I wanna start off by saying thank you for all the letters and postcards and goodies that we found sitting perched atop the piano at my grandpa’s last weekend. We had Christmas morning at the breakfast table on Sunday, while feasting on blue cornmeal and toast that my lovely little Japanese grandma prepared for us. (She’s the best at making healthy yummy food. My being vegan doesn’t phase her in the least). It was kind of a stinky Christmas morning though, as my dad had sent a can of V8 tomato juice stuff, which had exploded all over everything else in the box. The post office has kindly bagged the sodden package, and by the time we arrived to open it, it was spouting a nice growth of mold, and smell, well, like rotten tomatoes.
Anyways, I spent the morning reading letters and perhaps getting an early start on all those snacks meant for the road. After noon, the Trickey clans began trickling through the door. Greys and Simons and Ragsdales and Colliers soon filled the whole house with chatter and laughter. Stink and Beef both got to meet the fam, which was probably a bit overwhelming for the both of them.
We had a late lunch, and the long benches and tables int he dining room overflowed into the rest of the house. My grandpa had a few words to say, then a few more, then sooner or later we were all chowing down. My Aunt Kathy & co. ended up staying late with us, playing dominoes, drinking like seven pots of coffee I think, and cracking up over the slightest things. I haven’t laughed that hard in ages.
Finally through, even they trickled off home, and we headed off to bed. In the morning we had to pack up, and this included the pound of goodies and snacks passed on to us by family members, and by friends in the mail. It was a weight I was more than okay with bearing. Once the bikes were loaded, we had to say goodbye to grandma and grandpa. He fanned us off (a prayer ceremony involving getting sacred cedar smoke fanned all over you with these beautiful fans. This was probably a bit strange for Stink, but just reminiscent for me. It always feels like a giant bird is wafting over me, beating it’s wings along my body. I may not be religious, but this, this I like).
We said our goodbyes, then rolled off down the gravel road, and were both immediately out of breath. How had three days gotten us so out of shape!? We chugged along though, and had our goal set for Edmond, OK (which as it turned out was accidentally a hundred miles away). We were in touch with Donna, our Oklahoma Rat Lady, who lives just south of there in Oklahoma City., and planned to meet up .Since we were going to be so close to her though, she offered to have us stay for the night. Yay!
So, we rolled along on Route 66, saw us a couple German bike tourists in a dive bar along the way. We wondered why anyone would want to bike the entire Route 66 (not very bike friendly, with old bumpy roads that run parallel to the interstate in many places), but chalked it up to the idea that foreigners probably still think Route 66 is the “essential America”. We reached a gas station 76 miles out from grandpa’s, then Donna and her husband Ted came our way to pick us up and take us to dinner and home for the night. Beef got to meet an entire van full of children who were curious about the little creature I was tending to on the back of my bike.
Beefie has been showing his age lately (I’ll have had him two year next month, and who knows how old he was when I got him from the rat rescue). His back legs began to start giving out that past week, a common thing among old rats. When Donna and Ted arrived, we loaded up the bikes while she held him. Not quite the pudgy little pork he was when she met him in Yellowstone four months ago.
We all went out to dinner at this cafeteria, Luby’s, which was bomb. Donna and Ted and the nicest folks you’ll ever meet, and kept us entertained with stories of their many and varied adventures. When we got home, Donna had set up a nice big rat hotel for Beef, and we set about making sure he’d be comfortable. But he wasn’t. He was a bit freaked out, and his breathing was getting more labored than usual (he’s been a wheezy boy since forever, but this was more extreme). Donna suggested we take him to her vet, and assured that they were wonderful with rats. I jumped at the chance, and we four (Stink included), zipped off together.
I was getting more nervous about my boy, so it was good to have folks chatting in the car. We got their and got him all check in, and they put him in an oxygen tank to help with his breathing. The vet came out later and said he didn’t look good. He didn’t know how much longer he’d be around for. This is never something you want to hear. I kind of had a moment in the lobby, just from the shock of it. But I was surrounded by good people, even another patron waiting had sympathy for this kind of ordeal. When the tech brought him back out, he got lots of loving, and a few different medicines, to do the best to getting him feeling better.
One of the medicines was a liquid to be used in a nebulizer, which I didn’t even know what it was. But in the way that things just end up working out, we happened to be staying with a bona fide Rat Lady, who had the very thing on hand. This is a tank you put the animal in, while a machine vaporizes the medicine and pumped it into the container like a fog. The critter then breathes it in and get medicine very directly this way.
So we got home and set this up and did his first treatment. Donna offered to let us stay for another day so we could do more rounds of it. We talked it over and agreed that this was best. So, Beef’s “Auntie Donna” got him some baby foods and yummy treats, and set up beds for us on the couches. Donna’s girls, Emma and Livie, were home, and everyone gave Beefie lots of lovin, just what the doctor ordered. By then, it was late, and it had been a long night, so soon enough we were passed out.
We got up kind late in the morning, and nebulized the old ratboy again (nebulize is such a cool word). Donna had an appointment later, but told us about the art museum in town. Ted ended up picking Stink and I up and driving us out there for a few good hours of destressing and art viewing. There was a huge Dale Chihuly exhibit, and Fabergé eggs too, but what I really liked was the varied assortment of American painting displayed on the second floor.
Donna picked us up afterwards and we all went home to drug the beef again, like ya do. We went out for dinner at Mexican restaurant, then stopped by the lakefront park on the way home to see if the treeman was there (Donna and Ted had been telling us about this guy who like, dances with the one tree every night, and plays his didgeridoo during the sunsets). Lo & behold, he was there, along with a tree lady, and a little German shepherd pup. We sat on a bench and watched the rosy sunset while furtively stealing glances at the tree folk and trying to think of an excuse to go over and talk with them.
