Guymon OK – Vicksburg MS
Thur Sept 24, 2020
With a 900+ mile day staring me in the face, best to get moving early again if I wanted to have a chance for any kind of locally-sourced dinner tonight. I was on the bike and rolling out of Guymon by 05:00 northeast to complete my initial traverse across the skinny Oklahoma panhandle. Truck traffic was ever-present on US 54, but not heavy. I crossed into Kansas without breaking any laws (that I’ve been made aware of) and pulled into the Loves station (on Pancake Blvd!) around quarter to six, for my documentation receipt.
Within minutes, I was motoring southeast back into Oklahoma on US 270, the temperature dropping about 10 degrees. My two GPS units had a brief argument on which way to route me near Turpin, and I judged in favor of my trusty Zumo 350 and continued south to pick up US 412 in Balko. Then I just I beelined west for miles in the darkness, with nothing to focus on outside the beam of my lights.
Dawn approached as I neared the city of Woodward. Riding stop and go through the light early city traffic, the sun hung low and heavy in front of me, a giant reddish disc overpowering the horizon.
A half hour or so out of Woodward, I was surprised to be treated to one last glimpse of “western” landscape in the form of some isolated buttes along the highway. Other than that, the riding was straight, peaceful and uneventful, maintaining decent high speeds on the arrow-straight highway except through crossroad towns until I reached the mid-state city of Enid, where I stopped for my Oklahoma documentation receipt.
Route 412 converted to a divided four-laner east of Enid, eventually becoming a toll turnpike road towards Tulsa. I continued to put away the miles, with highlights including the scenic causeway crossing of Keystone Lake and a beat up old pickup truck with a bunch of miserable-looking goats in the back.
Getting through Tulsa on the interstate loops was a breeze in the late morning, though certainly more traffic than I had seen in several days. I continued on US 412 straight east out the other side of the city. I was headed for the Arkansas line, but exited a few miles short on US 59 in the town of Kansas. I zig-zagged northeast through Colcord on some pretty farm roads until I reached the state line.
OK 20 runs right on the state line north to the tri-state corner with Missouri. A literal stone’s throw into South West City MO is a convenient gas station that provided my Missouri receipt. This was the 24th state of the journey, halfway through my list, and the least mileage spent in any state along the entire trip.
I enjoyed a few more curves and rural scenery on the back roads winding south through Gentry to return to US 412. I re-joined the interstate system in Elm Springs, after three days of great riding on the US and state highways of the western states. It was quite a drone, motoring southeast diagonally across Arkansas, stopping just south of Little Rock for my receipt (the only one on the trip that I forget to photograph in front of the odometer).
The only exceptional event worth mentioning along this stretch was having a semi truck tire explode right next to me. The sound really was as explosive as people say. I was passing by the truck close on the heels of another car and bits of rubber bounced off both us, hitting my windshield as I ducked down. I pushed up closer to the car ahead of me, feeling trapped while waiting for what seemed like forever to get past the truck before the big gator finally came off the wheel! As the truck gradually slowed, I was able to get past without incident, heart pounding. Needless to say, I’ve now begun passing trucks very quickly on the highways rather than just cruising by at whatever speed I happen to be going.
I-49, I-40 and I-530 got me as far as Pine Bluff, where I continued southeast on US 65 into the Mississippi Delta region. I hadn’t put much extra effort into this section of the ride, just allowing the mapping software to create an efficient routes to snag all the southern states. I was pleasantly surprised to find myself riding on part of the Great River Road, amidst huge cotton fields and bayous connected to Old Man River himself.
I’m a fan of blues and jazz, and have listened to a lot of folk recordings from original delta-area musicians. It was pretty cool to be rolling through classic scenes from their home region at last. Though today’s temperatures were moderate and it was overcast from the outer bands of the latest tropical storm, I looked around and could imagine the scene from 150 years ago around me on a blazing summer day – cotton fields being worked as far as the eye could see and freight trains constantly steaming through next to the road.
I crossed into Louisiana and cruised through a few small river towns, the two-lane highway briefly lined with small closely spaced one-story houses that looked like they could once have been the domiciles of plantation workers or sharecroppers 150 years ago.
Oh and I rode through Transylvania…how cool is that??
Pulling in to Tallulah LA at twilight, I fueled up. The receipt didn’t have the city and state, and neither did the duplicate from inside the store. Crap, complete failure, that’s a first for the trip!
I went across the street to a Circle K. All the pumps were down (!), so I bought a candy bar inside to finally secure a valid receipt for Louisiana. I hopped on I-20 for a short stint in a very light drizzle to cross over the Mississippi River into Vicksburg, Mississippi, this evening’s destination. Officially back in the eastern US!
I fueled up at a handy station for my documentation receipt, then checked in to the nearby Quality Inn. After cleaning up, I did some quick online searching to get me some fried catfish, cuisine I’d been looking forward to since the trip-planning stages.
The Beechwood Inn Restaurant up the street was able to fix me up. I called in the order, put on minimal gear, and hopped back on the bike to retrieve my dinner. Upon arriving at the restaurant in the drizzle, I couldn’t find my mask and assumed I’d left it in the room. Quickly improvising, I rolled up my fleece pullover and wrapped it partially around my face, going into the (thankfully) uncrowded restaurant looking quite the fool. Don’t mind me, just a crazy yankee passing through! The staff were kind and didn’t make fun of me to my face at least.
Back in the room, the catfish really hit the spot while I reviewed tomorrow’s ride and booked my next hotel.
Today’s ride had been about covering some necessary distance in the route plan. I would have loved the opportunity to ride a more interesting route on scenic state roads through Arkansas rather than the superslab, but you do have to pick and choose your lollygagging to an extent on this ride. If I’d been willing to sacrifice the extra day’s cushion in the ride plan, I would have ridden through the Ozarks and Ouachita National Forest areas on the western side of the state. I really enjoyed riding through there during Butt Lite IX, so it’s something to look forward to exploring more deeply on a future trip.