Kurt & Mary’s tour to the Talimena Drive and back.
620 miles (999 km) over 12 days from September 24, 2006 to October 5, 2006
Our tour to Southeastern Oklahoma and the Talimena Drive
Mary (my fiance), and I enjoy touring. Before this tour we had done three short self supported tours together and had crossed Oklahoma twice while on supported rides. When we were able to get two weeks vacation time we decided we wanted to use as much of the time as we could. We also knew from previous rides that we wanted to return to eastern Oklahoma where we love the scenery.While planning our tour we were very tempted to drive to south eastern Oklahoma and start our tour there. In doing so we estimated we would save 4 days travel time just getting there and back. However, we decided that it would be a much more exciting adventure to start from and return home.So we studied our Roades of Oklahoma map book and plotted a course that would give us a place to camp each night, places to eat lunch, buy groceries, get water, and also to hike on our rest days. We knew from previous tours about how many miles we were able to ride each day while carrying our gear and we knew that once we encountered the Talimena Drive that we would have additional challenges with the many 13% and above grade climbs, and the fact that food and water would not be very available.We planned on carrying and cooking our own food for breakfast and dinner while finding lunch in the many cafes and Convenience stores along the route.
Day 1: Midwest City, OK to Holdenville, OK
Sunday September 24, 2006, 90 miles (145 km) – Total so far: 90 miles (145 km)
Day 2: Holdenville, OK to Elm Point Camp Ground Lake Eufaula, OK
Monday September 25, 2006, 57 miles (92 km) – Total so far: 147 miles (237 km)
We had originally planned on camping at Hickory Point campground on the south side of Lake Eufaula. When we got to Krebs we thought we might call ahead. The ranger told us that that campground had been closed. She said there was no water there and she highly recommended we go to a Elm Point campground 8 miles further north. She told us that not only was there water there but there were also showers. So we rode north to Elm Point where we camped for the evening.
When we got to Elm Point the camp host told us there was plenty of water but no showers. So we picked a rather secluded camp sight and we hung the tent fly in a tree in such a way that we could take a shower inside using our dromedary bags. The camp host explained that the reason the Hickory Point campground had been closed due to the activities of the “local druggies”
We also talked to another man who was camping there in his RV. He said he vacationed there every year for two weeks to fish. He said if we had been there a few days earlier he would have invited us for a fish fry.
Day 3: Lake Eufaula, OK to Sardis Lake, OK
Tuesday September 26, 2006, 54 miles (87 km) – Total so far: 201 miles (323 km)
This was our first of many big hills. It showed as a 6% grade on my inclinometer and was about 2 miles to the top.
We camped at the Potato Hills Park Central campground at Sardis Lake. It was a nice campground on a very pretty lake. In the area where we camped we were the only campers there. We had hot showers and good well water to drink.
After pitching our tent I went to try to pay for the campsite. At the gate there was a sign saying the camp host was gone. I couldn’t find a place to pay nor could I even find anything stating how much a campsite cost. Just as I was about to leave a guy came to close the gate to the campground. He explained that Jerry the camp host had gone into the city for a doctor’s appointment. He said there was no place to pay and that someone should be around to collect our fee. By the time we left the next morning nobody ever came to collect. It was our second free campsite.
While at the gate I ended up talking to the guy closing the gate. He was very interested in our trip and asked me all about bike touring. He said he was 65 and wished he were younger because he would have liked to have tried it.
Day 4: Sardis Lake, OK to Talihena, OK via. the “Scenic Route”
Wednesday September 27, 2006, 70 miles (113 km) – Total so far: 271 miles (436 km)
We had planned on refilling our Camelbaks and water bottles at Honobia. We had been to Honobia the previous year on the Oklahoma Freewheel tour and knew there was a small store there. However, when we arrived we discovered the store had closed. We knew we had a long steep climb ahead of us on Honobia Hill and we became worried because we were almost out of water. We looked around and didn’t find any water faucets so we decided we had better see if we could find someone who would be kind enough to let us have some water. We noticed there was a house behind the store and knocked. A young lady answered and after we explained our predicament she let us into her house and allowed us to fill our containers from her kitchen sink. She explained that the store was in the process of closing and would reopen one last time for the Annual Sasquatch Festival which was the following weekend. Little did we know that this would be the first of several days when finding water would become a challenge.
It only took us 45 minutes to reach the highest point of Honobia Hill but then we realized that there were at least a half a dozen more peaks before we would finally descend on the north side going into Talihena. We reached the campground just after the sun had set and pitched our tent by flashlight.
Day 5: Talimena State Park. bought groceries, and went hiking.
Thursday September 28, 2006, 14 miles (23 km) – Total so far: 285 miles (459 km)
Day 6: Talimina State Park to Kerr Nature Center via. on the Talimena Drive.
Friday September 29, 2006, 26 miles (43 km) – Total so far: 312 miles (501 km)
Remembering what the Park Ranger had told us the night before about the well at the Winding Stair campground we decided to check with the people at the visitor center. We were the first one’s there when they arrived to open. I had two 2 liter dromedary bags ready to fill for extra water but the lady at the visitor center assured us that the well was pumping water again and that we had nothing to worry about. Since our bikes were already carrying over a hundred pounds each and we knew we were about to start climbing some serious hills I readily accepted her answer and stowed the empty dromedary bags in my panniers. All the while my gut was telling me that we should play it safe and take the extra water. This would soon turn out to be another learning experience for us. First of all we learned the locals don’t always know what they are talking about even when they wear an official looking name tag!