Another adventure down, it is once again time to attempt to amuse you with the tale. This time around, it involves 900 miles of driving in Oklahoma. No! Wait! Come back!!!
Ugh well ok for the two of you that are left, it really was way cooler than I expected.
And also it was only 899.8 miles…
The Oklahoma Adventure trail is… better described by George,who planned the route out for us:
In October 2012, some folks from the Adventure Rider forum decided to build a long motorbike tour route of Oklahoma. In their words, it would be “a large ride that would encompass the state and stop at a bunch of interesting sights along the way avoiding major roads and towns.” The result is a 1700-mile trail, less than a third of which is paved.
There, all clear?
For me, “day 0” was driving from Tulsa to Davis, Oklahoma,the starting point of this madness. We decided on Davis because it was pretty much equal driving time from both Tulsa and Austin, which are the two locations from which our party was assembling.
The drive to Davis was mostly uneventful except getting passed by at least four sheriffs going approximately the speed of sound to,what it turns out was, a guy in an Accord who got annihilated by a deer. Hope no one was hurt.
Aside from the Accord that is…. And the deer. I mean… there was a lot of blood.
I hope no humans were hurt.
Oh and also the Land Rover decided to throw a P0734 pre-code, but as it turns out that might not be that big of a deal?
Once we were all there, we exchanged PRESENTS. George received antlers and a Rudolph nose for his Jeep (nicknamed “The Toaster”) from Taylor, and I gave him a larger fuel tank (Zippo with a Toaster on it) for his Renegade.
Taylor got a fuzzy steering wheel cover from me, because why not, and a dozen or so air fresheners from George, which is a bit of an inside joke.
[space so the photo finally decides to fit]
I received a tacky “MERRY CHRISTMAS” wreath from Taylor and a UK style front plate that reads “DISCO INFERNO”. Oh wait… no “DISCO INERNO”. Turns out the factory flubbed it. Ahh well, it is funnier this way.
Also there were a lot of ladybugs in the cabin.
A lot a lot.
They got under my shirt while I was sleeping.
Day one we set off, after topping off the transmission fluid in the Disco, for Turner Falls which, as it turns out, we were right next to. The falls were pretty meh due to low water, but there was an effing CASTLE there too.
Seriously that castle was bonkers, made so sense, and I need one in my life. Hold on why I start a gofundme to buy/ build a castle...
After Tuner, we headed westish, stopping briefly in Medicine Park, which was very pretty and weirdly touristy. We also saw a six-door Excursion… which was a thing. (I can’t find a picture, so use your imagination.)
Today was by far our most on-road day and the off-road sections we did do were smooth gravel that afforded us a brisk (and responsible…) pace. We did have one bummer as a mile interesting-looking track ended up being closed for hunting season, but other than that all was well.
Next up was the Oklahoma Narrows located in the Wichita Mountains. I have nothing intelligent to say about this, other than they were very pretty.
Last stop was the “Meers Store and Restaurant,” allegedly founded in the gold rush times and evolved over the last 100 years, they served up a damn good burger and probably the best fried okra I’ve ever consumed, so I’ll call it a win. Also we didn’t get murdered or attacked by the plentiful small children or their owners… so that was good.
The remainder of the drive was mostly through farm tracks in the dark, which was actually really neat in its own way. Except for the deer. And the random dogs. We managed not to kill any dogs or wildlife and made it to our cabin around 8ish.
This too, was a bit strange. Turns out the overnight stay was at Quartz Mountain, which has a beautiful lodge on Lake Altus where we had to check-in to out cabin. The cabin itself was… well umm… at least it didn’t have ladybugs!
We got an earlyish start on the day, but sadly that mostly seemed to involve deicing out cars. Alight rain and below freezing temps meant everything was a little slushy. That said, the lake itself was fictionally pretty in the morning light. We had breakfast at the lodge and then headed out.
Today was pretty exciting. It was our longest drive day by far, with no planned stops as such and just hours and hours of driving. (My favorite!) Plus we were going to do THREE river crossings! Three!
Except well maybe not.
The first one was marked on the route as “DIFFICULT WATER CROSSING,” but with the weather we were having we were, more or less, expecting it to be mostly dry and fairly straightforward for our high-ish clearance mostly 4WD vehicles.
