Tag Archives: nature

Backwoods Living

 

 

 

 

Yesterday was the first full day of adventures with my grandfather here in Idaho.  I woke up bright and early in hopes of going hunting and possibly shooting a doe or an elk, as it would be the last day of the hunting season for either in this area.

When I first came downstairs, I noticed a giant flock of wild turkeys running in the front yard.  For the last couple of years, I had listened to my grandfather telling me that he sometimes shot turkeys from his front porch, and he definitely wasn’t kidding.

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Turkeys in the front yard.

Before long, my grandfather whipped up an enormous breakfast consisting of turkey bacon (store bought, not front yard shot), eggs, and toast.  For not being a breakfast guy, he sure makes one heck of a morning meal.  It was still sprinkling rain outside, but we were determined to at least go look for things to shoot.  Since I have never been hunting before, this is as close as I’d get.  My undergraduate degree was in animal sciences, so I am well versed in the growth and harvest of animals for human consumption and am not at all sensitive about the subject; I apologize in advance if I offend any vegetarians out there, but it’s just the way things have to be if you want to try to live off the land and feed your body the nourishment it requires.

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Grandpa telling me stories. I think storytelling runs in the family, but I’m sure his visual aids (like sitting on the floor) are better than mine often are.  Also, can you believe this guy is almost 70?  I think there is fountain of youth out here 😛

We wandered around the local forest area for almost two hours, I think, but without any luck.  The only animal I saw was a tiny (well, normal-sized) chipmunk and some birds.  We came back to the house to warm up a bit before moving on to other things.

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The literary collection of a mountain man, that’s for sure. These are Grandpa’s coffee table books along with a pair of binoculars.

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Searching the back roads for game, without success.

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Fog between the many rolling hills over Idaho City.

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A woodpecker’s nest out in the woods. My niece calls them “woodpackers,” haha.

After warming up a bit, the sun decided to come out and I thought I’d go outside and attempt to rinse off my bike.  Poor Annie was covered in gunk, but it was fortunately easy to wash off.  I took a few before and after pictures.

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Sand, silt, and mud dried on the back and underside of my Kawasaki.

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The front wheel and muffler pipes of the Kawi before washing her. The bottom black pan for catching oil had at least 1/2 an inch of dirt and sand (see picture after next).

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She doesn’t look so bad from a distance, but it was sad to see her this bad.

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All the crud stuck in the bottom fairing before I got to washing it out.

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Clean after a quick rinse!!

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Fortunately, the silt, sand, and mud was very easy to rinse out.

After cleaning my bike, Grandpa wanted to show me some of the toys in his garage.  The main toy was a big tool to facilitate the homemaking of ammunition.  He has all the supplies and just reuses the casings constantly.  The tool in the following picture removes the primer from old casing, inserts a new primer into the casing, reshapes the casing to make sure it isn’t warped, prepares the casing for the lead projectile, the person then adds the appropriately measured gunpowder, and the tool securely installs the projectile into the top of the casing.  The entire process can take less than a minute if you have already weighed out the gunpowder.

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Grandpa showing me how to make ammunition by hand.

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A finished 9mm bullet that grandpa made right then and there.

After seeing how the bullets were made, I had the idea of creating a necklace using a casing and projectile.  Of course I didn’t add gunpowder and left the primer out to have a hold for the necklace chord.  The necklace turned out to be very cool and it took us less than ten minutes to figure it all out.  I have a picture of it at the end of this post.

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Grandpa in his ‘coon hat and camouflage ensemble in front of his gorgeous house.

After getting crafty, we decided it was time for a late lunch.  We went down to a little restaurant in Idaho City called Donna’s placed and gorged ourselves on chili hamburgers and chili dogs.  I picked up a few Idaho postcards and we ordered two heavenly milkshakes to take outside.  Since the sun was finally out, it was nice to get to soak in it for a bit.

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I’m definitely going back on my diet when I get home on Wednesday.  

