Note: From Saturday, September 30 to Saturday, October 7, 2006, Dale McCorkle, Rodney Lee, Chris Happ and myself took a week-long trip to the Ozarks. This report chronicles everything we did and traveled. All of us have been riding together for a long time and usually I am the one who writes the trip reports. But since he graciously offered, this report was written by Dale McCorkle.
This year, with fuel cost bumping $3.00 a gallon, I was going to have to bail on attending the annual fall trip, which had been planned for the Grand Canyon, because I couldn't handle the expense.
When I made the rest of the group aware of my predicament I discovered that I was not the only one who had experienced unexpected expenses and was having difficulty budgeting the trip. After some discussion it was decided that we would be wiser to schedule a shorter trip this year and delay going to the Grand Canyon until next year. So, after considering several potential destinations, the group decided to head for northern Arkansas and southern Missouri. We had ridden across southern Missouri last year on our way to Deal's Gap to ride the Dragon and had all commented on how good the riding was and that we wanted to return at some future date.
The thing that got us out of our budget crisis was that Rodney's father offered a week of his vacation timeshare in a condo at Fairfield Bay, Arkansas. This provided the group both with accommodations and a base from which we could ride each morning and return to each night. We were stunned and elated by his gracious and generous offer and cannot sufficiently express our gratitude. Again, Mr. Lee, THANK YOU for everything! It was you who made this trip possible.
We were all stressed from work and badly needing some time away, in the saddle and in the wind, to recharge and resuscitate our dull brains and tired bodies. There's nothing like a bike trip with good friends, great weather, twisty mountain roads, and fall color to do the trick!
- Dale McCorkle
Friday, September 29, 2006 - The plan was for everyone to meet at Trip's house Friday evening, have greetings and introduce Chris and Rodney, go to dinner, swap lies, and discuss the route to Fairfield Bay. Chris was hoping to be able to get away from work in Austin, TX at 14:30, and Rodney and I were hoping to leave Coppell, TX at 15:00. Everyone was able to get away as planned, and Rodney and I arrived at Trip's house in Lindale, TX at 18:15.
Gary Brooks came up from his new digs in Tyler, TX, where he had just moved the previous weekend to take a new job, on his not-even-broken-in-yet Suzuki V-Strom DL1000 to have dinner with everyone. We sniffed his new bike and were all excited for him (and a little envious) because this was a nice upgrade for our bud. His previous bike (see the trip reports for the previous two years) was a 1984 Honda Sabre 700. What with the bike not broken in, and having just started a new job, Gary was sitting this one out, even though there was room in the condo.
Chris pulled by at 19:30 after 5 hours on the road, honked, waved, and circled the block before easing into Trip's garage on his Honda Magna V65. It was really good to see Chris whom Trip, Gary, and I hadn't seen in over a year, and with him on his traditional bike it was just like old times. His bike now has over 100,000 miles on it and is going strong. We all headed for dinner at a favorite restaurant of Trip's where we did a lot of catching up and closed the place down. In the parking lot we said our good-byes to Gary as he was headed back home to Tyler, about 15 miles south.
Rodney hit it off immediately with Trip's Labrador Retriever Gracie, and spent Friday night after dinner wrestling with her until she was tuckered out and he declared "I win". But he made the mistake of leaving his riding boots in the living room when he went to bed and the next morning when Trip let Gracie in the first thing she did was grab Rodney's boot and start chewing it. Trip and I saw her with the boot but we thought she earned it, and that a little dog slobber would make it interesting when Rodney put his foot in it. At one point she was standing at the end of the hall with the boot in her mouth waiting for Rodney to come out of the bedroom as if to say, "Who wins??"
Once Trip assigned sleeping quarters everyone was soon horizontal in preparation for the next day's ride to Fairfield Bay.
Saturday, September 30, 2006 - We were all showered, loaded, and on the road at 07:00. We rode about 10 miles north to Kitchens in Mineola for breakfast, plotted a route, and headed north on Hwy. 37 for Oklahoma. We rode through Ida, OK, north on Hwy. 259 into Arkansas to the Talimena Scenic Byway, and east on Hwy. 1 to Queen Wilhelmina State Park where we raided the buffet at the lodge for lunch.
