Like some Arthurian quest, I am pouring more and more time into traveling every inch of the pothole ridden two lane blacktop surrounding Oklahoma City trying to find those views, those shots which encapsulate the sight I try fruitlessly to describe again and again. The pioneers’ view, the displaced tribes’ view, the promised land, the remnants of the open rolling wild gateway before it is fully encroached by subdivisions and strip malls and so called growth. I will find that shot, that moment, that angle, that damn place to stand, and you’ll get to see what I’m seeing.
In the meantime, I burn up hours on days like last Saturday, rolling along in the engine noise away from the new development and onto barely remembered back roads, the Mars red dirt splashing bold against ashen dead pasture grass, cooper’s hawks eyeing the harvested fields for a meal, the winter sun soft behind a billowy blanket of blue gray, framing the skyscape in hazy glare and descending bold pillars of white. I nearly bit it wrenching around to watch a red tail hawk shoot up from the field next to me and take low gliding flight, all strength and grace and taloned two winged proof of God against the bleary rain soddened gray to the east.
Peaceful would be a trite description and words won’t do except to describe exactly what I see, thus the way I write here and elsewhere about riding. The feeling, you just have to experience. Pasture after pasture, startling the fall calves into clumsy haste, a row of short wind breaker trees, more pasture, a dilapidated barn, more pasture, pump jacks and lazy eyed cattle, still more pasture, all engine drone and sight and smell and you’re lulled into a place where the monkey mind stops. It’s beautiful beyond words.
But I never quite found the shot I’m searching for Saturday and the ghost town I had planned to shoot if anything was left is gone, swallowed back into the soil, every trace erased as though it never existed at all. So on we went without stop, tracing the southern edge of the old Cashion Oil Pool, past refineries, roughnecks drilling, pipeline crossings, wide swathes of open pasture bright against a bruised purple towering shelf cloud line, and into Okarche. Just beyond rusty grain elevators and over the tracks, Eischen’s was easy to spot aside the main drag of archaic old west style store fronts. A popular haunt, we narrowly beat the dinner rush although cars lined the street already. Inside, the smell of fry oil hung heavy in the air, Heart played over the radio, and all but antiquated metallic garland shimmered over the bar and pool table. As thought they’d never received word that bars and restaurants divided themselves decades ago, they had all the trappings of a standard dive bar, but with the subtraction of liquor and the addition of families three generations deep sitting round the tables. Eischen’s is Oklahoma’s oldest bar, established in 1896 as a saloon and after prohibition as the bar it is today. Although in the modern parlance, it is more a bar in the neighborhood grill sense, with only Oklahoma’s “near beer” as the available alcohol and the famous fried chicken taking booze’s place as the real draw for guests from all over the county.
Grabbing a bench seat, we found ourselves knee deep in nostalgic musing as the small crowd shuffled around us: wait staff bustling, children talking excitedly, the clack of pool balls, and the clop of boots on the dated checkerboard linoleum. Isn’t it strange how the littlest things, like their concession style menu board, start a fest of reminiscing? While we waited for our chicken (a whole chicken, yes, in the real fried tradition), we talked of all our favorite places long gone with those same style soda company gifted menus, from drive-ins and bowling alleys to the inevitable “Tastee Freeze” or “Dairie King” and otherwise named small town hubs of burger amazingness and malts to die for.
And how was the chicken? Damn fine. The breading was neither too thin nor overly thick and doughy, but rather crisp and near perfect and while they hold off on spice, the juicy tenderness and quality cook of the meat makes up for it. Maybe it is just the holiday time of year or the thoughtful day’s riding or maybe it was all those flashbacks brought on by a wonderful little outpost time forgot or just the fact that like any good Southerner fried chicken is one of my all-time comfort foods, but whatever the cause, Eischen’s won itself quite a spot in my heart and a high ranking spot on our quick destination ride list.
Read more about Eischen’s here.