Oklahoma’s Largest Earthquake

We’re watching Saturday Night Live and it sounds like a helicopter is flying over. But the “helicopter” keeps getting louder and louder. Then we notice the TV is shaking around and the sofa is vibrating.

Turns out a 5.6 magnitude quake was happening about 60 miles away. Pretty scary.

That might not sound scary to a West Coaster, but after 30 seconds or so we were getting a little tense. I’m not planning on chasing down any more earthquakes.

Long Way ‘Cross

Illinois to Oklahoma on a BMW GS.

I’ve been wanting another GS since my first BMW motorcycle experience a few years ago. That bike, an R1100GS, was one of my less stellar eBay finds and turned out to be “well worn.” But it did show me some of the virtues of the big boxers. Since then I’ve been keeping an eye out for a good deal on another GS. Hopefully one not quite as well worn as the old 1100 was!

Turns out I came across a candidate while trolling the motorcycle section of Craigslist. It was a 2005 BMW R1200GS. The price was right (most 1200s had been out of my price range), the bike had moderate mileage, sported a few extra goodies and even matched my yellow helmet! The one downside was the location: just outside St. Louis, Missouri.

As seen on Craigslist.I contacted the seller and got more info, full-size photos and details on the bike’s history. It sounded like a winner so I started saving my pennies and made a serious effort to sell my R1150R (offers still being accepted!). After several emails a deal was agreed upon, a Paypal deposit was sent and I began scheming on how to get the GS home. Jackie and I discussed cheap airfares, Greyhound, shipping services and such before deciding that driving up and ferrying it home would be the best solution.

We headed out on a Sunday and decided to take our time, hit some tourist traps and visit one of the most famous Route 66 attractions. We made our way across Missouri, stopped in Springfield for lunch (turns out they have a Which Wich- currently my favorite choice for Franchise Food).

The non-rocking rocking chair.Our first tourist trap was in Fanning, Missouri. This curiously static structure is called the World’s Largest Rocking Chair. We pondered where the largest rocking chair that actually rocks might be located.

Later we pulled off in Stanton, as instructed by numerous billboards, to visit the Mother Road’s best known attraction. All of our lives we’ve seen those billboards painted on barns and wondered about the wonders that await in Stanton, MO. Inexplicably neither of us had ever been to the Meramec Caverns, so this was actually a treat. Turns out the place is very cool. Well, of course it’s a cool- it’s a cave, but it really is worth a visit. Even the surrounding area is a nice campground along the Meramec River, and an adjacent hotel offers rooms for $50 a night. But for some idiotic reason I left my camera in the car, so visit AmericasCave.com to see photos. Or better yet take a drive and stop in person!

Back on the road we headed on to our rendezvous in Festus, Missouri. We eventually got in around dark (perfect time for looking at a used bike!) and checked into our hotel. After putting on jeans and unloading our helmets we headed over to inspect the bike.

Jesse boxes can store tons of stuff.The bike was in good condition and ran great. Like many GS’s, this one had been customized with a slew of accessories, or farkles in the parlance of motorcycle geeks. The most obvious being the huge black aluminum Jesse Luggage hanging on each side (Jackie noted that nobody calls them saddle bags or boxes- they’re always referred to simply as Jesse’s).

Less obvious add-ons included Wilbers shocks, a Scorpion muffler, Sargent seats, a Kaoko throttle lock, BMW cylinder heads guards, Touratech crash bars, a Cee Bailey windscreen, Wunderlich lifting handle, auxiliary fuse panel and the GS Adventure nose trim. All this was making a good deal even better.

Since the title had a lien we had to make the deal at the credit union. It was nearly an hour away and across the Mississippi River in Illinois. The owner was nice enough to take off work and lead the way. We shook hands and agreed to meet first thing the next morning to take care of all the paperwork.

Can you guess why I'm smiling?We all three headed out in separate vehicles the next morning. This was my first solo ride on the 1200 and my initial reaction was, “What the hell’s stuck under this brake lever?!?”

