Travel Day #2 … Trains and Trucks, Oh My!

Today I had many hours and miles on the road from New Mexico through the panhandle of Texas to the middle of Oklahoma. Do you know how huge Texas is, and I am only going through the panhandle! Everything is big in Texas. My billboard reading tells me I could get a free 72 ounce steak … I am guessing it is free at the restaurant only if you eat the whole thing in one sitting … I’ll pass! The beef lots are huge too and I could tell one was coming up before I got even near it because of the smell. No housing developments near these properties. I wondered what they did with the old wind turbine blades and sure enough there was property where they stored them. What can one do with an old wind turbine blade?

Thanks to road construction built during President Eisenhower’s administration in 1956, the Interstate Highway System parallels much of the railroad system in western USA and, as I learned yesterday, the billboard industry was booming. I have seen many a train and many a very, very long train. Our country depends on moving freight by trains and trucks. Hundreds of trucks are on the road using the highway system just as I am doing. 

Motorists, like myself, and truck drivers must look quizzically when driving under some of the highway bridges. Are the engineers providing accurate info and are community leaders listening and getting the necessary repair work done? We’re seeing buildings, bridges and roads in disrepair, so let’s not wait for any of them to collapse before we act. We need to care about all construction and realize there are factors affecting their structural integrity as years go by. No highways, bridges, tunnels, support beams last forever.

While driving hundreds of miles per day I am beginning to see the variety of road surfaces. I don’t mind paying a toll on certain roads. Those areas where I paid a toll had amazingly smooth surfaces! One road actually had a speed limit sign: maximum 80 and minimum 60! Wow! Everyone drove fast on that road and it was nice to know I had no worry of an upcoming pothole. 

I hope by the time I post this our federal government approved an infrastructure bill. There is work to be done in our country and people looking for work with good pay. Our interstate highway system is important for us all … do you know how many Amazon, FedEx, UPS and freight-carrying trucks for various businesses are on the road? Thousands… let’s keep them rolling … we do want to receive our stuff on time, right? Aren’t we still paying a gas tax for road repair? Hmmm….

My campsite tonight is in Choctaw, Oklahoma just down the road from Tinker Air Force base. We are still in a pandemic and people may wonder why I am wearing a mask, and even though I am vaccinated I have no idea if others have been. It is easy for me to wear a mask, so I do.

Tonight’s campsite I have a picnic table by the tent and one under a huge pavilion that becomes instrumental in the morning rain as I take my tent down.

Drive, eat dinner, walk the campground, then sleep … my day.

Monday Memories: Solo Bicycling Trip

I decided I was not getting any younger, and I was reading about people in their 60’s bicycling across the USA! Could I do the same? I did not know, but I decide to attempt some distance.

Yes, in June 2018, I did bicycle 600 miles from Prescott, Wisconsin to Rensselaer, Indiana by way of many small towns following most of Adventure Cycling’s Northern Tier route. After a heat spell, I continued on on New York State’s Erie Canal trail for 100 miles before meeting friends in central NY.

People asked why I chose that area of the USA to bicycle ride. Since I typically fly over it, I thought it a good idea to actually see it. I saw many windmills, fields of corn, artwork and rolling hills.

There were sights to see. An Eagle Center, National Farm Toy Museum and the famous Field of Dreams to mention a few. I also stopped at activities roadside, such as this dog competition where they collect the bird that was shot. When I heard about saloon bars similar to an AZ bar, I checked it out as I did often stop in churches for a reflective moment.

Most nights I stayed at bed and breakfast, or motels, and did camp. My goal was to survive so I wanted comfort at the end of the day, especially since you never knew if the next 40-60 miles per day was going to be in the heat or a drenching rain. There is nothing worse than bicycling in the rain; stopping to check the weather radar to discover how many hours you may be sitting and waiting out the weather. Some places were entirely for myself and I would wander into the town to find dinner, and other places I spent hours talking and eating with the owner of the place. I always love connecting with people when I travel. All of my accommodations were wonderful from Motel 6 to some really nice bed and breakfast places!

