The Oklahoma Adventure Trail: Mission Impossible

Text: Bill Dragoo • Photography: James Pratt

“We’re taking the bypass,” a wise James Pratt belts out from aboard his faded yellow Suzuki DR-Z400. “I’m out of gas and there is no way these guys will get those pigs through the woods in this muck.”

The “woods” we are about to enter are a segment of the Cross Timbers region of Oklahoma, a band of tangled, stunted deciduous trees and briars, many older than our United States. In the early 1830s, author Washington Irving called this nearly impenetrable region “forests of cast iron.”

Play–Doh for Grown Ups

After a weak attempt to negotiate the soggy trail, my Beta 525 RS sits facing the group, mud oozing through every opening like a Play-Doh Fun Factory. I just poured the contents of one of my two spare fuel bottles into James’ extended-range tank. He skipped the last gas stop holding out for ethanol-free fuel and has hopefully learned his lesson. Even ethanol burns better than air.

The sun is about to set, and we don’t know how bad it will get if we continue into these woods. The “trail” is blocked with downed trees and underbrush, and the mud has no bottom. I give in and we turn towards Hugo, 12 miles north by road. Oklahoma is experiencing an unusually cool and wet July and, except for the mud, it is perfect weather for an adventure ride. Brad, Josh, and Paul are riding new generation Kawasaki KLR 650s. Larry is on a Suzuki DR 650. I have to agree that pushing heavy dual sports into these woods under these conditions could spell a long night among the mosquitoes and poison ivy, and there is no dry place to pitch a tent. 

A Study in History

Our trip over the eastern half of the Oklahoma Adventure Trail (OAT) began this morning taking us south from the Oklahoma City metro area. We decided to do the OAT counterclockwise, tackling the rugged eastern section early in our travels. After a 65-mile jaunt down I-35, we joined the trail near Davis, a bustling town in south-central Oklahoma, nestled against the Arbuckle Mountains. Day one brought a pleasant string of experiences ranging from a visit to Turner Falls to a side trip crossing the Red River on a 100-year-old multi-span bridge south of Durant. Many of those old bridges are being condemned. Near Durant we encountered bridge inspectors who almost gleefully reported that they were closing these bridges as fast as they could. I found this news disturbing, yet understandable, with the aging structures only able to support a fraction of their original weight limits. 

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For the complete touring article, including facts & information, map(s), and GPS files, please purchase the September/October 2015 back issue.