The spring of fifth grade we decided to ride our bikes to Oklahoma. I don’t remember how this decision came about, but it was as real, and we were as determined, as could be!
Andi had a map of the United States on her wall – one of those Disneyland-esque maps with cartoons of each states’ main attractions. A key of the distances was located in the corner. Using some blue yarn we measured the approximate distance – ahem, as the crow flies, from Salt Lake to Oklahoma city.
We were excellent bike riders, this we already knew. We could ride any hill in the neighborhood without the need to stand to pedal ourselves up. We could both ride no-handed, even down the same mentioned hills. Each morning we rode our bikes to school, leaving an hour early just so we could explore.
So a bike ride to Oklahoma didn’t actually seem that unreasonable. We determined we’d have to convince my mom first – and then she could convince Andi’s mom. I remember going in to her room. She was reading. I told her of our plans – our determination – to ride a third of the way across the county, if we only had permission. She looked up, thoroughly unrattled, and said it was fine with her.
And so we began practicing. We planned to sell home-made rag dolls and salt dough Christmas ornaments to raise funds for the adventure. We would pack water and snacks in our retro-fitted saddle bags. We would ride each day, stopping for meals. We’d have someone drive alongside of course. By our calculations it would take about three weeks to make the journey.
As summer approached we determined we’d better start having practice rides. And so one day we decided to go for it – to ride as far and as long as possible – just to see how it would be.
Up the hill of Cottonwood Lane – up and around to the elementary school. That part was easy. We did that every day. Then on, on, on down Holladay Boulevard. It was a hot day. We didn’t have water with us, and we were long past the familiar homes with the familiar families we could stop and ask for water from. No matter. We pushed on in the heat.
Eventually Holladay Boulevard empties out onto 6400 South, the location of the old, dilapidated (even then) Cotton Bottom – bar. We knocked on the door. I remember the surprise on the waitresses face when we asked “for a drink.”
She gave us a firm “no.” Even as we pleaded for water in the heat, she told us we couldn’t even come inside to the air conditioning. But she did tell us if we followed 6400 South down we would eventually come to a “Wendy’s” – and they surely would give us some water.
So, we continued on our way, parched and sweating, down around to Wendy’s. We parked our bikes outside, too tired to concern ourselves with bike locks. Inside the air conditioning helped, but was far from completely relieving us. I remember standing in line, worried that they would want a quarter for a cup of water. I didn’t have any money on me, and I was so thirsty!
But they gave us each a drink. We sat in that Wendy’s for a good long while as we recovered from the shock of heat and distance.
Eventually we climbed back onto our bikes and rode home – down Highland Drive, and back up into the neighborhood the back way. The entire ride may have been only five miles.
After that a bike ride to Oklahoma was never talked about again.
And now, on busy days when we’re out and about, I often run down to the very same Wendy’s for chicken nuggets and Frosty’s for my posse. They don’t know the history of the place.
I’m going to try and write down memories I have – for my little lovelies who always ask “Tell me a story of when you were a kid . . .”
I’m going to call them “Tales for Tuesdays” – and will try to write one a week . . . unless of course something else happens. In which case I won’t.