The BMW’s brake system incorporates a servo assist that requires a tender touch on the front brake. I’m still getting used to it. But it was the Go Stick that really caught my attention! Throttle response is crisp and immediate compared to the 1100 or 1150. That torquey grunt is still evident, but now seems to be on tap at a wider range of engine speeds. The rasp from the Scorpion muffler seemed to magnify the effect. After I settled in I realized just how comfortable the Sargent seat really was. Over the next 10 hours that would become increasingly important!

Ready to roll. With the deal done, extra parts loaded in the Volvo, and rain gear at the ready we headed west out of Waterloo, Illinois. But before heading home Jackie had one request…

VIP parking...stop at Trader Joes!

St Louis is the closest one to T-Town. Trader Joe’s is a chain of grocery stores that are known for good stuff at cheap prices. Sorta’ like a cross between Aldi and Whole Foods.

Then we hit I-44 and headed back to Tulsa. The sky had been cloudy most of the morning and the forecasts called for rain in St Louis later in the day. We stopped for lunch in Rolla and still no weather. I could see clouds to the west but I resisted putting on my rain gear since the temps were still warm. Then we got back on the highway and it immediately started pelting me- right through my Mesh Tex jacket!

I forged ahead looking for the first overpass- then the rain stopped. That cycle repeated a couple of times. About 20 miles later the sky really got dark and I could see the weather was getting serious. We pulled off the highway in Waynesville and I started pulling on my rain pants. Before we could get back on the road the clouds began lowering and gust front hit us.

Ominous clouds in Missouri.Jackie watches the storm roll over Waynesville.

Eventually the rain slowed and we resumed our journey. Fortunately the precipitation remained fairly light, but continued non-stop.

Droning along a superslab in the rain is never a fun event, not on any bike. But the GS paid it little heed. The spray from passing trucks was really the most irritating problem I had to deal with. The sure-footed Michelin Anakees never once felt like they hydroplaned, and the heated grips are a godsend once the rain soaks through your gloves. I doubt there’s any motorcycle in the world better suited for traveling in the rain.

Just outisde of Springfield the rain finally stopped. Around Joplin the western sky began looking ominous again. After we crossed the Missouri-Oklahoma border the sprinkles started. This time the showers were light and intermittent. We pressed on until we reached the Glass House at Vinita. A light rain continued to fall, but ahead of us the sky was looking bright and blue. At that point Jackie was getting road-weary and anxious to get home. Since she had the Pikepass (and I didn’t) I sent her on her way while I donned my soggy jacket for the last time.

Pit stop at the Glass House in Vinita. Note the rainbow!And snapped a picture of the rainbow now visible to the northeast…

After the toll plaza the rain stopped, the sky cleared and it was a beautiful day. Rolling into Tulsa it was almost hot. But I was too tired to stop and take off my rain gear at that point.

When I got home we parked the bike inside. Emptied the trunk of the car and stumbled inside. We were almost too tired to drink a cold beer. I said almost.

Take a Left at Albuquerque

I’ve been to New Mexico a couple of times and always enjoyed those visits, but we’d never spent any time in her largest city. Earlier this week Jackie and I had a chance to explore Albuquerque.

We flew on Express Jet, now offering non-stop service from Tulsa. I didn’t realize this until searching flights on Orbitz. We were very happy with their service- they actually offered us food. It wasn’t a full dinner, but much more substantial than a bag of peanuts. The plane was a Embraer ERJ, which is a small jet but pretty comfortable. They also have XM radio piped into every seat and provide free earbuds.

Our visit was actually for business but left us time to explore. The weather was the first surprise, and not a pleasant one! When our flight left Tulsa the temperature in both cities was exactly the same. Cold.

I always think of New Mexico and “desert” is the next word that comes to mind. But this area is high desert, in fact Albuquerque is at a higher elevation than Denver. For most of our visit the temperature hovered in the twenties and thirties and one night saw wind gusts of 60 mph. Youch.

