Early pink tinted light was just beginning to pour into the room when I rolled over and stared at the glowing face of the clock. 6:37 am. I wanted to relax, to go back to sleep, to have a lazy Sunday, but my internal clock was screaming that it was well passed my usual wake up time and worse, that urge to go, the urge to get lost down some back highway was gnawing at me. I was vexed, annoyed, irritated and all those other trite adjectives for reasons that involve the great shifting sands of life and chapters ending and beginning and all those things to which I am inherently accustomed but have a knack for overanalyzing in the initial moments, an hour or so of grand upset which inevitably leads to a sort of emotional hangover the following day.
“Are you awake?”
“I need to go for a ride.”
“For all day.”
And that’s it. That’s how our rides happen, how well thought out and planned they are. In fairness though, when your bike is a daily means of transport rather than a rarity one loses the need for grand plans with the ride and we are so ridiculously alike that the conversation about needing to ride, however brief, was mere formality. The planning aspect of our morning involved me texting one of our friends I had a nagging feeling also needed a getaway day:
“What are you up to today?”
“We’re riding. No clue where, just pick a highway. West maybe? Want to go?”
“Oh hell yes!”
And thus the inauspicious birth of a day of riding. I was up and dressed faster than I knew I was capable of, garden and stores tended to and minimal gear piled onto the table for a final check before leaving. We talked over sandwiches, haphazardly picking out back highways from the map and choosing Red Rock Canyon State Park as a resting point from the inevitable triple digit heat index that afternoon.
I felt like a caged animal, pacing, racing, just trying to get out the door, but as soon as those two wheels left the driveway my head became remarkably clear and everything was as it should be, listening for any odd sounds before we get too far, initial gas and water stop, and out, and gone, onto the bypass, to the interstate, down a few miles, and onto highways that wound back not really to connect any one place to another, but rather for the convenience of the locals needing a main vein by which to come and go from the interstate. Winding, curving, the sun blinding in the vast blue, Oklahoma is still remarkably green from a much rainier than usual summer. The wind hardly blew as we passed field and pasture, two beautiful buckskin mares and a foal, overhead irrigation sprinklers stretching out clear to the horizon it seemed across recently plowed up land, an occasional yard pocked with the rusted shells of cars like cicada exuviae, an occasional corn crop waving in the wind although it seems to be out of rotation this year. These are the things you notice when you aren’t trapped inside a box, when you feel your place in the scene, when you are ultimately conscious of oneness.
And just as the heat began to grow overpowering, we turned off Highway 281 at Hinton and into the Red Rock Canyon State Park through the front gate and winding immediately down into a gorgeous gorge of bold painted sandstone walls. I was harkened at once back to the frontier days as this had all the styling of an ideal outlaw hideout. Although today it is a favorite escape for campers and others seeking a haven for recreation, Red Rock was once a much more essential refuge for the area plains tribes during winter and in the era of the California Trail it was a well-known outpost for rest and wagon repairs. To this day, above the west wall, ruts permanently mar the rock from the wheels of those many wagons nearly two centuries ago.
Finding a spot near the western wall and deep in shadow of the cool rock and overarching mulberry canopy, we rested for an hour or so, swapping stories of life and what to do in the day to day with no real answers found. More so we discussed bikes, a trio of gearheads with similar but just differing enough for debate opinions in a subject area which lends itself more readily to solid answers than life tends bestow.
After climbing the rocks beside us and seeing the wall cloud rolling along the horizon, it was decidedly time to head out. Watching the clouds race closer as we left the canyon behind, I thought back to those pioneers crossing the frontier, of what an oasis Red Rock must have seemed, of the oasis it is still, chiseled out of rolling prairie, all bright clay red and deep dramatic greens with its beautiful sycamores and maples, trickling brook and cooling overhangs. On a day when there was no real plan, when getting away, going west was the only goal, we’d uncovered a new great run and a hideout for our next night to get away, one mapped out centuries ago by those who built the westward trek, a place to rest against the same walls as those traversing the same land many generations before.