By Donna McCoy
Go get that list you have of “rides to do next year” and put “Cherokee Strip Land Run Ride in Wakita, OK–September” somewhere close to the top. This is a Must Do ride! Didn’t hear about it? I’m letting you in on this cycling secret!
If my friend, Lori, had not suggested this ride, I don’t think I would have really noticed it or considered it. It’s about 120 miles north of OKCity, and I had never been up in that area. My first thoughts were…It’s a long drive, have to get up really early or go and spend the night….blah…blah. Glad Lori was enthusiastic, because as it turns out, we felt like we discovered a treasure!
My husband, Tim, went along. Since he is recovering from a leg injury he wasn’t able to ride, but he had as good of a time as I did. We decided to go the day before and stayed at a nice, new Holiday Inn at Enid. Enid is a good town to stay in, lots of choices in good restaurants and decent hotels. Next year we will definitely go early and go to the Museum of the Cherokee Strip.
The ride started at 8:00 am, so we left Enid at 6:45 and got there with time to spare. They had plenty of volunteers ready for packet pick up, so that was a breeze. When Gary Feist (ride organizer) said “Bang” we took off from Main Street with about 40 other cyclists. Lori’s goal was to do the 45 mile route and I was hoping to finish the 63 mile route. They also had a 3-mile (loved to see all the kids out for that!), an 11 mile, and a 23 mile route.
A road ride just doesn’t get much better than this: perfect weather, nicely paved roads, and very little traffic. I heard later that at one point there was a truck driver who gave a group of riders a bit of a scare, but with that exception the drivers were noticeably “biker-friendly”. Drivers even gave a lot of friendly waves—I just wasn’t used to that at all. Gary and his enthusiastic volunteers were faithfully waiting every 10-11 miles. Gary seemed to know at any given time where just about every cyclist was on the route. They had plenty of ice-cold water, G2 mixes, cookies and peanut butter crackers.
Lori and I separated at Nash on Hwy 64. She reported later that the route north on 132 was scenic and pleasant, and she finished the ride with energy to spare. Since Lori and I are both slower than most (ie: last ones in) we were both finishing our rides by ourselves with no other riders in sight most of the time. At no time did we ever feel unsafe or abandoned, though. Every 15 minutes or so, a sag would drive by and check, or call out the window to tell us how far to the next rest stop. At the rest stops, we were greeted by name. These people know how to do hospitality!
The 65-mile route was lovely, mostly flat but peppered with just enough hills to keep it interesting. At Jet I had to stop and take a couple of pictures of the Air Force Jet and Memorial on Main Street. From Jet, the route went north on 38 to curve around the Great Salt Plains Reservoir. At the Rest Stop they had warned me that the road was really curvy and not much shoulder. No problem—I think maybe 7 vehicles passed the whole time and 3 of those were SAGS. The route crosses the Great Salt Fork of the Arkansas River, with a good view of the spillway. It was hard to not stop and keep taking pictures, but I hated to keep those good folks waiting for me at the rest stop, since I was way behind…But, no worries, they were there waiting and seemed to not be in a hurry to pack up and leave. They chatted about the sights in the area, and although they did not have porta-potties, they knew where all the available rest room facilities and…ahem…hay bales…were located.
Turning East on 11, there is a good shoulder on a fairly new road. It’s smooth and noticeably absent of debris—gee, did they come sweep this before the ride? Still very little traffic, although Gary said later that this was even more traffic than usual because of the Main Street party going on in Wakita…but that’s jumping ahead. Now one of the really good parts—on 11, after you pass the Grant Co. sign a funny thing happens. It looked like a long uphill grade, so I was getting ready to shift into granny gears but didn’t have to. I looked down and my computer said I was going 17 mph uphill and I wasn’t even working hard. What? I’m an 8-mph-uphill type of cyclist, so I was confused. There was a little tail wind but not that much. Just to make sure I wasn’t hallucinating I asked around after the ride and found out that others had that experience also. Whew, I’m okay (I think). I guess folks around Wakita live in cycling heaven. It just can’t get much better than that.
The last 6 miles were a bit bumpy, but nothing to complain about, especially after that last easy 10 miles. About a mile outside of Wakita I could see emergency lights up ahead—turns out there is a good old-fashioned Main Street celebration going on. Good home-made food at the Methodist Church (those veggies had to be home-grown), watermelon, burritos, home-made peach ice-cream, and a free tour of the Twister Movie Museum.
While I was riding, Tim had gone out to the Great Plains Reservoir and watched migrating White Pelicans fly in. A biologist estimated there were about 1,000 white pelicans stopping over on the way to the Gulf Coast. We had planned to go dig for selenite crystals and wanted to see the Little Sahara, both within about a 40 minute drive, but we had so much fun hanging out with the friendly folks in Wakita that time slipped away and we had to head home. Shower facilities were provided for the cyclists in Wakita. What a bargain this ride was: for a $20.00 donation to the Lions Club, we got a t-shirt, a good hot lunch, met some new cycling friends, toured some beautiful scenery with ample support, a Main Street party, and a shower.
Now you are in on an Oklahoma Cycling Secret: Next September watch for the Cherokee Strip Land Run Bike Ride in Wakita, Oklahoma. Make it a couple of days, bring the family, and have fun!