards that town…in total silence. I think the shock of the accident was really setting in and although it was unspoken, I feel like we were both scared to be riding. We went to check into the motel and asked for a room on the main floor. It was a two storey building without an elevator and we both were having trouble walking without pain. The gal at the desk said the only room she had was equipped for handicapped folks, but you could park right at the patio door….we took it. We slowly unloaded our belongings and then hobbled across the street for some supper. We didn’t much feel like sitting long because it was uncomfortable so after a quick meal we headed back to relax. Remember the bottle of Jack Daniels we purchased in Conway Springs? Well… we poured two very large glasses of it, took some tylenol and rested. The bars in the bathroom by the toilet and in the shower came in handy since we both needed some help getting up and down, and to stand in the shower. I went to bed and slept, dreaming of what adventures were next.

I realized that with the pleasure comes the pain sometimes, and that I was grateful for this adventure, that we were both alive and not badly hurt and that I was blessed to be experiencing this journey.

Tomorrow is a new day!

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