Eager to be on the road to Chickasaw National Recreational Area in Oklahoma, we got going early Tuesday morning. And as we sped along the interstate toward the western boundary of Arkansas, we noticed that the transmission on the truck was running REALLY hot. We pulled over, let it cool down and I checked to make sure there was transmission fluid. There was. Since that's the extent of my troubleshooting knowledge for transmissions, we took the next exit off the interstate, We found a small garage in Altus, AR. The gruff old mechanic, who made no secret of the fact that he thought we were idiots, said that dire things were happening with our transmission, and then he sent us to the next big town with a recommendation to go see Danny at Turner Transmissions.
We did visit Danny of Turner Transmissions. And despite the pain of having to pay for service on the truck, it was a pretty good experience. First of all, Danny was fantastic. He bumped us ahead of several other vehicles, didn't treat us like idiots, immediately did a diagnostic, and a test drive up a hill with the trailer to see what was up with the truck. Good news and not-so-bad news: we hadn't fried the transmission (so there, old cranky mechanic), it was running hot, but with the addition of a transmission cooling fan, we should be good for the rest of this ridiculous trip. Done! With less of an astronomical price tag than expected. And they didn't even need us to unhitch the camper.
Doug and I toured (the not-so-picturesque) town of Van Buren for a few hours, had some lunch, hung out in the local library, then a book store, and we got the call that the truck was ready to go. By 3:30, we were on the road. We made a quick detour to the Harbor Freight store to replace the sway control bar that we lost back in Missouri, and then we were on our way to Chickasaw NRA, only 6 hours later than expected. We even managed to arrive with a little light left in the sky, at dusk.
Chickasaw NRA is about 90 miles south of Oklahoma City, and is absolutely gorgeous. We managed to pick what might be the best spot in the the whole campground. Right alongside the Lake of the Arbuckles--a name that just tickles me. With the lake just down the slope of our site, Doug had his inflatable fish boat rigged up before I was even awake that morning. He was soon out fishing, and was pleased to catch some nice bass. I kicked back to spend a relaxing morning reading. It was lovely.
Chicakasaw NRA has several nice hiking trails and also has a small bison herd. After lunch, despite what looked like a storm threatening, we tried out one of the trails. A good 3 mile hike through grasslands and mesic forest.
During this hike, we heard some rustling in the underbrush, coming towards us, despite the fact that we weren't being particularly quiet. Just as I was about to be really concerned that a raccoon was acting oddly during daylight hours, we finally saw that we were about to be run down by a pair of armadillos. It was awesome.
Hike finished, we headed into Sulphur, OK for a supply run. On the way into town, we passed the Bison Lookout point, and were astounded to actually see bison there--for the second time actually, since we'd seen them the evening before as we rushed to the campground to set up with the waning light. We promised ourselves that we'd stop on the way back in from town to visit with the bison. One Walmart run finished, several important forgotten items from home purchased, plus a giant axe (so Doug could chop up some big logs), we pulled in to the bison view area. Of course, they weren't there. They are ninjas of the grasslands.
While I cooked dinner, Doug proved the worth of his giant axe. The camp host had been by earlier, and told us that the huge logs Doug had found were against the rules to burn, since they were too long to fit in the fire pit ring. He valiantly (and sweatily) chopped several of them down to size. And soon after starting the fire, he fell asleep. And since the weather was clear, and beautiful, I decided to set up my hammock, and sleep under the stars and trees. And then I felt the chilly 42 degree weather, fought my way out of the hammock, found some clothespins and a lightweight sleeping bag, and fashioned myself an underquilt. Then I slept the night away nearly toasty. It was lovely.
The next day dawned out bright and shiny. Doug fished and I read (I see a pattern forming here!). Then we headed back in to Sulphur to check out the sights. We tried to stop to see the bison. They were still hiding, of course. Then we had a most important task, we stopped at the Chickasaw National Recreation Area Visitor center for a stamp in our National Park Passports. Woohoo!
Then we headed to the Chickasaw Cultural Center. This amazing place is chock full of interesting information about the Chickasaw Nation--history, culture, dance, and almost all of it free! We were just in time for a stomp dance demonstration (which we got to join in), then we spent several hours wandering the traditional village and exhibition halls. And feeding the fish, turtles, and giant catfish in the pond.
On the way back to the campground, we decided to try out another of the trails. We opted for the 2 mile loop trail around the bison pasture. Surely they couldn't hide from us as we circled the entire pasture? They did. We also took a little spur off of our trail to hike another .2 mile stretch up to the Bromide Overlook. How bad could 0.2 miles be?
How is it possible that we've only gone 0.1??!?
But the uphill was worth it.
Since we were on our way to the Bromide Overlook, Doug decided to spout bromides (otherwise known as platitudes) the rest of the way up, and down the hill. I may have threatened to knock him down the hill. The view was lovely, and we hiked back down, got a little lost, found our way again, and headed back towards camp. And the bison were still hiding.
Back at camp, we packed up to leave the next morning, had a campfire and went to bed. Chickasaw is a wonderful place, and somewhere we'd like to spend some more time.
Ridiculous Road Trip #1, Part 5 is next