This story was originally published in our March 2007 edition.
My heart quickened to match the tempo set by our ride leader. Gravel sprayed like buckshot from the 460 series Dunlop 606 mounted to the rear of his DRZ 400 as he accelerated out of the alley and onto the narrow strip of broken asphalt. I aimed for the blast, sensing that he had chosen the best line to merge us safely into the moderate traffic. A quick check of the mirror confirmed that my petite little wife was still hanging on, despite the spirited pace of our backstreet, urban assault. She flashed me her gorgeous smile and gave me a thumbs-up, as she urged her blue and white Yamaha XT 225 across sidewalks, through parking lots, past gated barriers and between pylons. Susan loves this crazy kind of riding as much as I do.
The night before, we were enjoying a hot, pink filet and an exquisite bottle of Coppola Merlot with our friends, James and Kay Pratt, and we were all itching for a ride. Someone suggested we scratch that itch by meeting at a venue halfway between our hometowns of Norman and Edmond, Oklahoma. BYOBike!
Now, it was a blustery, fall, Sunday afternoon in Downtown OKC and James was still smarting after an errant get-off from his F-650 Beemer. He was nursing a fractured wrist, so a hard-core off-road ride was out, but a rapid blast through the backstreets of our state’s capital might just do the trick. Little did we know what a runaway roller coaster we were about to climb aboard! Hurt, he may be, but that didn’t slow him down a bit. James is to Dual Sport riding, what Jimi Hendrix was to rock and roll. Hang on, Buddy, ‘cause we’re going for a ride!
After an impromptu riders meeting at the Sonic walk-in on Reno, James and Kay disappeared between two old warehouses and began connecting rough terrain with back alleys until I started feeling like Winnie the Pooh in the 100-acre wood. Kay handled her TTR 250 like a stern mom handles an unruly teenage daughter, blond pony tail swishing with an attitude on every shuck and jive. Standing on tip-toes at stops, she would make a quick check for traffic, and then weave her way into line. Dirt, gravel or sand, it didn’t matter. She was no stranger to this game and it showed in the way she moved on that bike.
We slipped through fences and barricades like ghosts. Our rapid tour took us past shanty-towns, where Hispanic men sat cross-legged in the dirt, working on old cars, and children played in rusty pickup beds. We spied a ragged tent city tucked back in the woods, tattered laundry strung between trees to dry. It was doubtful many city dwellers knew this place existed. It occurred to me as we passed that these were the homes of the homeless.
James obviously knew his way around these parts, but how could he remember so many escape routes from these endless, dead-end streets? We were alley cats, scampering too fast to be cornered, but missing nothing worth seeing. We crossed an abandoned airfield at Downtown Airpark, popped over the street and worked our way down to the banks of the Oklahoma River, better known to us old-timers as the North Canadian. There, we blended in with dirt bikes and four wheelers for a mile or so before crossing on a partially submerged sand bar, exiting the river by riding up the bank on the other side.
A brief rest stop found us in a cluttered railroad yard, next to a long abandoned turnstile. I indicated that my stomach was complaining that my throat had been cut, a motion seconded by Kay, who shared my wish to find a hamburger before our personal fuel tanks hit critical, no mas! We were ushered out of the yard by a wannabe comedian who thought it would be funny to sound the horn on an idling, diesel locomotive when we passed by.
Like any good ride-leader, James accommodated us by making a beeline through every hollow, wrecked building site and “under-construction” street, to Coach’s Restaurant in the heart of Bricktown. We refreshed ourselves by gulping down copious quantities of agua and iced tea and inhaled our burgers and onion rings like refugees from a Weight Watchers reunion.
Finally, stuffed with good food and our itch for riding satiated, we said our goodbyes. As the last light of the weekend faded into a cloudy sunset, we rode our separate ways, promising to meet again soon for another heart pounding, Dual Sport Adventure.