Day Four: El Reno Oklahoma to Tucumcari New Mexico. Namaste!

Back in Georgia the time is now 8:50 pm Monday, in Ireland it’s 1:50 am Tuesday and here in Tucumcari, New Mexico I’d say it’s about 1950. That’s because the town still holds onto much of the grandeur of the 1930’s and 50’s when Route 66 was the only road in town; almost literally.  Once the interstate was built much of old Route 66 was abandoned. But some old diners and motels persist! Beautiful relics to a time long ago.

Today was a long biking day. Over 400 miles. Right now I’m sitting in the Desert Inn motel drinking a Tecate beer with the air conditioner on and feeling like I’m in somewhat of a stupor. Despite a couple of rounds of factor 50 sunscreen I’m toasted.  I hope I can write more intelligibly later but for now just a brief update.

Jeff took his bike to the Harley shop first thing and they managed to sort the problem out. By 10am we were on the road. Due to our different styles of riding with Jeff being a man with a mission, and me being a bit of a dawdler (“Hey, let’s see what’s down here!) we decided to again meet up somewhere later and ride at our own paces. We kept in touch a few times by texts during the day but otherwise we just met up an hour ago. He took off on Interstate 40 where the speed limit soars to 75mph. His story, which he can tell better than I, is that once we split up his handlebars starting going a bit wonky; too loose. He got to Amarillo, visited another Harley shop then drove on to Tucumcari.

He later admitted that the problem had been his own fault. Last night I had given him a small Route 66 gremlin bell and he had failed to attach it to his bike.  Motorcycle gremlins love to hitch rides on motorcycles. They are mischievous rascals who cause all sorts of mayhem. A minivan cuts in front of you; your battery goes dead, road gators charge after you, or as in some reported cases, your handlebars come loose. Apparently, if you get a bell on your bike (it has to be given to you-you can’t buy it yourself) the gremlins get trapped in the bell, the ringing drives them nuts and they lose their grip and fall onto the road. Jeff has promised me he will put the bell on tomorrow.

I decided to go Route 66 for awhile, back through Bethany and Yukon and El Reno where legal speeds can gust up to 55mph. I managed to take the wrong roads twice (not the same road-two different ones) but I also stopped and took pictures of an old bridge, of the great bar Jeff and I went to last night and then tried to go a bit further on Route 66  but I ended up on a section of pre-1937 route which was built with poured Portland concrete. I began to realize why they don’t drive much of the old-old route anymore: bounce, smooth, bounce, smooth-every 10 yards!

So I went back onto I-40 and settled into the 75 mph mantra. I crossed the rest of Oklahoma, then went across the top of Texas and slithered into New Mexico. I had to stop every hour or so to gas up,  rehydrate and to administer to myself a mental status exam to ensure I could still ride safely. I know there is a population crisis and that we should take this very seriously but really, has anybody been to the top of Texas and ridden across I-40? Miles and miles of deserted land. I know I went more than once about 40 miles without seeing a gas station. Consequently, I almost ran out of gas.

Amarillo was a bit dicey when I came upon a rolled up carpet and small pieces of wood blocking my lane. I braked, down shifted, looked left to change lanes but a car was there, to the right was another car so I somehow managed to slalom the bike and thread my way around the debris. I also dodged a metal bar in the road and avoided attacks by those pesky road gators, bits of tires lying in wait to pounce.

I decided not to take a chance on running out of gas again and so stopped about 20 miles east of Tucumcari. The filling station it turned out was run by Indians-no, not native Americans but real Indians. I stopped at the pump and it said: sold out. So I rolled the bike back to a pump that didn’t have a notice. Engine off, kickstand down, glasses off, helmet off, fingerless gloves off and I start filling. Turns out this one is out of gas too. I roll the bike over to another pump and try again and I get 20 cents worth. I stop and go inside and explain my problem to the Indian cashier. He says that they are out of premium gas. I ask whether I can have $5 of regular gas and give him $10. For some reason the cash register jams and I hear him discussing and arguing in some Indian language with a man standing by. This takes about 5 minutes.  I’m exhausted, frustrated and I’m thinking: I need to show love and compassion for all beings! Finally, the man says “You can do it now”. I ask for my $5 back from the $10 I gave him and he says: “Oh I thought you wanted $10 dollars on pump 5!”

I say: “That’s fine.” and “Namaste” which essentially means: “The Spirit within me salutes the Spirit in you”. I go back to the pump and the tank will only hold $9 worth. “Namaste” and I ride off.

