The month of April is a bit of a gateway for those of us here in Oklahoma. The Arts Festival takes place in downtown Oklahoma City, which somehow guarantees much-needed rain showers every year (the state fair somehow has the same mysterious climatological effect in September), severe weather season kicks into gear, gluing residents to their news station of choice on many evenings, and if you're a teacher like myself...state testing takes place as the school year barrels it's way to a hectic close.
But....as we roll into April each year, most folks remember one date; April 19th, the infamous day in 1995 when a Ryder truck packed with explosives was parked in downtown OKC, left to sit for a short time, then violently exploded....decimating the Murrah Federal Building and tragically ending the lives of 168 innocent people....because some crybaby whack-job was upset and needed to make a statement.
We have a statement for you sir....it is two giant collective middle-fingers.
Since 2001, the Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon has been held annually at the end of April, drawing thousands of runners, volunteers, and spectators. It's an event not to be missed. I was fortunate again this year to have the physical ability to run, and don't take that lightly. It was another half-marathon on the menu for me (I ran the full in 2014...after a strep diagnosis...and perhaps will again one day....hopefully with a clean bill of health).
Like all good runs, rides, and road-trips....the day started eeeaarrrlly.
After securing a parking space downtown for the Tacoma, I headed over to my church where the doors are open for runners to gather themselves and prepare for the race. St. Paul's has been a staple for me since moving to OKC in 2006. I'm thankful for our clergy and congregation. The church took heavy damage in 1995, as we are located only a couple of blocks north of the bombing site, now the location of the memorial.
Pre-race visit. The starting line is just to the west of the memorial.
Lining up in corral B just before the race. The race starts out going south. The official start line is where the bright light can be seen.
Looking back north at the start. The entire event draws roughly 24,000 runners. That's a lot of snot-rockets.
My buddy Daniel was also assigned to corral B. He's a speedy dude and we had talked before about meeting up a the start. I was looking down at my phone to send him a message when I felt a thump on my shoulder. We were standing side-by-side before either of us realized it! The guys in the background were excited to be a part of the photo.
Headed north towards the state capitol. Yes, we have an oil derrick directly in front of our capitol building...I won't get into that. But....it does make for a fun shot! I don't have many photos from the run itself....because I was busy....running.
Headed up Gorilla Hill. The street here is lined with gorilla-themed 'stuff'....folks dressed up....and LOTS of bananas! The street just past the crowd always looks like a banana truck turned over. I definitely had a banana....which sat nicely on top of the beer I had about mile 5! (Thanks John, Red Earth Brewers, and MENT Apparel!)
Kicking through the finish. I set a PR (personal record) for my half-marathon time (1:38:56), scraping four minutes off of last year's time, so I was a happy boy! I also felt like I had been beaten on with a broom handle.
The festive finish line! The vibes here...are good.
My buddy Jacob also ran the half and DESTROYED it. His time was stupid-fast. Dude....congrats!
Also got to catch up with my friend Jen at the finish! This girl runs....and runs, and runs. I was surprised she was standing still long enough to take a photo! Bonus...she's a fellow teacher (as is Jacob.....as is Daniel!) We must all need to be runners in case we have to flee the kiddos! Ha!
Another homie! Hunter (grey shirt) was coming into the finish on his first full marathon! Kudos my friend....hope you got some ice afterwards! Ouch! (He did excellent and....surprise....is also a teacher)
Now over to the kids marathon finish line! My dude Chandler completed his kids marathon downtown. The kids run 25 miles on their own throughout the spring, then complete the final 1.2 downtown. His time has improved all spring and he's really enjoying running. Congrats my friend...I'm impressed!
My sweet friend Kendra (and Chandler's proud momma!) has also taken to running and is digging it! She and her husband Adam have been SUPER supportive of Chandler's running habit! Kendra came through the kids marathon with Chandler and has been helping him log miles while picking up running herself. Way to go!!
How about we put some sunglasses on that kiddo!
This girl was dressed like a pineapple. I don't know her, but if she's cool enough for a pineapple suit, then I think she's a winner! (Thanks for the photo and the laughs!)
Post-run yee-haws were held at Twisted Spike Brewing which is just a block or so off the finish. How convenient! They also hooked up the finishers with a free pint glass.
The Taco Nation bus was also out front serving up the yums. I was a good boy and only ate one, instead of seven....like I wanted.
The weather was choice, the race was energetic, the friends were plentiful, the beer flowed, and the vibes....were good. Offering much love and respect to those lost, their family and friends, and those who risked it all during the rescue. We always run to remember.
As a belated birthday gift to myself, I pointed the truck west again. It never gets old.
