Our time in Oklahoma comes to a conclusion and I make my way to Texarkana, song place 75 of 92. We check out Oklahoma City, announce the only sponsor that we will accept and get up close and personal with Scott Joplin’s piano.
Saturday, June 29th, 2019 (cont.)
Northeast Oklahoma had been a pleasure. Northwest Oklahoma was incredible. As Oklahoma is mentioned in my song, it felt like a requirement to investigate the other two quadrants, as well as the capital city.
General route for the day:
Perhaps the Oklahoma Legislature had gotten word that there was a wild Nebraskan roaming around in its state, as it seemed like Oklahoma was making sure that I would not travel unsupervised for very long. I do sow chaos and discord throughout most of the places I visit, so I can’t say that I really blame them.
The Oklahoman chaperone responsible for keeping me out of trouble in SW Oklahoma, would be my new friend Manoj. He is another one of the poor, wayward souls that I met on ADV Rider, the motorcycle forum where I post my story. My schedule had conspired to bring me to Oklahoma City on a Saturday, which worked out perfectly for him.
We met in the place where rowdy bikers normally meet: The parking lot of an Indian grocery store. He was ready to greet me with a cold almond drink which was surprisingly crunchy and surprisingly refreshing.
First up on our tour was the state capitol.
Famously, there is an oil well right on the mall:
Manoj is a photographer and he did a great job helping me capture the views of OKC. He even had them move a crane for me!
The capitol was closed, so we moved on to our next stop: The Oklahoma City bombing memorial. This isn’t a place that one necessarily wants to go, but it is definitely a place one should go.
The bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in 1995 claimed the lives of 168 people. Each one is represented by a chair, positioned according to the floor they were on when the blast occurred.
There was a daycare on the second floor, resulting in the death of 19 children. They are represented by child-size chairs.
The person responsible for the bombings (whose name will not be typed here) was executed in 2001. People are still bringing items to the memorial fence near the site:
Learning about a tragedy like this can evoke a range of reactions. Personally, I hope that visiting a site like this further motivates me to be a person who adds light and love to the world. There is no way to expunge all of the evil from this world, but that should not lead us to apathy. It should motivate us to examine how we are impacting this world.
Up next on our tour were a couple of Route 66 attractions. First was the 66 foot tall bottle at Pop’s in Arcadia.
They have a veritable smorgasbord of beverage choices.
Manoj bought me a cream soda and we had some fun conversations with other travelers. Then, you could say, my Dream came true!
As this local guy (Mike, I believe) pulled up, I walked over with my arms raised in victory. Intrepid ingesters of this quality publication will know that I always stop for a Honda Dream. This is perhaps the best one I have ever seen.
I’m used to people peppering me with questions before I even get my helmet removed, so it was nice to be on the other side of it for once. 🙂
A little ways down the road is the famed Round Barn.
Up next was the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum. We arrived pretty close to closing time, but there was just one thing I really wanted to see: The End of the Trail sculpture. James Earle Fraser made his first model for this sculpture in 1894. This plaster version was cast in 1915.
Fraser had great sympathy and respect for the plight of Native Americans. The sculpture presents a weary rider reaching the Pacific Ocean, having finally been pushed to the limit by the westward expansion of Euro-Americans.
Great art should cause the observer to feel something. That is definitely the case with this piece. If you don’t feel something while looking at it, check your pulse!
There was one more thing I wanted to see in the OKC area….or perhaps at least one more picture that I wanted.
The Nebraska-Oklahoma rivalry is truly legendary, having played 86 times beginning in 1912. Unfortunately, it effectively ended with the expansion of the Big 8 conference. There are now games scheduled for 2021, 2022, 2029 and 2030; so I will hopefully get some good mileage out of this picture. 🙂
Go Big Red!
I had thought about continuing east after OKC, but I decided to take Manoj up on his offer to stay at his home in Lawton. We had a nice ride, taking back roads to his place. I got to meet his family and was eventually able to capture his Chihuahua, Lucy, for a quick selfie.
Manoj made a rice dish which was absolutely delectable. He uses many traditional Indian spices in his cooking, which adds a lot of flavor. It was fun talking to him about the artistic elements of making food.
I got my laundry done and had a great night of sleep.
Sunday, June 30th
Manoj works in IT and his career took him all around the globe before he ended up settling in Oklahoma. One of his stops was in the Netherlands. He learned a style of pancake that he treated me to in the morning.
Let’s see… A guy from Indian, making me a Dutch style pancake, in Lawton, Oklahoma. Yep, that qualifies:
In hindsight I maybe should have stayed with him for longer, but I was eager to get on the road. I was starting to feel the pressure of being behind in my writing. When this happens, it’s almost like I try to not have any memorable experiences, as I don’t want to forget what happened previously.
