Saturday, June 07, 2014

And home again.

Some thoughts on the brief trip:

I'm reminded of a commercial from years ago. I think it was for one of those close-by vacation spots, maybe one of the Six Flags franchise, where they were promoting that it was near the market in which the ads were aired. They showed a bunch of school kids reading their reports on "what I did on summer vacation" and one boy - who had not gone to the place promoted - started off with "We drove and drove, and then drove some more."

Yeah, it was at least 10 hours of driving over the course of a day and a half. I don't exactly recommend it. Of course, it was all on me, as I was the only one "van certified" and "what if we got into an accident and it came out it wasn't me driving" and all that (though I think if I had got a migraine or something, I would have risked getting my student to drive. Then again, she's a full head shorter than I am, so a big-butt pickup truck might not be easy for her to drive)

The pickup was easier to handle than I had feared, but I was glad to get back to Ladybug when the trip was done - the pickup was both wider and longer than Ladybug is so parking wasn't so much fun. (And backing out of parking places, especially tight ones, wasn't fun).

We wound up having to stay in Bartlesville, that was the nearest place that had an available hotel room. Bartlesville is really, really far away from here. (I think I should have remembered that; I'm pretty sure one year I had meetings to go to at Rogers State.)

So the first day was pretty much - find the motel, check in, go get dinner, figure out the plan for the next day. Then we each went back to our rooms. I had actually folded up for the night and was reading when my student came and knocked on my door, wanting to know if I bowled. (????) Turns out there was a bowling alley next door, she bowled, and was wondering if I wanted to. I said, no I didn't, and it's probably just as well we didn't go because shortly after that a big storm came up.

And anyway, we had to leave kind of early the next morning, to meet with the guy at the preserve, which turned out to be a bit more than an hour away.

Essentially, what you do is go to Pawhuska then go north for a good while longer. All the roads in the preserve are dirt/gravel. I guess that's why they said a high clearance vehicle was a good idea. Ladybug could have done it, probably, though we couldn't have gone out on any of the "reserve employees only" roads with her. (It turns out we didn't need to). We were a bit late and I admit I was fretting because I don't like being late for stuff but perhaps in this case it was unavoidable - they apparently renamed whatever the shortcut was into the preserve and my map didn't have it on it.

But anyway. The director of the preserve is a very congenial person; he passed what studies and data they had on to us, he talked for a LONG time, and then asked if we wanted to follow him, or just ride in his truck to see parts of the site. (We chose to ride, less risk of something bad happening to the rental.) We got to see bison. Not extremely close up; you don't want to get too close to bison as they are still wild animals. (I don't even like getting close to domesticated cows unless I have a fence between them and me, or they are relatively young calves). It was a cow-calf group; a few of the calves were pronking around like young animals do. And we got to see one of the cows wallowing to wear off the last of her winter coat. (We were really there to see the reserve's control of sericea lespedeza, but the bison were also interesting).

They mostly use targeted spraying to control the stuff. Guys on ATVs with sprayer attachments...they do suffer some collateral damage in the form of other plants being damaged, but I've seen what can happen to a site once the sericea gets in if you don't do anything. (Burning doesn't seem to control it, though perhaps midsummer burns may knock it back. Few things graze it - some people have had success with goats but they actually cause a lot more collateral damage).

The reserve is huge and empty, just lots and lots of rolling land with vegetation and the bison. (Okay, there are some oil wells on the land, but you can kind of ignore them). On the one hand, it's really nice to see such a big expanse of open land, with little there that wasn't there before European settlement. On the other hand, it really is nice only inasmuch as I knew I would be going home to a house and food I didn't have to harvest myself that must have been very difficult for the early settlers, especially if they arrived in the early summer. Not much to eat unless you could hunt something (really no streams to fish in, and little I could see in the way of plant foods a person could consume). It would have been tough to farm that land. (Which is probably why it went unplowed). Most of the surrounding "farming" activity is cattle ranching.

After we left Bob (And now I understand why it was so hard to meet with him; he's really not just the head guy, he's pretty much the only guy, so I was amazed he was willing to give us so much time), we drove around on the county roads (the ones you don't need special permission to drive on) a bunch more, then left.

By now it was after 2 pm. We couldn't find anything quickly right IN Pawhuska that looked like a place to eat, so we wound up at (ugh) the McDonald's on the outskirts of town. (I got a salad, that seemed to be the lowest-sodium choice).

Incidentally, my mom is a huge fan of that Pioneer Woman cooking show. The woman who does it and her family live on a big ranch somewhere near Pawhuska. (Actually, I guess there are several Drummond ranches; seems to be a family that's been there a long time). My mom jokingly asked if I was going to see her. Well, no, of course not: but we did drive by the church you sometimes see them going to in the show.

Pawhuska does seem to be trying to position itself as a tourist destination (because of the prairie preserve); it has a bed-and-breakfast and there is a row of antique and gift shops. But as I said, no lunch place I could quickly see from the car.

Then it was time to head back home. Again, I was fretting, because I had indicated I'd have the pickup back by 5 and now it was nearly 3 pm. And we were still well north of Tulsa.

We wound up driving home a different route - 99 to 64 to 48 and then 16 over to 75 because I did not want to go on the 75-through-Tulsa part on a Friday rush hour. (It's kind of a mixmaster, and there are a couple places where you have to be in a particular lane or you get shunted off onto another interstate, and you don't get a heck of a lot of prior warning about the shunting). I don't know that it took longer to get home the way we went. (Maybe not, if the traffic in Tulsa was snarled).

It was after 7 when we got back into town. As the truck was very muddy, and I don't know the standard protocol with such things, we ran by one of those you-do-it carwash places and sprayed all (well, almost all) the mud off the truck. Of course the place was closed when I went to return it but they had told me to lock the keys in the truck along with the paperwork.

I also went by the campus motor pool/police station and managed to drop off the fuel card and the receipts for buying fuel. I hope everything was done right; there seems to be a lot of very specific things you have to do.


Chris Laning said...

If it's the preserve I'm thinking of (with remnants of tallgrass prairie?), I was there many moons ago when they were just getting started and were about to install their first bison.

It was pretty impressive even then, and I'm glad I went. I remember the staff person pointing out that you could still see the old "buffalo wallows" -- hollows created by generations of bison all rolling on the ground at the same spot.

CGHill said...

Definitely over 400 miles.

Lydia said...

The area around there sounds lovely.