It doesn’t get much better than meandering down a blacktop road at 40 mph in Osage County on a big single-cylinder thumper, the wind carrying the fragrant aroma of evergreen and honeysuckle, horses grazing in a nearby field, and my wife following me on her own bike, weaving along the twisty roads as if we were synchronized swimmers. We were on a two day weekend trip to northeast Oklahoma on our BMW dual-sport motorcycles, riding paved and occasionally gravel county roads, exploring out-of-the-way landmarks and locations gleaned from hours of research in the seldom-perused corners of the internet.
I had recently purchased a slightly used BMW F650GS Sertao dual sport bike to go along with my wife’s similar BMW G650 X-Country bike. Our goal for 2020 was to take more weekend trips, and this was our first overnight motorcycle trip of the season. At the last minute my wife’s brother and his wife came along for the ride, two-up on a venerable Kawasaki KLR-650.
We packed light with just some essential tools, rain gear, and an overnight change of clothes. Our destination? We really didn’t have one other than to ride east and then north, then ride south and back west. Oh, we had some ideas of places we wanted to see, but our usual mode of travel is to just explore and see where the road takes us.
Elmer McCurdy’s grave
Leaving Edmond, our first stop was to show Kay’s brother David and his wife Lynn one of the more interesting graves in Oklahoma. Located in a little known corner of a Guthrie cemetery, Boot Hill was a place where outlaws without family or home were laid to rest. The most famous grave is the headstone of Elmer McCurdy, who became famous not from his criminal exploits, but from the after-death exploits of his mummified corpse.
Leaving Guthrie, we meandered on some county roads and a bit of gravel to find our way to the Indian Meridian marker just south of Langston. This marker was erected in 1922 to mark the spot where all land surveys in Oklahoma originate. It was originally the point dividing Oklahoma from Indian Territory. Luckily the marker has been restored and stands in the middle of a seldom-used street south of Langston.
Lunch in Stillwater
Our next stop was Stillwater. With the COVID-19 pandemic still fresh in our minds, we had to search for a place to eat. Our original plan was to eat at Stillwater’s well known Eskimo Joe’s, but we had all eaten there many times and a long line prompted us to try Granny’s Kitchen in downtown Stillwater. We were able to eat outdoors with plenty of room between tables for social distancing.
Afterwards Kay wanted to record a video showing how happy she was to be riding again.
Ingalls, Oklahoma was home to one of the fiercest gunfights in Oklahoma history. US Marshalls from Guthrie and Stillwater heard remnants of the Doolin/Dalton gang were holed up near the town. They descended on the town on the morning of September 1, 1893 to make arrests, and three US Marshalls and one local citizen were killed during the ensuing gunfight.
Pawnee Bill Wild West Ranch
Pawnee Bill was a well-known showman. His Wild West Show traveled the world for several years, depicting life in the wild US west. Eventually he and his wife settled in Pawnee and built a ranch to house their show during the winter months. This ranch is ran by the Oklahoma Historical Society and is open to the public. Each summer they host a recreation of Pawnee Bill’s original Wild West Show.
Pawhuska and Pioneer Woman Mercantile
After a brief stop at Pawnee, we again headed north and east towards Pawhuska. One of our plans was to visit the famous Pioneer Woman Mercantile in Pawhuska. Made famous by Ree Drummond of Pioneer Woman blog fame, this thriving tourist attraction draws up to 6,000 visitors per day from all across the United States and is well worth the trip to Osage County.
After leaving Skedee, we followed county roads to the small town of Blackburn, hard up against the Arkansas River. Blackburn was certainly bigger than Skedee, with a nice road leading north across the Arkansas. My GPS showed a road across the river, although it was not a major highway.
After crossing the Arkansas on what looked like a brand new multi-million dollar bridge, we traveled not more than a mile and discovered a “road closed” sign. It seems recent rains had washed out a major portion of the road. However, I could see where local farmers had been driving around the washed-out portion, so I rode my bike along the detour, then encouraged everyone to follow me.
We spent the night in Bartlesville. Per my normal routine, I was up at 5 am for a run. I always like running in new places and spent a couple of hours exploring the trails and running paths.
After breakfast, we loaded up the bikes and did a quick tour of Bartlesville before turning east for Nowata. I would love to come back and spend more time in this lovely city. Years ago I used to fly my Cessna T310R airplane into the Bartlesville Airport and do network design projects at Conoco-Phillips. The city has changed since then, but for the better it seems.
Bowling Balls and Cement Mixers
I wanted to show David and Lynn a couple of cool Oklahoma waypoints near Nowata, namely the bowling ball yard art and a cement mixer painted like a NASA space capsule.
Totem Pole Park
A few miles away in Foyil is the Totem Pole Park. Built in the 40’s and 50’s, it is one man’s mission to create interesting art for the visiting public.