May 30 2012 by Jason Fogelson
The staff at the BEST WESTERN PLUS Tulsa Inn & Suites impresses me as a very cheerful, friendly group. Everyone I encounter, from housekeeping to front desk to the gardening crew out front, shoots me a big hello and a sincere smile. Is that the way people behave in Oklahoma, or just here at the BEST WESTERN?
I gobble down my breakfast in the hotel lobby, load up the bike and thumb the starter. Instead of just riding out of town, I plan to explore Tulsa by motorcycle for a little while first.
Tulsa is Oklahoma's second-largest city, at nearly 400,000 residents, with a metropolitan area of nearly 2 million. The Tulsa area is the most densely populated region of Oklahoma, and that confluence of humanity has led to a growth of culture. Tulsa has a vibrant arts, music and theater scene. The Philbrook Museum is considered one of the top 50 art museums in the world. Tulsa devotes funds to public artwork, and as a result, the city has some very impressive statuary, including the Golden Driller, one of the tallest freestanding statues in the world and the official state monument of Oklahoma.
It has started to rain, and there's lightning on the horizon. Time to leave Tulsa behind -- I have to respect the weather, especially since Tulsa is smack dab in the middle of Tornado Alley.
I ride out of town on Interstate 44 West, then exit in Stroud so that I can cruise down US-377, a secondary road that promises more small town flavor as I head toward Texas. When I see a sign for Robertson's Hams in Seminole, Oklahoma, I know that I've found my lunch stop. Robertson's Hams distributes smoked meat products all across the Midwest. This little restaurant and store in Seminole is a place where the company can show off. I have an absolutely delicious ham sandwich, and down as much water and iced tea as my system can handle before resuming my ride in the heat.
I have to make a decision about the weather. Heat is fine, humidity is fine, rain is fine -- but lightning and tornados put a real damper on motorcycling enjoyment and safety. I seem to be riding parallel to the storm. I see lightning in the distance, striking down from dark clouds to the east, but the wind is blowing from the west, and I think the weather will hold. I decide to risk it as long as the skies above me stay relatively light, and as long as the lightning keeps its distance.
I ride with delicate rainfall through Ada and Tishomingo, and then cross the border into Texas. All along the way, I keep seeing signs directing me off of the main road toward "Historic Downtown." It seems that many of the little towns in the area have recognized their heritage, and have preserved the old town squares that originally gave the communities structure and form. The rain has let up and the skies have cleared a bit, so I decide to stop at the next "Historic Downtown" that I encounter.
That turns out to be Pilot Point, Texas. Pilot Point is a village of about 5,000 people, and its downtown is on the National Registry of Historic Places. Even on a hot, muggy evening, it's easy to see the charm of the town square, with a gazebo, Veteran's Memorial and buildings that look like they date back to the early part of the 20th century. It's charming without being quaint, and a virtual trip back in time to stroll around and take in the sights. I'm really glad that I decided to pull off the main road for a look around.
Refreshed and energized, I jump back on the bike for the final push to my hotel. I'm staying in my second PREMIER hotel on this trip: the BEST WESTERN PREMIER Crown Chase Inn & Suites in the Dallas suburb of Denton, Texas. As I check in, Ed Rosenfield, the hotel's General Manager drops by to introduce himself, welcome me to the hotel, and ask me a few questions about my motorcycle. I'm always happy to talk bikes. Turns out Ed used to ride, and his brother-in-law is a biker. Ed's thinking about getting a Harley again soon. Our chat turns to motorcycle parking at the hotel. The BEST WESTERN PREMIER Crown Chase Inn & Suites is so new that they haven't figured out where to designate special bike parking yet, so Ed and I go out into the heat to look around. I point out two spaces in the lot that would be perfect parking for four motorcycles, yet are a little awkward for cars. Ed promises that by the next time I visit his hotel, he will have it all figured out -- and he may have his own bike again, too.
I load my gear up into the room, and I decide to take a swim in the outdoor pool before looking for a dinner spot. It has been so hot and humid all day that I just want to cool off and relax. The pool turns out to be lovely, with natural stone, a waterfall and a hot tub. Just what the doctor ordered.
Suitably relaxed, I contemplate the food possibilities. There are several chain restaurants within easy walking distance of the hotel. I'm chain averse -- but there's one I haven't tried in the bunch, and it shares a border with the BEST WESTERN. Texas Roadhouse. If all chains were as well-operated as this one, I wouldn't have this rule at all. I have a delicious steak dinner (what else?), and I even have a beer, because I don't have to worry about getting back on the bike tonight. There are times when proximity is the greatest virtue a restaurant can have, and anything beyond that is a bonus. Texas Roadhouse is a chain that I would visit again, which is a good thing, because they have about 300 locations across the country.