Riding down Rich mountain into Mena AR, we took Hwy 71 north to Hwy. 23 into Booneville, where we changed to Hwy 10 to Havana, AR. In Havana we connected with Hwy. 309, which offers good riding and vistas, and follows the spine of a ridge over Magazine Mountain to Paris, AR. There we connected with Hwy. 22 east to Dardenelle, and took Hwy. 155 up Mt. Nebo. This is the twistiest, sharpest, switch-backingest road in Arkansas! It's so tight that vehicles over 24 feet in total length are prohibited; no worry of meeting large trucks, bus size RV's, pickups pulling 30 foot trailers, etc. on this road, but it's also so tight that meeting a full size Cadillac or Lincoln will give you pause. If you ride Hwy. 155 up to Mt. Nebo State Park, keep your speed down and your RPM up in the lower gears because there are places in the 9 switchbacks you will encounter where you will be riding straight up the mountainside. From Dardanelle we rode east on I40 to Hwy. 287 to Hwy. 92 to Hwy. 124 to Damascus on Hwy 65, then north to Clinton, AR.
In my haste to get out of Coppell I had left the directions from Clinton to Fairfield Bay behind, so I pulled into a KFC to see if I could get directions. I looked around for a likely victim and spotted two ladies and a gentleman sitting at a booth. As I ambled up to their table the gentleman asked:
"Are you lost?"
Me: "Almost. Are you local?'
Gentleman: "Almost; where you headed?"
Me: "Fairfield Bay"
His companion, grinning: "That's where we're from."
After some discussion they decided that the best route for us would be to go in the west entrance (which I remembered the directions I had left behind said not to take). However, they gave such detailed directions that I felt they knew their stuff and decided to do as they suggested. Late in the conversation I discovered that by sheer chance I had approached the Dock Master for the Marina at Fairfield Bay; surely this was a good omen for the week ahead!
We arrived at Fairfield Bay at 20:20, and while Rodney checked in we rode over to Pizza Hut to grab a table. There's not much night life in Fairfield Bay, and by 20:30 the only things open were the Pizza Hut and the Bowling Alley, so we wanted to get our foot in the door in case they were thinking of locking up. Rodney arrived in about 15 minutes with the keys to the condo and after a pleasant dinner we saddled up to get a first look at our base for the next week.
We were not ready for how nice a place we had the pleasure to call home for the coming week; large rooms, fully stocked kitchen, laundry room. The master bedroom was huge with a master bath that was almost as large as the second bedroom, complete with a Jacuzzi Texas Tub. Rodney started trying to get Robert and Chris to take the master bedroom but none of us were having it since his Dad had made this place possible for us, so we shoved him in and closed the door behind him. Worked like a charm.
Lindale, TX to Fairfield Bay, AR by way of Queen Wilhelmina, Mt. Magazine, and Mt. Nebo State Parks was 507 miles for the day. Tomorrow the adventure begins and we are all anxious to hit those Ozark roads.
We learned during the week that before we arrived there had been a period of fall weather and then it had warmed back up. Some businesses had even shifted to their winter hours. The cooler weather had started the leaves turning so there was some color even though when we arrived the temperatures were in the high 80's. Map of the day's ride.
Sunday, October 1, 2006 (Chris' Birthday) - We were up at 06:00 and sitting in Stephenson's Restaurant parking lot in Fairfield Bay at 07:00. While shedding jackets, helmets, gloves, etc. before going inside a man pulled to a stop and sat looking at our bikes. Noticing my and Chris' V65s he told us there were only six V65s in the whole town and he had three of those. Looking at Trip's Nomad 1600 he said he had owned one for awhile and found it to be the most comfortable bike he had ever ridden. Then, looking at Rodney's Concours he said there were no Connies in town. He then introduced himself as John Osborne and relayed that he owned the Phillips 66 down the street, and asked us to come by for breakfast some morning. We thanked him and went inside for a $7.00 buffet breakfast.
Having eaten our fill, we took Hwy 16 west through Clinton. This was a twisty, fun ride - in the daylight. I was glad we had gotten other directions the night before and that our first riding of this road had not been in the dark, however. There is little fuel west of Clinton so if you ride that direction leave Clinton with a full tank. There is an Exxon just south of the Hwy. 16 intersection with Hwy. 65 that has both fuel and Baskin-Robbins ice cream. How can it get any better? We stayed on Hwy. 16 to it's intersection with Scenic Hwy. 7 at Pelsor where we stopped for something to drink. Hwy. 16 west of Clinton is fine riding and was a great way to kick off the week - lots of curves and elevation changes. The temperatures were in the 90's and we knew all too well that we would dehydrate if we didn't drink at least as often as we fueled. The store at the intersection is worth a stop and a look even if you aren't thirsty; old hand tools and farm items adorn the walls, tanned hides hang from the ceiling, mounted heads hang above doors, and an old wood burning stove sits on the wood floor.