The flight was great, had a fun time in Albuquerque and saw some neat sites- here’s a few highlights…

  • When we arrived on Sunday a large portion of downtown was blocked off for a film crew. A local told us the film was called The Game. Crunched cars lined the street so maybe it’s a post-apocalyptic thriller? Turns out Albuquerque is becoming quite a hot spot for motion pictures.
  • A free bus called the D-Ride makes a loop around downtown and is a great way to get around. In fact, their city bus service in general was remarkably easy to use.
  • We found a top notch local chain of eateries called Flying Star Cafe. Their downtown location is in the former headquarters of an oil and gas company- it’s worth a visit even if you’re not hungry. If you are- I highly recommend the mac-and-cheese dish, Mama Mac, and Jackie had high praise for their Veggie Burger.
  • The area known as Nob Hill has some of the coolest roadside architecture I’ve ever seen in one place. Lots of streamline Deco and modern buildings from the Forties and Fifties. We also noticed a great deal of operational neon signs!
  • Model Pharmacy is also well worth a visit. In addition to salves and tinctures you’ll find toothpastes from around the world. And you can have lunch too! Their malts kick ass.
  • We dropped by Sandia BMW to see their collection of vintage BMW motorcycles. The dealership is quite impressive with BMW cars, bikes and Minis all on one site.BMW motorcycle museum
  • Albuquerque initiated a rebirth of their central business district a few years ago. One of their mandates in the targeted area was “no chains” and all the businesses are locally owned. They expect 100% occupancy by 2009.
  • The ABQ airport seems tiny for a city this size. I was amazed to see a small display with a model of an unusual Italian flying boat, the Savoia Marchetti S.55. Turns out the Italians stopped in New Mexico during an ill-fated attempt at circling the globe in 1927. The high altitude thwarted their takeoff and required them to ditch anything that wasn’t bolted down- including a spare wooden propeller. It now hangs in the Albuquerque airport terminal.
  • The balloon museum was much more fun than either of us expected. The building itself is worth examining. They also have a great airship display with beautiful models of German, American and British zeppelins.
  • If you were confused about the spelling you’re not alone. It was name after some Spanish guy and originally spelled Alburquerque. But the first “R” was dropped (as the legend goes) because it wouldn’t fit on the sign at the train station. Sounds a little fishy to me.

And here’s a little New Mexican architecture…

The church in the Old Town area.

A wacky house near the Model Pharmacy.

Still Shivering in the Dark

It’s been over a week now and still no electricity.

The total outage is now below 50,000 from a peak of nearly a quarter million. I guess we’re just one of the unlucky ones.

Tree company from North Carolina begins the tree removal.Our block is dark while all around us the lights are on. The din of generators drone 24/7 while we wonder why the hell our neighbor leaves it on all night. Somehow calling the police to complain about noise seems so menial. Work crews can be seen everywhere, but none ever stop on our street. Last week we cheered the white trucks with blinking yellow lights as if they were liberating Paris. Now we just grumble and wish they’d get over to our block.

We’re making the best of it and learning to deal with life in the dark. Hot showers are the only source of heat so we enjoy a little morning sauna in my bathroom to start the day. Sleeping has been pretty comfortable– after the initial cold shock wears off– since we piled on about 40 pounds of blankets and two cats. Just don’t forget to have everything in place because you do not want to get back out of bed!

Heavy lifting in our front yard.The good news is the weather forecast is for warmer weather and we’ve got a crew taking care of the tree situation. As a matter of fact the big oak that pummeled our roof is probably about gone as I type this. The pile of wood in the yard hides the house and it’s a real shame seeing all that beautiful oak wood that’s going to go to waste. Getting the trees taken care of for a reasonable price was a big relief because there were some very large branches dangling over the roof. One branch fell on the garage Saturday when the north wind picked up during the brief snowstorm.

At least we still have a roof over our heads.

Chin Up!

Happy holidays from war-torn Tulsa!

Snapped this pic last night on the way to dinner. It’s good to know there’s still a few folks able to maintain their sense of humor.

Our power has now been out for 5 nights. I’ve been pleasantly surprised that our 1964-vintage home has held its heat quite well. It was 58° on Monday and so far we’ve lost about a degree a day. But no matter how you look at it- it’s getting pretty damn uncomfortable.