Our next stop was to the Idaho City Trading Post across the street.  My grandpa says he buys quite a few great things at this shop and figured I’d enjoy it.  I did.  The store had many handmade crafts such as earrings, necklaces, hats, scarves, bracelets, woodcarvings, and more.  I attempted to talk the shop owner into selling her beautiful earrings and necklaces on Etsy, like I do my dog collars; she said she’d look into it.  I left there only buying a cute pair of silver owl earrings and a cool leather bracelet with a metal hibiscus flower pendant tied onto it.

Shortly after, we headed to the post office to pick up some more stamps, then it was back home for the evening.  Well, almost.  On our way back, grandpa thought it would be cool to take me up to the town’s pioneer cemetery.  Supposedly, 3,000 people are buried there, though only about 300 graves are marked.  Creepy!

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Umphrey P. Sept. 1889 to Feb. 1892. Young kid just after the gold rush days.

It was amazing how old some of the graves were, yet they were in decent condition.  After wandering around the cemetery for a bit, we decided to call it a day.  Back at the house, grandpa was trying to figure out his muzzle-loader after having shot it this morning with one misfire and one successful shot.  Apparently, these guns can be loaded and stored that way, but if they sit too long, the shot doesn’t work.  It certainly is a laborious task to load one of these bad boys, a whole lot different than just throwing in a bullet or snapping in a magazine.  I would explain the process, but I’m sure I would give you incorrect information.  Just think about guns around the time of the civil war and how they had to reload and shoot them.  That’s how this bad boy works.

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I think at this point, he was actually reloading the muzzle-loader rather than cleaning it, though it all looks the same, I think.

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My 9mm necklace (along with the two of the three other necklaces I’ve acquired during this trip and my Aries necklace).

I’m off to bed for the night, but I’ll add today’s adventures tomorrow with another round of photos.  Tomorrow I’ll be heading home.  I’m sure I’ll hit rain, but I’m positive it’s worth the effort.  I’m very excited to have dinner with my parent’s and to get to see all the fuzzy animals again.  I miss my kitty that lives with them and I’m sure their golden retriever puppy has tripled in size since he was twelve weeks old when I left and is now around eighteen weeks old.

-H

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Little Laramie and the Road to Utah

When I first arrived in Laramie on Tuesday afternoon, I parked in a parking lot on the University of Wyoming campus to give Tucker a call.  Coincidentally, I saw the backside of the UW chapter of Chi Omega across the lot.  I had to walk around to the front to snap a picture.

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University of Wyoming’s Chi Omega.

On Wednesday, Tucker worked until the afternoon, so I ventured out into Laramie.  Last I wrote I was in a coffee shop wrapping up my master’s degree.  After finishing up all my necessary tasks, I headed back to Tucker’s house and threw on my workout clothes and running shoes.  Randomly, I had the urge to go for a run and geocache to get out some energy – I must have had too much coffee or something.  As I ran, I quickly became exhausted.  I didn’t remember ever getting out of shape this quickly before and was momentarily upset at myself for not working out more during the past few weeks.  Fortunately, I quickly remembered that Laramie sits higher than 7,000 feet in elevation, while Beaverton, where I live and train, is just under 200 feet in elevation.  Oops.  My lungs were not happy.  For the rest of the day I periodically coughed and sputtered as my lungs protested my attempt at cardio.  The outing was not a total bust, though.  I wandered around Laramie attempting to find caches, with no success on my own, but I did manage to spot some antelope grazing in the area and found a great overlook of Laramie.

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Kind of difficult to see, but there are two antelope in this photo.

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Two more antelope in the distance, this pair let me get closer.

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Grand Street in Laramie with the Snowy Mountain Range in the background.

Around 5pm, I headed back to the house to shower up and figure out the rest of the night.  Tucker came in soon after me and we headed out to attempt some more geocaching, I figured I could do better with help, and then on to dinner.

Geocaching was a success!  We found three caches out of the five we searched for; we think the two failed attempts were lost to recent construction.  That or we are just terrible beginners.

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My first successful geocache find! Thanks to Tucker for helping!

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My second successful geocache find. I had searched for at least half an hour on my own and came back later with Tucker.

After a wonderful dinner at a local joint called McAlisters, we called it a night.

