In this update, our journey reaches the 3/4 mark. We visit song places 69 and 70, Tulsa and Oklahoma. We draw our bow, meet the Golden Driller, save a turtle, trade ore for sheep, feed the chickens and dance in confetti. This is how the last lap begins…
I’ve done a couple of marathons, but they’re not for me. The race is more about effective bowel movement planning than profound strategy. Likewise, sprinting events don’t trip my trigger. They require no grit, determination or introspection.
But The Mile? That’s my race.
It demands a full set of competitive tools: Speed, stamina, surge and strategy. One needs to master each of these disciplines to complete The Mile effectively. Running a quality Mile is perhaps the only way to experience the sensations of suffocating and being on fire simultaneously. It is a true feast for the senses!
The race comprises four laps around the track. Each one has its own distinct purpose and personality. The final lap may appear to be the climax of the action, but it’s the third lap which truly measures the competitors.
The third lap begins at the mid-point of the race. By this time, maximum heart rate has already been reached and the brain is sending ever more urgent “cease and desist” messages. Maintaining proper positioning is critical, yet progressively more difficult as exhaustion clouds the mind. Burning out is a possibility if too fast of a pace is chosen. But if too slow of a pace is chosen, drifting out of striking distance to the leaders is inevitable.
At the end of the third lap, the end is in sight. Though more physically painful, the final lap requires less strategy. It only requires the runner to know oneself, choosing a level of exertion that will lead to the depletion of all system resources upon arrival at the finish line.
The third lap of this journey began in a hospital room in Jacksonville, Florida in November of 2017. Family friends, Todd and Leesa, struck place number 46 of 92 from my sign while Todd was still recovering from his liver transplant. (THIS POST)
Though I felt I was prepared for the third lap of this adventure, I truly had no idea what the next quarter of this trip would contain….
Monday, June 17th, 2019
Map of places in this post:
My hosts in Joplin, Adam, Natalie, Addilyn and Amelia loaded up with me to take a two day tour through northeast Oklahoma. (They didn’t all ride on Annie. This isn’t Nicaragua.) “Oklahoma” is also mentioned in the song, so the plan was to cross off two places in as many days.
I spent just a little time on the freeway, so I could get this photo:
Despite having billions of dollars of liquid gold beneath its surface, the state of Oklahoma still expects travelers to pay tolls. (Maybe they spent all the oil money teaching their college football teams how not to tackle?) As I pulled to the booth, it was clear that the rebellious motorcycle spirit was already infecting Adam. He brazenly jumped out of his car and paid my toll before I could fish my wallet out from between my layers of rain gear. Thanks, buddy.
Soon we were on a road that was more scenic, more iconic and much more free:
Like hyenas fighting over a zebra carcass, it seems like every town along Route 66 tries to get their piece of this historic highway. I’ll write more about this road later.
Our first stop in Tulsa was at the Gilcrease museum. I was actually looking for something that might serve as my backdrop for Oklahoma, rather than Tulsa. I’m not sure if it is allowed to take two song place pictures in the same city. Can one of the Everywhere Man board members check the bylaws for me?
From 2009-2016, Oklahoma had one of the best license plates in the country:
Unfortunately, their new one is some sort of white-out ink-blot test….
The sculpture featured on the former is Allan Houser’s Sacred Rain Arrow. It stands proudly in front of the Gilcrease Museum.
When a song place is an entire state, it is always difficult to choose a picture. I thought that something Native American themed would be appropriate for Oklahoma and I just love this sculpture. It depicts an Apache warrior firing an arrow blessed with prayers for rain into the Spirit World. You might say that this year his aim was really good.
The museum was actually closed for the day (Monday), so it was really easy to get Annie into position.
Moving on to the Tulsa picture, there was only one image that would suffice. I had perhaps never been so sure of a song place picture. The image to represent Tulsa has to be the Golden Driller.
I was giddy with enthusiasm at seeing this guy. Perhaps it’s because sometimes I struggle so hard to get that perfect song place picture. This was almost too easy and too perfect.
Adam’s assertion: Annoying attempts at absorbing alliteration are actually alarmingly alienating all avid acolytes absorbing amusing articles.
(That’s actually the best sentence I’ve written so far, I think)
Since he thinks my use of alliteration is “cheap,” he said I should write a haiku poem to describe the Golden Driller. Your wish is my command:
Needing six cow hides,
Custom made with rope laces,
Where does he buy shoes?
Adam and Natalie treated me to a great Mexican lunch. One of the best meals I had in Mexico was enchiladas Suizas (Swiss enchiladas) at a restaurant in Chiapas. Natalie made sure she found a place that offered this dish. They were great!
