The sky was overcast and the temperature was just high enough to be called warm instead of cool on Friday morning as Mike and I donned CE armored jackets and leather chaps for a belated spring ride. Two gleaming bikes awaited in my Grapevine driveway, ready for another baptism in bug juice and road grime.
Mike’s Yamaha Road Star V-twin rumbled like thunder as it exhaled through Vance & Hines pipes, drowning out the whirring staccato of my Triumph Rocket III. The lack of sunlight was a blessing, as we had each polished every square millimeter of chrome to the point we could have ridden into Medusa’s cave and felt safe.
A quick pit stop at a local fuel station and we were off, navigating through the few remaining rush hour stragglers and then hitting the wide open stretch of SH 114 to I-35 and burning pavement northward. In short order we left the slab to farm market road 407, and other twisty two-lanes through Ponder, Justin, and Krum just for fun.
As I revelled in a series of rural road sweepers and shot ahead with the occasional scrape of foot boards on pavement I noticed that Mike had vanished from my rear view mirrors some time back. I circled at an intersection and paused, hoping to see him round the bend. He describes cornering on his rumbling Silverado as being akin to “herding turtles”, so I assumed he was just starting the trip in an ultra-conservative manner.
Moments later I understood his slow and steady pace as he appeared, a county deputy in a plain white squad car riding his fender. Fortunately for me, Mike had been holding the law man back enough to keep me out of target range.
Mike circled into the intersection and let the deputy move on down the road. After a brief pause, we headed north again, wary that the law enforcer might be lurking around any upcoming bend in the road. When we hit a major road with broad shoulders again we escalated our speed a bit and quickly found ourselves blasting across the good ol’ Red River and into the vast plains of Oklahoma.
We managed to stay off the slab most of the way, only riding Interstate 44 for a short stretch as we reached our destination for the day, Lawton, Oklahoma. Passing the Comanche Casino and u-turning onto the service road we began a search for a hotel. We cruised to a Motel 6 but didn’t like the looks of the surrounding territory (too many warehouses and fenced lots that someone could roll a stolen bike into in the dead of night) so we u-turned again and headed toward the Holiday Inn Express. En route we came upon the Pro Team Harley Davidson dealership and I just had to pull in to let our gleaming non-domestic bikes bask in superiority (only my opinion, faithful HD fans) amongst the herd of Motor Company steeds in the front lot.
Mike asked me what we were there for and I made up the excuse that I was looking for another Harley helmet lock for my Triumph. As he started to check his phone for messages I snapped a pic of him with all that black and orange signage in the background. Hearing the shutter, he turned and exclaimed, “Oh no you didn’t!”
I just grinned while he threatened me within an inch of my life if that picture turned up in public. I managed to upload it to FaceBook while we were browsing the dealership and making loud comments about how expensive everything was and how ridiculous it was to have an entire aisle dedicated to HD branded doggy attire.
We left the Harley shop, probably just moments before they would have presented us with a criminal trespass warning and demanded we leave. A few hundred feet down the road we touched down at the Holiday Inn Express and rented a nice non-smoking room with two queen size beds.
After dusting off and change of shirts we were back on our bikes, cruising just to the other side of the highway where I forced Mike to accompany me to check out the den of sin and iniquity that is the Comanche Casino in Lawton. The place reeked of cigarette smoke, like most casinos, but it was clean and stocked with tons of machines, mostly digital video variety but a surprising number of mechanical reels as well.
After an hour or so of penny slots (I ended up down a whole 11 cents) and bellys full of complimentary soft drinks we decided to pursue some dinner before we turned in for the night.
We ended up at Crockett’s Smokehouse, a BBQ joint located in Lawton, Ok at 1508 W Gore Blvd. I was a bit sceptical as we entered the place around 6:30 PM on a Friday night and there were only a few patrons inside. We each ordered a BBQ sandwich and stuffed baked potato, which was more than I could eat. I was pleasantly surprised at the price and the quality. The hot link sandwich was excellent, as well as the baked potato heaped with chopped brisket, butter, sour cream, chives, and cheddar cheese.
By the time we left the place had a line out the door. Apparently we’d beaten the Friday evening rush by mere minutes.
A good night’s sleep and the next morning we were ready to do what we came for, ride to the top of Mount Scott and rumble among the bison and long horn cattle that free range inside the Wichita national wildlife reservation.
I followed Mike as we entered the reserve and crossed the wide plains where herds of buffalo grazed unfenced alongside the paved roads. Within minutes we were turning onto the winding road that spiralled upward to the top of Mount Scott, barely accelerating beyond the 25 MPH speed limit due to all the boy scouts, hikers, and tourists bunched up in knots along the road and around every curve.
As you can see from the video, it took less than ten minutes to reach the summit. The views were spectacular, and they partially made up for my disappointment over the low velocity we were held to en route. I would have to hit the curves especially hard on the way home to compensate for the lack of canyon carving opportunities.
At the summit we spent some time just admiring God’s creation. I was conscripted to take a picture for a group of a dozen riders. Mike noticed that one of them was unsuccessfully trying to hide a Budweiser tall boy as he took random swigs. Pretty stupid to be drinking and riding, and bordering on lunacy to drink and ride on the side of a mountain with 50 MPH wind gusts. Hope he and his buddies made the rest of their journey okay, and hope he gets busted by the law before he kills himself or someone else.
