Lewis & Clark Coming to Tulsa

About 150 years too late? No, not that Lewis & Clark.

Lewis & Clark Outfitters is an outdoors and camping gear retailer headquartered in Springdale, AR. It’s similar to an REI– maybe a little smaller- with all sorts of tents, backpacks, bicycles and clothing. Whenever we’re in Arkansas we like to drop in and check out the latest specials on outdoorsy stuff. Turns out they are opening a store in Tulsa sometime in Spring 2009.

Their plans are for a state-of-the-art store located near the Riverwalk development in Jenks. The design sounds pretty cool and will make the Tulsa location their flagship store. River access is even provided for test driving canoes and kayaks!

So pretty soon we won’t have to cross the state line to check out the latest deals.

Fourth of July Staycation

We decided to have a short Staycation. Like many Americans this Summer we found the idea of venturing far away too… um, expensive. With gas prices and the thermometer both rising rapidly it made sense to consider destinations close to home. With air conditioning.

We started by visiting a strange and novel place unfamiliar to most residents of Tulsa County. It’s called “Downtown Tulsa.” The landscape of this unique area is made up mostly of asphalt ponds and a forest of Art Deco. Tulsans seldom venture here for fear of one-way streets.

Amity- a statue in the Civic Center Plaza, circa late Seventies.Seriously, things are looking up downtown. But don’t look up too long, or you’ll step into an excavation! It seemed like every street was under construction of one sort or another. It appears to be utility infrastructure work is being performed in addition to asphalt renewal. Hopefully it will all be finished soon, and worth the wait.

It Means Roasted Corn
Our first stop was for lunch at a new Mexican restaurant call Eloté. If you’re not familiar with the name, you’ll probably know the location- they are in the old Nelson’s Buffeteria at 514 S. Boston. The menu is not the typical Texican fare, but a refreshing mix of authentic south-of-the-border and nouveau Mex. Eloté emphasizes fresh ingredients, and they use as much local produce as possible.

I had the fish tacos and Jackie ordered veggie tamales with sweet potato sauce. The fish was grilled just right- a little crusty and not too soft. The sweet potato side order is highly recommended. Oh, speaking of sides, eloté is roasted corn, a common snack sold by street vendors in Mexico.

After lunch we strolled Boston Avenue and admired our “art deco main street.” My favorite is still the old NBT Bank Building (now know as 320 Boston Building) with its ornate ceiling and dirigible mooring mast on top. In October this street will very busy as thousands of architecture geeks descend on Tulsa for the National Preservation Conference. We decided coffee and dessert sounded good, so we headed west toward the historic Mayo Hotel.

The main lobby is available to rent for special events, receptions, weddings, etc. That’s been going on for a couple of years. Renovations upstairs are finally underway at the Mayo, something Tulsans have heard over and over through the years. It appears it might actually be happening this time!

Not in Kansas
Another business on the ground floor of the once-grand Mayo Hotel is the Cafe Topeca. Topeca Coffee is from El Salvador and available in the US through this Tulsa business. They roast the beans nearby and serve light snacks and desserts, along with their excellent coffee of course. The atmosphere is calm and inviting. We enjoyed coffee and a creamy cake-thing and lounged for almost an hour.

Oh yeah- they pronounce it tow-PAY-kuh.

After our coffee break we visited the Central Library to pick up a couple of videos and then headed back home. All in all a very enjoyable staycation.

My Town…
more fun links and other tidbits for exploring Tulsa

Our Nation’s Birthday on the Mother Road

Biking by the Round BarnTurned out I had a free morning this Fourth of July. Jackie had most of her morning planned with errands to run, visits to make, etc. I, on the other hand, had not a care in the world.

It had been a while since I rolled out the bike for a solo pleasure cruise. It was a beautiful Oklahoma morning and the weather forecast was favorable, so this seemed like the perfect time. After checking the tire pressure I rolled the BMW out of the garage and saddled up. I honestly had no idea where I was headed as I pulled out of the driveway.

After a few minutes I was rolling down I-44 westbound out of Tulsa. I decided to take a tour down Route 66. I exited to Southwest Boulevard and took the “authentic” pre-1973 route of the Mother Road toward Sapulpa, Oklahoma. Just past Sapulpa there is a very old stretch of 66 that includes a one-lane girder bridge paved with red bricks. I was happy to see the rusty bridge is still there, even if it is looking pretty crusty.

1925 Frisco Overpass over Route 66I’d always wondered how old this few miles of the old road really was. Just then I rounded the bend and found my answer in the form of this familiar old railroad underpass. How I overlooked this in previous years is beyond me. The date 1925 on the overpass would indicate the road must be pretty close to that same age!

I bumped along over the aging concrete until it spit me out on the current alignment of 66 near the junction of Oklahoma State Highway 33 outside of Kellyville. I continued on through Bristow and passed a group of baggers outside of Depew. As I approached Stroud I remembered reading there had been a fire at the Rock Cafe. I decided that would make a good place to stretch my legs and have a shot of water while I surveyed the damage.

Ruins of the Rock CafeWhen I got to Stroud I could see the debris in front of the Rock Cafe from a few blocks away. This was no kitchen fire. As I pulled up I could see the historic 1939 roadhouse was in ruins. The fire had completely destroyed the structure and reinforcements had been erected in an attempt to save the native rock walls. While I was gawking the baggers I had passed earlier came pulling up, also looking wide-eyed. Turns out they had no idea there had been a fire and were stopping at the “Rock” for lunch.

I snapped a few more photos of the devastation before continuing west.