It wasn’t straightforward.
It doesn’t look like much in pictures, but it pretty much checks all the “turn around don’t drown” boxes. We couldn’t see the bottom, there was a steep drop off into the water on the approach, and the other side didn’t look much better. That paired with the below freezing temperatures meant it was a hard pass, so we bravely turned around and found a proper bridge.
The next one was supposed to be pretty easy and the road into it looked like fun too- wait… why is there a fence there? Why does this public road look like private property? Why… wait… did they build a MASSIVE bridge in the middle of nowhere? This stinks of shady dealings…
Apparently our second riving crossing was… sold? And a bridge built about half a mile down the river.
Ok… well two down I guess. The driving today, I should add, was pretty neat. The morning started out with farm tracks through cotton fields, which if you’d asked me before this trip we grew cotton in Oklahoma I would have said no, and slowly transitioned into hilly fields. Very pretty, if somewhat unremarkable.
River crossing? Oh yes! That.
The third and final scheduled ford gave us the payoff we were looking for. It looked do-able, it wasn’t fenced off, and we were here.
Who… who should go first?
I semi-volunteered the Disco as, let’s face it, if things when to shit there are cars we would miss less.
I did my semi-volunteering meekly, while George fully volunteered his Renegade to go first with gusto!
Sure. Why not?
I’m going to admit here, that I was pretty nervous. While the water wasn’t deep in the spots we could see, there were plenty of other areas that might be deeper. Also the river bottom looked like silt, not rock. I fully expected him to hit that and immediately sink in, never to be seen again.
In fact, it turned out to be a bit of a kitten!
We’d crossed a river!!!
Elation over, we were back to driving. It was fun, pretty, and doesn’t make for good article writing. The only real thing of note was I was taking selfie video when we hit a sand patch. That was sort of entertaining anyway.
We found out shortly after that not all the cars made it through the river without incident. Taylor’s XTerra decided he needed to be warmed by the glow of a check engine light. Luckily I keep a scanner(or four… or whatever) in the Disco which informed us it was a P0420, Catalyst system efficiency below threshold, and a P1446, EVAP Canister Vent Control Valve (Closed). Ahh well… time to move on.
The overnight stay was in the town of…. :looks it up: Seiling. It was in Seiling. In fact it was at the Seiling Motel, which I’m pretty sure is the only accommodations in Seiling. We stopped for some surprisingly good food at a café/ coffee shop/ froyo place in the gas station nearby, and then were met by the front desk doggo.
The motel was distilled essence of motel, but the sheets were clean and the pillows soft so… whatever.
Again an early start, again filling the Disco with coolant. Today breakfast was at the“Crooked Arrow Café” where we were quite obviously the only non-locals. Oh well, the food was good and we were on the road quickly and without fuss.
Driving today was mostly through oil-and-gas type areas,with a decent mix of farming and a surprising number of residences. Again, pretty… but doesn’t really make for good photos or writing.
What did make for good photos was our first stop: Gloss Mountain. It was also the site of our first almost crashing into each other. Turns out the Land Rover decided to throw the P0734 code right around the same time as George almost missed the turn into Gloss Mountain. So basically he was slamming on his brakes as I was trying to silence the alarm on my UltraGauge. Luckily he saw me failing to slow and radioed.
A little poo dispensed, the cars did not come together and we got to hike up Gloss Mountain, still friends.
Feel free to read Wikipedia about Gloss mountain, but my takeaways were: very pretty (the rocks are shiny due to all the…
quartz? Selenite!), very cold, and very Oklahoma. I say the latter because there were no fewer than three pump-jacks on the park grounds. It may be a site worth protecting, we seem to say, but we still gotta get the oil out! :facepalm:
Anyway, after that Taylor had the bright idea that in a day filled with wide, open farm tracks maybe we should do a Top Gear thing. Drag race?
Drag race. 0 to 60 to 0.
George (Renegade) and I (Disco) went first as Taylor lined up to take photos/ video. The Renegade is 15 years newer than the Disco, 1000 pounds lighter, has 5 more forward gears, and approximately the same power. All that said, I didn’t lose that bad. (Sadly I don’t seem to have any photos of that?)
