The original post for our most recent trip was intended to be a pair of entries about our journey to the Wichita Mountains, Meers, Mt Scott, and Medicine Park, but that day trip was so overfull that it is going to be divided in four entries. Due to how that changed the content of each post, I have decided to try something relatively new with today’s post. During my trips, I journal steam of conscious at each stop along the way. That journaling is used as reference when I write posts, but so far I haven’t actually used a journal entry itself in its pure form. Today I have edited down and made more logical portions of the journaling from the ride to the mountains and arrival there in the hopes you might gain some insight as to what goes on during the preparation and actual journey behind these blog posts. Enjoy and apologies in advance for those sections which aren’t terribly logical; stream of conscious is difficult to edit into cohesion.
I adore the early a.m. hours. There is a quiet, a serene solitude, a freshness, a sense of renewed purpose. Best of all are those mornings in which there is focused yet casual aim. Waking leisurely, moving slowly but purposefully to do the handful of needful chores, being mindful of the smells and sounds of brewing coffee, the low hum of morning traffic out on the main road, the occasional bird call, wandering outside as the sun just starts to throw pale sherbet orange wide bands into the last of the nighttime blue, heavy clumps of wooly gray clouds rolling like smoke, low and dense, hinting at the very slight possibility of rain. Watering peacefully, feet wet with dew, admiring the growth of some plants, debating how to encourage more growth in others, enthralled with the bright bold goldenrod colored squash blossoms, shiny faced in the early morning. Then back inside, sipping coffee, gathering camera equipment, double checking that all the necessary info for the day’s journey has been written down, and quickly dress for the trip.
The deep amber glow of morning sun appeared and disappeared from behind the low smoky wisps of stratus clouds as they washed through the morning sky like foamy wave crests, and at the time it seemed the clouds would keep going east and give way to a sunny morning. But as we left for the highway, the last morning sun disappeared into a slowly deepening woolen blanket of gray. Rolling, ominous and sickly seaside steel colored, the sky grew worse, the temperature dropped and I remembered clearly the weathermen said only a ten percent chance of rain. Seriously, I checked the weather not twenty minutes before we left.
As speed increased, when I looked away from the northwest, my nerves calmed to a mildly anxious state. I counted every exit I knew, annoyed, ready to leave, until the exit came for the open road. Distracted by being unleashed, I forgot briefly about the ever blackening ominous clouds as we exited the same freeway we traverse nearly weekly in town and curved out and onto the turnpike bound interstate, toward something new, toward adventure. The difference it makes when the road opens up to something new, versus the day to day, sits deep, a visceral excitement when the cage door flies open.
The rolling looming gray made bold contrast with the weather beaten brightly painted signs and the lengthy swathes of wildflowers, patch worked through pastures and roadside, bright yellow butter flowers, delicate hedge parsley and fleabane, and sunset orange indian paintbrush. Along a cattle fence, wild roses grew and after that Nick Cave was stuck in my head, humming about Eliza Day to myself the rest of the trip.
The more cattle we passed, the more I considered that we were for all intents and purposes on the Chisholm Trail, and as we crossed the Canadian River and other obstacles in those long forgotten cowboys’ path, I wondered at them and their audacious bravery. The clay reds of the banks and deep browns blacks of the rocks then pulled my mind elsewhere, into the realm of the realities of riding, of being part of your environment, of seeing, smelling, absorbing every part of your surroundings. Of realizing that you know exactly when escalation changes even in the slightest by the temperature of the air around you and when you’ve gone into a new environment by the minute changes in flora, by the color of the earth, the type of rock, by the shifting sky. After enough time, a biker’s knowledge of the nature around her is on par with botanists, meteorologists, and geologists, minus the formal schooling and often terminology.
Through the distant draping misty silhouette curtain of rain the horizon line was blurred and air hung heavy with the scent those who also lived on a farm in their youth know – morning whetted pasture grass, hay bale straw, pond water, earth and clay, hints of manure and animal, and the faintest perfume of the long stretches of wildflowers and young crops. As the sky shifted, we goosed under overpasses and nervously ducked the swooping and diving sparrows. Out from under one particularly hairy overpass rife with the darting torpedo birds, I looked up from swirling sparrows to see the first sunrays shooting out from the thick gray, dotting the bright velvety straw gold, darkest emerald and bright peridot pasture against the swirling gray streaks of storms to our north. Between clouds, the sun finally peered out setting the bright green fields of new crop alight and the day afresh, reflecting warm on my face, instantly raising my posture like a sunflower.
All this beauty, then a tollbooth. With one person working. I remembered just then two things: we need a pikepass and I detest riding on the turnpike. It nearly defeats the entire purpose of riding a motorcycle. After what seemed like at least twenty minutes I decided we should’ve taken state highway the entire route.
Once we were done with the stand still line, I concentrated again on the sky and fields to break the monotony of turnpike riding. By this time the sun was brightly shining, low wisps of storm fringe clouds swiftly passed overhead, shuffling hurriedly away from the mountainous cumulus towers overhead, clean and white against the beautiful unblemished blue morning sky.
Finally our exit appeared and we rolled and crested over the waves of Highway 277, sentinel turbines along the hilltops to the north oscillating slowly and Mt Scott majestic on the horizon with the Wichita Mountains blue haze behind to the south west.
Lazy, warm Sunday morning, perfect for back highways. Each church parking lot nearly full, but otherwise able to count the passing cars on one hand. The sun rolling and smiling, the road radiating gentle warmth, passing the occasional sound of a mower and fresh cut grass smell, a long prairie snake retracting from the motor sound but after we pass smoothly returning to lazily crossing the road, trumpeter vines growing on every other mailbox post and anything else in their path bold orange faces turned to the morning sun, highways that dead end into right and left turns and bold curves and you must either be adventurous or know where you are. I miss this place, I know this place. This rural life is heaven and home. At the junction of the highway, hand painted country store signs, support our troops, First Methodist welcomes you, groceries, bait, and beer, a weathered cola sign only barely still the deepest pink red, most of the white chipped away.
After a stop for lunch, we continued our trek, curving and winding past the last handful of farms before the land shot up and the road became steeper and signs welcomed us to the Wichita Mountain Wildlife Refuge. Cattle guards rumbled under us as we entered the reserve and to the west, Mt. Sheridan rose, jutting and racing skyward, all asymmetrical formations of granite vaguely crystalline in their long columns, before sloping more smoothly, dirt and cedar and low juniper toward the earth. As we wound through to where 115 and 49 intersect, you could hear low gasps of awe from both of us were you listening. The land opens up into a magical place of low rolling prairie surrounded on all sides by the prominent mountains.
It is a beautiful place, a place where time holds still and guessing what decade, what century we’re in depends on spotting a passing car for reference. A place wide and open, but protected and enclosed all at once. We parked and I snapped away, before dropping the viewfinder from my eye and looking, really looking, without the frame at the infiniteness of it all, like staring at the wide open night sky. At once small, connected, infinite, free, moving forward without choice with the rolling clouds, with the wind, with the waving prairie grass, this is all one single infinite object, this place, this time, that time, the mountains, us, the sky, the land, the very air you are breathing and is breathing you, and my breath has been taken away.