After lunch, it was time to check out one of Tulsa’s neatest attraction: The Gathering Place. I guess you could say it is a park, but that would be selling it extremely short. More than 80 private contributors donated $465 million (not a typo, I swear) to construct this sprawling amusement park for families along the Arkansas River.
It is completely free and the funds to maintain it have already been secured for the next 100 years.
The girls had a lot of fun playing…..and so did the boys. 🙂
I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a more expansive and entertaining city park.
The Family and I split up for a bit and I did some more exploring of Tulsa on my own.
I really wanted to find a piece of Golden Driller memorabilia, so I stopped into a shop called Decopolis. There I found a Golden Driller pin which will live on my tank bag.
The guy behind the counter was really helpful and gave me some more ideas for Tulsa pictures.
Old Route 66 through town has some interesting sights:
There was just one more picture I wanted. It is another Native American themed sculpture: Appeal to the Great Spirit by Cyrus Dallin.
I’m actually pretty proud of the following picture:
There was no lens flare in the original, but I have a technique to get this effect. I just wipe some of the grease/sunscreen mixture off of my nose and spread it across the lens of my phone camera. I had to do it a half dozen times or so, so the rays would disperse at just the angle that I wanted. I bet they don’t teach you that trick at photography school. 🙂
My home for the night would not be in Joplin. I was heading for one of the most recognizable places in the state: Muskogee.
In some ways I feel bad for the people from this town. Every time they tell someone where they are from, the song is the first thing people think of. It’s like when people say they are from Norfolk, Nebraska. People naturally respond, “Oh, the home of Everywhere Brett?” It must be terrible!
Muskogee is Natalie’s hometown. Her good friend, Tish, still lives their along with her boyfriend, Travis, and their kids. I took the scenic route, avoiding the tolls, which provided me with some great riding.
I had a great time getting to know our hosts. We kept them up way too late with a drawn out game of Catan.
Tuesday, June 18th
Tish and Travis became the first Oklahomans to sign Annie.
They also gifted me with an Oklahoma pin and some good tourist information about the state. Thank you guys!
On the agenda for the day was to complete some more Oklahoma themed experiences. First up though, I had to get a good Muskogee picture with my favorite Muskogeean (Muskoger? Muskogle?…not sure).
We would head on to Talequah. This city was established in 1839 as the capital of the Cherokee Nation after they were removed from their native lands in the Smoky Mountains area. The Cherokee Heritage Center is a living history museum in the area. We did not have time to tour it, so we went to a site called Hunter’s Home instead.
This place has a really interesting history. A Virginian named George Murrell married a Cherokee woman named Minerva Ross. They traveled the Trail of Tears together and established this plantation in 1845. As it was in Indian Territory, Murrell had no ownership of the land. Everything had to be in Minerva’s name.
The home and grounds have been well restored and cared for and there is even more restoration to come.
We received a guided tour of both the interior and exterior which was fascinating.
We even got to feed the chickens. 🙂
We stopped into a diner where I ordered a chicken fried steak sandwich that ended up being bigger than my head.
The Family needed to run a few errands and I explored Talequah a little bit more on my own. Some of their street signs include Cherokee. It has to be one of the coolest looking written languages I have ever seen.
The ride back to Joplin was easily the best riding of Chapter 4 so far.
About an hour into my ride, I came across a traveler that needed some help. A big turtle was slowly making his way across the road. Judging by its size, I thought it was a snapper, but it was just a huge box turtle. He was in a really bad spot, on the inside of a blind corner.
After parking Annie and running back to the terrified terrapene (sorry, Adam, the alliteration is here to stay), a car came around the curve. It slowed to a crawl as I gestured at it wildly. Wouldn’t you know, it was Adam and Natalie. This was unexpected, but I don’t think it is quite unlikely enough for the “never tell me the odds” gif. We have to have standards here.
We were a little hesitant to just grab the turtle, so we ended up just sort of foot-pushing him into the grass. Natalie took a great photo that I just love:
A guy from the adjacent campground walked over and said, “I can take him back to the river if that makes you feel better.” He just nonchalantly picked the turtle up and carried him away.
I will always stop when I see a turtle. A Western painted named “Swimmer” was my first ever pet. Likewise, I will always stop whenever I see a Honda Dream. I’ll have to come back and visit this museum sometime:
Back at home, Adam crossed off place number 69 of 92: Tulsa, Oklahoma. With this, it means that our journey is officially 3/4 complete. It was a good thing they still had a confetti cannon left over:
Natalie crossed off place 70 of 92: Oklahoma, officially beginning my final lap.
