Stephen

The Road to Fort Smith

After a few pleasant days of riding, and a relaxing day of hitch hiking, I have completed the journey from Oklahoma City to Ft. Smith, Arkansas. The distance between the cities – on the route that I used – is about 215 miles or so, but I covered about 80 of those miles in a pickup truck, which was great! The original plan had actually been to have a slide show presentation in Tulsa, OK between OKC and Ft. Smith. Unfortunately we did not have a turnout for the show, but I still made great use of the time by spending about an hour and half configuring my new laptop to work properly with a digital projector.

Success! The new laptop finally works with a digital projector…

Bad weather and poor route finding decisions on the way out of OKC kept mileage really low on two riding days – I even saw a huge funnel cloud, which was impressive. The ride out of Oklahoma City was the first time on this tour that I dealt with any kind of sustained rain – a cool, wet experience. I camped at Lake Arcadia outside Edmond, and experienced a long, bright, loud lightning storm while I watched There Will be Blood on my laptop – or at least the first two hours and ten minutes of it until the battery on my computer died.

 

The morning after the storm @ Lake Arcadia – notice the raindrops on the tent fly.

The next day found me in the saddle at 10a.m. 80 miles from Tulsa, still on the shoulderless, traffic-rich Route 66. I decided to hitch hike those 80 miles. The going had been *very* slow the previous day, with several miles of riding in the grass next to the shoulder to avoid traffic, and with a couple of hours of being slowed down by poor weather and poor route finding decisions, so I felt great about my hitchhiking choice! It was a good break.

 

The riding situation on Route 66 between Edmond and Tulsa – no shoulder and bad weather had me riding on the grass for several miles until I reached Lake Arcadia where I camped for the night.

Funnel Cloud outside Edmond, OK.

About five minutes after putting out my thumb, I was picked up by a man whose job it is to drive cars and trucks back and forth between GMC dealerships when they do dealer trades – e.g. if a customer in OKC finds a car they want at a dealership in Tulsa, this guy will drive an OKC car to the Tulsa dealership, then drive the customer`s car back to the OKC dealership so that a sale can be made. Apparently this goes on 3 or 4 times a week at the particular dealership where this guy works. What it meant for me is that I got to ride – with my bike and gear – in a brand new Chevy pickup truck for 80 miles after having spent about 5 minutes holding my thumb out. Not bad! He even drove me 15 miles out of his way to drop me off right in downtown Tulsa, which is actually a good-sized city. I did not realize this until I arrived. Tulsa has buildings about the size of Oklahoma City – although there are not quite so many of them.

 

Another view of downtown Tulsa at night. This photo is the view immediately left of the photo which should appear below and to the right of this photo in this post.

Tulsa at night – the BOk building in the background.

The streets are perhaps a bit nicer in the sense that there are more trees + bricks, and there seem to be some really cool local bars in town with bikes parked in front of them. I went to one such bar for a drink after the “slide show” at the library. I did not spend much time in Tulsa – just an afternoon and an evening. I got on the bike that night, and rode to the southern edge of town where I found a campsite in some trees near a water storage tank on south Memorial Drive. I was gone the next morning. Tulsa made a good impression though – it is a beautiful city. Here are a couple of videos of the ride out of Tulsa on Memorial Drive as I crossed the Arkansas River:

 

The first crossing of the Arkansas River took place @ Bixby Spartan pass just south of Tulsa.

Once I had found my way out of Tulsa that night, the greatest challenge of getting to Ft. Smith was over. The rest of the journey involved mellow riding on highway 64 along 2 and 4 lane roads with good shoulders, nice trees, and some hills. I passed through Muskogee…noteworthy only because of its name (I`d heard of the town before going to Oklahoma, but nothing memorable or noteworthy actually happened there). Drivers seemed to be happy (for the most part) to see a bike out on the road, and I saw a lot of people waving to me from their cars and trucks as they went by. I camped for a night in Gore, Oklahoma – about 40 miles from Ft. Smith – where I pitched the tent in a stand of trees on a hill above the local ballfields. I didn`t see any people out there, and I enjoyed a beautiful sunset

 

Camp in Gore, OK above the town baseball fields.

That evening as well as some quality gaming with my Gameboy DS that night – it was the first time that I had turned on the Gameboy during the entire trip. I have two games with me – Advance Wars: Days of Ruin, and The Legend of Zelda Phantom Hourglass. The system and games were all purchased on eBay before departure for about $100…hopefully I will get some good use out of the setup during the rest of the trip! Another luxury item (a 10oz. Hammock) has, sadly, already been mailed home after not being used during the first two weeks of the trip.

The following morning, I woke up late – about 9:30 – and departed Gore with empty water bottles and not much food. The ballfields where I`d camped are on the E side of town about half a mile from the nearest store, and I didn`t want to go back for supplies. SO… I put my headphones in, and pedaled the ten miles to Vian, OK where the only place open for breakfast was the Short Stop convenience store / gas station. In terms of gas stations and convenience stores, it`s actually not bad. I got coffee, two pastries for $1, and two bar `b` que sandwiches for $3. A $5 meal… While I was there, I met a woman named Pat and a girl – who I assumed to be her niece – named Bobbie. Bobbie was a Vian local, and Pat was visiting from Ft. Smith to practice with her Christian Rock band – something that she does every Sunday morning. We talked for twenty minutes about Seize The World, and about life in the Vian / Ft. Smith area. Pat, unfortunately, was unable to practice that day because the band member whose house was going to be the location for practice, was sick. She made a donation to Seize The World on her way out, and then stopped later that afternoon as she drove past me on the highway about a mile outside of Ft. Smith. I wish that I`d gotten a bit more time to talk with her about life in Ft. Smith, but hopefully I`ll meet some more people while I`m here!

My arrival in Ft. Smith was beautiful, prolonged, and finally, cold. I crossed the Arkansas at about 5p.m.

 

View of the Arkansas River from the bridge NW of Ft. Smith.

As the sun was setting, and rode down the main street in town – whose name slips my mind at the moment, before beginning my search for a campsite.

 

Bike`s Perspective – crossing the Arkansas into Ft. Smith.

The search took quite a while. Ft. Smith is a city of 80,000 people, and is thus sprawled in every direction for quite a ways. Every direction, that is, except Northwest. In that direction, it is hemmed in by the Arkansas River. Had I been wise, I would`ve crossed the river, checked out downtown, and then went back across the river to find camping. There is a phrase that that began to run through my thoughts as my search went on: the perfect is the enemy of the good. Decide ahead of time to settle for a good campsite on the other side of the river, and don`t wast time searching for the perfect campsite in downtown (which doesn`t exist). Live and learn…the process will become more efficient as I go along! Finally I found a suitable spot on the SE side of town, remembered where it was, and then backtracked a little ways to a coffee shop that I`d spotted earlier. I charged my Gameboy, plugged in my laptop, updated this website (see the route page and the previous post) and hung out in a warm place for a couple of hours.

Now I am enjoying a rest day before two slide shows – one tomorrow (the eleventh) at 6p.m. @ Webster University, and one the next day (the twelfth) at 4 p.m. @ Fort Smith Library. Today`s plans are to format, box, and drop off my Apple computer (finally!), to go to the library, to start research for European publicity, to order a bike part or two, and to try to stay out of the cold rainy weather outside as much as possible. If you have actually made it this far into reading this post, I would like you to know that I`m very grateful for your interest in Seize The World and also that I`m writing these entries as much as I can, so your interest is very-much appreciated!

Fort Smith, Arkansas.

 

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