From this intersection the road west is both Hwy. 123 and Hwy. 16, which we took toward Fallsville. Shortly we came around a curve that had a veritable gravel bar across it, with one pile being at least 4 inches deep. The stuff caused Trip to almost go down, the only thing stopping him was the last option effort of putting a boot down. That action caused his leg to be thrown into the side bag guard bar but he got enough push to keep the bike from sliding down. When the back tire subsequently caught again on clean pavement it almost threw Trip off in the other direction, but he is a skilled rider and kept the bike under him. His leg hurt for a couple of days but his experience and instincts prevented a much worse result. This was our worst but by no means our last encounter with gravel on the roads this trip.
From Hwy. 123/16 we connected to Hwy. 21 to Boxley, where we caught Hwy. 43 to Ponca. At Ponca we switched to Hwy. 74; the section of 74 to Jasper was what we had come to ride, and it was worth the miles. We had been cautioned about riding from Jasper to Ponca because it is easy to hit the curves too hot going down into the river valley, so we rode it in reverse so we were climbing into the sharp turns. As the road unfolded before us I was glad that we had chosen to climb up out of the river valley because I still hit two of the curves fast enough to get my attention. We stayed on Hwy. 74 through Jasper to Hasty, took Hwy. 123 to Hwy 65 south to Clinton and Hwy. 16 back to Fairfield Bay. We put 270 miles on the odometers today. Map of the day's ride.
Monday, October 2, 2006 - We were up at 06:00 again and sitting in the parking lot at John Osborne's Phillips 66 at 07:00. Here we could get a breakfast to order, and found the food fresh and less expensive than the previous morning. We would eat breakfast here for the remainder of our stay in Fairfield Bay. Two eggs cooked to order, bacon or sausage, hashbrowns, toast or biscuits for $3.95. The morning that I ordered biscuits a small side of gravy came with it. I was so full that morning that I switched to toast the rest of the week.
Not far out of Fairfield Bay on Hwy. 16 you pass through Shirley. This morning at Shirley we connected with Hwy. 9, which took us through one of my favorite places in Arkansas, Mountain View, to the town of Fifty-Six where we connected with Hwy. 14 west to Hwy. 65. From Big Flat through Harriet and across the Buffalo National River valley the ride was especially good. On the whole, Hwy. 14 is a really good ride, but on the map it didn't look that good between Lead Hill and Hwy. 281, so just east of Lead Hill we took Hwy. 7 southwest to Hwy. 281 north which took us back to Hwy. 14. Hwy. 7 was good but not special, but Hwy. 281 was a really nice mix of lower speed sharp curves and outstanding sweepers. Once back on Hwy. 14 we continued west to Hwy. 65, then north to Branson, Missouri. Outside of Branson there was construction and as we were poking along I overheard on the CB a conversation between Trip and Chris. We all use handheld CB's; Trip and I have them attached to short whip antennas near the rear of our bikes while Chris uses the antenna that came with the radio. I heard Trip asking Chris "How many donuts can you get on that thing?"
We had lunch at a local café, chosen because it was next door to an ice cream parlor, then took Hwy. 160 east, where I had to get on the brakes hard and dive for the white stripe because someone in a red Miata or similar didn't have the patience to wait until a legal passing zone and was trying to pass an oncoming bus-sized RV during a double yellow stripe. OK, welcome to Missouri. We stayed on Hwy. 160 to Hwy. 125 south which took us to the north shore of Bull Shoals Lake. To get there you have to go through the town of Protem, where a young man looked straight at me, then focus-locked on the Volunteer Fire Dept. parking lot he wanted to turn into, and turned right in front of me. Hard on the brakes, dive for the pavement edge, not going to stop in time, hard on the gas to get by before getting T-boned. The V65 answered with power and response and got me out of trouble. OK, so long Missouri, I couldn't get out of there fast enough!
At Bull Shoals Lake we got a few minutes to stretch, relax under some trees, and for Chris to soak his T-shirt in the cool lake water before the Peel free ferry docked to carry us across the lake. This was the second time I had been on a ferry with the bike and was impressed both times with the skill with which the ferry boat Captain maneuvered his craft. We stayed on Hwy. 125 south to Hwy. 14 east for the short run to Yellville, then took Hwy. 235 southwest to Hwy. 65 back to Clinton. Odometers showed 311 miles today, the majority of which were top-notch riding. Map of the day's ride.