The next morning, I had planned on getting up before 7am and leaving early, but slept poorly and woke up around 8am.  I went to prep my bike and found frost on my seat, so it was a good thing that I waited until later, anyway.  I left Laramie right around 9am and it was cold out.  I had mapped out my journey to Salt Lake City, but found an alternate route through the mountains and down into Colorado.  This alternate would add two extra hours and 70 miles to my journey, but it seemed worth it.

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Found the first frost on my bike on Thursday morning.

Within the first hour of my ride, I was grateful to have chosen a route other than the interstate.  The winding, sloping roads of the smaller Wyoming highways were much more fun.  Since it was still very early in the day and I was continuing to climb in elevation, the temperatures stayed cold.  Had it not been for the chaps given to me by Roxanne and Chip in Iowa and the fleece the hood from Ron in Pittsburgh, I’m sure I would not have made it through the day, no joke.  The only cold thing on me was my fingertips, but I persevered, at least until I found good stopping spots with things for me to photograph.  The wildlife on the journey was incredible.  I saw what I thought was a majestic black eagle, I had forgotten that juvenile bald eagles are completely dark until about two years of age.  I saw many little prairie dogs or groundhogs, whatever they’re called out here; most of them held a regal stance as they soaked their faces in the rising sun just outside of their holes.  I also saw many more antelope.  I can recall at least three giant herds of 30 or more just grazing in large fields.  I will admit, I did honk my horn and wave at them out of excitement… yes, I am a dork.  At the edge of Wyoming, just before the Colorado border, I began to notice yellow and red leaves in the trees, the most changed leaves I have seen yet.  I’m not sure if autumn is starting all at once and I missed it by a week back east or if it is starting out here because the cold is already hitting the higher elevations, but it was beautiful.

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I stopped to warm my fingers up a bit and get some pictures of the coming autumn.

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The views riding through northern Colorado were breathtaking. I stopped more times than I ever do just to take pictures.

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It was neat to see all the ranches from the main roads in Colorado. The view from this driveway looking back east was phenomenal.

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The view looking east from Grizzly Ranch.

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The view looking west behind the ranch.

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Just beyond the cars in view is a rock feature on top of the mountain. I didn’t get to stop to take a picture other than this construction break. In Colorado.

Riding through Colorado was breathtaking.  With each straight stretch, I was acquainted with views of brilliant mountain ranges extending for miles and miles.  The valley floors had grasslands populated by cattle and horses.  I caught up to highway 40 heading west and had the ride of my life. The smooth, sweeping curves were meant for riding and the rise and fall in elevation made the ride all the more entertaining.  The views were spectacular as the highway took me up to the top of the Rabbit Ear Range and back down into the valley where Steamboat Springs lies.  Another motorcyclist trailed me the entire decent to Steamboat Spring.  The only thing I would change about the decent would be the wind; gusts hit me from time to time and would scoot me across my lane, but my bike handled it all well.

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Catching glimpses of mountains and rock formations between Colorado and Utah.

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More mountain ranges coming into view.

After Steamboat Springs (a gorgeous little town, by the way), the scenery turned to much flatter ground, though still accompanied by mountain ranges in the distance.  After a while, I arrived in Dinosaur, Colorado to refuel and get some snacks.  Within a couple of miles, I was in eastern Utah.

The flat lands went on, then began to ascend into the mountains.  I realized that the temperature was dropping as I climbed and feared I may hit rain.  I did.  For ten miles I rode through mild rain, after which I chuckled and said, “is that it?”  It wasn’t.  I was in the clear for a few more minutes, but then I would ride through another 45 miles of rain, stopping for gas, seeing the rain turn into snow for a bit, then back to rain as I dropped into the Salt Lake City Valley.  Fortunately, the snow didn’t stick, thought I did have a mild heart attack from the freezing temperatures.

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Temperatures began to drop so I took a scenic view break to warm my hands up. I found this awesome little river.

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SNOW?!? Uh oh!

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Just rode through the neighboring clouds, on to the next one.

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Salt Lake City, just behind those cloudy hills.

Though the cold weather was terrible, it reminded me that I would soon be safe and warm.  As soon as I was back on interstate 80, I knew I was close enough to stop stressing.  I met my uncle, aunt, and cousins at their local high school to watch one of my cousins play volleyball on the varsity team that my uncle helps coach.  It took a bit for me to get warm and dry, but I eventually did and looked back on the day with pride that I made it through.

