Day 51 – Wednesday, July 17
Blackwell to Beaver Dunes Park, Oklahoma
90° Mostly Sunny, Some Thunder Clouds In Distance
What happened to day 50?
There are two state highways running west here, 11 and 64. One just changes into the other. This is the prairie, the Great Plains. It’s flat, but not pancake flat. The terrain undulates. There are streams to cross and rise above. There are farm fields and grazing land. Tucked away here and there are oil pumps. Some moving, some not. Oil company trucks patrol the landscape. I get the feeling oil brings in more money than all the farming. I jumped on Ruby and headed west down Highway 11. We were at the intersection of I-35, which is considered the midpoint in America. I was passing fail safe now. Interestingly, I did a calculation on total miles driven the night before. As of last night, reaching mid-America, I traveled 2,999.3 miles. Does this mean the United States is 6,000 miles across and the Earth is becoming fatter? Global warming? Political gerrymandering? No, scamping. I drove to the little farming/oil community of Medford. Please understand, there is nothing but farm land between small towns and the towns are at least 50 miles apart. Medford was big enough to have a place to eat breakfast I reckoned. Nothing suggested this to be the case on Highway 11 through town. I turned up a street with two story buildings. On a cross street were parked pickup trucks and a store front with “Margie’s Lunchbox” painted on the window. I went in.
First you go in one door from the street, turn 90 degrees and go in a second door. There is no glass. I opened the second door to a sea of hard-scrabble farming faces. Each head adorned with a ball cap, not a cowboy hat. These were farmers, not ranchers. They stared at me. All were male, white, and over 50, probably all over 60. They were dirty as morning chores just finished. This group brought a smile to my face, there was nothing hostile in their demeanor. I said, “Hey! Good morning everyone.” A chorus of ‘Good mornings’ and ‘How ya doin’?’ rang out. I wasn’t one of them, but I was accepted. I have to admit, I love moments like this.
Three elder women sat at a table in the back. As I picked a place to sit one woman said, “You order there,” tipping her head toward the cash register in the center of the room. This system is far more common in America than I am accustomed to, ordering at a counter, grabbing your silverware and condiments, then sitting down. I’ll adapt.
I enjoyed listening to farmers talk about the substantial rain they received over the last two days. They needed it was the consensus . An elderly police officer talking about retirement and Social Security, and I learned donuts are half price on Wednesdays.
One last observation. All the farmers were crippled in some way. Bent over at the waist, hunched at the shoulders, limping from stiff hips. They looked and acted like men who had picked up and moved heavy things all their lives and as soon as they left Margie’s Lunchbox would get back to it.Outside of Medford, as I was cruising down the highway, the engine cut out. I pulled over in the grass. There was a pullout about a hundred yards ahead. I pushed Ruby there. Dread set in. I waited. I tried the starter. Not firing. I tried again. I waited. I removed the front plate to look at the spark plug. No start. Just then a large white pickup truck pulled in. The driver leaned out his window and asked if I had a problem. His name was Mike. He works for an oil company and was driving between rigs. We agreed it would be good to be in the town “Just down the road.” I knew it to be 40 miles away. Just then the bike’s engine started. Magic.
I stopped at the Great Salt Plains State Park. After four days and six inches of rain, it was a lake. Back on the road I reached the town of Alva and refilled the gas tank. I rolled on. In the tiny village of Buffalo with Old West murals on every building was a restaurant – its name unknown to me – the cook made fresh mac & cheese for me. I continued on to the town of Beaver and Beaver Dunes State Park. Some ancient ocean put a huge sand dune here. Over time dune buggy riders discovered it. From the trails you can see it is heavily traveled. However, the only other campers there were two oil rig workers in their RV. The place was completely empty.The evening went from pleasant to heavy wind and thunderstorm potential to pleasant again. Welcome to the Great Plains.