The obligatory first stop at one of my favorite rest stops near Alanreed, TX. This is only accessible from the westbound side (the eastbound rest stop is neat too, but this one has the cool view!).
It also has a windmill inside.
Sunset over the Texas panhandle. The pastels were incredible.
Upon the suggestion of my good friend, Mr. Charles Bartrug, I opted to slip just west of Amarillo and cruise up the apparently infamous Tascosa Road. Though it was dark, Tascosa Road was a real treat! I could see some of the mesas in the twilight and enjoyed the winding adventure through the west Texas landscape. I also listened to 'Frenchy McCormick' by the artist Red Stegall to really set the mood. It was fantastic to hear the story of Tascosa, TX! I'd love to get back out here on my motorcycle and rip Tascosa Road in the daytime. Thanks for the beta Charlie!!
The next stop, where I'd stay before heading north into Colorado, was Raton, NM. I found an AirBnb at a true bed and breakfast. Nestled in an 1850s Victorian, Heart's Desire was a great opportunity to stay in a place that is a bit atypical for me.
The stairwell leading upstairs sounded exactly as one would expect it to...and was charmingly fitting.
I was directed to stay in the 'Patriotic Room.' It was definitely true to form. I think I said the Pledge of Allegiance a couple of times in my sleep. (Just kidding - I actually slept like an absolute rock...better than I have in weeks).
A very ornate claw-foot tub was in the shared bathroom. Notice the lack of a shower? Yea...I did too. The next morning involved an acrobatic feat of balance as I'm not really a bath person, especially in a shared...well....yea....I'm just not a bath person. To my credit, I got completely clean and sacrificed only the slightest amount of water to the floor. I wanted to let everyone know, but it seemed oddly inappropriate.
Breakfast is served. Barbara was an excellent host and made a mean waffle! Fresh fruit and orange juice were a nice touch.
Remember how I said I slept like a rock? As I sat down to breakfast, a nice couple from Amarillo, Andy and Rachel if my mind serves me, came downstairs....with their sweet baby boy in tow.
"Umm...there was a baby here last night?" I inquired shortly after the 'good morning' formalities. "I had absolutely no idea."
"Oh really, because he was fussy all night," Rachel offered apologetically and with genuine concern.
"Seriously...I never heard a peep. I was out cold," I assured her. "Like....out."
I think I needed the rest.
When I stayed in Raton back in November (only a few blocks away from Barbara's), there were deer on the sidewalk. This time in Raton....there were deer on the sidewalk.
Barbara's ferocious dog, Guinness. Terrifying.
The house was pink. It could have been no other color.
The obligatory photo at Raton Pass. I can't resist it!
Jamming north on I-25. If you put your ear up to the screen, you can hear Tom Petty blasting from the Tacoma's speakers. Go ahead and try it.
Instead of taking the obvious route towards Denver, I cut west towards Canon City. Just before the town proper is Highway 67 that leads north. It was a cute little line on the map...right up my alley. Game on.
After maybe five or six miles, the sign appeared that changes a drive into a drive....
I had unintentionally stumbled onto Phantom Canyon, and I had no idea the treat I was in for!
The first tunnel! One lane of course.
One of the countless views. The road ranged from slide-inducing smooth gravel to jaw-rattling washboard. I began to think that my tires were octagonal rather than circular. The Tacoma took a beating but held strong! However, everything in the truck, that wasn't bolted to the truck, ventured to a variety of new locations.
Tunnel number two.
The weather was fabulous! (more on that to come...hence the title) I'd say low 60s all day. I never put on a jacket and drove much of the road with the windows down.
Further along were stretches with leftover snow.
One of several plank bridges. I should have taken a photo from afar as this bridge was quite high above the canyon!
The drops along the side were steep and long.
Heading north...and heading up!
Just shy of 10,000 feet!
The view from Alta Vista. Back behind the sign in the previous photo was a very expansive ranch house, set far back from the road. This is their view. I was only slightly jealous.
Exiting the canyon brought me into the tiny mining town of Victor, CO and a return (for the time being) to asphalt.
Historic Downtown Victor.
Just west of Victor was Cripple Creek, CO, another 1800s mining town. Sadly it is now home to a number of casinos. It was still charming nonetheless!
Read the sign punk! ~ Mitch Hedberg
After cutting through Woodland Park, I continued north on Highway 67 through Deckers, CO, then found myself following the South Platte River for a time. There were a lot of fishermen along the route. The elegance of watching someone cast a fly rod in a frigid Colorado river was a gorgeous ballet not to be missed.
True to form, the highway conditions....changed. I was fine with that.