-H

Norman, Oklahoma: Beginning to Explore My Roots

August 26, 2013

Tonight I write from Hot Springs, Arkansas, a busy town in which President Bill Clinton grew up in and one that attracts many tourists for it national park attraction: the hot springs, of course.  If my writing style sounds a bit different than all the posts up until now, that’s because I have been listening to Atlas Shrugged for the past few days, and listening to different authors has a way of changing the way I sound when writing.

The last time I wrote, I was in Stillwater, Oklahoma.  After cooking a dinner of homemade enchiladas on Saturday night, I went to bed reasonably early.  I had hoped to leave by 10am on Sunday morning, but I had a bit of a late start and left around 11.

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I spy a tractor… at a gas station…

I arrived in Norman, Oklahoma around 1pm or so and was joyfully welcomed by my great-aunt Jo Ellen (my father’s aunt) and her husband, my great-uncle Russell.  What a riot those two are, and I couldn’t be happier that I took the detour south to visit them.  They were amazing tour guides and gracious hosts.  The first thing we did after I had the chance to clean up and change was go to lunch at a sit-down restaurant called Cheddars.  Uncle Russell recommended the fried catfish, so I gave that a try.  I don’t think I’ve ever had fried catfish, but it was pretty good.

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Remnants of fried catfish and peach tea, yum!

Over lunch I learned about their children and their grandchildren and several things going on with various parts of that side of my family.  I didn’t know there was a university in Norman, Oklahoma University, or OU, which many members of our family have attended, at least if they didn’t attend Oklahoma State University instead.  I learned that many of the ladies on that side of the family are Chi Omegas, and had been long before I was ever born.  I laughed to think that I was technically a Chi O legacy many times over, but I never knew it.  I guess that helps prove that some things are really just meant to be.

After lunch, I wanted to fulfill a very special request for my recruiting Sergeant back home.  He had asked me, if I made it to Norman, would I visit a friend of his.  Not knowing who his friend might be, I said sure.  After getting the gentleman’s address and seeing that it was at a cemetery, Sgt. Baker filled me in on his friend.  Specialist James Dean Hunt had been my Sgt.’s Bradley driver and close friend a few years ago.  On November 5, 2009 a man opened fire in the Army processing center of Fort Hood, Texas, killing thirteen people.  I’m sure you’ve all heard this story by now, as it was a big deal when it happened, and as we’re all hearing about it lately with the shooter’s trial coming to a close.  SPC Hunt was one of the thirteen, and I was dumbfounded – in a good way – to have Sgt. Baker ask this of me.   Not even two months ago, I read up on the Fort Hood shootings, just trying to get a better understanding of what happened.  I remember reading SPC Hunt’s name (since I’m starting as a SPC in the Army, I was just trying to relate to each SPC killed that day) and seeing that he was so young; he had just turned 22 years old and had been married all of two months.  He died shielding two nurses from live fire, both of whom walked away unharmed.  Sergeant Baker says that is just the kind of man SPC Hunt was.

Aunt Jo Ellen and Uncle Russell took me to a supermarket to pick up some flowers before heading to the cemetery.  I picked out a bouquet with primarily yellow flowers since yellow ribbons are a symbol of supporting our troops.  Once we arrived at the cemetery, we drove around for a just a few minutes before finding the right section; the cemetery was very small and my aunt and uncle have reserved plots for themselves there, not too far from SPC Hunt, actually.  Weird concept, but smart to do in advance so their children won’t have to pay for much.  It wasn’t difficult to spot exactly which plot was SPC Hunt’s, only three plots had small American flags in their flower pots, but his had a small, patriotic bouquet as well.  I considered this very thoughtful given the recent events surrounding his killer.  My aunt and uncle waited for me in the car as I took my time paying my respects.  I was already teary-eyed thinking about his self-sacrifice, but when I remembered how young he was, it made me sadder.  He would be six months younger than me if he were still alive.  I was able to smile a bit when I realized I was visiting him on his birthday, completely by chance, not intentionally, but serendipitously; August 25, 1987.  I will always be honored that Sergeant Baker respected me enough to ask this very personal favor of me.