We did take a morning ride out to the Wichita Mountains, which were really beautiful. On the way there, he paid for a tank of gas for me, saying, “Well, I filled your stomach, so it only seemed right to fill Annie’s tank too.”
There is a unique place called the Holy City, with lots of interesting rock buildings.
This site is home to North America’s longest running Easter Pageant, beginning in 1926.
This was a great little detour and I hope I get to explore the area more thoroughly sometime.
Thank you, Manoj!
I spent most of the rest of the day writing and made a little eastward progress towards the city of Ardmore.
This city just missed out on being in the song, as I visited Atmore, Alabama instead (THIS POST). An analysis of Hank Snow’s original recording reveals no presence of an “r” in the first syllable of this place. Sorry, Ardmore, you were so close! I took a picture anyway.
I got into town late and had to just pull off into the trees. It wasn’t a very good night.
I did complete a goal this day: Having a June in which I did not experience any snow. In 2017 I had some on the Alaska highway:
In 2018 I was in the Andes of Argentina:
2019 was just hot!
July 1st and 2nd
Pure work days, mostly spent at the library. Just a few things of note happened.
Manoj rode over to Ardmore for work, so he took me out to a Mexican restaurant. It was great to see him again.
Though he looked like a respectable professional in his nice shirt and slacks, a further inspection of his shoes revealed that there was a rebellious biker standing in them:
(To clarify: To shift up on a motorcycle, you lift a lever with your left toe. Accordingly, bikers often have scuffs, scratches and oil stains on the top of their left shoe.)
The next two nights in the Ardmore area I found a place to camp next to what appeared to be an old runway. It was really quiet and there weren’t too many mosquitoes.
Wednesday, July 3rd
A nice travel day to finish up my time in Oklahoma.
I’m always observant of different photo opportunities that help me tell my story more effectively. On this day, I found one that helped me define why wet wipes should be the first thing one packs on a motorcycle adventure:
Future dating profile pic?
I’ve been adamant since the beginning of this trip that I would not accept any sponsorship. However, if one of the major wet wipe manufacturers came calling, I might feel a moral obligation to accept.
Manoj had recommended that I take a scenic drive called the Talimena highway, which runs between the towns of Talihena, OK and Mena, AR. It was a little out of my way, but definitely worth the detour.
After the first few curves, I could already feel a Jekyll and Hyde type conversion taking place within be. Mild-mannered, safety-first Brett Anderson was giving way to my ultra-competitive, ride-it-like-you-stole-it alter ego, the Swedish Stallion. It was probably the best riding I’ve done since being back in North America.
The surface wasn’t great, which slowed me down a little, but there was great scenery and hardly any traffic.
After all I had happened there, it was sad to leave Oklahoma. That said, I feel like I experienced it well and made a lot of special connections. It’s probably about 50-50 odds as to whether my next visit will be for a football game or for a quilting class.
I stopped into Hope, AR, hometown of Bill Clinton, for a little bit and got some work done. From there I bounced down to Bois d’Arc Lake which had some free camping sites.
Thursday, July 4th
Happy Independence Day! I’d been outside of the states for the last two, so it felt good be back in my home country this time. There is no better country in the world for a road trip, that’s for sure.
Unfortunately, a colony of ants had decided to seek out a new land inside of my tent. Everything was covered, including my helmet. I can confirm that it is a bit disconcerting to feel an ant crawling into your ear at 60mph.
This was a special day, as we would begin our visit in song place 75 of 92, Texarkana. This city is evenly divided between Texas and Arkansa, thus the name. There are about 150,000 people who reside in the area.
I first stopped at a visitor’s center for some info, before making my way into the city center. As it was a holiday, the downtown seemed almost deserted.
I took advantage of this to capture one of the pictures I knew I wanted of the place: The Scott Joplin mural. There are normally cars parked in front of it, but I had it all to myself.
More on him later.
Although I love the picture above, it is definitely not the most iconic Texarkana image. All residents were in agreement that the view in front of the old post office on the state line should have this honor.
This building is in two different states and is a good representation of the city. The base is made of Texas pink granite while the walls are constructed of Arkansas limestone.
Once again, I was fortunate that it was a holiday as there was hardly anyone around. I took plenty of picture options.
Perhaps, it was because there was hardly anyone around, but the downtown seemed a bit dreary. There were some signs of reinvestment in the area, but many of the solidly built structures have fallen into disrepair.