Later I make it to our motel  and the receptionist is another Indian man (not native American) who is delightful, charming and helpful. I kind of mutter but he is patient and suggests places to eat and drink.

And drink I do! I’m on my second can of Tecate right now and ready for bed.

Nameste to you and good night!

Day 3: Mother’s Day, the Mother Road-Route 66, Mechanical Problems and Gilmore’s Pub and Barefoot Bar

Very long and eventful day. I’m pretty knackered so I’m not sure how much I can record. Jeff and I are just back from Gilmore’s Pub, an amazing bar in El Reno Oklahoma. The food was delicious, the service excellent and the hospitality heart warming.

Things started innocently enough this morning. We had breakfast at an amazing place called Susan’s in Springdale.  Sausage and cheese omelet, grits, biscuit and gravy and coffee. Waitresses happy, flirtatious (Bless their hearts!) and considerate. After a great meal we were ready for the road.

Before leaving, we asked for a few directions and unfortunately the fatal words were uttered: “You can’t miss it”. As far as I am concerned that’s the kiss of death when it comes to getting directions. I have a decent chance of finding anywhere until those words are uttered. Even a blind hog can find an acorn every once in a while. Remembering these curse words though I double checked our map: Highway 412 to Tulsa and then left when we got to 193, then right on 11th Street. Can’t miss it. We headed out. Decent enough road to start with but then we had to pay a toll for the privilege of driving on a bumpy, line riddled turnpike. Mostly flat countryside, but there were occasional green fields full of peach colored flowers that made me think of the concept of grace.

“Left on 193” I repeated it like a mantra as I took the lead. Okay, maybe I went into one of these fugue states Jeff accuses me of but I never saw 193. We were probably 10 miles past Tulsa before Jeff signaled to me and we exited. We had decided to ride this trip without using GPS and so we are left with memorizing routes or checking our maps when we stop. It’s a little awkward unfolding a map while you’re riding. We figured that if we went back an exit turned right, headed south, we would pick up the road we were looking forward, America’s Mother’s Day road, Route 66, an incredibly historical and important early route across North America. Amazingly ,we found the road and stopped at a gas station. Jeff traveled Route 66 as a child so it was one of those trips down memory lane for him.  Enjoyable as it was he was starting to worry about time and the distance we needed to travel. I was instead in one of these Zen frames of mind where I was happy with whatever was happening; just enjoying the moment. After we filled up at a gas station we agreed that if we got separated we’d just meet at the junction of Highway 81 and Route 66 in El Reno. That way if I wanted to ride 66 and he wanted to stick more with the interstate then we’d be free to chose our routes. I took off.

I did well for quite a few miles and I need to write at some point about the fascinating things I saw on this stretch of Route 66. But when I got into Oklahoma City I got lost, but not badly. Long story, but what I liked about it was that I didn’t stress out or worry but instead just enjoyed the ride. Maybe the wrong places you get to are the right places and you don’t know it. By the time I reached our rendezvous point Jeff was already there having taken the interstate instead of the blue highways. Can’t fault him for that though because somehow his rear shock absorber had blown and every time his bike hit a bump he bounced up and down like a fiddler’s elbow.

We had to quickly reconnoiter. Jeff couldn’t drive far without bouncing like a yo yo. A Super 8 motel was within sight and a Harley Dealership was about 13 miles back towards Oklahoma City.  Looks like we were going to spend the night in El Reno. We got a room, a really nice one, and Jeff took a nap. Meanwhile, I Skyped with my daughter Hannah in LA. (Only 6 days til I see her and Saturday Bill!)

I found a pub/ restaurant called Gilmore’s and it had the logo of a leprechaun and boasted about making the best steaks in town. We headed out there. I knew it was our kind of place when Jeff and I parked neatly on the road out in front while another Harley rode up onto the sidewalk and parked outside the pub.

Our experience there was amazing, the steaks great and the friendliness of  Tex and Harley Rose (Photo coming!) was unparallelled in my experience. I’ll try and write about it tomorrow. Should have some downtime as Jeff’s bike is getting fixed.

I know Jeff’s worried about the bike. I would be too. Worried it’ll hold us up; make it harder to rendezvous with our buddy Kevin in Sedona in a few days. I’m sure I must be an exasperating travel companion because I just see everything happening for a reason. I trust it all. No sense worrying about the past or the future. Be here now. Just go with the flow. Don’t push the river; it flows by itself. We’re all exactly where we need to be right now.

Bless his heart; and his bike.