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Happy birthday to Specialist Jason Dean Hunt. Thank you for your sacrifices to our nation.

After leaving my bouquet for Specialist Hunt, my aunt and uncle showed me where they will be buried.  They also decided it was a good idea to drive me to the other cemetery in town to show me where my great grandmother was buried.

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My grandmother, Josephine Santone; this was the first time I ever ‘met’ her.

On the way, we passed through the still devastated area of Moore, Oklahoma that experienced a very powerful tornado this last May.  I know you heard about it because I don’t have cable and I heard about it!  Houses no longer stand, many neighboring houses that weren’t demolished are still suffering from much needed roof repairs, and the trees that are still standing look ridiculous, almost naked.  There was even a little shopping center that was just ripped up.

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Ruins of a shopping center, still not torn down after the big tornado through Moore, OK this past May.

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This used to be a housing development, before the tornado in May.

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What’s left of a few trees after the May tornado ripped them up.

I can’t imagine living in an area where such natural disasters happen every single year; the last five years having been some of the most destructive.  When I asked a couple in Stillwater how they are okay with it they said, “The science these days is sound.  Meteorologists can tell us within a quarter of a mile where a tornado is going to be.  We would not want to live where you’re from – earthquakes are not that predictable.”  They had a good point, but I can’t think of an earthquake that was even a little devastating in Oregon.

Following the tornado tour, I was given a thorough tour of the OU campus; I think my aunt was most excited to show me the Chi O house, which was at least twice the size of the Chi O house I lived in at Oregon State.  also, the house was so big, I couldn’t fit the whole thing into an instagram! I love all my sisters, but man, it would have been insane to live with twice as many of them!

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The Chi Omega house at Oklahoma University. The whole house didn’t fit in my instagram photo.

The conclusion of our tour was dinner at a great BBQ place where I had a double order of ribs (that I could not finish) and fried okra; sounds gross, but it was good!

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The name of the BBQ joint I went to in Norman. I’m too lazy to change the picture to landscape.

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My enormous dinner. I ate all but two ribs and some fried okra!

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Fried Okra!

When we got back to the house, Aunt Jo Ellen pulled out a small wooden box filled with pictures, articles, and various other keepsakes from our family.  My favorite item was a photograph of my great great great great grandfather, James Taylor, who survived the trail of tears to where the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma currently resides; he also was numbered on the Dawes Commission Roll, #13386.

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My great great great great grandfather on my father’s side of the family. James Taylor of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, Dawes Commission Roll number 13386.

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What the back of James Taylor’s photograph says: “This is a photo of James Taylor JAMES TAYLOR, Dawes Commission Roll of Choctaws, #13386, age 48, fullblood, Gaines County in the Choctaw Nation, postoffice of Damon, name of father is Ea-ho-Nubbee, name of mother is Pis-ta-hoke. Both parents dead. SUSAN TAYLOR, his wife, age 39, half blood, daughter of John Cass and Elisa Cass. Susan’s Roll #13387
Emeline Anderson, their daughter, age 15, three quarter blood, wife of Reason Anderson. Emeline’s roll # is 13389
Photo from original photo in home of Joseph Green Anderson at Tuskahoma Oklahoma by [sic] will t nelson”

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A photographed copy of my ancestors on the Dawes Commission Roll; last name Anderson.

Aunt Jo Ellen had a couple of things for me to take with me: a picture of her father when he was in high school, a related news article, and a pamphlet for the Choctaw Nation’s capital building.

After winding down, it was time for bed.  I woke up early the next morning to my hosts making a feast of a breakfast for me.  Uncle Russell was most excited to get a picture of his bike and mine together.  Recently, he had purchased a three-wheeled Schwinn, cherry red.  At first when he told me he had a bike, I pictured a Honda Goldwing or maybe even a Harley of some sort.  Nope, this guy is one for the classics, a real bicycle to get him around town and save gas; which, by the way, is something Uncle Russell and Aunt Jo Ellen detest: buying gas.  We drove around between our several destinations on Sunday trying to find a place that had cheap enough, no ethanol, gas.  I have never had to stifle so many laughs in an afternoon.