The proud Grim Hotel is in needed of a lot of work, but some plans are in place to revitalize it. It is a unique building that will hopefully reclaim its former glory.
There was also evidence of some careless typing by someone in the city office. I’m assuming they meant to order potted plants, not potted pants.
I don’t know if I’ve seen anything quite like State Line Avenue during my travels. The two sides are paved independently by each state, but they usually match up fairly well in the middle. This seems to be an apt representation of what this city is like. Though there doesn’t seem to be much of a divide among the people, I got the sense that sometimes the governments don’t work together completely seamlessly.
There are stories about fire departments on one side of the state line watching a building burn down, because it was in the other state. Also, I learned that there are some residents with active warrants on one side of the line, who willfully confine themselves to the other side of the city. There are a lot of good stories in this place. 🙂
Another downtown landmark is the Perot Theater. A venue built in 1924 which was restored thanks to donations from H. Ross Perot, a Texarkanan.
In a sad coincidence, Perot passed away just this week. He was a self made billionaire, who was an independent presidential candidate. Most notably, he was actually leading the polls for the 1992 presidential election in July of 1992. He temporarily dropped out of the race and his campaign was never able to recover. Still, he was the most successful third-party candidate since Teddy Roosevelt in 1912.
Not much was open, so I spent a good amount of the afternoon typing in a city park. It was full of ducks and geese, including this prolific mother taking care of 16 or 17 chicks:
I got my first Texarkana signatures from a couple named Lamarcus and Christy. Lamarcus wasn’t even familiar with the song, but he still made a special effort to seek me out and ask me about it. Great people.
I had scouted my spot for the night earlier in the day. As it was a holiday, I wanted to make sure I was well hidden. In forested areas, this is usually pretty simple.
Friday, July 5th
I had another tough night of sleep, probably just 3-4 hours. My camping pillow had sprung a leak (My fourth one of the trip! I must bite in my sleep…) and I woke up with really intense neck pain. In order to be comfortable, I had to keep my left shoulder slightly shrugged and I couldn’t turn my head more than about 15 degrees to the right. Ah…the joys of camping.
I packed up and rode to the library where I got a post published. Up next was the Museum of Regional History. The people there were great and I learned so much about the area.
As I said before, there are lots of stories to tell about this place. However, I would like to focus my words on one man: Scott Joplin. Known as the “King of Ragtime,” he is one of the most revered American composers. His youth was spent in Texarkana. His first experience with a piano was when he was allowed to play one in the home that his mother cleaned. This is almost certainly the piano where he plinked his first notes:
A local German music tutor, Julius Weiss, recognized Joplin’s talent and gave him free lessons from the age of 11 to 16. With a firm foundation in the European masters, Joplin flourished, experimented and almost single-handedly defined the genre of ragtime.
I’ve seen an organ that J.S. Bach played, but I can scarcely remember a time that I have been this close to such a hallowed instrument.
“The Maple Leaf Rag” and “The Entertainer” are probably Joplin’s most well known pieces. However, I would strongly encourage you to give a listen to “The Magnetic Rag” below. It is a truly inspired piece of music.
“The Magnetic Rag” was Joplin’s final composition. At the time, he was afflicted with syphilis and beginning to slip into dementia. He died just a couple of years later.
One could say that Texarkana, a railroad town with a plethora of cultural influences, was partially responsible for Joplin’s success. His music is a mixture of so many different styles and forms. Learning more about him, alone, was worth the trip to Texarkana.
Another fun thing about the museum was that it was a former bank. As it was being renovated, a false wall with a safe behind it was found.
Two of the museum staff, Curtis and Jamie, were especially helpful to me. Much of the information contained in this post came from my conversation with them. Curtis had so many good questions about my trip and was happy to answer any Texarkana related queries that I had. I had them sign the bike and check Texarkana from my sign. Thank you guys!
I was still reeling a little bit, with my sore neck and lack of sleep. I actually bought some pain killers which I almost never take. As I sat in a park, pondering my next move, I did something that I am not proud of: I started looking for a hotel. Though I found one for just $30, I was able to resist and choose a tent in the woods instead. (I still have yet to pay for a hotel in North America.)
I’m still trying to examine my motivations of this decision, but I won’t bore you with a thousand word treatise regarding it. It’s time to wrap things up. As this was quite a disjointed update post, I will merely say thank you for coming along through all of the ramblings. 🙂
17 to go!
Stay stripe-free, everybody
Realtime update: I’m staying with some dear friends outside of San Antonio. I’m going to keep working hard on getting caught up before heading north to my next song place Amarillo. I still have my experiences in Shreveport, Ferriday, Louisiana and Houston to tell. More to come!