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Old 03-30-2015, 02:31 PM   #1
kbiv OP
Joined: Feb 2015
Location: Texas
Oddometer: 8
Yoshi's Spring Break in Oklahoma

Spring Break on Route 66
Inspired by a ride report to the semi-deserted mining town of Picher, OK, I soon became intrigued by the idea of going. Unfortunately, the distance was pretty prohibitive to make this a weekend trip. Still, I kept the idea on the back burner.

My schoolteacher of a wife and son already had their spring break plans set and filled up by January. As in, they were leaving Friday after school and would be back next Sunday afternoon. With no way to get that much time off, Picher popped back into my mind.
One thing about working 24/48 hour shifts; all it takes is one swap and you have five days off. Suddenly, this plan looked doable.

Punching the destination from San Antonio into the computer gave directions that called for I-35 and lots of it. My bike really doesn’t like interstate that much and neither do I. Looking at the screen, I realized that US 281 would take me into Oklahoma. It would be nice to say I’ve been on all it here in Texas, I had already covered the south end, and the north when I was at Ft. Sill. US 281 would also lead me through some old family territory, and through Wichita Falls, where my grandfather worked as a highway patrolman.
I sent off for the tourist package and in less than a week was rewarded by a huge envelope. I immediate took the highway map out and flipped through the rest before throwing into a corner.

It was a few weeks before I leafed through it again and found the brochure for Route 66. As I flipped through, it appeared that the Mother Road was following my route along I-40. Sure enough, 66 cuts through OKC then turns northeast to Miami and close to Picher.
Excited at the prospect of taking a motorcycle on part of Route 66, I was bitten by the bug and immediately sent off for the tourist packages for Kansas and Missouri, as well as Arkansas for the return trip. I also bought a set of Route 66 maps that showed some of the touristy traps.

My waterlogged analog GPS

As Hannibal, an esteemed statesman of our time would say “I love it when a plan comes together.” I could leave at shift change on Monday and be in Oklahoma by nightfall. The second day I would come across and stop around Miami. Day 3 would be Picher, Kansas, Missouri and cut down through Arkansas. My wife is originally from there and wants to move back to where “the leaves change colors.” I kinda like mesquite and cactus, but she’s urged me to look around. Day 4 would be looping down through East Texas and stopping at one of the Lufkin area forests, leaving day five to make it back home. Piece of cake or so I thought.
I watched the weather religiously, hoping for a break in our weather pattern of cold and rainy. Let’s face it, the next time the groundhog goes bonkers and tries to eat someone, we’ll know its bad.
Finally it got close enough for the 10 and five day forecasts to become meaningful. Temps were going to be moderate to low (at least to me) and rain was predicted at the end of the week. Still, I had to try.
Day 1:
At 7 15 I fired “Yoshi” my fully loaded recalcitrant pack mule up and hit 281. The 281 area north of San Antonio had exploded in growth, and I wasn’t too happy to see it. Made it into the Bulverde area and couldn’t recognize anything from the almost 20 years that had passed since I had worked on a road crew here. Kept going until I pulled off in the Marble Falls area for some pictures.

Pedernales River

Kept heading north until I hit Lampasas.
My family is from here and I had relatives buried in a local cemetery. A quick visit did nothing to help the mounting depression from the amount of change in the area. On a lark I circled around to the area where the old family farm had been. The house is still there, now surrounded by cookie cutter homes. The old gravel county road had been replaced by a two lane paved ribbon. The old low water crossing which had produced tons of catfish had been replaced by a modern bridge. Everything was unrecognizable due to the march of progress.

Former Fishing Hole

Headed back into Lampasas and stopped at “Storm’s” a local burger joint. I texted with the wife as I ate my cheeseburger and fries. Forbidden manna from the gods, as I am on a mandated low-cal, low-carb, low-protein, low taste diet. All of the changes were really crushing my spirit, but thankfully no one felt like bothering the leather-wrapped fat biker in the corner crying over his burger.

Forbidden Foods

The next part was better, mainly because I had no previous image of what the area looked like. 281 in Texas has been described as a straightened hairpin, still wavy in the middle part, and I was in the hill country.

Abandoned Building, US 281

US 281-South of Wichita Falls.

Kept pushing on into Oklahoma, until I got lost. I was trying to avoid toll roads, and ended up about 50 miles off course. Was able to find a short cut and got back onto the road I needed. Arrived at Red Rock Canyon SP and quickly found an empty site. Quickly set up, enjoyed my supper of rice and Spam, which also isn’t on the approved list and crashed for the night.

Red Rock Canyon State Park

Day 1 totals
548 Miles
Total Carbs: I didn’t give a damn.

