June 7-9 was Tulsa Tough weekend. Sponsored by St. Francis Health System, the “Tough” included two days of long-distance non-competitive riding (35, 66 and 100+ mile rides), fun rides and three days of competitive criteriums (crits). Our son’s Team Soundpony was competing all three days.

June 7-9 was Tulsa Tough weekend. Sponsored by St. Francis Health System, the “Tough” included two days of long-distance non-competitive riding (35, 66 and 100+ mile rides), fun rides and three days of competitive criteriums (crits). Our son’s Team Soundpony was competing all three days. The Friday night criterium was held at the Blue Dome District. Men and women pounded the 0.75 mile course over and over. Races began despite the thunderstorm that skirted the area with rain falling in the distance and partial rainbows which appeared and disappeared. The evening was cool. With 5 laps to go in the men’s Pro race, fireworks illuminated the sky. What a display to end the day.

The Saturday criterium races switched to the Tulsa Arts (Brady) District. My morning and early afternoon were spent at The Gathering Place representing the Oklahoma Master Naturalists (OMN). The Bloom Flower Festival was today and the park’s 16 acres of wildflowers were looking their best. OMN was invited to join the group of other education partners: Tulsa Botanic Gardens, Global Gardens, Tribal Pollinators and All About Bees. The Floral Installation Artists included small businesses and landscape firms. Vendors sold unique floral creations and arrangements. Snack wagons were here and there, but the Lodge was air-conditioned, had restrooms and sold ice cream and cupcakes.

The good thing: families, kids and all kinds of interest. The challenge: sun and heat. It was hot out manning the wildlife table of pelts, skulls, turtle carapaces, rocks, shells and seeds. It probably did those artifacts some good being baked in the sun. The backdrop of Monarda (Bee Balm), Black-Eyed Susans, Indian Blanket (Gaillardia) and even the mini-stand of 3 red poppies blooming out-of-season was beautifully dramatic. Our table faced one of the water features with a beach on the other side that had been closed. Some areas of The Gathering Place were still barricaded due to damage from excessive water. The Arkansas River was still high next to Riverside Drive, the dirty brown water rolling downstream at a fast pace.

We watched waterfowl land gracefully on the water and swim to secluded areas. One Great Blue Heron flew overhead. A small Blue Heron or Green Heron (too far to tell), coasted to a stop at the water’s edge and vanished into the plants. The Canadian Geese arrived with two goslings, much to the chagrin of the park staff. They have diligently discouraged Canadian Geese from setting up shop at The Gathering Place. ‘Goose’ the watch dog patrols the waters, plunging after errant Canadian Geese and forcing them to fly away. A panting Goose with his handler came by to visit us. The man looked at the geese paddling around and shook his head. When there were kids (goslings) present, the family could not be disturbed. Goose the dog found a little shade and had a drink of water. It was a hot day for man and beast.

Mid-afternoon found us again at the bicycle races. Actually, in a shady cool spot under an overpass leaning against the wall observing hot, sweaty competitors. We soon located the rest of our crew sitting under a large Red Bull tent. Little cowbells were brought into action as the Soundpony team was cheered on. The men’s Pro race had an impressive pile-up with one lap to finish. Women’s and men’s fixie races ended the day. Fixies: fixed gear bicycles where you pedal all the time on brakeless bikes. I personally like brakes.

Sunday morning it rained, making the River Parks Criterium along the Arkansas River a slick skating rink. I was inside watching live-feed TV surrounded by bike racers critiquing the speed and technique of the competitors while guessing how many wrecks would happen. Riders regularly slid out of control at the base of a hill trying to negotiate the curve. One bicyclist shot into the tent, a few rammed the curb, and another rider flew over the handlebars and bounced on the road. Ouch. The rain soon stopped as the races continued. The afternoon was partly cloudy with a strengthening north wind.

The Tulsa Master Gardeners had worked hard in preparation for this year’s “Pollinators R Us” tour held both Saturday and Sunday. Five homes were featured and staffed by Tulsa Master Gardeners. The tour demonstrated how Master Gardeners were inspired by their garden difficulties to create great gardens. Each garden had its own theme: Natural Haven, Midtown Treasure, Bees-Birds and Butterflies, Astilbe working on it! and Country Pride. I would like to personally report on each garden, but instead we embarked on our annual pilgrimage to the new St. Jude’s House in Owasso.

Every year we go in search of the St. Jude’s house. One red brick with my dad’s name is in the path leading to St. Jude’s Research Hospital in Memphis. A Soundpony family was the recipient of St. Jude’s generosity and expertise in the cancer treatment of a young family member. With the support of the biking community and after many trips, treatments and time, the young daughter is now cancer-free and looks forward to happy teenage years.

Who will win the Tulsa St. Jude’s dreamhouse this year? Tickets are $100. The deadline is June 17th. The OKC St. Jude’s dreamhouse deadline is August 26th. Any way you look at it, it’s a win-win situation for everyone.

Back in Tulsa proper, I checked my watch. Nope, not enough time to do the Tulsa MG Garden tour and see the Ponies race. Located the Soundpony cheering squad on a shady hill close to the start/finish line. Braved one trip up Cry Baby Hill to check out the set-up and party atmosphere. Something new this year. In the past, enthusiastic spectators hung around too close to the race track and occasionally interfered with the racers. Orange barricades now lined both sides of the road, keeping people at bay. Don’t know what the homeowners on the hill thought, but the racers liked the barriers. Over the years the number of people, especially the last day of the criteriums, has grown tremendously as have the team and bicycle support tents. It’s a giant tail-gating party stretched out for nearly a mile.

Tulsa Tough is now history. The Tulsa Master Gardeners invite everyone to come to the 2020 garden tour. Not only is the Gathering Place a large park in Tulsa, it is also a specialty coffee house in Shawnee. Both provide places to meet, enjoy life and have a refreshing beverage. Time for field trips to check both of them out!

Becky Emerson Carlberg, graduate of Oklahoma State (Plant Pathology) is a teacher, artist, writer as well as certified Oklahoma Master Gardener and Master Naturalist. Contact her at Becscience@att.net.