Days 59–65: Oklahoma

I meet a cyclist who moved from California to Oklahoma. When asked how the locals treat her, she doesn’t seem to understand why I’m asking the question. I guess it’s not a problem here.

In Steinbeck’s “The Grapes of Wrath”, an Oklahoma family travels to California on Highway 66 to start a new life. Almost 100 years later, some people seem to be doing it in reverse.

The ACA map has some instructions about what to do in case of tornado: seek shelter in the nearest farmhouse. No farmhouse? Hide in a ditch, stick your head between your legs and kiss your butt goodbye.

These mostly occur in the summer so I was expecting to miss this part of Oklahoma life. Nope. My second night in Tulsa, my phone lets out a screech I’ve never heard before and a TORNADO WARNING pops up. I stick my head out the door to see if other motel guests are heading for the basement but no one seems to be taking this seriously. The clerk assures me that the warning is for East Tulsa and we’re in West Tulsa. The next morning, news reporters are doing live remotes from the site of the one big tree that fell down last night. Some minor property damage, no casualties.

I see my first armadillo roadkill, then three more. Definitely getting close to Texas.

I sit on the curb next to my bike, bundled up against a chilly wind, snacking on Fig Newtons and browsing Atlas Obscura for weird stuff along my route. A car pulls up next to me. I expect the usual “what are them solar panels for?” questions but instead I get a concerned older gentleman asking if I am all right. The idea that someone is out here doing this for fun seems improbable.

“Yup. Just taking a little break. Thanks for asking.”

Atlas Obscura delivers Gandini’s Circus, an abandoned circus camp on an empty lot in an Oklahoma City suburb. Perfect.

While exploring the ruins, I meet Ahmad. He’s been staying here a while. After answering my questions about the (gasoline) motor on his bike, I invite him to come check out my solar powered version. He gets it right away. “I appreciate you, Mark.” What’s the right response to that?

The next morning, I have perfect riding conditions. Traffic free, smooth service roads paralleling I-40. Sunny weather, minimal winds and just cool enough to make riding comfortable. If only every day started like this.

I’ve started shopping at Dollar General stores over the last couple of weeks. I first stopped at one because there was nothing else around and found they have a bunch of the things I normally buy anyway at lower prices. No fresh produce but the people watching is five star.

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