Day 2- St. Paddy’s Day

2200 hours: Ah, stealth camping. I arrived at Grand Lake SP too late to pay, and the weather forecasts are turning to crap. Now I know why all the smart kids go SOUTH for Spring Break. Supposed to be in the 40’s with rain all day. I’m going to leave as soon as I can, which means I won’t be around to pay in the morning. Plus, my ATM card isn’t working, so I can’t leave cash in the pay box. They quit working when no money is in the account, who woulda thunk that?
Started the morning off by leaving Red Rock. Yoshi, the fitful bitch that she is, decided to stall on the road leading out of the canyon. The one that forces the park to close because it’s too steep to climb with ice, yeah that one. I’m pretty sure my restart and clutch work cost me a few miles off of her life, but she deserved it.
Hit Route 66 with little fanfare. The weather was still holding. Made it onto the road and past some of the sights. The original Route 66 was a two lane concrete with actual curbs. It gave me a real sense of appreciation for the people who did this in Model T’s and such.

Route 66, Oklahoma

Fort El Reno, Oklahoma

Wasn’t able to get any pictures of the Pony Bridge outside of Hydro, but did stop at “Pops” in Arcadia to pick up sodas for the family, and also stopped at a motorcycle museum.

POP's, Arcadia, OK

Silba Motorcycle Museum, Oklahoma

1959 BSA

Rather crowded with their machines, but it was nice to see some of the older iron. Didn’t get too lost through OKC and Tulsa. It was easier to pick up the roads after getting clear of the cities. If I was doing this trip only for the Route 66 aspect, I would have brought a better GPS. By this time the weather started turning colder and misting. Stopped at Walmart to pick up a long sleeve shirt. Made it into Miami at dark, so I wasn’t able to see much. Proceeded on to the state park where I ended up squatting in a campsite with no way to pay. Ate my supper of a can of chili in the rain, and then crawled into bed.
Day 2 Totals:
325 miles, Almost 100 over what Google Maps predicted.
Times I wish I had brought the big cameras-4

Day 3
Waiting for a supper of rice to congeal and or cook, I look around the Lake Fort Smith State Park campsite. I hope the hippies across the road have more of a plan than just to attempt to start a fire and then hotbox their Corolla. Cold, and wet, I have been rained on since this morning. Left at daybreak in a pouring rain and made it to Baxter, Kansas.

Route 66, Kansas

Pulled into a McDonalds to warm up and get some banking done. Called the Oklahoma people and paid for my night at the park with my credit card. Once all of the financial transactions were done, headed out on what at least looked like on the tablet to be a decent road.

E-10 Road, Kansas/OK Border

Yoshi did not like the route, as the road I picked had deteriorated to gravel and mud. While perfectly fine for KLR’s and the discerning Vstrom, the Boulevard tends to turn her highway nose up at such fare. Almost dumped it a few times, and had to keep reminding her that this far out, there’s no recovery with a pissed off wife and a pickup. She breaks, she’s getting sold for scrap, and I’m Greyhounding it back. It worked.
Picher, Oklahoma. Following the road, the mountains of chat came into view. The chat is material that had been removed from the mines.

Chat Pile, Picher, OK

While mined through for minerals, it still contains trace elements of toxic chemicals that make it into the water sources, and into the air. I passed abandoned roads that looked attractive, but impossible with a street bike and my low skills, and old buildings left to nature.

Abandoned Church, Picher, OK

I later found out the chat has been used as road base material as far away as St. Louis, and also been used in concrete manufacturing.
I made it into the town and stopped by the “Old Miner” pharmacy, one of the last businesses. They were surprised that I was on a bike, as it was still raining with temperatures in the 40’s. They were also surprised that I picked their fair city as my destination. I picked up a couple of Cokes (also forbidden) and was given a handful of their souvenir trinkets. I walked around town a little and took some photos. The feel of a crime scene was palpable in the air.

Picher, OK

High School Pride, Picher, OK

Picher Mining Museum, Picher, OK

I felt a kinship to these townspeople who have had their lives ruined by the needs of industry. Most of the lead and zinc mined from this area went for batteries. As a child I lived in Houston, close to the Houston Ship Channel. A recent study has stated that ½ of the children raised in that area developed long-term health issues due to the pollution. Recently diagnosed with a heart condition at 40, and one sibling gone, I can relate.
In my notes I wrote a pretty good rant about the costs of industry vs. our individual health. I’ll sum it up. While I would be happy to sue the shit out of someone, without those chemicals, we would not have progress. I’m not excusing the companies for what they did, but what would the cost be if we didn’t use these elements. While it makes for good philosophical questions, it doesn’t do much for a ride report, so we move on.
I cut my time in Picher short due to the rain. There’s a lot to see, and I may try again, hopefully, in a warmer month. Got back on Yoshi, and headed back to Baxter Springs.
I had a lot in Kansas I wanted to see, including eating some famous Kansas style barbecue. (yeah, that’s forbidden, too) I stopped at an old service station in Treece, another abandoned town right across the line from Picher and took a break to evaluate my situation.

Treece, Kansas

Wet- check.