One of my most fun places was at an old jailhouse. The woman helped me hoist my loaded bicycle up the five steps into the place, invited friends over to have a beer with us, and cooked delicious dinner and breakfast for me. She offered me an additional night, yet I decided to keep on my plan since the weather was good.

Enthusiasm for bicycling is beginning to take off in the USA as we develop the US Bicycling Route System to be added to many Rails-to-Trails Conservancy Routes and Adventure Cycling’s Routes. I did see a bicycle campground and I rode a bicycle path where each rider pays a fee. Men drove on the bike path to collect the fee from me and were pleasantly surprised when I could show them I had my receipt of payment.

I ate plenty of snacks, which I carried in my bag, and always a lunch. I loved Casey’s General Store located in many small towns. I was hooked on white cheddar cheese popcorn, until I broke a front tooth – later repaired in Buffalo, NY. I also bought Arizona green tea and Gatorade to supplement my water bottles. I love chocolate and that meant a Snicker’s bar too.

I discovered I was close to Route 66 so I decided to ride a portion of it, especially since I did not know if I would ever ride its entire distance from CA to IL. Lots of history along that route! The road was so busy at one point there was a passageway for people to walk under the road! Of course, there are still some old gas stations in the area, and portions of the road are grown over with grass in its cracks.

I met many other bicyclists on the road and all going from east to the west coast (I was going west to east). There was only one other solo female bicyclist, yet every single person always stopped at the bottom of a hill to say hello, check-in on how I was doing, and offer ideas of what was coming up in the next town or two. I really appreciated the camaraderie! One guy told me he was sleeping in ditches at night after cycling about 100 miles a day. Another guy told me of a free place to set a tent. A mother and daughter team had stayed at the lodging I was heading to on my 70 mile day. Other people at stores, bars, and their homes were very generous. One family offered their swimming pool to me as I laid on their front lawn, under the only shade tree I think in the county! Another guy brought out bottles of cold water for me as I sat by a church he was renovating for his family home. Another guy stopped in his pick-up truck and asked me if I was okay, and if I knew how hot it was that day. Yes, wherever I could find some shade, I spent time there. I could tell you more, but I think you got the picture!

The heat did me in! To hot to go on, dehydrated and with concerns of heat stroke, I decided to take the heat wave in the US seriously. Unfortunately I have been in hospitals needing fluids pumped into me other times when on hiking and bicycling trips. I knew I did not want that happening here. With the help of great people in Indiana, I rented a car a few days after getting my fluids back to where they needed to be and headed to Buffalo, NY. Along the way and there, I had wonderful friends allow me time to recuperate before jumping back on my bicycle to cycle the Erie Canal trail to central NY where I met other friends. Yes, I shipped my bicycle home and relaxed before planning my next trip. What an adventure this was … and cannot wait to do some bicycle travel again!

Lucy’s Warbler Nest Boxes

At Isabella Lee Natural Preserve, I saw five Lucy’s warbler triangle-shaped nestboxes at 1, 3, 5, 7, 9 feet above the ground on a tree. Tucson Audubon set these up to find out which nest box the birds prefer since they ordinarily nest in woodpecker holes or bark crevices of old mesquite trees. Those trees are often removed for their valuable wood so this project is to encourage the Lucy’s warblers to remain in the Tucson area, especially if they do not find the tree of their choice.

I saw no activity in any of the nestboxes today; however, there were numerous hummingbirds, a couple of vermillion flycatchers, a red-tailed hawk flying overhead and signs of horses being through the area. This was my first time at the preserve which encompasses the confluence of Agua Caliente Wash and Tanque Verde Creek. Expect to see snakes, javelina, coyote and wildlife since it is a wildlife area also for them.

A spot to see the seasonal changes … come back again.
Lucy’s warbler nestboxes
All the info you need on this poster.
Rules will be enforced.