I haven't seen much of Dallas. I have a few hours tomorrow before I have to drop off the Road Glide, and I intend to make use of them.
I'm up early this morning. It's Saturday, and I fly home this afternoon. First, breakfast. The BEST WESTERN PREMIER Crown Chase Inn & Suites has one of my favorite features -- an omelet bar, with a live chef, all included with the price of a night's stay. I can't resist. I get my usual, ham and cheese, and chow down while I plan my day.
I have asked several of my friends the same question, and I get the same answer back from my decidedly unscientific survey: What's the one place you'd like to see in Dallas? To a person, everyone answered: Dealey Plaza. If that doesn't ring a bell right away, I'm jealous of you. For millions of Americans, Dealey Plaza represents one horrible moment in history: On November 22, 1963, it was the site of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.
I know that it seems morbid to dwell on such a horrific event, but I've always been obsessed with the American Presidents, and Kennedy holds a special interest for me. He was President when I was born, and we share a birthday -- May 29. I'm not the only one who shows an interest. The Book Depository building now houses a museum, the Sixth Floor Museum, named for the window that Lee Harvey Oswald allegedly used to shoot the President. I have to say "allegedly," because there's so much controversy around the event, especially on the ground at Dealey Plaza. I've been told that the Sixth Floor Museum is a state of the art historical adventure, and that it takes two and-a-half to three hours to tour it. I don't have that kind of time today -- I'm going to have to skip the museum, and just look at the Plaza.
I park the Road Glide behind the museum, and I'm immediately approached by a rail thin man who starts a conversation about the events of November 22, 1963. The man claims to be a tour guide, but offers to take me around on a "dry run" of the tour that he'll be doing later today. I realize that I'm being hustled, but I'm charmed by the man, whose name is Ray, and decide to play along. Without his guidance, I'm just going to wander around Dealey Plaza taking pictures anyway, relying on my own foggy memory of events. Ray turns out to be very entertaining, with a voice and delivery like Sam Elliott, and a mind full of conspiracy theories. He shows me where Abraham Zapruder stood while he took the famous footage of the event. He points out the "grassy knoll" nearby. He identifies the morbid "X" on the pavement that indicates where Governor Connelly was shot, and the "X" where Kennedy was shot. He offers to show me where Kennedy's occipital lobe was found. He points out the sixth floor window in the former Book Depository, and he shows me the building where Jack Ruby was held for months before he died. He peppers his presentation with plenty of theories and raised eyebrows, challenging me to examine my beliefs about the official account of events. I listen, nod and take pictures -- I'm not a conspiracy theorist, but I'm also not entrenched in my beliefs about the Kennedy Assassination. I know what I want to believe, but I don't care to discuss it with Ray. I just want to absorb the atmosphere of Dealey Plaza on my own. I give Ray a twenty dollar bill -- he really did a good job as a tour guide -- and release him to find another customer. Have I been hustled? Maybe. That's okay -- hopefully Ray will spend the money on some food. He's very thin.
In addition to the Sixth Floor Museum, there's another museum on the plaza, the Old Red Museum of Dallas County History & Culture. The 1892 stone building is a former courthouse, and houses numerous collections of local interest.
Also on the plaza, there's a charming bronze statue of George Bannerman Dealey (1859-1946). Dealey was the longtime publisher of The Dallas Morning News, and a crusader for redevelopment. Too bad the plaza in his honor has become known for sorrow rather than joy.
It's time to return the Road Glide. Reluctantly, I climb back aboard and bring the bike to life. I negotiate the spaghetti of Dallas highways back to Adam Smith's Texas Harley. They're setting up for a Harley Owners Group party today, with live music and barbeque in an outdoor tent. I wish I could hang out -- looks like fun! This is one of the friendliest dealerships I've ever stepped foot in, and if I lived nearby, I'd certainly be a member of their HOG Chapter.
I say my goodbyes to Terry and the gang at the dealership, and I'm off to the airport and the flight home. This has been an epic trip, as you have probably noticed from the length of my blog entries. And I hardly scratched the surface of any of the five states I rode during my Marathon -- I just discovered place after place after place to which I must return. I will definitely plan another trip to Arkansas, where I focus just on Arkansas. I've been on two trips to Texas already, and I can think of several more that I can't wait to ride. I didn't cover the highlights in Missouri or in Kansas, and I barely touched Oklahoma. I need to go back!
Now, I'm home, with my wife, my dogs and my cats. I'm happy, content and glad to be here. But...
Where should I ride next?
Miles Ridden: 344.2
Total Miles Ridden: 1,461.7