Tough Weekend


The Shawnee News-Star June 15th 2019

Becky Emerson Carlberg

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 and100+ mile rides), fun rides and three days of competitive criteriums(crits).  Our son's Team Soundpony wascompeting all three days.  The Fridaynight criterium was held at the Blue Dome District.  Men and women pounded the 0.75 mile courseover and over.  Races began despite thethunderstorm that skirted the area with rain falling in the distance andpartial 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 adisplay 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 ofinterest.  The challenge: sun andheat.  It was hot out manning thewildlife table of pelts, skulls, turtle carapaces, rocks, shells andseeds.  It probably did those artifactssome good being baked in the sun.  Thebackdrop of Monarda (Bee Balm), Black-Eyed Susans, Indian Blanket (Gaillardia)and even the mini-stand of 3 red poppies blooming out-of-season was beautifullydramatic.  Our table faced one of thewater features with a beach on the other side that had been closed.  Some areas of The Gathering Place were still barricadeddue to damage from excessive water.  TheArkansas River was still high next to Riverside Drive, the dirty brown waterrolling 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 anoverpass leaning against the wall observing hot, sweaty competitors.  We soon located the rest of our crew sitting undera large Red Bull tent. Little cowbells were brought into action as theSoundpony team was cheered on.  The men'sPro race had an impressive pile-up with one lap to finish. Women's and men's fixieraces ended the day.  Fixies: fixed gearbicycles where you pedal all the time on brakeless bikes. I personally likebrakes.

Sunday morning it rained, making the River Parks Criteriumalong the Arkansas River a slick skating rink. I was inside watching live-feed TV surrounded by bike racers critiquingthe speed and technique of the competitors while guessing how many wrecks wouldhappen. Riders regularly slid out of control at the base of a hill trying tonegotiate the curve.  One bicyclist shotinto the tent, a few rammed the curb, and another rider flew over thehandlebars and bounced on the road. Ouch.  The rain soon stopped asthe races continued.  The afternoon waspartly cloudy with a strengthening north wind. 

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

Every year we go in search of the St. Jude's house.  One red brick with my dad's name is in thepath 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 familymember.  With the support of the bikingcommunity and after many trips, treatments and time, the young daughter is nowcancer-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 Gardentour and see the Ponies race.  Locatedthe Soundpony cheering squad on a shady hill close to the start/finish line.  Braved one trip up Cry Baby Hill to check outthe set-up and party atmosphere. Something new this year.  In thepast, enthusiastic spectators hung around too close to the race track andoccasionally interfered with the racers. Orange barricades now lined both sidesof the road, keeping people at bay.  Don'tknow what the homeowners on the hill thought, but the racers liked thebarriers.  Over the years the number ofpeople, especially the last day of the criteriums, has grown tremendously ashave 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 gardentour. Not only is the Gathering Place a large park in Tulsa, it is also aspecialty coffee house in Shawnee.  Bothprovide places to meet, enjoy life and have a refreshing beverage. Time forfield trips to check both of them out!