No, that isn’t the beginning of one of my insufferable jokes. It is the beginning of my experience in song place 74 of 92, Hennessey, Oklahoma. In this post we knit together some new friendships and are patched up by the generosity of strangers. Let’s get on with the sew!
(deepest apologies for that intro)
Wednesday, June 25th, 2019 (cont.)
Somewhere around Buffalo, Oklahoma
Though Oklahoma, song place 70 of 92, had already been crossed off of my sign, I still had some work do to in the state. The Verse 2 location of Hennessey was still in my sights. Additionally, I wanted to see and do some more things to help me understand the state at large.
Places mentioned in this post:
My first activity in the state was to rescue another wayward turtle making his way across the road. I got a video this time. 🙂
I camped out at a library in Woodward, editing my video of “Everywherepardy.” I was taking my time as it appeared that doing so would allow me to make a new friend. I had been contacted by a guy from ADV Rider (the motorcycle forum where I post my story) who lives in northern Oklahoma. Initially it appeared like our schedules wouldn’t overlap as he was on a trip to the mountains. Fortunately, he was headed back this day and soon passed through Woodward. This was how I met Rocky and his son Ryan.
They had invited me to stay with them, but shortly after meeting them I had some major reservations. I don’t harbor much prejudice when it comes to race, religion, gender, political affiliation or preferred orientation of toilet paper roll; but attached to Rocky’s Kawasaki Versys X300 was a furry red flag:
Someone with any affinity for monkeys must have some deep deficiency of character, right? I was fully justified in that moment to begin fearing for my life. But though I thought I may end up beaten and robbed with my remains hastily dumped into the Cimarron River, I really needed a shower and Ryan seemed pretty cool. I decided to follow them towards their home in Meno, Oklahoma.
We made a stop at Gloss Mountain State Park, which was absolutely beautiful. It was a real surprise to see such unique rock formations jumping out of the flat, arid plains.
I had a great time getting to know Rocky, his wife LeeAnna and Ryan. If any family could claim to be a “motorcycle family,” it would be them. Indeed a two-wheeled conveyance was essential in their story. According to Rocky:
“LeeAnna and I met when we were 15. I knew who she was but had never “met” her until my 1989 Honda NX125 threw off the chain in front of her house while she was standing outside. I was trying to show off. 🙂 We continued to date all through high school and got married and bought our first house together at just 20 years old. I always tell her she has to “tolerate” all of my riding since it’s literally what I was doing when we met. She is an amazing person and I’m a very lucky man.”
Their daughter was out of town while I was there, so they offered me her room. I took the option of the garage, as it was not your standard garage.
It even had its own wifi router and air conditioning. Annie, I think we’re home!
Thursday, June 27th
Pretty much a work day.
I got a post published in the morning and made some Swedish pancakes for Rocky and Ryan. Rocky teaches 6th grade math, so he has some well deserved time off in the summer.
I had an upgrade for Annie that I had been waiting to install. After seeing the dash-cam system from my Davenport guide, Dale, I had been considering getting one for myself. My Mom bought it for me for my birthday and it shipped to Joplin. I’d been carrying it around until I was in a biker’s garage, as I new I would probably need some extra tools to get it installed.
Rocky was a big help and I’m pretty impressed with the job that we did. It is powered through one of my top mounted rocker switches:
The front camera is mounted just below Sonic:
The rear camera is by my license plate:
The control unit fits into the battery cover in the frunk:
And the “lock” switch is up by the start button.
This system will record constantly, always overwriting the oldest file. Hopefully I will just use it for storytelling purposes, but it could be very useful in case of an accident.
I figured I should chose an “epic” first video to share:
They treated me to a great steak supper that night and continued to make me feel so welcome.
Friday, June 28th
I’m always really excited to visit a song place, even more so now that the finish line is in sight. My hosts had worked to temper my enthusiasm a bit, as Hennessey is not exactly known as a tourist destination. Their webpage “boasts” about the town having two banks, but I was unsure about what made the place unique. Still, I told Rocky that we were going to have a great time and something special was going to happen.
Rocky lives pretty close to Hennessey and we had a nice ride there. On the edge of town, he captured the first of many photos he would take for me.
A geographical fact made me feel at home almost immediately. Hennessey is located on US Highway 81, just like my hometown of Norfolk, Nebraska.
We stopped into the Memorial Park which has a statue of Roy Cashion. When he was just 17 he was a member of Teddy Roosevelt’s “Rough Riders.” In 1898, while fighting in the Spanish-American War in Cuba, he was killed in action.
His memorial statue is the oldest outdoor memorial in the state of Oklahoma. Picture from 1901 below, courtesy of the Hennessey Library.
On the way into town, I had seen that Hennessey is home to the largest quilt shop in Oklahoma. As I’m always searching for the things that make each song place unique, visiting the quilt store was a no-brainer.