Then, out of the corner of my eye, I saw something small and dark skittering across the path, and headed over to see what it was. It was a tiny mouse! Everyone came over to see the little fella, and by then, we were right night to the tree folk, and their pup began barking so of course we had to go over and say hello. This ended up with us all chatting away like old friends and petting the pup and even ended with a didgeridoo performance by treeman. I was glad the little mouse had led us over their. Just another wholesome feeling of being at the right place at the right time.
We got home, nebulized Beef again and soon all zonkered out again. In the morning we did a final treatment and prepared to leave. Donna was going to ride with us along the bike paths, back to Route 66, so we all got ready to go. Stink had to fix a flat (then another as she exploded her tube with a bit too much air pressure when topping it off. Never do that again! Our ears were ringing). Donna took a spin on my bike, and I on hers (it weighed next to nothing) and it was probably equally challenging for the both of us to remain upright.
Eventually, we got on the road, and had a pleasant 13 mile ride out with Donna, till she dropped us back off on our road. Beefie had to say bye too, to his Auntie Donna ( as we have now deemed her). We then just busted out miles and stopped to eat sandwiches at Subway and try to get Beefie to eat morsels of our foods too (his appetite is failing as well, so if we think we can get him to get something, by all means, we’ve got it dangling in front of his puffy little face).
We rode on to Weatherford, OK and scoped out a nice church pavilion. We asked permission and got the go ahead. Stink went to a college kids sermon thingy, and I zonked out after giving Beefie his meds and getting him to eat some baby cereal (also courtesy of Donna). When we started packing up in the morning, the college pastor came out and invited us to come in and use the restroom if needed. He also stuck around to watch us try and cram all our junk back on the bikes. It’s like a reverse clown car and proves endlessly entertaining to others. He also gave us contact info for some churches in towns we might stop at that evening, that would probably let us camp out for the night.
We rode out to Sayre that day, and found one of his churches. I asked a fella heading inside if the pastor or someone was around, and he flagged down a guy in a truck who was pulling out of the parking lot. This was the music director for the church, and turns out he was a cyclist too. He showed us an area we could camp out at, only after offering to get us a hotel (we were able to declined this time!). We walked over to the grocery next door, got some beans, then relaxed in our hidden little spot.
Stink slung her hammock over on a stairwell, and I put up the tent that night, as there were bugs everywhere! Ants had even invaded Beef’s mailbox so I spent awhile in the streetlight wiping them all out before safely getting him in the tent and zonking out. In the morning, we packed up, and Stink headed to a McDonald’s down the rode while I finished gathering my things. Only then did I notice that ants had invaded my snack pannier and were bust destroying everything! They had chewed through double layers of plastic bags and effectively ruined most all of the snacks from friends and family that I was carrying.
I was bummed. Those were good snacks. I dumped one bag out onto the sidewalk and was trying to salvage some of the eatables, when music man showed up and then I realized how pitiful I looked, squatting over a pile of ant infested trail mix, picking out raisins and banana chips. He asked if he could just give me a few bucks to get some more from the grocery across the street (this was an irreplaceable delicious gift from dear friends though!), so I knew I must end my fool’s errand, and kick the rest into the grass.
I met up with Stink, drank coffees, and slowly and painstakingly feed Beef baby food and cereal off our fingers (he’s getting so he won’t eat out of a bowl, just wants to lick food off your fingers). Eventually though, we hit the road, and bot howdy did we ride. We had all these back roads to travel on and it was beautiful, flat, and even windy in a helpful way. We crossed into Texas, our 42nd state, though it wasn’t much different than Oklahoma.
We stayed in this teeny town McLean, TX that night, then got on the road early the next morning. We went on dirt roads for part of the day, and even had to ford a flooded one, taking off our shoes and walking out scoots through shin deep waters out in the middle of nowhere, under the watchful gaze of a fancy prancy horse.
We eventually entered Amarillo, and immediately wanted to exit Amarillo. It was trafficy, with hotel and gas station after fast food after another. We stopped at a truck stop for a bit to chug gatorade and scarf down some food (and for Beef to lap some up as well) then got the hell of out dodge.
The next town we hit was teensy, and we had the option of staying there, or doing another twenty miles before sundown. We moved along. And fast too! We had a tailwind, a sunlight deadline, and motivation to get there and go to bed. we were probably scooting along at a good 18 mph at least, and soon the town was in view.
I got some water at a Subway, Stink scouted out a church we could camp at, and then we sat about eating chili beans, drugging my rat, and trying to convince him to eat various tidbits. While this was going on, Stink check out how man many we did that day: one hundred and twenty.
We hadn’t even gone over a hundred the entire trip, and here we are doing 120. I didn’t believe it at first, but then my weary body convinced me otherwise.We set up the tent in an adjacent field, set the alarm for 10 and a half hours from then, and immediately passed out and didn’t wake till a gang of crows on the fence started showing off their voices half an hour before the alarm was to go off. And even then we didn’t get up till it did go off, slowly clambering out into the dewy grass, packing up our soggy tent and scooting to a gas station for coffee.
Beef durgging, feeding, coffee drinking, oatmeal eating, and a bit of well earned loitering ensued. Once we left, we had some miles on frontage roads along the interstate, but then even those ended and we had to join traffic with the big boys.
But, here we are now, in the New Mexico visitor’s center, just after crossing the state line; our 43rd state.
Love you all, and make sure you send old man Denali “Beef” Beeferton all the best vibes you got.