Saturday, August 9, 2008

(Day 10) Vultures: “Will work for food”…

Sunday, July 13th, 2008
Day 10
Alva, OK to Liberal, KS

Up and rolling at 7:47am, the trail would lead me 26 miles in a northeasterly path to the Kansas state line before getting some good westward momentum. First picture of the day:

It felt a little ridiculous to be riding due east and into the rising sun, erasing about 10 miles of western progress made yesterday. But, as I would find out many times during the entire trip, this sort of thing would usually have a small reward. This time it was a small pack of coyotes nesting in a ditch on the side of the road. I stopped to take a picture, but they ran off before I could get my feet down. Having my feet down next to a nest of coyotes suddenly seemed like a bad idea… clutch, 1st, gas, gone.

My first glimpse of Kansas to the right, Oklahoma to the left:

My 2nd welcome sign at the 5th state… and I didn’t even officially enter Dorothy’s land, just drove by for now:

Don’t let the elevation changes fool you, it’s just a short teaser and New Mexico is still over 200 miles away:

May as well take some time to try to get some good pictures:

Notice the tall grass that runs along both sides of the road. Apparently this is a good place for birds to hang out…and scatter in every direction moments before a motorcycle arrives:

This had been occurring the whole day. Slowing down to avoid these small birds would put me to sleep, so my plan was to keep a 45-50 mph pace and just plow through any flocks of birds that would be at the wrong place at the wrong time.

What I didn’t think about were the big birds. The vultures (or buzzards, whatever you want to call them). You know, the bald-headed birds with 5-6 foot wingspans that are too lazy to prey on living animals, but rather feast on the dead? Well, this time I believe they were getting a little hungry and therefore more active. Their target? Me!

Most of the small birds would dart off in front of me well before I got to them. These vultures decided to fly directly in front of me only fractions of second before I reached their roost. I would guess there were 10 of them in total and the one closest to me was flying about neck-high and an impact was imminent. Rather than plowing through this massive bird, I must have veered right as I ducked my head. Since there were so many of them, I kept my head down longer than I probably should have. When I looked up, I was already in the ditch… heading for a barbed wire fence:

I decided to fall to the left into the ditch rather than driving thru the fence. I suspect I was down to about 25-30mph when the bike hit the fence which shot me and the bike back onto the road. You can see where the bike ended up in the picture above. I remember going head first into the ground as my feet came over the top and slid on my rear as I came to a stop. The following picture is where the bike hit the fence at the 3rd fence post from the foreground. You can see the two water bottles that were in the side pockets of my backpack on the road:

I felt my helmet do its job and absorb ALL of the initial impact with the ground. By rolling through impact, I think I avoided serious injury. The only thing that hurt was my right hand, maybe from being on the handlebar during impact with the fence post.

As I was gathering my senses and doing inventory, I noticed a few of the remaining vultures on the fence post in the distance, wings spread out completely:

Being alone in “No Man’s Land” and seeing these vultures made things seem a little creepy, kind of like I had actually ventured into a land where no man was welcome. How my bike escaped in one piece without a scratch, flat tire, or bent handlebars is beyond me. I was extremely fortunate myself.

Anyway, a rancher stopped to see if I was OK as I was getting everything back together. He was aware of vultures roosting around that particular fence post.

Facts from GPS:
Last recorded speed before accident = 49mph
Coordinates of final resting place of bike = N36 55.692 W98 57.952

Back to riding… here is Cowboy Cemetery:

A rancher and his son waved me down and asked me, “What are ‘you guys’ up to?”. Here he is laughing about my wreck:

I knew “you guys” meant all of the crusty dual-sporters that run through here, but it seemed I was the first rider he had talked with, so I filled him in on the trail and he seemed cool with it, just amazed that’d we actually want to ride through this area. I told them I was headed for Boise City, OK and they told me, “there’s NOTHING out there”. I looked around and asked myself, “What exactly IS out HERE?”

I moved on and looked for somewhere to take a break; maybe a tree, brush, gate or some other landmark to stop near. But, there was truly nothing around, so I stopped here:

A Suburban full of old folks dressed in typical church clothes actually drove by. They stopped and asked if I was OK. “Yep”. They seemed surprised by my response and slowly drove off.

Although I saw many and ran over one, here is my only snake picture. It’s a drive-by picture as I fear snakes more than Mr. T fears airplanes:

Find and identify the animal in this picture… I have no idea what these things were:

But they made some interesting noises:

Did you hear something else in that clip? At the time I didn’t notice it. Had I noticed, I would have guessed it was coming from a rattlesnake and the clip would have been much shorter as I would have bolted much earlier. There wasn’t much to really see out here, but when you stop and cut the engine off, you realize there is a very active wildlife culture.

I reach Liberal, KS shortly after 2pm and stumble upon the yellow brick road. I’ve been in Kansas for all of 5 minutes and I’m already at Dorothy’s house:

I saw many ATV’s on this trip, but very, very few dirt bikes. These two guys pulled up beside me as I was refueling:

I forgot their names, but they had just come back from Colorado riding these bikes:

How do you like that custom skid plate on a bike bought from Pep Boy’s? This was the shorter guys’ bike, he did all the talking, and he loved that thing.

Still early in the day, I drove around Liberal for awhile just to soak in the atmosphere. I stopped by an auto parts store and picked up some new Mechanix gloves (I rode all day without gloves) and some more oil. I finally find a cheap motel called “The Kansan”.

“I was wondering what your rate was for a single, non-smoking room?”
“OK, let me check a few other motels…”
“How about 30?”
“OK, room #8”

A nice Mexican meal:

And, I’m done:

Big day tomorrow, 4 states and finally some new scenery…

Total mileage: 2138
Daily mileage: 200
Wildlife observed: Snakes, coyotes, vultures and antelope.
Favorite Sight: My bike in one piece
Favorite Scent: Nothing in particular
Favorite Sound: KTM still thumping strong
Favorite Taste: Chips and Salsa
Favorite Feel: My helmet absorbing ground impact
Ailments: My hand is a little jammed at the lower thumb joint

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