Saying the words “I’m riding across the USA” is a pretty easy action. Anyone can do it. “Yeah, I’m riding coast to coast”. It’s when you get to states like Oklahoma that the scale slaps you in the face and you end up cheating.
I really love riding on dirt. My mentor cousin in my post school banishing to work on the farm, and my gold standard of manliness, Mark Impey once said of me lusting after a sports motorbike “you’ll get bored of that thing very quickly because you love disappearing down dirt tracks”.
Well in Oklahoma there is a massive amount of ground to cover and it’s all perfect mile by mile squares. The trail goes a while, turns left 90°, goes for a while, turns right 90°… You get the picture. The Saint said ‘skip 2 days of Oklahoma and I did. Kinda.
So on to Boise City I go at a very sensible speed because I’m worried about wearing my knoblies. I head. North and wait for the interstate. A dashed line goes past on the rolling map on the GPS and I turn left (west).
So the. I realise I’m in yet another state and I’ve really diverted from the #TransAmericaTrail. We’re in Kansas now Ginko. At the next turn I turn left (it really is that easy to navigate over these distances) and a town appears. Cute, very ‘cowboy film’ with a wide Main Street, shops of caring and random sorts. Uniquely for me it has red brick streets. Not just the main drag (actually that’s just boring Tarmac) but the little side streets.
I decide to head west a bit farther and see a little burger joint with horses. My brain assumes they are fake, then Anne came to mind percussively: Eat Jason. Horses. and I slammed on the brakes for a quick ‘U’ turn.
Off with the helmet and peer at the smelly beasts tied to the ageing Coca-Cola sign of the burger place. I pull the screen door and quickly learn the knack to opening the sagging wooden one. In the relative darkness are men who work for a living. They all stare at me as I wrestle the portal into this most local of lunch spots.
I order a $4 cheese burger and follow the riders out to their horses to quiz them.
A reporter then appears and must have thought I was a much better story than his father in law getting up to equestrian mischief and our interview devolves into a chat. Apparently there USA town where the yellow brick roads. Follow the follow the follow the follow the, follow the red brick road mustn’t have had quite the same ring!
I then bump into more locals, Jake and Farmer. Yes Farmer is his name. I had to check that too; total character. Whilst Farmer was writing me a Karma Card on his lottery numbers notes Jake was interested in the route.
I said my goodbyes and headed off again at my tyre saving highway speed.
I had gone 40 miles when, with feet up on the crash bars in total cruiser position I see flashing from behind. More cops? I stop and Jake comes bounding toward me. “You might need these.” My precious #TransAmericaTrail maps in their map pocket had fallen off the back of my pannier beaver tail. I must have forgotten to clip the thing in place. Jake and Farmer chased me for 40miles out of their way to return my maps. Amaze.
A single lane road with vast landscape either side was my company for the next 4 hours. The sky reminded me of science fiction landscapes where the grain silos are given scale of distance by the haze in front.
The town is the last outpost of Oklahoma with nothing to draw anyone but railway workers, local farmers and some oil men. It’s pretty remote so 6AM breakfast sees the train of retired farmers cycle through the cute little cafe for their morning Joe, the chirpy proprietor attending to them without even asking. I purposely sit at a longer table and break the ice with a particularly frosty old dude. Wow he was hard work to warm up but eventually I told him where I came from and he said “Northern or Southern Rhodesia”. That was a surprise. It seems that his church had sent some missionaries our way before I was born and Southern Rhodesia became just Rhodesia and the Zimbabwe.
As the regulars rolled through in a succession of smaller and massive pickups I got chatting to a very bright eyed bloke who was keenly interested in the maps, the bike and where I had been. We talked vehicles and Terrell offered to show me his Mutt Jeep in a ‘shop across from the cafe. He’d been in the service and, like my Dad with his Land Rovers, had developed a kinship with this particular model; a Ford built independently coil sprung intermediate between the Willys and the Hummer. Unusually I was unaware of the model and took keen interest in Terrell’s description of how he is restoring it, using money from his ever declining well profits.
I had to cut it short because I had a very long way to go, in fact I rode around fourteen hours that day, starting through more farmers fields, dodging irrigation runoff and seeing the most wonderful herd of tiny deer with strange antlers.
I managed to drop Ginko again. Deep tractor ruts through sand and mud revealed hidden goop with nowhere to go and I was in the cotton. It took all my strength to right her after removing the dry bags.
New Mexico was a total change. It seems the state line drawers must look at the topography and go “yup, this is a different state; Joe…. Draw the line here this is New Mexico!”. It really looks like cowboy films and the riding got better and better up one over hills through the canyons. I passed through a farm after riding through a valley and then up a very steep switch backed road up onto a plain and I was in Colorado.
Again the countryside changed to rolling hills with mountains in the background. I had to ride carefully because fuel was an issue but eventually I got to a small stop in Trinidad where the open smoking culture of Colorado was truly evident because of the huge choice of implements on which to toke being offered.
Up and toward St Charles peak riding in national forest and open grazing I saw the rain ahead and donned the gimp suit. Not a minute later the red dirt turned to mud and I was climbing a very Welsh looking land up up up and down into the valley.
Ginko told me the time was getting on so, sitting on the side stand and wondering round looking at my phone for an official campsite I decided to head north to Denver. I’d be a day early, but better that than get soaked in the woods, knackered from a huge day.
I inflated the tyres hit the slab, entering Denver with some culture shock of being in a big city again. Not since New Jersey had I seen so many cars. I was then in the bosom of family eating delicious lamb kebabs in the beautiful modern garden of Cousin Adam and Carolyn’s Denver Red brick with Uncle Peter. I was shattered and very glad to be in a familiar surrounding with loved family who I’ve known since before I can remember.
To read the next exciting instalment click here – Colorado Rockies – Fear of Lightening