Ice shelves along the river. After following the river for a while longer, I began to get on larger roads, eventually making my towards Conifer....and then the west Denver suburb of Lakewood.
The first stop in Lakewood was at Breeze Ski Rentals to pick up this gem. I had big plans for Saturday.
I headed south through Lakewood to my cousin's house, for an evening filled with good food, great beer, and even better conversation. I'm very grateful for my family.
Throughout the evening on Friday, the temps continued to drop.
5:45am - Saturday - Lakewood, CO. Things were about to get real.
I jammed on I-70 west out of the Denver metro as the snow continued to fall. It was, as they say, a powder day.
Loveland Valley Ski Resort! I needed this in a bad bad way. A typical hour's drive was doubled due to the hunt for fresh powder. I was glad I left as early as I did! Thankfully I had plenty of time and still arrived before the lifts began running for the day.
Up we go. Look at that untouched powder! I had the pleasure of riding that pristine snow....all....day. It never let up.
Shaun White on the ski lift.
Just kidding. That's me. It isn't Shaun White.
I rode and rode and rode. Since I only had one day, I had to make the most of it....which meant spending as much time as I could on the slopes. I never went down to the base at all. After several hours of carving through the power, I finally ducked into a mid-mountain warming hut to eat some of the food I had stashed throughout my jacket.
This started the day as a sandwich. It still got the job done.
Stopped for a mid-mountain photo. The snow hung tightly to the trees despite the strong winds.
A bit blurry, but I included this shot because you can just see the cut of Interstate 70 above the empty chair behind me. Loveland sits right before the Eisenhower Tunnel and the slopes actually run atop the highway's path through the mountain.
The top of the Ptarmigan Lift. As the day faded, I stayed primarily on this lift. I didn't want to waste any time transitioning across the mountain, so I opted to just keep taking laps here to maximize my time on the solid downhills and less time traversing the nearly flat greens from one lift to another.
Getting ready to drop down for another run!
Loveland also sits right at the continental divide, which is the ridge above. Just after snapping this pic, I tucked my phone away and zipped downhill in the same direction as that skier. So awesome!
Back down at the base after a fun-filled day of riding! The crowd thinned throughout the day and made for an easy drive back into Denver.
Yes....that is ice. No, it isn't snot. One can only dream.
Also - that blue Buff around my face...frozen solid. I wasn't totally sure I was ever going to be able to remove it.
I actually gave the day two thumbs up, but one hand had to take the picture! It was epic.
Cruising back east on 70 near Idaho Springs. I made a quick stop to drop off my equipment and snag a burrito for the drive. After a day full of cold-hardened granola bars, water, and pre-chewed PB&J....it seemed only fitting.
Back in Lakewood! The metro area continued to get snow throughout the day as well. It sure was a sight. Another great evening with family! Everyone was whipped from our various activities, so heads hit pillows pretty early.
Sunrise over eastern Colorado. It was so cold, my windshield washer lines froze! I had to pull over a couple times to sacrifice some drinking water and glovebox napkins. Always remember, safety third.
Chasing a snowplow into western Kansas. The snow slowed traffic a bit, but I still ended up making pretty good time.
Passing a westbound KDOT plow. That's some nasty snow, but it was cool to see it being launched!
Fueling up the unit in McPherson, KS. I really love traveling in this truck. It took a beating this round, but got back up and kept fighting!
The dirty dog back in Oklahoma City!
A lot of driving for one day on the mountain? Yes. Was it worth it? Absolutely.
Time to go un-nasty the truck.
Oklahoma got a visit from some unseasonably warm weather last weekend. Naturally I took advantage.
I hadn’t had my motorcycle out in a hot minute so I thought Sunday would be good for an afternoon buzz. My plan was to get a few easy photos near some fun photogenic spots around Oklahoma City. There is a seemingly endless list of places, so I chose a few in the downtown area that were all within reasonable distance of one another. These were all visited in the span of an hour or so. If you found yourself running around, maybe looking for some neat photo ops with kiddos, a significant other, a cool car, etc. you could easily knock these out and still have time to catch a nice meal or hit one of the breweries! (Always my top recommendation)
I also decided to combo this blog and briefly discuss some of the gear I typically ride in. I kept it simple and didn’t include touring gear, winter gear, or rainwear. Again, just a light rundown.
My first stop was the state capitol building. Love it or hate it (I’m a teacher in Oklahoma....but I’ll keep a lid on that for now), it’s a pretty neat place to snap a few shots, especially on a clear day like Sunday.
Another shot from further back. The capitol is undergoing some renovations (yes...I know), so the view straight ahead isn’t great right now. I’m certainly no professional photographer, but by simply adjusting the angles a bit, it’s still possible to get a neat shot, as in the first up-close photo.
