Low expectations are nothing new to Oklahomans, with people nationwide flying over or ignoring our state because some still define our topography by the Dust Bowl. Two Okie-centric motorcycle enthusiasts are trying to sway minds to the charms of the state's highways and back roads by producing the travel television show "Two Wheel Oklahoma."
Rex Brown and Brad Mathison shot a series of episodes that debuted this year on OETA. Reruns will air through June as the duo works to expand their geographic scope.
The two have toured Oklahoma and the surrounding region on their motorcycles for years, tapping that wandering spirit to promote the state landscape after defending it to other bike enthusiasts across the country.
"Sitting around some of these rallies, we'd heard people making fun of Oklahoma: 'All the state roads are nothing but oil wells,'" Mathison said. "They were the typical ideas that people thought of, so we started to take pictures to document the places we rode to in Oklahoma."
They started online with www.placestoride.com, where they documented the various locations they'd been to throughout America, but with a strong focus on the local landscape. The two began toying with the idea of adding videos before finally deciding to hire a production team to capture their exploits on camera.
The result is right along the lines of quirky shows on the Travel Channel and Food Network, where the hosts unearth hidden gems, whether sampling eats at the Rock Café in Stroud, touring the Round Barn in Arcadia, or taunting livestock along Highway 123. The pair spend a good deal of their time talking with locals and letting the residents rehash what makes their corner of the state special.
"Brad and I like to discover along with the viewer, as opposed to lecturing what a place is all about," Brown said.
"There's no script, there's no big master plan," Mathison said. "We've done this a thousand times on our own without the camera following us around. We ask people about their town, places to eat and things to see. There is nothing like riding 600 miles and finding something you never knew anything about."
So far, "Two Wheel Oklahoma" has six episodes, with four available to view at www.twowheelok.com. Each documents a route the crew takes, whether Route 66 or another scenic highway winding through the countryside.
Another important element of the show is that Mathison and Brown make the trip on motorcycles, which Brown insists makes any road trip more special.
"When you are traveling on a bike, you seem to be more accessible," he said. "When you stop for gas, people are more open to talking with you. Maybe it's a vulnerability thing: You aren't locked away in a box " you are out in the open right there. It seems like people are more open to getting into a conversation and asking where you're from and where you are going."
Mathison believes the next step is to expand to "Two Wheel America" and find a cable outlet to pick them up. But even if the pair do begin hitting the nation's highways, they want to remain grounded in their home state and work to build its allure to other travel enthusiasts looking for unique rides off the beaten path.
"There is a lot more to do than people realize," Mathison said. "People who haven't grown up around Oklahoma think of it as just flat and desolate, and there is some of that, but there is actually some great scenery and wonderful highways throughout Oklahoma." "Charles Martin