Yesterday I went in and out of four states, calm not being one of them. That’s not entirely true, my iPod was all charged up and the random shuffle really synched in with the events, helping me to remain calm. I get total joy from a good random shuffle….
I left Shreveport, Louisiana early, headed for Tulsa, about a 10 hour drive. The route wove in and out of both Arkansas and Texas. Mostly I plan my routes using a combination of google and an inadequate atlas-but a good friend just sent me a birthday package with individual states maps. Score! Usually google is pretty decent, but the detail can be convoluted and too much information to retain on a ten hour drive. I enjoy seeing the route right in front of me, old school navigation-atlas and compass. Excited about using my new maps, I ignored the route google suggested. There are several things I have to keep in mind when I plotting my course-back roads and keeping the Peace sign shape-which can be unwieldy.
Route 71 out of Shreveport looked advantageous-it was a straight shot up and over to Tulsa and would keep the first “Peace spoke” of the circle pretty defined. I was expecting to lose the usual city traffic about 10 miles out of Shreveport, but it turns out that many big rigs use the road. In these parts, scooters are an anomaly-people drive trucks-probably for farming purposes and to deal with the lackluster road conditions. They also haul more than farm equipment-they haul ass down the road. Making the best of it though, I choose to enjoy tuffing it out with the big boys, cruising along with the Peace flag flying and trying to stay off of people’s grills. Speed limit was unexpected for what had appeared to be small by-ways, anywhere from 55-70 mph, MINIMUM. Mostly 71N was a two lane road with passing allowed, so I had ridiculous scenarios with people zooming past me, tractor trailers close ahead coming towards us. I had to see it through though, unless I wanted to backtrack 50+ miles, until I could cut over to 70W to Broken Bow, OK, where 259N would take me to Tulsa. Even 259N, a curvy mountain route cutting through beautiful OK forests had a speed limit of 65 mph. I just don’t think this can be avoided, and that’s also what I have been told. My scooter can handle high speeds and if you are going cross country on roads like these, I don’t recommend anything less than 125cc. Safety is crucial! I find myself pulling over a good amount, just to relax and keep a positive mindset when facing hectic traveling. The main obstacles I face are the poor roads in certain parts-made riskier with high speeds, tractor trailers, heavy gear, and high wind across the plains. It’s relatively unpaved territory to take a scooter on these roads, so I hope the info I am offering helps other scooterists-and I welcome any travel tips. I choose to ride Audrey for this mission because she is environmentally friendlier-on roads and the fuel supply. Also, what better way to reach people than travel right through the veins of America? I get to notice all the little details of each town’s culture. And the road signs/attractions are just better along these routes!
I definitely observe a huge difference in culture, especially after leaving New Orleans and the charming southern hospitality attitude. People all along the East Coast were generally curious and engaging. That gives me an immediate opportunity to talk about the project and find common ground with people. With the exception of my host, Doug, in Shreveport and the lovely people he works with, my welcoming in these parts has been chilly. The past couple of days I have had to make the first moves and break the ice. Long stares and silences usually welcome me so I just smile a lot, use polite addresses and tell people up front what I am doing. Despite our differences, there is usually a way to dissolve a stranger’s skepticism. Part of them warming up to me could just be the sheer craziness of driving a scooter 9,000 miles. I do find it ironic that this heartland of America is very faith oriented, yet not friendly or loving to strangers. There are abundance of signs, “God Bless America,” etc. and yesterday I found myself wishing Christ had ridden a scooter and not a cross-maybe drivers would give me some room.
I am also a bit nostalgic for those bayous of Southern LA but am now surrounded by the plains and farmland. Of course I enjoy the scenery contrast, but I didn’t really get to take many pictures, since the driving was pretty hectic. The air had a smell to it that reminded me of summer camp back in Virginia, it must have been the pine trees. Southern and central Louisiana was so fragrant, to my surprise. The bayous released a salty smell, the earth there is very fertile, and at night, some particularly intoxicating flower opens up. Texas and Arkansas didnt really offer me any olfactory reprieve. State maintenance was cruising the other side of the road, headed my direction, spraying chemicals, which means that part of the route was saturated with an unpleasant toxic, smell. Bad timing for me. The raging heat amplified the smells of factories and I spent most of the day without the helmet shield even cracked. Times are a changing for sure, heading North and through the main artery of our country.
I will reach Tulsa in a few hours. I stopped last night at sunset in a town called Poteau-whose mascot seems to be Pirates. Poteau rhymes with Tae-Kwon-Do, just so ya know. Salina, KS is the middle of the Peace sign and I will arrive there Friday. Traveling is going really well overall, at every level, and I hope to see some Critical Mass rides happening soon. There is a heat wave happening, which is tolerable for me, although I am loosing lots of electrolytes and even get wicked charley horses at night-there is a correlation I think. So, even though I swear off Walmart, I utterly despise them, I am heading over right now to buy some Emergen-C. Thats a great powder you dissolve in H20 to consume mass electrolytes and vitamins at once. I have been fighting making a stop at Wal Mart, they are littered throughout the country and would make shopping easy, but my health is important. I have been able to reduce my shopping there to a once a year event-and usually thats just to take advantage of the “Wal Mart rental program.” 🙂
Stay tuned for the updates about NOLA and the ride to Shreveport. I have to scram now….
Have a wonderful day!