"It's not Jerusalem. It's not Baghdad. It's not Bolivia. It's Oklahoma."
- V. Z. Lawton, survivor of the Oklahoma Federal Building bombing.

TODAYíS ROUTE:
Sulphur, OK to Lawrence, OK: SR-7 West through Davis to I-35 North to Oklahoma City to I-235 North to Oklahoma National Memorial to I-44 East to I-35 North towards Wichita to Cassoday, SR-177 past Matfield to Strong City to Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve to Concil Grove, US-56 East to I-335 North past Topeka to I-70 to US-40 to Lawrence. (
MAP)

THE DETAILS:
Waiting around till 10:00 AM to get a stamp on a day where I need to ride over 400 miles is probably not the best way to start things off.  But these are the choices Iíve made, and I live with them.  After I collect the Chickasaw stamp, I return to my northern route up the Interstate.  My first stop is not far ahead: Oklahoma City.

When youíre in Oklahoma you feel as if youíre in the middle of America.  And for all intents and purposes, you literally are.  Most of the time, that is all the places like Oklahoma feel to most of us; that place out there in the middle of nowhere.  Far away from everything that we think really matters.

On April 19, 1995, Oklahoma City suddenly became all that mattered to all of us.  In a split second, the middle of nowhere suddenly became the center of our universe when terrorists parked a van filled with explosives outside the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building.  168 people, including 19 small children, were killed in the blast.  It was the deadliest terrorist attack ever on U.S. soil.

Shortly after the tragedy, people recognized the need to preserve the memory of the victims and the consequences of this horrible act.  On the former site of the Federal Building now stands the Oklahoma City National Memorial.  The memorial is still under construction, and the dedication is planned for April 19th, 2000.  The site will include a symbolic outdoor memorial, a memorial center, an interactive learning museum, and an institute for the prevention of terrorism.

When planning for the memorial began a construction fence was placed around the site.  Immediately, the fence became a memorial unto itself as thousands of people visiting the site left memories and mementos attached in tribute.  Bracelets, teddy bears, license plates, cards, photos, t-shirts and many other personal items have been left clinging to the fence.  As I walk along the fence the human aspect of this tragedy overwhelms me.  So many lives were changed forever by this event.  As Iíve traveled across the country on this journey, Iíve been enlightened and educated.  Iíve laughed and Iíve learned.  But nothing has moved me like this place.  A picture of a small child, clipped to the simple galvanized chain-link fence, brings me to tears.

With heavy thoughts bearing down, I leave Oklahoma City, emotionally drained.  The wind picks up and battles against my motorcycle.  The strong, constant current is difficult to ride through as I continue north and cross the Kansas border.  I'll need to rush to get to Strong City before four o'clock, about 100 miles in 70 minutes.  Just before Wichita I turn northeast, calculating the miles per minute as the clock ticks by and the wind pushes on.  With 2 minutes to spare I roll into the parking lot at the Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve.  Another stamp and another state are mine.  The park ranger, Ron Clark, is a Harley rider and we have a nice chat about our rides.

By dusk I'm in Lawrence, at the home of Matt Sacks.  Matt was the very first intern at Classic Sports Network, where I toiled away for 5 years before leaving for this trip.   I'm proud to say I helped bring Matt to the company and helped get him his first job out of college.  Being the enterprising young man that he is, Matt read about our new cable television channel in a trade magazine back in the fall of 1994.  Figuring we would need good, cheap help, he called about a summer internship.  We weren't even on the air yet!  After working during his Christmas break, I realized we had a winner here, and when Matt returned in the summer he brought along his longtime friend Scott Kono who also attended the University of Indiana.  Matt and Scott worked their butts off all summer, and I knew we had hire to them as soon as they graduated.  Less than a year later they were on the staff.  It's people like Matt and Scott whose steadfast dedication and hard work made Classic Sports such a success and a wonderful place to work.

After ESPN bought Classic Sports, Matt moved out to Lawrence to be closer to his girlfriend.  He also got a great job as a television reporter and producer for Channel 6 News.  The station is independently owned by the local cable operator, Sunshine.  Matt shoots, writes, produces news stories and even appears in front of the camera sometimes.  I'm glad and proud to see he is doing so well.

THE DAILY TAKE:
Miles Today: 421.2
Total Miles: 23,211
Time on Motorcycle: 5 Hours 51 Minutes
Average Speed: 72 MPH
States Visited today: 2 (OK, KS)
Total States Visited: 35
National Park Service Passport Stamps: 3
NPS Stamp Totals: 172 Stamps, 32 States
Weather: Heavy Clouds, No Rain, turning clear and cool, with very strong winds
Number of buildings damaged in the Oklahoma City bombing: over 300

SEEN ON THE ROAD:
ďDearest Frankie, You are not gone. You have only gone beyond what I can see.Ē Ė Inscription on photograph attached to the construction fence at the Oklahoma City National Memorial.

RANDOM PASSINGS:
Just a few days before I began this trip, my friend and mentor Dick Schaap, the famous New York journalist, sports reporter, and author of more than 30 books, called to wish me good luck.  Knowing that Dick has traveled quite a bit in his time, and that he also enjoys a good meal, I asked him if he could recommend any restaurants along the way.  He's also the only guy I know who has a weekly table at Rao's, the Italian restaurant in Harlem that is impossible to get a table at.

Well, I asked the right guy the right question because Dick spent about 15 minutes listing his favorite eating establishments around the country.  The first name he mentioned was Don's Steak House in Lawrence, Kansas.  Lucky me!  I insist to Matt that we dine at Don's, and we're not disappointed.  The Bar-BQ ribs are the best I've ever tasted.

After stuffing ourselves we take a moment to view some pictures of Dick that adorn the wall of the restaurant's entrance hall.  There are so many pictures of Dick and related memorabilia that the place could pass as a Dick Schaap Shrine.  It's almost spooky.  Dick was introduced to Donís Steak House, its owner Gary ďU.S.Ē Bartz, and the spectacular ribs years ago in Los Angeles at one of Dickís annual Super Bowl parties.  Gary flew out to the coast just to make sure the ribs, also flown in from Lawrence, were going to be cooked correctly.  Dick has since become a regular in Lawrence.  And Gary and the ribs are a regular at Dickís Super Bowl party as well.

 


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