Meet Bruce Steincamp, his hardware store right on main street in Newkirk is housed in a building dated 1903. Outside, lawn mowers park on the sidewalk next to the bakery. Across the street the stone court house sits on a rolling lawn. The high school is nearby and students walk to the bakery for donuts or lunch.
For anyone on the Trans America Trail Housers Hardware is well stocked and motorcycle friendly. One motorcycle adventurer even had his oil shipped there for a needed change.
We left downtown Newkirk with full tanks and full bellies headed for Alva. Then we went straight… forever. I knew we would have to cross the plains eventually and here it was. Not a hill or tree in site.
We came up on a “bridge out” sign and slowly went around it. The highway men ignored us, busy putting the finishing touches on a new bridge. Hopefully we’ll get to ride through a creek one of these times.
The ride continued straight and straighter. It could have been boring but the closer we got to Alva the more exciting it got. The gravel turned to dust. Mountains of silt threw the bikes around. It was like riding in snow but it was over 100 degrees. We battled deep sand, deep silt, and washboard. The road could be hardpack and invite you to run wide open and then suddenly deteriorate to slippery deep powder. It was exhausting. We took refuge from the sun under a big tree behind an abandoned farmhouse. We watched beetles wander around in the dirt while we drank hot water.
Back on the trail I tried to take a little detour and high sided. My new Dunlops kept me just high enough that I couldn’t touch the ground and the bike lay down. Farm house dogs howled as Samantha jogged back down the road to help me pick it up. Gas had leaked out of the tank so I gave it a few minutes before we were off again.
Twenty more miles down the road and Samantha disappeared. I turned around in deep sandy silt to find her off the trail in a bush. “I fell in the prickers” she said in her sweetest voice. We got the bike upright and back on the “road.” You could look back and see her track start to weave in the rut wider and wider until it went right off the road. Later, we learned how to avoid these swerving events in the deep stuff by pushing forward on the bars with both arms to steady the front wheel.
We fought the last sections of a road destroyed by oil and natural gas trucks and finally we were in the sweet town of Alva. We passed The Rialto, an old movie theatre. The original sign, part 50’s modern, part art deco, clung to the side of the building shooting – spaceman like – into the sky. The place was showing movies! We’ve seen lots of historic downtown theaters but rarely in business.
As we ride around downtown Alva we somehow separated. I went around the block again unknowingly circling Ron’s shop. He came out into the street, waving. “Can I help you find something?”
“Samantha” I thought, but asked him about food instead. He was a great help and we found ourselves in a little burrito bar, dazed, dusty and dehydrated. Samantha had a dust mustache where the silt had stuck to her sunscreen. We laughed deliriously. We sat soaking up the A/C and sucking on Sweet Tea while our phones charged. It was obvious there was no vacancy anywhere in Alva. The Oilmen we had passed in trucks out on the trail were now filling every motel. Once again we were looking at darkness and not many options. We rode around to a few motels anyway, then into an RV park, “No camping here and don’t ride on my grass.”
We were headed back across town where I remembered seeing a sign for more RV hookups. We were looking at a long ride in the dark to the next town. I noticed Ron’s garage door was still open so we stopped, hoping to get a lead on some lodging. He didn’t hesitate at all. You can camp out back here or in our yard.
“Don’t you want to ask your wife first?” I said.
“No tents” Teresa said, “they’ll sleep in the guest bedroom.” And just like that our faith in humanity was restored had it ever waned. The setting sun seemed less ominous and we explored their shop. The storefront was converted into a motorcycle shop where Ron was swapping wheels on their motocross bikes for this weekend’s race. Deeper into the building was a 1954 Chevy that belonged to his great grandfather. Ron had stripped it to the frame and rebuilt it, the quintessential American hot rod.
We had a cozy night and woke up to hot coffee and fried eggs. Refreshed, we were on the road again but the world around us seemed more friendly. Strangers had invited us into their homes and now every home, every stranger seemed our friend. That simple act of trust and generosity had made the world a better place. And on we went, next stop Shorty’s Cafe, Buffalo Oklahoma.