I also took a picture of this kid who was showing off a dead rattle snake, despite the many signs warning people to keep their hands off the fauna, whether dead or alive. His old man was pretty proud of it, too. The kid was nice enough, but when I was reviewing the picture I shot I couldn’t help hearing “Dueling Banjos” in my head. Just a little bit creepy.
I was just thinking a fed might show up and start writing citations for killing varmits on a wildlife refuge any minute.
But then I remembered how many snakes I blew to pieces with dad’s shotgun when I was growing up, and I can’t fault the kid for acquiescing to the natural human desire to bust a rattler’s head at every opportunity. He’ll probably be telling his buddies about that rattler for months, and by the time he’s grown it will have grown to six feet long and he’ll have bitten it in two with his teeth.
When we’d had our fill of the incredible panorama below the summit we headed back to the bikes for the journey down to the plains. As we approached a preteen girl said “that’s a pretty Honda” as she and her mother walked by Mike’s silver V-twin. “That’s not a Honda,” her world-wise mother exclaimed with an apologetic glance at Mike as he saddled up, “That’s a Harley Davidson!”
I was so proud of Mike for not insisting on educating the lady. Now he knows how I feel when people point at mine and say, “What a cool looking Valkyrie!”
I took the lead on our descent, and the views were much better from that angle as you could see a lot of the plains and lakes below. We still had to contend with cub scouts and gawkers loitering in the roadway. It’s always fun to see the little kids stop and stare at our bikes as we go by. Many future bikers are probably working on those BSA patches before they finally cut loose, grow their hair out, and discover the joy of two wheels and an open road.
It was hard to even get a good lean as we rolled down the mountainside almost as fast as the sinking of Venice.
Next we stopped in at the refuge’s visitor center and cooled off from the noon heat as we wandered among the nervous tourists in our black leathers. Folks around us started to warm up and overlook our long hair and beards as I casually commented on how we couldn’t see any animals other than buffalo and longhorn outside, so it was nice that the refuge’s keepers had brought a few inside and conveniently stuffed them for our viewing pleasure.
That brought a few muffled chuckles, but when a loud recording of a prey animal being dispatched by a souped-up wildcat sounded I ducked and told the folks nearby: “look out! I think that was my ex mother-in-law!” they all guffawed and we suddenly became unofficial comedy tour guides.
My ego cannot bear to waste an audience, so I made my usual series of corny jokes gleaned from the very best of Six Flags over Texas LaSalle River Boat guides and tour masters at the Casa Magnetico. Not to mention the one-liners I’d picked up working as a cop on trips to drop off clients at the Hunt county jail.
I pointed out the things that must’ve been going through the animals minds just before the fatal moment when they were bagged to become demos at the visitor center. Like a racoon saying, “I’m safe here, it’s a refuge, right? That’s what the federal government told me!”
Or the wily bobcat preparing to pounce on an unsuspecting prarie dog: “I got you in my sight, now you little cousin of a weasel. And don’t think that ranger behind us will interfere. He a federal employee, and they promised not to interfere with the natural order of things on this federal refuge…”
Most of my energy, however, was spent in keeping Mike moving. Every time he stood still for more than a few seconds people thought he was a taxidermied big foot. It was certainly scary to realize that he’d been standing still out on the boulders atop Mt. Scott earlier, where a crypto zoologist eager for fame might have bagged him.
I was very thankful for the laws against hunting on the refuge. It would have been difficult to explain to my sister-in-law that her husband had been stuffed and put on display with the buffalo and coyotes in old Comanche territory.
I bought a souvenir t-shirt for Robin with “Advice from a Bison” printed on the front. The big ugly biker next to me (AKA Mike) said he was about to kill and eat one of the longhorns we’d passed so we decided to head to Meers Store and Restaurant to see if the article about them having great burgers in “Ride Texas” magazine was on the up-n-up.
It turned out that Meers must have something good on the menu, because we arrived around 1:15 PM to see three parking lots stuffed full of motorcycles, cars, trucks, and even bicycles. The line to the front entrance was about 30 people deep, and we weren’t seeing very many exiting.
We decided Mike might start chowing on the local wildlife or even a fellow Meer’s patron in line before we got into the place and checked out those famous burgers, so we headed back to Lawton for chicken tacos at the local Chilli’s. We’ll have to travel back to Meer’s one of these days when we can get there ahead of the usual lunch crowd to see why their burgers are apparently the cocaine of ground beef sandwiches.
As we rolled away there were still eager new customers arriving to wait in line for whatever gastronomic delights lurked inside the solitary store and burger joint that appeared to be the worst kept secret in Oklahoma dining circles.
The ride back was faster, we took a more direct route to get to IH 35 and once we hit the slab it was a straight shot down to the state line and on to the DFW metroplex. There was a minor incident where some guy decided we weren’t getting out of the fast lane fast enough for him and he nearly ran both of us down. I wish there was some way to let that guy know he was messing with two accomplished marksmen toting Kimber 1911 .45s with lots of spare magazines. He might have run one of us down, but whichever of us was left would have made sure he never ran over any other biker.
I waved good-bye and peeled off the slab onto SH 121 and Mike kept rolling to his headquarters in Tyler, Texas. I was home in Grapevine 20 minutes later, already feeling nostalgic and wistful, and hoping our next opportunity to take a trip together comes soon.
If only there was some way to get our elder brother Steve back in the saddle. Maybe I’ll start a rental fund to put him on one of Eagle Riders Harley Davidsons for our next trip.