We rise to the sounds of birds overhead. The storm has passed and we are ready to forge on. We pack away our gear and a moist Habitat. Followed by a quick 5:30 AM breakfast of protein bars and coffee to save time, we are on the road to the final stretches of our route through Oklahoma.
The Jeep is pulling viciously to the left and our cargo for the Overland Expo in NC needs to be re-packaged as the terrain and weather have got the best of them. The closest town of any significance is Ponca City, population 25,000. We make a speedy beeline for it on pavement. As we near the town, we follow the signs for the business route that will take us into the downtown. Lew, a former Firefighter and Arson Investigator, has an internal homing beacon that leads us to Fire Station No. 1 of Ponca City in downtown where he quickly starts up conversation with the station Capitan. That in turn leads us to referrals for the best alignment shop in town with a hardware store one block up and a favorite greasy spoon across the street for a real man’s breakfast. Not only is Lew the best traveling companion and navigator, he has now elevated himself to a Ninja-like status for his networking prowess with the Firefighter brotherhood. We get the Jeep checked out, our bellies fed and our load repackaged cargo in short order.
We get back on the trail outside of Ponca City. The terrain quickly starts to change. The constant L-R-L navigation and flat topography now yields to meandering roads through thick trees and numerous ponds. Today the animal life changes from prairie dogs and cows to armadillos and turtles. Oklahoma has more surprises in store for us than we previously thought…including an unexpected fast downhill turn on ball bearing gravel that sends us into a sideways slide through a cattle gate with nary an inch to spare….whew! Time to stop rubber necking and get serious about the change in terrain.
The path takes us out of open country into the trees and back again. We cross wood bridges and through Kaw Indian reservation land. We pass abandoned farms, oil well pumpers, pens filled with calves, cows, horses, wild plum trees. We see houses that show pride of ownership, others in disrepair and furniture and junk on the lawn that make you wonder what the back story is. The back roads of America really tell a story unlike any other…
We are starting to get concerned about our good friend Paul who is about a week behind us and is to join us on the balance of our journey to Asheville, NC. We learned today that he is finally wheels up and hot footing it to intercept our route. We expect that we will eventually meet up in Arkansas somewhere but exactly where shall remain to be seen as of this writing as he is still 1100 miles by paved road distant from us. For now, we pause in Bartlesville OK for showers, a soft bed out of the weather, laundry and the first world comfort of a good internet connection.