Our 2002 Route
Route miles - 394
Third Time is a
By Laurie Allshouse
2002 was our third cycling trip across the state of Oklahoma. My
cousin, Leonard, from South Dakota, joined us while his girlfriend, Pat,
drove our van and set up our camp every night. Craig and Debbie
Whitacre joined us for a fun filled, action packed week that began in
Snyder, where the women experienced cold showers and the men boasted of
hot showers. What a ripoff!
I had previously been told that FreeWheel went from the south part of the state to the north part of the state because the wind usually blows that way. Our two previous trips didn’t seem to know the rule, but this year we had tailwind rides for the first four days. It was fantastic.
Sunday, we rode through Meers and barely survived the monster BLT that must have held ½ lb of bacon. Our ride into Elgin was most enjoyable, riding on a tailwind with cloudy skies and very light rain to keep us cool.
Monday, as we were headed to Hinton, my chain came off while I was going up a hill. I tried to unclip but was entirely unsuccessful and took my first fall with clipless pedals. Craig saw me fall and rushed over to unclip my tethered foot. I dusted myself off, checked out the road rash on my knee and rode to the next rest stop. Debbie brought over a chiropractor that offered to fix my hand that was hurting. With light blue eyes that seemed to try to hypnotize me, he rubbed a pouch on his hip and made strange hand movements before touching my arm and declaring, “It’s not your hand, it’s your elbow. Would you like me to fix it?” I consented and he gently twisted my arm several times. The pain disappeared. I commented that I’d never been to a chiropractor and he said he was a bit unconventional, named his practice, which I, of course, couldn’t pronounce or remember. His hand movements were to test my energy.
Our ride into Hinton went through some road construction and with the wind blowing, we had quite a dust storm to navigate. Unfortunately we had ice cold showers awaiting us and I couldn’t even wash the sand out of my hair. Thankfully, Day 3 did not have spaghetti for dinner as the previous two days offered. We had a great meal at the high school of BBQ beef, green salad, beans, baked potato, iced tea and dessert. This was a fundraiser for the Senior Class project and servers walked around refilling our iced tea just as fast as we could drink it.
Jim ran into the witch doctor in the shower who asked how I was doing. He asked if my fingers were getting numb. He told Jim that I had two ribs misplaced. He showed up at our tent with those piercing blue eyes and offered to fix me again. This was starting to get a little weird.
The next day as we were cooling down in a convenience store on the ride to Kingfisher, the witch doctor shows up out of nowhere and sits beside me when Jim gets up to go to the bathroom. Debbie popped around the corner and mentioned that her wrists were really bothering her. He “tested” her energy and she realized what I had been talking about with the strange hand movements. He then told her that it wasn’t her wrists or her elbows but it was her neck. He asked her to stand against the wall and he hit her in the upper chest so hard that her eyes became four times their normal size. If she hadn’t been standing against the wall, she would have been knocked over. We all started laughing (aren’t we just the greatest of friends?). Debbie looked so shocked. Then he hit the other side. It was hysterical. She shook herself off and reassessed the situation before declaring that her wrists did, in fact, feel better. The witch doctor sat back down beside me and people asked him all sorts of questions. He said he went around camp giving people adjustments and not charging for it but he usually got a hug. Then he elbowed me. Hint, hint. I thought Jim was going to become unglued. That only made us laugh even harder. After the witch doctor left our table, John McGrath said, “I wasn’t about to tell him my butt hurt. Who knows where he would have hit me?”
From Okarche to Kingfisher it was downhill all the way with a tailwind. Life doesn’t get any better than that. Or does it? Hot showers finally! ! ! ! ! We hopped in the van and drove back to Okarche for a fried chicken dinner, explaining to cousin Leonard that it was another Oklahoma tradition he couldn’t miss. His comment, “I don’t know how many more traditions I can stand”, came about because he had only ridden his new bike about five minutes before loading it on the car to come to Oklahoma. Although he works out every day and is great shape, he didn’t have his riding butt prepared for this cross state odyssey. He hurt all over but he wasn’t going to tell the witch doctor ;-)
Moni named Crazy Day on Tuesday and more people seemed to jump into the spirit. Diana Lerma dressed up the spokes on her bike with different colored covers but she rides so fast that it was just a blur. I encouraged her to slow to a crawl but she just laughed. She won four gold medals at the recent Senior Olympics. There is no slowing her down now. Andy Baker had been a bride at last year’s crazy day. This year he was pregnant, riding his new recumbent. We teased Esther that she should be the mime with her white face sunscreen and laryngitis. A couple of days later Andy had laryngitis and couldn’t utter a peep.
