Wednesday, March 31, 2010

OK, a Bit Breezy

I have a suspicion that the "Oklahoma" is an old Indian word that means "strong wind that blows horses away". Since we've been here strong southerly winds have been relentless. Steady winds of 20 to 30 or more, gusts to 40 or more... it's kinda hard to eat outside and keep your peas on your paper plate.

After listening to locals and the weather reporters on TV I've come to understanding that this is normal. "It's always windy in Oklahoma." "Normal Spring weather." "Windy? I hadn't noticed anything out of the ordinary."

This morning we're camped on top a windy knob just a couple miles west of Guthrie Oklahoma. Yesterday, Tuesday, we made the decision to move from our free campsite along  Elk Lake and make a run to the Oklahoma City area, where we'll be through this coming weekend. The drive over was all non-I-roads, most of which were in very good condition. The route was north on OK-34 our of Elk City to OK-33, which we took east to Guthrie.

As I mentioned, generally the roads were in good shape and wide enough to allow for some wiggling and waggling caused by the strong crosswind. But there was one 30 mile segment that wasn't fun at all... narrow lane, NO shoulder -- in fact an immediate drop-off from the pavement, old broken and pot-holed asphalt... there was maybe a foot of play on either side of the 8-1/2 foot wide bus-house. Then add the wind.  Then add the experience with two extra wide loads that we encountered.

A year or so we had a similar experience, I don't remember exactly where. These extra wide load caravans (the truck carrying the wide thing is preceded by a pilot car with signage and flashing orange lights) came up behind us quickly. The speed limit on this section of road is 65mph. Because of the wind I was doing 55 or so. As I mentioned, the road is narrow and has a drop-off from the pavement to the ditch -- there's no room for mistakes. Oh, and the area we're traveling through is hilly with few passing zones.

The first pilot car races past us the first opportunity he has. Now we're between the pilot car and the truck with the wide load. I surmise the pilot car races ahead checking for oncoming traffic, and when it's clear, he radios back to the truck driver who then starts passing on an uphill no-passing double yellow line. I judged the wide load to be 4 or 5 feet wider than the truck on both sides -- meaning the full width of the load had to be 16 or 18 feet... and they're trying to fit that down a lane that's maybe 10 feet wide with us in the other lane and no place to go. All I could do was slow down, nestle up as close as I could to the right side of the pavement, hope a wind gust doesn't hit us, hold my breath, squint, and wait for it to be over.

I honestly can't tell you how they managed to get by without making contact with the bus-house, or ripping off my mirror, but they did. I think my eyes were closed during the height of the excitement. A few miles further on down the other half of this two truck caravan passed us the same way. Again, we emerged unscathed but breathing deeply.

We're at Cedar Valley RV Park until Monday. Today, Wednesday, we're driving into Oklahoma City (OKC as everyone here calls it) to visit the State Capitol and the National Memorial for the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995. (Does it seem like 15 years have passed?)

Hunkered down on a hilltop ourside Guthrie Oklahoma...
Thom