Rather than further risk a coming together of the cars, we lined Taylor up at our approximate start location and sent him on his way solo. Taylor’s Xterra has (had?) 85 more horsepower and was only about 500 pounds heavier. That said, it is also 10 years older than the Renegade and 2WD.
It was going to be close.
Very very close!!
Yeah, he won by about two feet.
All told, the conclusion was Taylor and George were fairly evenly matched… which should be worrying for both, and the Disco wasn’t as slow and fat as I was expecting, but still very slow and very fat.
Shortly thereafter we reached the Salt Plains…. Which were closed. Still got some good pictures and went out on a little walk on the portion that was open and stopped by the lake adjoining the plains.
Did I mention it was cold?
After refilling the zippo in the Renegade we had lunch at a gas station as, once again, it was the only thing open, and continued on our way.
The rest of the day was seemingly spent looking for more water crossings. Turns out after the fun of yesterdays were were all hungry for more. Or to justify all the recovery gear we brought. Either or.
Unfortunately, all of the crossings we ran into had these annoying things over them. I think they’re called… bridges. Turns out the creeks in this area all have steep banks and are relatively narrow, which is bad for fording but great for bridge building.
After meandering around out route searching for a viable crossing, we eventually gave up and headed to our overnight stay for New Years:a winery B&B. Yes, it was just as precious as it sounds.
Actually it was pretty cool. We arrived around 6, which for us is pretty damn good, and were met by the owner. His only question was something along the lines of “you want some wine?”
Why yes, yes we do.
Turns out he bought the place from a friend after the friend’s husband unexpectedly died, and had been running it ever since. This did some to explain his rather casual attitude about the whole thing. Either way, we had a nice chat over some sample wine during which some girls on a road trip stumbled upon the place and drank with us a little.
We wandered to the house, multiple bottles of wine in hand,for dinner, which was excellent. After we went ahead and bought a couple more bottles of wine (shut up) the owners and the girls left and we were alone. In a giant B&B in the middle of nowhere. It was super weird, but also fun.
Happy New Year!
Day 4 – This Kills the Road Trip
Despite a plethora of empty wine bottles to our names, we were all up relatively early for breakfast and ended up pulling out right around 10.
DID I MENTION IT WAS COLD?!
The final day, we started out in fields yet again. There were a few re-directs as we ran into a surprising number of closed bridges that, despite our cravings for more river crossings, we were unable to cross.
We did get some satisfaction at a low water crossing, for which we stopped and took a bunch of photos.
Soon enough, we were nearing the Stillwater and Tulsa area and the population density gradually began to rise. Pretty, but uneventful.
Until the Jeep broke down.
Well… I say “broke down” but really a rock decided it wanted to be part of the brake assembly, which required about an hour to extricate. Luckily, it was stuck in a place that induced no lasting damage, and it was basically dusk when we finally got a move on.
The rest of the drive proceeded uneventfully, and soon we were at our final stop: Keystone Dam. We’d wanted to arrive at dusk for some awesome photos but… well you know.
So you know what this means… right?
Yes, that is correct. Based on this road trip:
But in all seriousness, the drive was a lot of fun and remarkably pretty, but not exactly a challenge for these three. The dirt tracks were well groomed and cared for and the river ford a breeze. If the weather had been warmer or wetter, we might have run into some problems with mud or washout, but it wasn’t and we didn’t. If we could replicate the same conditions, maybe with higher temperatures, I would absolutely love to do this same thing in my old Saab or some other non-offroad vehicle.
The only real breakdown was due to a known problem with the Renegade’s brakes (apparently they love rocks) which is surprising when you consider I was driving an old Land Rover with two blown head gaskets, but I’ll take it! The XTerra proved, like we suspected, you don’t really need 4WD to do something like this as it never really encountered any problems. (In fact it was more fun as Taylor was the only one of us who managed to get the tail out in corners.)
I absolutely recommend this to someone who has some time on their hands and wants to explore Oklahoma. Especially if the sight of oil and gas rigs and/ or windmills are novel to you. (They were not for us). That said, apparently the east half of OAT is more challenging and quite a bit different, so we’re looking forward to giving that a shot soon!