Just like the third lap of The Mile, the third lap of this journey was absolutely the most difficult phase. It spanned about 19 months. It included the long ride south through 14 countries, just to visit 11 song places. It encompassed my difficult hiatus during which I lost my Dad. It featured a time of resilient rebirth, as Mom and I traveled joyfully together. It has required the awesome support of a countless number of people to carry me to this point.
Now comes the final lap.
My eyes are fixed firmly on the prize. There’s nothing left to do but to pour my all into this experience. I am committed to opening my throttle wide open, so that when I cross the finish line I will be physically, mentally and emotionally expended. I guess I don’t know how else to travel. 🙂
22 to go.
Finish strong, everybody.
Realtime update: In terms of song places, I’m probably further behind in my writing than I have ever been. I still need to write about Springfield, Wichita, Dodge City and Hennessey. Texarkana is up next for me, but I am going to catch up a bit before heading there. I keep meeting wonderful people and having memorable experiences, so there are lots more stories to tell. I’m currently in Ardmore, OK, heading slowly across the southern side of the state. As always, thanks for coming along!
14 thoughts on “The Last Lap”
I checked the bylaws, you are good to go!
Thank you! Good luck on your re-election to the board!
The bubbly busy Brett traveling through the magnificent marvelous Midwest beginning chill cheerful chapter 4.
Hmmm… I give it 7/10. You should know I don’t like the term “Midwest.” I appreciate the effort though. 🙂
Norma and I were in Pawhuska two weeks ago! Pretty close to Tulsa, and completely in Oklahoma. We saw numerous box turtles along the roads, but stopped for none of them……
I wonder if the turtle new how long and hard the trip would be across the highway as he began it. I wonder if he knew how dangerous it would be. I wonder if he knew that strangers would graciously stop their day to help him, even though he was so close to the end. I hope you continue to find the blessings from friends and strangers that you would even bestow upon a turtle.
….my goodness. I am speechless (good thing I can still type). This is one of the most beautiful comments I have ever read. I will probably be stealing it for my next post!
Well said Natalie!! And Adam, haha 🙂 We are thankful your 3rd stretch has come to a close and are excited for the final lap!! 🙌🏻 -B&E
I am too, because I know you will be in it at least once. 🙂
My goodness, so much happens when you are away from internet and cell signals for five days! You have been busy posting! Looking forward to lots of good reading today! Great writing as usual! Love your race analogy. I was leaning into the turns with you on those stretches of curves! Love you, Mom!
Yeah, I was wondering where you were? 🙂
I am really enjoying your blog! My folks lived in Tulsa for about 10 years and I always have liked it.
Alan Houser was a really neat man. In ’91, my wife and I were eating in a chain lunch place in Santa Fe for the first meal there. We were seated at one end of a banquette when a little man came in and was seated at the other end, facing me, with four or five small tables between us. As we ate, the staff at the restaurant kept coming by and saying, “We’ll be thinking about you while you’re in Washington, DC, Mr. Houser.” Finally, I couldn’t stand it and I said, “Mr. Houser, it’s none of my business and I don’t mean to disturb your lunch, but I’m curious. Why are you going to Washington DC?” He told me that he was going to get a National Medal of Arts. Then he said ‘That feller who used to be President gave me one, and the feller who’s there now wants to give me another one. The first one was George H. W. Bush; the second one was Bill Clinton. He talked about being a sculptor and about the process of casting bronzes. We ended up talking for over 45 minutes.
That afternoon, we were in downtown Santa Fe and went to the Institute of American Indian Arts. We were looking for some of his work when we realized we were in the Alan M. Houser Art Park. And it turns out that on the trip he was about to make, he gave the US Government the sculpture, “May We Have Peace,” a gift, he said, “To the people of the United States from the First Peoples.” That is in the Vice-President’s residence.
In the bookstore at the IAIA, there was a Smithsonian book about him and we told the cashier that we’d had lunch with him (sorta’). She said, “Isn’t he the sweetest man?” Later on the south side of the Square we saw an art gallery and went in and found that it sold Mr. Houser’s sculpture. The cheapest thing we saw was $450. There was one of his large (about 18-20′ tall) abstracts standing next to the stairs that said, “Price Upon Request.” After we’d seen quite a few sculptures that were in the upper 5-digit price range, as we came down the stairs, I saw man wearing a suit that probably cost more than my car. He asked if he could help us and I told him that there was no way I was a potential customer, but I was curious about the price of the big abstract. 2.2 million dollars!
Then we told him about our lunch “with” Mr. Houser and he said, “Isn’t he the sweetest man?” I feel privileged to have had that contact with the pre-eminent Native American artist of the 20th century.