Rocky thought he might have a connection for us and he made a few calls. The daughter of one of his co-workers, Dani, works at the shop. With this information, we rode to Prairie Quilt and boldly went where no biker has ever gone before.
The first lady we talked to was very friendly and I told her briefly about why we were there and that we were wanting to talk to Dani. A call went to Dani’s office that there were “two men here to see her.” She bravely responded to this strange summon and began showing us around the shop.
“Which one is the clutch?”
I learned so much in such a short time and was perpetually impressed with what I was seeing. This was a lively, bustling place, full of bright colors and even brighter personalities.
The store has been steadily expanding, growing beyond their initial two story storefront. They have had to purchase the building behind them, which they now use for quilting classes and retreats.
It was a fascinating building, which had been a livery stable earlier in it’s life. The hitching hooks are still embedded into its exterior walls:
A fun small world experience was meeting Matt, the sewing machine mechanic. Rocky taught his son in school this year.
By this point, I was a mixture of impressed and perplexed. Isn’t main-street, small-town America supposed to be on the decline? How does this business exist that has such a specialty focus, that employs 26 people in a town of 2,000, that is buying up main street property like a game of monopoly, that gives spontaneous tours to wayward motorcyclists…surely I was missing something.
I was fortunate enough to meet the missing piece to the equation: The owner, Randa. (pictured with Dani below)
I had a chance to tell her about my trip, hopefully giving sufficient explanation for why there were two bikers stinking up her beautiful place of business. She seemed glad that we had come to see her store and asked me to write down my address for her. She was going to send me a quilt!
Consistent connoisseurs of this quality publication, will note that this will actually be the second quilt we have acquired on this journey. I was given one in Marne, Michigan (THIS POST) way back in July 2017.
(….and you must say, I look dashing in it.)
Whatever this journey costs me, it will be nice to know that I will at least end up +2 quilts. 🙂
Randa seemed like she was really busy, so I didn’t get to talk with her as much as I would have liked. They brought down a special Oklahoma quilt for me so that I could have some pictures to commemorate the visit. Everyone we met there was just amazing.
Sorry about the biker sweat on your quilt!
Dani recommended that we eat at the cafe next door, a place called “Annie’s.” When I heard the name, I knew that’s where we would be going. It, too, is a unique business in many ways. The front is set up as a cafe, but the rear is a flower shop where you can build your own arrangement.
This storefront was originally a bank. They have done an outstanding job of preserving some of the classic architectural elements while still making it feel warm and inviting.
Our waitress was the store’s owner. Her name is Anna, but her family calls her Annie. I had to ask if she would take a photo next to this story’s most hearty heroine. How often do you get a triple-Annie? Unfortunately, I caught her with her eyes closed. (…but Annie’s headlight was off, so it works.)
She, along with the rest of the staff, were very friendly and helpful. It was the perfect stop for lunch.
…but it would get even perfect-er!
Randa, the owner of Prairie Quilt, came in with her husband, Jerry, and grandson, Chris. This gave me a chance to ask her some of the questions that had been brewing in my mind. Her story is incredible and I will try to summarize it effectively:
She had a life changing medical condition which eliminated her ability to commute into Oklahoma City, where she was managing a business. The owner of a fabric shop on Main Street was looking to retire, so Randa bought the space. It was initially supposed to be mostly for storage as she intended to do trade shows. But bit by bit, room by room, employee by employee, it transformed into its current state.
I am definitely not doing this story justice, but it is a true tale of perseverance, creativity and faith. She should definitely write a book about it! To top things off, Randa paid for lunch for all of us. It was a pleasure and an honor to get to meet her.
We ran around to capture a few more images after lunch:
My final stop of the day was to the library. I’ve been in dozens during my trip (I’m in one right now!), but this one was unique. It is housed in the old Hennessey school, making it the largest rural library in the state of Oklahoma. After meeting Ruth Ann, the library Director, I became convinced that it is the friendliest too!
She set me loose in the room which houses most of the historical items for Hennessey. It was a lot of fun to go step by step through the town’s history. They have done a great job preserving their past.
I have so much more to say about Hennessey, but I only have so many words to use. I came into my visit with marginal expectations which were easily blown away. The people here were helpful, creative and so friendly. I’m thinking of taking up quilting, just so I have a good excuse to come visit again. Thank you, Hennessey!
Rocky had left town earlier in the day, as Ryan had a baseball game in Enid. I missed a couple of innings but still arrived in time to see him hit a ground ball grand slam. We continued on to one of Rocky’s favorite places in Enid: The Enid Brewing Company. This business is owned by his friend, Justin, who gave us a great tour of his place.
They are situated in a beautiful old building right on the old town square. Justin has big plans for his business, hoping to open up a restaurant on the second floor of the building.
I can’t wait to come eat here sometime in the future. For now, it is just Justin’s drum practice room:
The beer was outstanding (though still having a ride in front of me limited me to one) and I had such an enjoyable evening there. Annie even left with a new sticker on her trunk lid.