Next stop was the Overholser Mansion, just north of downtown. Built in 1903, it is considered to be the first mansion in Oklahoma City. They offer tours but I’ve not partaken yet. I’d be interested though.
After a short ride through midtown, I arrived in the up-and-coming Plaza District. The Plaza is a hotspot in OKC lately, featuring fun and eclectic restaurants, bars, and shops. It attracts a wide variety of folks, from funky to family, especially depending on the day and time you visit. There a couple of murals in the area that make nice backdrops. I like this one because of the playfulness and legibility.
A short scoot down Classen Boulevard landed me at the Myriad Gardens with the massive Devon Tower guarding from above. Again, a limited amount of creativity and angle can produce a fun picture. I’ve taken some down here with my car as well. As a bonus - you can always stroll around the Myriad Gardens while you’re here. As long as there isn’t a Thunder game, finding parking usually isn’t too tough.
I used the Gardens to take a few pics of my riding gear.
There is a school of thought called ATGATT, meaning ‘All the Gear, All the Time.’ By definition, I’m not a pure disciple as I occasionally ride in jeans, or without a jacket, gloves, etc., especially in hot weather. I always ride in a helmet though, and I’d say 95% of the time, I’m in full gear. Part of the allure of motorcycling is its inherent danger. It's just a part of the activity.
‘Proper’ gear, or no gear at all, doesn’t close the gap for:
A. Poor riding skill
B. Poor decisions by the rider
C. Inattentiveness of other drivers or the rider
D. Any combination of the above
In short, riding safely and smartly is the best piece of gear one can own.
Enough of that.
Pictured above is my jacket. It’s made by BMW Motorrad. Though a bit pricey, I got it on sale as it was a ‘last-year’ model (several years ago of course). I like the high-visibility yellow because it’s exactly that; high-visibility. The sleeves and chest have mesh panels so it’s tolerable in hot weather. It also has a zip-in liner that works well in cool weather. I also have a grey Olympus jacket that I wear occasionally, especially if I’m running quick errands or riding to a more social type of event. Both jackets are highly abrasion resistant and feature armored shoulders, elbows, and forearms.
Above are my pants, also offered by BMW. I believe they’re called ‘City-2’ pants, though they may be the original ‘City’ pants. I can’t remember exactly and, frankly, it doesn’t really matter. Again, they’re abrasion resistant and feature armor in the hips, knees, and shins. One big reason I went with the bmw system is that the jacket and pants zip together at the rear of the waist. This is very handy in cooler weather, as the airflow down the rider’s back can often lift the tail of the jacket, creating a very cold updraft. The zipper eliminates this situation.
My gloves are a very basic pair of Bilt mesh gloves. If it’s cool, I wear a pair of liners (in my case, Mountain Hardwear hiking gloves) underneath. These gloves are armored along the knuckles as you can see.
Bilt motorcycle boots. Nothing super fancy here, just some standard motorcycle-specific boots. The toe and shin are armored. They're comfortable enough to wear all day and walk around a decent amount.
I currently have a Shoei Neotec modular helmet. This helmet was a complete game-changer for me! It’s very comfortable, quiet, and vents quite well. It’s rare to get any sort of fog on the inside of the visor. It’s also equipped with a Scala G9x Bluetooth system. This pairs with my iPhone, allowing me to listen to music comfortably. I can also have a phone conversation while riding at speed without issue. I don’t do that often, but it is quite handy, especially on a long trip. There’s also an FM radio in the unit.
Another great feature is the drop-down visor. No need to cram sunglasses into the helmet or squint in the sunshine.
Lastly, this helmet is modular, meaning the front opens up. This is great when fueling up, paying tolls, etc. Occasionally I’ll putter through a town with the helmet opened up, but I don’t generally ride that way.
Back to the bike.
My next stop was the Skydance Bridge across I-40. The access was partially blocked, so I took that to mean partially open, and rode up. Since no one was around I puttered up the sidewalk to get a cool photo. Obviously I would not have done so if there’d been anyone nearby.
The bridge lights up at night and is really neat to drive underneath. Daytime is cool as well with downtown in the background.
Last stop was Wheeler Park, home of the Wheeler Ferris Wheel. I’ve not had a chance to ride the wheel yet but I hope to this spring when it reopens.
One of the newest and popular photo ops in the city is the OKC sign here as well. The wheel, sign, and downtown buildings make a fun picture. This shot is beginning to really become a popular one!
I hope you had a chance to be outside during our fabulous weather! If you're around the metro, check out a few of these spots for some fun and easy photos...and if you're on a motorcycle....keep the shiny side up!