We set out with the best intentions last Monday morning and with high hopes for the beautiful weather that the weatherman predicted. We had the route programmed into Dave's GPS unit on his motorcycle. I had both our cameras fully powered up with fresh batteries and extra batteries stowed away in my camera bag. My big lens was tucked into the camera bag as well, in hopes of photographing the buffalo and any other wildlife we might see as we toured the wildlife refuge outside Lawton, Oklahoma, our final destination. It was a beautiful, clear skied morning with the pear trees in full blossom up and down our street and the sun was beating down warmly upon our backs as we headed out of our neighborhood and began our first overnight trip on the motorcycle.
We headed south, taking the backroads down to one of my favorite spots, Natural Dam, where we pulled over for our first leg stretcher of the day. We were happy and having a lot of fun. I threw rocks and skipped a few for each of the kids like I always do when I come across water. Dave was busy taking "hero" shots of his bike with his phone and seeing what was next on the GPS.
We climbed back on the bike and crossed into Oklahoma about 45 minutes later.
And that was when everything changed. The skies clouded over, the wind picked up and the temperatures started to tank. At first we thought it would all blow over because the sun was fighting her way though the thick overcast every now and again, giving us a little bit of hope, but the warm weather we left behind in Arkansas and that we were hoping to return never materialized. With every stop along the route, I downed hot chocolate and cappuccinos by the gallon; in fact, I can't remember the last time I drank so much coffee during the day. I'm normally a two-cupper-black-only kind of coffee drinker and only in the mornings, but I made an exception that afternoon.
But we pressed on, with me willing Lawton to hurry up and appear on the green highway signs and Dave battling the strong headwinds and keeping the heavy motorcycle upright on the small country roads. We were exhausted, cold and getting discouraged when we pulled into the tiny town of Pauls Valley for gas and yet another hot drink. I was standing inside chatting with the clerk behind the counter when Dave walked in, looked at me and said the most magical and wonderful thing I had heard all day: "I made a command decision and found us a hotel ten minutes away and canceled the one in Lawton. We're staying here tonight."
I would've hugged him except I was too busy wrapping my arms around myself to stay warm.
So, instead of photographing buffalo and elk, the next morning we got up and I photographed downtown Pauls Valley, Oklahoma. We toured the the working train depot (an Amtrak train pulled in during our visit and a freight train roared past 15 minutes later) and heard stories of the depot and the town from the museum's sweet curator. She had the most twinkly eyes.
Dave and I got back on the bike, this time with new directions taped to the gas tank, hand written directions for a quicker ride home (the GPS on the motorcycle had our route to Lawton taking twice as long as it should've been, thus the overnight stay in Pauls Valley). Dave pointed the motorcycle towards home and away we went, both agreeing that Pauls Valley more than made up for the lack of any big wildlife we may've seen at Lawton. The wildlife we did see from the back of the bike were coyotes roaming the pastures, dozens and dozens of red tailed hawks, herds of deer and I even spotted the white head of a bald eagle high in the tree tops sitting on her nest. We saw brand new calves grazing near their mommas and little foals near theirs in the fields as we flew past. We chatted to each other over our intercoms until the batteries died, leaving us to our own thoughts. We crossed small creeks and big rivers. We drove over flatlands that reached as far as we could see and drove curvy roads that gave me tummy tickles. We met the nicest people along the way, all of them sending us off with good wishes and "be careful out there"'s. We never complained, seeing that there really wasn't anything we could do about the cold weather and the gusty winds. It was what it was and we experienced it together.
But I have never been so cold in all my life!