Sunday, August 10, 2014
It’s been a long time since we woke up to the sound of rain, sound of thunder, and flashes of lightning. Storms rolled through central Oklahoma in the early morning hours and by the time we had finished showering and packing, the sun was on the rise as we went to grab breakfast.
At breakfast, we met a young guy that is a contractor for Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) Railroad and part of a team that reconditions the railroad tracks. His crew is normally working the rails for a six week stint, from Chicago to Southern California. After breakfast and As we were going to grab our gear to load the bikes, I was wondering if he ever sang, “I’ve been working on the railroad, all the live long day. …”. Madelyn wasn’t amused.
By 7:30am, we were loading the bikes with standing puddles of water in the parking lot. Our day was less than two hundred miles to Liberal, Kansas; although yesterday’s mud experiences represent that we need to heed caution to the road conditions.
With the rain gone and sun to our backs, we headed west to reconnect with the TAT. Every dirt/gravel road we passed was thick gumbo and rutted from four-wheeled vehicles. We have first hand knowledge of how our bikes handle such muck, so we pressed on further hoping that roads would dry as we headed west.
The roads started appearing dry, so we made an effort to work our way back onto the TAT. Things started well. We rode cautiously and the roads started revealing their true condition. Surfaces appeared dry, but many areas were still rather soft under the upper crust.
Each assessment yielded the same result… give it a go until right before things become impassable/impossible. It wasn’t long before we had to retrace our path and return to asphalt for a safer and more predictable route. No such luck. Whatever rain had fallen was still present as we throttled westward. And given the flood warning signs, signs of erosion in the adjacent fields, and what appear to be areas that are prone to flash flooding, this area seems to get hit regularly with such storms.
Considering how green the fields have been and the rainfall during the last several days, it’s hard to visualize how bad things were when there was a mass exodus to California in the 1930s due to years of drought. The conditions must have been horrific and hopefully not something that occurs any time in the near future.
Windmills still exist rather frequently and their condition spans from totally dilapidated to fully functional. As we rode along, we saw windmill after windmill dancing to some magical tune created by Western Oklahoma winds.
Due to the road conditions and a desire to mitigate our risks, today was a relatively short travel day as we rolled into Liberal, Kansas right at noon. We filled our tanks with fuel and made a quick pass through town. Apparently Dorothy called Liberal home, but today Dorothy and the Russells are minorities in this Western Kansas community. Today, the town appears to be largely Hispanic and most businesses are geared towards Hispanic culture.
We stopped by Taqueria El Gallo de Jalisco for dinner and we were the only gringos in the place. What a weird experience. We placed our order at the counter and found a table and seats. That’s not weird, but the two flat panels mounted on the walls showing some bizarre movie with John Travolta with scenes of torture and whatever was definitely weird. Then, you couple this with twenty other patrons with their children trying to eat dinner with the bizarre movie playing like it’s totally normal and we have quite a memory.
The weather conditions tonight and tomorrow are promising, so we’re optimistic about our last stretch of TAT in Oklahoma, our short stretch of TAT in New Mexico, and our entry into Colorado on the TAT.