I was wearing my rain suit top under my leather jacket, but the pants had already split out due to either weak seams or the pucker factor of taking an overloaded street bike through 3 miles of mud and gravel.
I had reservations in Arkansas, and needed to make them. While I wanted to see sites in Kansas, it was getting late, and I was getting a better feel for how much time I was spending riding. (Google times need not apply). Picher had been my destination; the Rt. 66 was a secondary. Being cold and wet with no good chances of warming up, I could easily be skating into hypothermia. I already couldn’t feel my toes, and was trying to remember my army pamphlets about trench foot and such. The last time I had pulled off my socks, my feet were turning colors.
In short, it was time to put the spurs to her. Got through Kansas with one stop (pretty good since there is only 13 miles of 66 in Kansas) and headed through Missouri. I wasn’t thrilled with having to be in Joplin, but was able to find a road out of town pretty quickly without hitting too much traffic. Stopped somewhere for a microwave burrito and a cup of hot chocolate at a convenience store with Bible verses on its billboard. Thought it was strange that not only did I have to produce ID for my credit card, but they took down my name, DL number and phone number. Apparently no verses for trusting your fellow man, but they did have a pretty good porn section.
Dropped out into Arkansas and followed SH 59 down. Pretty good ride with some good curves that would have been more fun if it hadn’t been raining still. As it was, I could tell from the non-stop shivering, that I was getting into trouble. Made to the state park, once again after check-in, but I had already paid. Set up camp and tried to dry off. Checked the weather. Tomorrow was supposed to be clear, with Friday, turning to crap again. What the hell, I needed some training for an Ironbutt run anyway.
On inventorying my clothes, everything, except for a pair of poly pants was soaked. My sleeping bag was damp, but usable. I wrung out what I could and crashed.

Daily total:
225 miles

The next morning, I dressed, using the poly pants as a base layer under my still soaked denim riding pants. I had been able to wring my shirts out enough to make that bearable, almost pleasant compared to the soaked cotton socks. Oh well.

Lake Waldron, AR

Got on the road, and after replacing almost ½ a quart of oil, hit the asphalt to make it back into to Texas. Did stop to get a couple pictures, and started to warm up. Made it home at around 0030.

Gause City Jaill, Gause, TX

Daily Total
632 miles
1730 total miles
The next morning. The rain had already started up again. Glad to be home.
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Old 03-30-2015, 08:52 PM   #2
Beastly Adventurer
Joined: Jan 2007
Location: NEOK
Oddometer: 1,986
Wow that's quite a ride to see a gravel pile. Pitcher is kind of an eerie place. When I was a kid my friends would haul their dirt bikes up there and ride the chat piles.
Thanks for posting about your trip. And just in case someone looks for the motorcycle museum, it is Seaba Station, not Silba.
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Old 03-31-2015, 04:50 AM   #3
kbiv OP
Joined: Feb 2015
Location: Texas
Oddometer: 8
Thanks for the correction. I had a lot of trouble getting this to post, I'm sure I had it right the first three or four times. I've looked at their website but it hasn't been updated lately. Motorcycle aficionados would definitely appreciate their collection. Thanks again for viewing.
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Old 03-31-2015, 08:47 PM   #4
75%has been25%wanabe
Joined: Jun 2011
Location: N.W. Arkansas
Oddometer: 1,716
Eek chat

Yeah, I have some of that Pitcher chat imbedded in my knee since I was about 12.
It hasn't killed me yet.

Seriously though, I don't think I would spend the night there.
Nice ride report! Did you make it through Miami, OK? There is a small moto-museum there, and a bit of the original pavement from RT 66. 10' wide iirc.
You can call me TKO
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Old 04-01-2015, 01:27 AM   #5
kbiv OP
Joined: Feb 2015
Location: Texas
Oddometer: 8
Thanks for reading. I made it into Miami, but after dark and didn't get to see any of the sights. There was a cool restored service station that was lit up and looked good in the rain, but I didn't want to get run over in traffic for the pictures. I passed through to make it to the state park, and didn't stop the next morning. If I make it back, I'll stop for sure.
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Old 04-17-2015, 01:52 PM   #6
Studly Adventurer
Joined: Feb 2011
Location: Broken Arrow, OK
Oddometer: 774
The local news is reporting that the mining museum burned down last night.
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Old 04-23-2015, 08:34 PM   #7
Joined: Aug 2012
Location: Leavenworth, Kansas
Oddometer: 73

I played on those chat piles as a kid. I grew up near Tulsa and my buddy's parents were from there and I went with him to visit his grandparents sometimes. Always wanted to go back with my Trail 70 but never made it.

02 Heritage Softail Classic * 98 Honda CR250 * 91 RM125 * 83 OSSA 303 Trials * 76.5 OSSA GPII * 80 KAWASAKI KE175 * 01 XR100 * 74 XR75 * 71 Trail 70
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