Monday morning in downtown Tulsa. The city is still deserted for labor day. Our dusty bags have exploded all over the suite. There’s dirty bowls and leftover split pea soup.
Our camp stove is set up on the executive desk. My goggles are in the sink, wet socks and underwear hang from every available surface. There’s throw up on the toilet from too many vodka and red bulls. We reluctantly pack but I’m excited to get back on the trail. I’m also excited to try out the brand new monster knobbies we put on the WR.
We stop by a corporate health food store and stock up on things that are dehydrated, light and non – spoilable. A girl asks us what we’re up to with our shopping cart full of helmets and motorcycle jackets.
“oh that’s so Mad Max, you guys are awesome.” she says.
I spread out maps and coffee and plan our route while Samantha shops.
We’re heading due north out of Tulsa until we pick up the trail again. The GPS wants to put us on highway 75 until I reset it for bicycling. That gets us off the main roads. There is no gas for 130 miles once past Skiatook. Samantha has already figured out campsites along the way.
The parking lot is black tar and it is viciously hot out today. A man tells me we are living his dream, traveling around by motorcycle. Another pulls up, “Where you going and where’d you come from?” he wants to know. I’m down on one knee trying to stuff food into a bag on the side of the bike. I have knee high boots on, bike shorts and thick motorcycle pants. We like to chat with the locals but it’s just too damn hot so we cut it short.
We ride out the north side of Tulsa. We pass abandoned, broken down gas stations. Some of them look like they might be lived in. Junk yards, RV’s and old cars line the highway. Homes look broken. Everything impoverished and rusty. Houses with caved in roofs. We pass a sign that says, “Dirt Pit” with an arrow. It’s a stark change from downtown and the Mercedes crowded parking lot of the health food store.
We leave Tulsa and its outskirts behind. Fields give way to little towns. We fuel up and then fuel up our spare gas cans. With that we will make it 130 miles into Newkirk to the next gas station.
Skiatook has a nice little downtown with a few buildings but the next few towns are dead. What happened I wonder as we pass a broken window, clothes still hanging in the display. Perhaps the American dream lived and died here. The empty towns of gutted small town America. The superhighways and generic Kum and Go’s of highway land murdered and raped these sweet little towns of old bygone America.
The Osage Reservation looks like good Indian land. Rolling hills, forested valleys. Rivers and creeks running through. The bicycling GPS turns us off highway 11 and onto a little paved road with grass in the cracks. We go over lots of bridges but all the rivers are dry and dead. Then we are finally on dirt again. The knobbys dig in and dust flys. It’s hot. The wind blowing on us feels like a furnace. My eyes dry out, my nose, I can feel the moisture leaving my body.
Then suddenly Samantha is gone. I pull over to wait, still no headlight. I turn back around and find her two turns back kneeling by her motor next to a field of purple thistles. “It just died and won’t start.” she says.
We go through the drill, gas and spark. Samantha takes the spark plug out and burns herself. I try to handle it and burn myself. It’s dead quiet, there’s no shade anywhere, not a tree in site. We put the spark plug back into the wire and watch the end for spark. It sparks but we change it out for a fresh one anyway. I try to see where the gas line goes from the carb into the motor but can’t find it. I pull the incoming gas line off for the hell of it, who knows, vapor lock? Samantha wants to try it again, nothing. Then I try it while twisting the throttle and it comes alive. I drive it around a little, who knows, and we’re off again. Flying down gravel roads, bumping over cattle guards and the land turns into scenery again.
It dawns on me that we’re far enough west that carrying a days supply of water would be a good idea. If the bike hadn’t started we could have camped right there if we had more water. Two bikes also means we can tow each other or just hop on one bike to find better mechanics than us.
The land changes. Empty expanses stretch out to the horizon. Trees disappear. The dusty gravel road aims straight to the end of the earth. It’s a lonely land, the kind that makes men weep for companionship. An alien landscape of prairie and nothing else.
The bikes hum on, indifferent. Samantha’s big back wheel kicks up a huge plume of dust that animates in the violence of sleeping earth stirred awake by a 40 mile an hour tire. The sun lights up the dust as it swirls in a long stream behind her. The endless road rolls out till the earth curves.
Samantha’s bike dies again. She switches to her reserve tank and is back on my wheel before I know she’s missing. My gas light is on too but we expected this. We still have full gas tanks strapped in with our luggage.
We take turns dusting or being dusted. On the endless straight sections of road we ride side by side. The motors harmonize while we give each other silly hand signs. racing across the empty prairie, it feels as if we are the only two on earth after the apocalypse. The dried up riverbeds reinforce the feeling until finally we crest a hill and see green. An oasis. A huge reservoir surrounded by trees and grass. We descend down off the high prairie and discover where all the water went, locked up behind this damn. Killed all the rivers just in case we might need it some dry day.
We sputter into the campsite along the water. It feels like we just missed the party, Monday night and the Labor Day crowd just left. We get a site across from the “lake” and dive in. The sun is waning but it’s still hot. We set up our tent and fall into our familiar routine. Motorcycling and camping. It feels more like a way of life than a trip with a beginning and an end. We hold hands and watch the moon rise over the water. It’s a warm night with a light breeze. Samantha says its romantic. I agree, wishing the thought had occurred to me first. Her birthday is in a few days. Tomorrow we will fuel up from our spare tanks and make Newkirk and then Westward, ever Westward.