Our longest day was Wednesday from Kingfisher to Perkins. The ride to Guthrie was fun and mostly cloudy but east of Guthrie the sun came out and we had heat, humidity, hills and the road from hell. Highway 105 had big semi trucks that were not happy to see 1500 bicyclists maneuvering up the hills. The heat index had to be 100 degrees. Jim swore someone was going to be hit by one of those trucks. The rest stops saved my bacon. One had my favorite fruit – grapes. I knocked someone over getting to the grape packet on the table. Then I was calmly told that there were plenty of grapes in a nearby ice chest. The official FreeWheel rest stop, run by wonderful Girl Scouts, offered dill pickles. Nothing revives me quicker in heat than dill pickles. They will also cure cramps. Then as we turned north on 177 some woman was yelling to come soak your tired feet in their wading pool. One of our friends yelled from across the street at the convenience store, so Jim and Leonard headed that way. I headed for the water. The non-descript building had tables set up with homemade cookies. There wasn’t a line at the bathroom. I bought some oatmeal cookies from a grandmotherly, sweet woman who claimed to have baked them herself. Then I went out back and found padded benches under huge shade trees surrounding the wading pool with ice-cold water. I plopped myself down and enjoyed a cooling breeze as I ate my cookies. What heaven after riding the road from hell! After five or ten minutes I was totally refreshed and walked across the road to join our friends. They were amazed that I had rejuvenated so quickly and I told them there was a hose with cold water to soak down before the hot ride into Perkins.
Perkins is such a neat little town and they went all out for their first time of hosting FreeWheel. Pat found a place to pitch our tents on a lawn. We had a fabulous dinner of homemade chicken and noodles, baked potatoes, green salads and homemade desserts. It was hot and muggy but the threat of a terrible storm caused Debbie and Craig to sleep in the gym. As the storm approached, we enjoyed the cooler air and only went into our tents when it started to rain. The wind blew but our new tent was steady as a rock while others billowed in the breeze. Nature’s light show and accompanying thunder lulled me to sleep and I missed the rainstorm that passed over us. Our tent never leaked and we declared it a keeper.
Thursday’s ride to Pawnee was cool and cloudy to start. I felt GREAT! A good night’s sleep and cool morning air are all the stimulant I need to ride like the wind. Add a Starbuck’s double shot and I became a rocket. Gary Pershall encouraged me to keep up with him but after five miles, my natural inclination to tour through life took over. I slowed down to stop and smell the roses.
Halfway to Glencoe it began to rain on us. It was warm so the rain wasn’t much of a factor with my touring bike’s wider tires. I was noticing the pretty clouds that looked like mountains, when Craig and Debbie rode up to say that those were mighty scary clouds. Trusting that a pilot knows more about the sky than I do, we kicked in the after burners and hustled to the lunch stop in Glencoe. We took shelter in the school and the rain hit harder as we ate. I pulled out my little deck of cards that I had won at work and Leonard showed John Wente, Debbie and me how to play Black Jack. After an hour or so, Craig called his cronies at work to see what the weather was doing. The worst of the storm had passed us by and they were expecting rain for the next two or three hours but without the dreaded lightening. It wasn’t raining that hard, so we decided to ride on.
Riding into Pawnee was nice and cool. Just a great day to be alive! It was my best riding day of the whole trip. I sailed! Pat found a quiet place to set up camp near the showers. The main contingent of campers was down on the town square, camping in the shadow of the courthouse, complete with live band music.