I see bright things ahead for Justin’s business. My only concern is that they may run afoul of child labor laws…assuming those exist in Oklahoma.
As we were preparing to leave, a quartet of nice folks came to ask some more questions about my trip. This happens pretty much every day, but this conversation felt a little different. They weren’t just asking about the trip, they were curious about the person who was taking it. I really felt like I connected with them, even asking them to pose for a photo for me.
They returned inside and I continued making myself ready for departure. What happened next must have looked like a robbery by knife-point to those observing from inside the brewery.
Two of them, Jeff and Dayla, came back outside. With threatening overhand grips, they each thrusted folded dollar bills in my direction. Seeing the exorbitant amounts, $100 and $50, my fight or flight response kicked in and began taking evasive maneuvers. To no avail. It was clear that I was not leaving without accepting their generosity. What could I do? What could I say? Sometimes “thank you” just seems so insufficient.
It is a peculiar experience to cry inside of a motorcycle helmet. Even if you have a free hand, it is not possible to reach up and wipe the tear away. I followed Rocky back to Meno with a single tear resting on my cheek until evaporation finally took it away. This gave me plenty of time to contemplate how it had gotten there and what it meant.
What. a. day.
Saturday, June 29th
That’s right, Han! Let’s get back to motorcycles!
I had a mission for the morning. Since “Oklahoma” is mentioned in the song, I wanted to have some choices for the picture to represent it. I already captured the Sacred Rain Arrow a couple of posts ago (HERE). Today, I wanted to add an iconic picture of the Gloss Mountains to my quiver. I’d been thinking of returning since we’d ridden through there a couple of days prior.
Justin would be joining us as we headed west to see if we could find a place to take a good picture.
Our only option was to go on the “lease roads” that the oil companies use to access their pumps. I’d never really been up close to one and they are bigger than I thought.
Rocky had an itchy trigger finger on my camera, which I really appreciated. He got a lot of good shots through the process.
Google made this little panorama for me:
I found the position that I wanted, but it would require me to take Annie out onto a little ridge. I probably wouldn’t have tried it on my own, but I had some good muscle to help me out of any tight spots.
I think we got some winners:
My only exit strategy from the spot was to have very capable and helpful friends. 🙂 It probably took us ten minutes to heave Annie backwards. We were laboring under an intensely hot sun, but my happy helpers were still smiling.
This little outing was both very unnecessary and very enjoyable. I guess you could say the same thing about my trip in general!
It was time for me to hit the road, but not before the regular festivities. For all of his help, I had Rocky cross off Hennessey, place 74 of 92.
I could go on for many paragraphs about everything this family did to me. Without their help, this trip through NW Oklahoma would have looked completely different.
Ryan is a good little rider and I’m eager to see where life’s adventures take him. I can almost imagine a conversation we might have about twenty years from now….
Me: Hey you young whippersnapper, get off of my lawn!
Ryan: It’s me, Ryan, your old friend from Oklahoma.
Me: Do they have lawns in Oklahoma? I said get off! What are you doing here anyway?
Ryan: Ooops…sorry. I’ve decided to take the road to Everywhere. I’ve made good progress and I think I will be able to beat your time by a few months. I was wondering if you would check off “Nebraska” for me.
Me: Pfff. We’ll just see about that…Isn’t that bike one of the new Honda Africa Sextuplets? Doesn’t that model have autopilot?
Ryan: Yeah, but I only use it in places like Nebraska.
Me: You watch your mouth! And what about Ombabika? Since they built the four-lane highway up to the mega-resort there, that place has totally lost its mystique. There’s no challenge anymore!
Ryan: I did skinny dip in the Ombabika River. That has to count for something, right?
Me: Hmm… I suppose so. Tell ya what, I’ll sign off on Nebraska. Just promise to not use any more auto pilot while you are here.
Ryan: You got it.
Me: …and can I sign your bike?
Ryan: No, that’s weird. Why would anyone do that.
After I told Rocky about the generous donation I received, he smiled and shook his head, saying in the nicest way possible, “You still don’t get it, do you?” In some ways I guess I still don’t. The way people have cared for me continues to be baffling.
I guess all that I can do is take these experiences to heart and try to emulate them in my own life. I want to be a person who will share a home, share some money or even share a quilt with someone who could use it. I’ve certainly received a crash course in generosity over the last two years.
18 to go!
Keep stitching, everybody
Realtime update: Phew…that was a deep one, but a good one. In hindsight, I probably should have split it into two posts, but I am already so far behind here.
I made an alteration to my plans around mid-day yesterday. I was planning to spend a couple of days in New Orleans, but the situation with flooding and the coming storm made that unwise. Instead, I bolted across the state and now am on the edge of Houston. I should be mostly clear of the storm’s path here. I hope everyone in Louisiana stays safe!