Tour of The Ring
An Engaging Tour
Saturday April 1, 2006, 53 miles (85 km) – Total so far: 53 miles (85 km)
Day 1: Train Ride to Ardmore, Pedal to Sulpher
Mary and I had been talking about a short tour. Also there had been some hints and discussions about taking the relationship to the next level. So what better way to propose to my bike tour loving girlfriend than while on a bike a tour?
So on Saturday we rode our loaded bikes to the train station in Norman and boarded Amtrak’s Heartland Flyer. (At that time Amtrak allow us to take bikes on the train unboxed. Unfortunately they no longer allow bikes on the train.) In Ardmore Oklahoma we rolled our bikes off the train and began our two day journey back home.
From the train station we rode west and then turned north on US 77 . About 10 miles north of Ardmore we climbed over Turner Falls Pass in the Arbuckle Mountains. I had originally wanted to propose to her at the top of Turner Falls Pass but there was a little problem with that idea. Somewhere in all the planning I overlooked the fact that it was April 1st and when I realized it my mind went through all sorts of reasons why a girl might not want to be asked for her hand in marriage on that date. I guess it wouldn’t be as bad as proposing on Friday the 13th but still I thought I better wait till April 2nd. Besides we would be camping in one of our favorite national recreation areas so it couldn’t hurt to wait till the 2nd.
At the little town of Dougherty we climbed a 15% grade hill and then turned north on Hwy 110 until the Chickasaw Trail Road. The Chickasaw Trail Road had some very steep climbs as well but at the top the scenery was nice. We finally wound our way north around the Lake of the Arbuckles to the town of Sulpher.
At Sulpher is the entrance into the Chickasaw National Recreation Area where we road around until we found a camp spot. After we pitched our tent we cooked some freeze dried backpacking food and then got in the tent to go to sleep. At first I had a hard time falling asleep. I was a little nervous knowing that in the morning I was going to pop the big question. But soon being tired from all the steep climbs overcame being nervous and I fell asleep.
Day 2: The Big Day.
Sunday April 2, 2006, 75 miles (121 km) – Total so far: 128 miles (206 km)
We woke up with the sunrise and cooked our freeze dried breakfast. After we ate we started breaking camp. While Mary was away from the picnic table I pulled the ring box out of my Camelbak and placed it amongst the camping gear so that she would be sure to find it while packing stuff away. Well I guess she was so into packing stuff that she made four or five visits to the table without even seeing it. Finally when she was standing right in front of the box it finally caught her eye. She looked at it and then looked at me like she really wasn’t sure she believed what she was seeing. I told her to open it. She looked at the ring and then looked at me with her big beautiful smile. I said ‘Will you marry me?’ She looked at me with those beautiful brown eyes and smiled even bigger and said YES!
As we finished breaking camp the park ranger came by and started chatting with us. He asked if we had any trouble with raccoons the previous night and we told him no. He told us how the raccoons in the area were very smart about getting into peoples food. He said that one had even been caught in the act of unzipping a tent fly to get at some food inside the tent. He mentioned that he didn’t see many bike tourists in Oklahoma. He had worked as a park ranger in Yellowstone NP for 15 years and had seen plenty there. He said the big difference there was that it was the bears who wanted in the tents!
After we were packed we got on the road and headed west toward the town of Davis. There we got back on US 77 and headed north again. By the time we had reached the town of Wayne the day had become quite hot. We filled our Camelbaks and water bottles with ice at the C-store and then found a little bit of shade at the Wayne Community Center and lay down to rest and cool off. A lady who lived across the street saw us and walked over. She asked us if we were all right and we told her we were just resting. She was on her way to the C-store but told us her front door was unlocked and that we were welcome to go in and get anything we needed from her refrigerator and to sit in the air conditioning if we wanted! Wow! What a nice offer! She didn’t know us and she trusted us to go in her house without her being there. We thanked her for the offer but declined. We just felt funny at the idea of going in someone’s home without them being there. She was such a nice lady and I wished we could have remembered her name.
In Purcell there is a short but steep hill that we just had to climb. When compared to some of the other hills we had climbed on this tour it wasn’t that bad. Even though it wasn’t on our route we had to climb it anyway for a comparison. A month earlier we had ridden up the hill while doing a century ride from Ardmore to Oklahoma City on our road bikes. Since we were here again we wanted to compare how this hill felt on our tour bikes. Of course even with the added weight of our camping gear the hill was much easier to climb on our tour bikes which have much lower gearing!
We made it back to Norman and as we rode west through town toward my apartment we watched a beautiful orange sunset. What a wonderful ending to such a great tour!