Davenport's brick-paved main streetIn Davenport a sign touts their historic brick-paved downtown. Apparently the entire stretch through the business district is listed as a historic site. Good thing because there’s not much else in downtown Davenport. The Oklahoma sun beat down on block after block of empty storefronts. Rumbling along over the red bricks made me glad we don’t pave roads that way any longer.

At this point I decided to continue on to Pop’s in Arcadia for lunch and fuel. The rest of the ride was uneventful (except for nearly hitting the biggest snapping turtle I have ever seen). As I lugged my way back toward Tulsa the heat of the day was catching up to me. Puffy clouds floated over the wide open spaces between each small town.

As I came back through Sapulpa I decided to leave 66 and take OK-97 north where I could catch Avery Drive. That seemed like a fitting finale for my ride- Avery Drive is named for the man known as the father of the Mother Road, Cyrus Avery.

It all seemed like the perfect way to spend a Fourth of July morning.

Can’t Afford to Drive? Ride.

It’s sad that it takes $5 gas to force most Americans to consider being efficient. As Winston Churchill put it: “Americans will always do the right thing. When they absolutely have to.”

Gas is really pretty cheap. But I’ve always kept the price of gasoline in perspective. Consider the fact that you can walk into most any convenience store in this country and drop a buck on a liter of water. Until recently, gas was cheaper than water.

So with the threat of $5 a gallon looming on our dashboard horizon, we collectively pause to consider the options. Apparently many people are considering two wheels instead of four…

Survey shows gas prices cause more people to consider motorcycles
Powersports Business
Friday June 27, 2008

More than one-quarter of U.S. consumers are considering purchasing a motorcycle or scooter, according to a survey released by Consumer Reports National Research Center.

Eighteen percent are thinking of buying a motorcycle while 14 percent are contemplating motor scooters. The survey also revealed that men are more apt to make the switch with most of them being between the ages of 18-34. In 2007, consumers said they would reduce driving when gas hit $3.50 per gallon. That has proven true as year-to-date 20 billion fewer miles have been traveled compared to the same period last year, stated the U.S. Department of Transportation.

The survey was a random, nationwide telephone survey from June 5-8, 2008. Interviews were conducted with 884 adults, ages 18 years or older, who drive a vehicle and whose household owns at least one vehicle.

This is an excellent time to mention Ride to Work Day is July 16, 2008.

Riding my BMW R1150R near Keatonville
Rex rides his BMW for work and play.
Around here motorcycles are typically considered recreational vehicles. But consider the efficiency with which they can move people from point A to point B with no appreciable wear and tear on our roads, using very little fuel and requiring no modification to existing infrastructure. The reduction in traffic congestion alone would seem to have far-reaching economic repercussions. Not to mention less parking space, reduced consumption of foreign oil and fewer carbon emissions.

The practical side of scooters and motorcycles was overlooked while we were filling our SUVs. Maybe now we’ll reconsider.

Resources for the potential motorcyclist…

Food for Thought: Corn

Or, what does ethanol have to do with carpaccio?

Rising fuel prices have focused more attention on ethanol lately. Consumers have discovered the trade-off in power between a gallon of gasoline and a gallon of E85, which essentially balances the price difference. And then there’s the corrosion issues the futurists from the Corn Belt neglected to tell us about. Yet government mandates in the Energy Act of 2005 require that a certain portion of our automotive fuel supply be spiked with the stuff. Some experts warn that current production capacity can’t even supply these mandated quantities.

Miles of open ranch land in OklahomaImporting ethanol is not an option because of protectionist tariffs. So the net result has been an increase in commodity prices as the demand for corn increases. Biofuel makers bid against food suppliers and drive up the price. Food or fuel, the critics ask. But using corn as a fuel is not a new idea- we’ve been doing it for years with cows. And they don’t run on the stuff much better than our cars do.

Gas, Grass or ..
About a zillion years ago cows grazed in pastures and ate grass. Then came McDonald’s and everyone decided it was a good idea to eat hamburgers four times a day. This increased demand for beef required a factory approach to raising cattle. And grazing in picturesque pastures had nothing to do with it.

Ranchers found that feeding cattle a corn diet caused them to fatten up more quickly and gave the beef a marbled appearance. Since they aren’t built to eat corn they convert the sugars to fat, and it also gives them gas. Now if your child was eating a diet that had such an effect we would call him… well, an average American, but we’d also consider it unhealthy. And the same goes for the cows- it’s not good for them.

This factory farming approach requires huge amounts of antibiotics to fight disease- 70% of all the antibiotics our country consumes is used on cows. Fear of raw or undercooked meat has not been exaggerated. The incidence of foodborn disease, such as E.colli or Campylobacter, in feedlot beef is 300 times more likely than in pasture-fed beef. Add to this the practice of grinding up beef from hundreds of cows at one time for hamburger and it pretty much guarantees you a bacterium-laden burger.

Fuel for Thought
Ironically, it takes someone threatening our cars to wake up many Americans. If the price of gas continues to rise, and the use of ethanol remains fashionable, the food-or-fuel or fuel-for-food debate will rage on. Eventually the beef industry will weigh in with a Toby Keith song playing in the background. But maybe there’s another way.

Instead of raising corn to feed to cows, maybe we could raise corn and feed it to people? And maybe the cows could eat grass like they used to? Sure, we would see the end of 59 cent hamburgers. But imagine ordering a steak cooked “rare.” Imagine buying a pound of hamburger that came from one cow. Maybe even one day saying, “Pass the carpaccio, please.”

Ref: Wikipedia- Cattle Feeding