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Myself, Aunt Jo Ellen, and Uncle Russell, gathered with our sweet “bikes.”

At 10:30am I was on my way.  Choctaw Nation, here I come, then on to Arkansas!

***

The ride from Norman, OK to the tiny township of Tuskahoma, OK was very beautiful.  I saw more armadillo (dead, of course) but had no time to stop and take pictures per my friend Jordan’s request.  Frankly, I’m kind of scared to… the smell is bad enough just riding past them!  At one point, I saw what I thought was another dead creature on the center yellow lines, but as I passed noticed it tucking his head in quickly.  It was a flat turtle, not run over, just naturally flat, that was about the size of a dinner plate.  I was ecstatic.  It’s the little things that have made this adventure so enjoyable up to this point, and the creatures and scenery are certainly included in all that.

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Straight, smooth roads of eastern Oklahoma and western Arkansas, surrounded by beautiful green landscape… and the occasional turtle.

Tuskahoma is so small that, when I got turned around at one point and stopped at a gas station for clarification, the guy at the counter literally scratched his head.

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Pausing to watch workers assemble tires so a bulldozer can safely cross the road without ruining the pavement.

I figured it out without having to back track too much.  Tuskahoma is the location of the old council house of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, my Native American tribe.  The old council house is now used as a museum and gift shop.  When one first pulls into the village area, a large entrance sign is visible displaying the location, the chief’s name, and the assistant chief’s name.

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The official entrance to Tuskahoma, the capital of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma.

I enjoyed seeing the seal of my tribe all over everything; it is a big point of pride for me.  In fact, I hope to get a tattoo of it someday, but I have to wait until my service in the Army is over.

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The museum is a building with a gaudy red roof and has a lawn adorned with statues, plaques, and a war memorial dedicated to fallen soldiers of the Choctaw Nation in all of the wars of the last century, including the current war on terrorism.

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The former council house of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma. Now a museum.

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Lacrosse, much?

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If you haven’t heard of the Trail of Tears, then you slept through too much of your high school history class.

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A statue in the foreground and a water tower in the background that says “Choctaw.”

My favorite memorial was that to the codetalkers of World War I and World War II.

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Each branch of the armed services is honored here.

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I was excited to visit the museum and hoped to pick up some postcards to send home, but was disappointed to discover that they were closed for the entire day due to repairs.  Really?  The one day I make it there in my entire life and they’re closed?  I wouldn’t be able to come back the next day, but maybe I’ll make it back some day and hopefully bring my sister.

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Rude.

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“Tvshka Homma Red Warrior” The plaque on the opposite side of this rotunda reads, “Chahta Tvshkahomma” The Choctaw Red Warrior represents who the Choctaw people are: Choctaw people are proud; we have the wisdom to teach, the courage to fight, the strength to survive and the determination to persevere. “Chahta Sia,” I am Choctaw.

Leaving Tuskahoma, I was less than 50 miles away from Arkansas.  Winding roads took me through a national forest and to my final destination of Hot Springs, Arkansas.  This town is pretty lively.  And it’s fairly large!  There is a big lake, many old buildings in the downtown area to look at, and very friendly people!

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Taking a small wrong turn in Arkansas led me to this beauty, an abandoned airplane sitting in a field.

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The cute little country store in Joplin, Arkansas that I stopped at for dinner. They also rent out movies!

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View of the creek right behind my campsite.

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My campsite in Hot Springs, Arkansas.

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Giant, dead grasshopper caught in my grill. Maybe that’s why it always smells so funny when I’m riding down the road… Wasps were trying to eat him, so I removed him from my grill.

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So many wasps trying to eat the dead bugs off of my bike… ew and awesome. They’re hard to see in this photo.

This morning I have stopped at Starbucks to update this thing – my roommate keeps sending me texts to make sure I’m still alive, he says I haven’t posted recently enough.  I have to stop by a motorcycle shop to get my chain fixed, and then I’ll be on to Counce, Tennessee to visit my friend and former coworker, Jack.

Until then,

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A little parting gift for you all. My aunt and uncle had these at their house. I guess they’re back in business, but on this side of the country this time!

-H