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Thursday 23 June 2011

Day 45 - Alabamboo!

Todays mileage: 70
Total mileage: 2,225
End point: Stillwater, OK

I have been receiving a number of complaints that I am living it up in luxury when I promised pain - part of this being not enough camping. So I want to assure that last night I had a full on Ryanair camping experience. (For my american readers ryanair were the irish airline who threatened to make customers pay a pound to go to the toilet). My list of complaints about the campground:
1. Having to pay $5 extra for electric when I worked out I used less than 1 cents worth of electricity *
2. No toilet roll in toilet
3. Toilet and shower locked, had to find man with big dogs to unlock
4. Mud smeared on walls of shower, poop in toilet
5. Having to pay $1 for 3 minutes of showering in quarters *
6. Rock hard ground forcing me to use breeze blocks to pitch to help pitch tent
* What is my original fee for??

In addition to this my towel also blew off and was not recovered. This in addition to the helmet, t-shirt, 3 pairs of sunglasses and a load of other crap I have lost over this trip. And why did I not give my jumper (sweater) to ethan for him to give to me in louisville? Doh!

So onwards, passed my whinging and into some riding. I only had to do 3 miles today before I reached my 7th state, and then I was OK! The necessary photo was taken and then some bizarre state laws. A big tent in the field next to the state line selling fireworks, it is illegal to sell them in Kansas and so people head to OK to buy them, and its nearly 4th July. This took me back to November 2008 when we had a Guy Fawkes night in Kentucky. Fireworks are actually completely illegal Kentucky (but assault rifles are ok ;) so you have to go to indiana to buy them . Guy Fawkes night happened the day after Obama got elected, so Greg the guy whose house we went to, went round to all his neighbours to assure them this was an english celebration and that his house definately had not gone democrat!

In addition to the weird firework laws, I passed about 5 casinos throughout my ride. This land has lots of native indian influences and I have been passing what is known as the Cherokee Strip - land guaranteed to the indians in the middle of the 19th century. Under great pressure from the government the Cherokees sold this land for the price of $8.5m in 1889 - bargain. From what I can make out the pan-hanlde of oklahoma exists as it contains the original cherokee strip. The casinos are run by indians and are mainly attended during the day by retirees as far as I can work out! There are some weird casino laws in america law, lots on indian reserves, but Indiana had a rule that you can build a casino but only if you make sure it is afloat on water! Brilliant!

The first major town, in fact the only major town of the day was Ponca, which had a great downtown area but an even better City Hall. Now the first city hall above belongs to Newkirk, grand and impressive but fairly typical. The Ponca townhall reminded me of what you might see in a South American colonial town - I loved the architecture. I refueled in Ponca taking probably far too long for lunch over my chicken club sandwich.

Leaving Ponca I saw two cyclists appearing in the distance on the other side of the road, and seeing they were touring cyclists I headed to intercept them over a railway line and the divided highway. Jason and Mark were great guys, but halfway through introductions I noticed something funny about their bikes, in fact something so strange I just stopped talking to them and stared. Their bikes were made of bamboo!! I have seen a bike made of bamboo in a cycling magazine but never in the flesh. The various straight parts of the frame are made of bamboo, these are wrapped together using carbon fibre and then there is some metal at key parts like the bottom bracket. They aren't quite doing the whole transam; they are cycling from Alabama to San Francisco to promote bamboo bikes and support this new fledgingly industry in Alabama. In case your interested a bamboo frame will set you back about $500 and you can catch up on their adventures at . They also told me about 'warm showers' a website where you can stay at other touring cyclists houses, this is something I will be investigating.

After leaving the Jason and Mark (good luck btw!) I peddled on through another 40 miles of oppressive heat. Its been 100f again today here and I have been doing my best to keep the fluids up, regular stops and the 44oz of fanta and ice! Nothing too much too note for the rest of the ride; very inconsistent shoulders on the roads and I thought I had finally found my roadside treasure until I turned the iphone I found over. It was in worse condition than my phone! Now in a lovely campground on the outskirts of Stillwater, ready for Tulsa tomorrow.


  1. That campground from the other night sounded awful! That would not have been up to my standards. :-) I hope it cools down a bit for you today. I liked the name of that website: Pretty catchy. You are in your 7th state now! You are doing so good!

  2. The panhandle, I think (though stand to be corrected by Americans who know their history), is actually all about technicalities around state lines and slavery in the mid 19th century. The northern border is at 37° and the southern at 36°30´. When Texas entered the Union in 1846 it wanted to maintain slavery. Under the Missouri Compromise no state could be a slave state if its borders extended north of 36°30´. So Texas gave its land north of that line to the rest of the US, maintaining its slave status. That's the southern border of the Oklahoma panhandle. Then the Kansas-Nebraska Act set the southern border of Kansas at 37°. That became (a bit later) the northern border of Oklahoma, creating the panhandle.

    I've got all this anorak-y information from the excellent 'How the States Got Their Shapes' by Mark Stein. He points out the main interesting thing from all this arcane history - that in 1846, when the southern bit of the panhandle was created, the main driving force for the border was slavery. By 1854 and the creation of the northern border, equality of size, shape, and mathematical and geographical purity was more important. Hence the 'neater' shapes of the later states, and the rougher shapes of the earlier ones.

    Anyway. If anybody's still reading... thanks for staying with me. You can go now.