Eastern Oklahoma

Text: Troy Hendrick • Photography: Christian Neuhauser

There is an odd sensation creeping through me in eastern Oklahoma as we ride. It's not very subtle, either. The Kiamichi Mountains look different, like a space created specifically for man and his gods to commune. They appear old but alive, as if they murmur ancient secrets to the people living here.

Choctaw headquarters are here. The capital of the Cherokee Nation is here. Their Trail of Tears terminated here, after they tragically suffered nearly 3,500 fatalities. Large birds of prey float effortlessly in a seemingly limitless sky, squeezing air beneath their massive wings only once in a great while. Lakes and rivers hemmed by the rolling hills teem with fish for the birds. When the sun breaks through the cloudy skies, the gritty, reddish landscape shimmers with a mystical glow, and America presents a visage of what it once was when the white men arrived.

This landscape is peerless, and there's no question that it radiates its own unique beauty. But at the same time, there is a sense of desolation hovering - a sense that a magnificent culture, once pure and strong, is flailing for its last breaths.

Day One: Antlers to Tahlequah
We begin our tour in Antlers, gateway to the southeast corner of Oklahoma, in what is known as the Kiamichi Country. Following the Kiamichi River north on State Route 2, we pass along the long and straight road wishing something would happen. Sure enough, our wish is granted in the form of blue lights flashing in the rearview just after we pass Sardis Lake.

 

The best thing about Oklahoma's rural roads is the speed limit - 65 mph whenever the geography permits. But we simply haven't been pushing the BMWs this morning, so we couldn't be speeding.

"May I ask what we're being stopped for?" I say, directing my question to the plainclothes officer walking towards us. He turns to an older officer coming up behind for an answer.

"Um...you were driving on the yellow line," he says, hesitantly. His younger cohort asks for our licenses, and takes them back to the patrol car. Meanwhile, the older officer takes a few moments to admire our bikes - a BMW R1150RS and a K1200R - asking several questions about performance and informing us that he, himself, was a "BMW man." Once he'd checked out the Beemers, he signaled the younger officer to return our licenses, and sent us on our way. I suppose in a state where a peoples' rights have been trampled endlessly, it's apparently no big deal to make up a pretext to detain someone.

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For the complete touring article, including facts & information, map(s), and GPS files, please purchase the July/August 2003 back issue.