Red Earth and Blue Sky

Grandma’s 100th birthday on January 6th gave us special occasion to travel this winter.  Grandma and Grandpa retired 30 years ago from Dickinson, North Dakota and chose Bella Vista, Arkansas to make their new home.  And make a new home they did.  We had good weather for our drive across the Southwest to the Great Plains and on to the Ozark Mountains.  The unfolding American Experience becomes visible during a road trip crossing the country.

I bicycled in Oklahoma City, Fayetteville AR, and Bella Vista AR during the trip.  Oklahoma City has a Trails Master Plan envisioning a 208 mile multipurpose trails system.  In 1997 the City Council approved the plan, voicing the citizens’ desire for “a Beautiful City, a Healthy City, a Friendly City known for its Community Spirit” (quoting the Trails Plan, from the introductory section entitled Imagine).  We stayed at a hotel on Meridian Ave. and I rode the river trail.

OKC action sports

OKC river trail

The hardest part was riding from the hotel a couple of blocks through a busy business district.    I took my time and followed my instincts and the rules and made it fine, quite easily actually.  So maybe the hardest part was the anxiety about crossing those busy streets.  Once on the south river trail I had seven miles of uninterrupted pedaling heading east toward downtown.

OKC river trail downtown view

OKC boathouse

OKC downtown

It’s a pretty skyline across the river.  The trail’s eastern terminus is the Boathouse District, which is decked out with glassy architecture for spectators and gatherings.  The Oklahoma river is an official U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Training Site for rowing, canoeing and kayaking.  There’s another trail on the northern shore and dedicated bridges for human powered transportation are in the works to link the trails.  Then there will be a nice 16 or so mile loop that people can use for a powerful dose of the best medicine there is, liberating free-flowing movement.

OKC Boathouse finish

OKC boathouse infrastructure

OKC oil donkey

OKC Stockyards

OKC under the train

Oklahoma’s traditional industries are visible from the river trail, too.  A set of oil pumpjacks bobbing like donkey heads worked away on a Monday morning.  The Stockyards district is right there, now more easily accessible by bicycle.  You see mining, industrial rail, and development spanning the continuum of time that people have been active in this great Midwestern city.

OKC tree shadow

OKC red berries

OKC habitat

On the western shores natural habitat abounds.  There are many hotels that literally back up to the river trail.  It would be a great place for bike share.  Some of the clients working locally and staying at the extended stays could easily unwind with a relaxing bicycle cruise along the river.  It’s soothing for the mind and rejuvenating.  OKC already has eight bicycle share stations downtown.  I’m sure the original Okies could not have imagined their offspring would be developing all these fun, practical and healthy things to do in the city, but the dream keeps expanding, and we pursue the truths becoming more evident, seeking a good and satisfying life.

Texas the breaks

Oklahoma loves

OKC windpower

The strong El Niño brought huge snows and drifts and the white snowfields made the landscape vivid.  We saw new wind power installations spinning all across the Texas panhandle.  We stopped at Love’s travel stores and filled up with fuel and coffee and we sang “all you need is Love’s”.   Love’s is headquarted in Oklahoma City.  I like driving long distances.  You see a lot, the driving focuses you, and there’s plenty of time to contemplate things. See the work in progress on this unfinished Nation.  Take time to enjoy it.  Wonderful we have this land to love.

Summary References:

Oklahoma City Trails Master Plan
Oklahoma River Trail
Oklahoma City Bikeshare
OKC Boathouse District
The Red Earth museum and festival
Panhandle Wind Project

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