Friday dawned cool and comfortable. The wind started up from the north and we began to fight a headwind on the rolling hills from Fairfax to Shidler. Ponca City was finally reached after 69 miles of headwind. Okay, we may have experienced 3 miles that weren’t headwind but it was still a tough day. Jim and Arletta Webster surprised us by greeting us at camp. When the rumor of yet another cold shower awaiting us hit our tired ears, they offered a hot shower at their daughter’s apartment and we jumped at the chance. When we got back to camp, it was time to catch a bit of Speed Wheel. A short walk brought us to the street that the racers were whizzing by. We had just missed curly haired Mark’s race and heard that Jerry Neville had taken a spill on the very corner where our friends were set up. We watched for a short bit but the hunger pangs began to overtake our existence and we left to forage dinner at Chili’s.
Saturday dawned with mixed emotions since this would be our last day. What a great week with every host town being better than the last! Perkins was voted the favorite and I totally agreed but Pawnee had to be a close second. They’ve won the award before so it seemed right that a newbee town that really pulled out all the stops would win this year. We just didn’t want the day to end and when John Wente suggested stopping by to meet his folks in Blackwell, we heartily agreed. His mom is the sweetest little thing, standing beside a bear of a husband. It’s easy to see where John got his height.
We made it to South Haven by noon and decided to take showers before the closing ceremonies at 1:00. The best showers were saved for last. They were hot. They were clean. I wish all of our stops could have had these great facilities.
One of the neatest things about this year’s FreeWheel was the variety of ages that rode with us. 15 year old curly haired Mark, who rides with Scott Freeman, quickly picked up the humor of our perverted men folk and became one of the members of our rolling comedy team. 12-year-old Mickey was one of the few people I could pass as I rode up a hill. Mickey’s sister, Sarah, was always somewhere way ahead of us, and his mom was always somewhere behind. I seemed always to be passing him so he must not have made as many stops as I did. I would run into his mother in the shower every night. He had me sign his t-shirt at the end of the week and told me that next year he would train more and I wouldn’t be able to pass him on the hills anymore. Heck, give him a year of growth and some training; I’ll probably never see him again. That would be sad because he is just one of those neat kids that you always enjoy riding by. Barbara Lamb rode all 500 miles on her first FreeWheel and can now consider herself a cyclist. One gentleman celebrated his 76th birthday on FreeWheel and had a t-shirt advertising his birthrate in Roman numerals. Leonard was shocked at how many people there were that were older than him (57) and who were riding this trek across the state. The best SAG of the week had to go to Pat Collins of Rapid City, SD who found a camp site for us every night, put up our tents, chilled the beer and even did laundry for us. The heat and humidity took their toll the first part of the week but she seemed to perk right up when the cooler temperatures arrived.
There is something so special about FreeWheel: the people who ride, the people who offer sag support and the host towns who open their facilities and hearts to total strangers. None of this would be possible without the organization of a very special person, who is the heart and soul of FreeWheel, Libby Stalter. Next year is the 25th anniversary of FreeWheel and it will begin where the 1st one began in Dennison, TX. Hope to see you there!
So many funny things happened on FreeWheel, that it can take weeks to have these incidents recreated in your mind. One such occasion occurred when OBS member, Esther Goldsmith, decided to ride to town to do a little shopping. Esther always looks so elegant after she's showered off the day's grit and grime. She usually wears a long dress or skirt to glide around camp. This particular day it was a long denim skirt. Now just how do you deal with all that material on a bike? Esther bends over, grabs the back hem and pulls it forward to safety pin to the front waistband. Looks like a giant diaper, but it works. Off she rides to hunt for more sunscreen, while the rest of us vegetate in what little shade we can find while drinking libations to keep hydrated. Sometime later, here comes Esther wielding a shopping bag. She says something about ice cream and everybody better be having some. Ice cream? In this heat? Yup. She pulls out a gallon of ice cream, a sleeve of plastic bowls and a box of plastic spoons. Ice cream? I'm still dumbfounded as she takes out an ice cream scoop and a can of chocolate syrup that she had the store people open before putting the yellow cap back on the can. "Hurry up," Esther says, "It won't take long for this stuff to melt." We snap out of our shocked daze and start dishing up this cool delicious treat while grabbing passer bys to help consume this afternoon delicacy before it melts. Only Esther would have thought to buy a whole gallon and share instead of just an ice cream cone. She's one amazing FreeWheel cyclist!