Tuesday, October 3, 2006 - Headed for breakfast at John Osborne's Phillips 66 and as we pulled into the parking lot Chris' bike belched coolant out the reservoir overflow. The temp. readout showed 5 bars, which was hot for the morning's temperature and the distance/speed we had ridden. After some discussion it was decided that either the water pump had quit or the thermostat was stuck shut, either of which could be diagnosed by pulling the thermostat out. So, out came the tools and Chris and Rodney, the two Master Wrenches, went to work. In ten minutes the thermostat was out, the problem diagnosed as a stuck thermostat, and the bike was going back together sans thermostat. While Chris and Rodney reassembled the bike I rode to a nearby Citgo that had some antifreeze and by the time I was back they were ready to refill the system. Cranking up the bike revealed that without the thermostat the housing would leak slightly, so we rode up to Shirley, AR in search of an auto supply. After riding through town and discovering that the only auto supply was no longer in business, Chris whipped out his cell phone and called the NAPA store in Austin, TX where he typically does business. Their internet connection was down which prevented them from being able to tell Chris where the closest NAPA store was located, so they gave him the phone number of the warehouse in Little Rock, AR which supplied all of the NAPA stores in the entire area. A quick call to them verified that there was a NAPA 15 miles away in Clinton, AR, and their phone number. Chris called, got directions to the store, and told them we were on our way.
Once at NAPA in Clinton, when Chris explained to Scott what the issue was, he went through every O-ring in his assortment in an attempt to match the one in the thermostat housing. With no luck, he then went through all of his thermostat gaskets until he determined which was the closest match to the one on the V65. With a quick modification the gasket was installed, the bike reassembled, and started for a leak test. Viola!, dry as a bone, and at 11:30 we headed out for what we could salvage of the day's route.
We headed south on Hwy. 65 to Hwy. 92 at Bee Branch and turned northeast. As we crossed an arm of the lake prior to Greer's Ferry, I mistook where we were and thought we were crossing the main body of the lake heading north, and turned the group around which caused us to ride close to 40 miles out of the way to get back on course. In the process however, we rode Hwy. 25 from Heber Springs to Hwy. 92 which was a ride I had read about on the internet but had not included in the week's riding list because it was "out of the way". Once back on Hwy. 92 again, we went west a few miles to the intersection with Hwy. 263 northwest toward Prim. Immediately we were in tight, low speed turns and sharp downhill switchbacks which took us into a drainage that feeds Greer's Ferry Lake; it was a thrilling few miles. We stayed on Hwy. 263 all the way to Big Flat and all liked the ride a lot. The only issue was between Prim and Rushing where it appeared that the door-to-door gravel salesman had made a sale at every home, farm, and ranch because they all seemed to have newly graveled driveways that had been tracked onto the road for a couple of feet at the end of each driveway. We had been in single file since turning onto Hwy. 263 and I noticed that pretty quickly everyone in the group was just avoiding the outside track through this section. In Prim, Trip mounted his video camera on his side bag guard bar and taped for 15 minutes to the intersection of Hwy. 263 and Hwy. 9.
At Big Flat we fueled, snacked a bit, and headed for Hwy. 341, also known as Push Mountain Road. This road is sometimes called the "Deal's Gap of the Ozarks". That's a bit of a stretch, but don't let that detract from the fact that this is an outstanding ride. An overriding feature is that intersecting roads are almost non-existent. No driveways, no businesses, no farm implements, nothing to watch for except wildlife and oncoming traffic so you're free to just concentrate on your ride. At the intersection of Hwy. 341 and Hwy. 201 (north end of Push Mountain Road) we turned southeast and at Norfork took Hwy. 5 to Calico Rock where we stopped at the ice cream parlor for Butter Pecan ice cream (Trip's favorite), vanilla (Chris), vanilla and iced tea (Rodney), and a root beer float (Dale). We continued on Hwy. 5 to Allison, then took Hwy. 9 through Mountain View to Shirley, followed by Hwy. 16 back to Fairfield Bay.
Once back in the condo we connected the video camera to the TV to see if the experiment was successful. We discovered the angle of the camera had been a little too low but otherwise was very satisfactory. We were encouraged and planned to continue the effort. We traveled 239 memorable miles today, and enjoyed them all. Map of the day's ride.
Wednesday, October 4, 2006 - This morning we were all up early to see Chris off. Labor Day weekend his oldest son had broken his leg and Chris had used a couple of vacation days to be with him, so he couldn't stay the entire week. It was good to get the time and the riding with him that we did, and all enjoyed his great personality, sense of humor, and riding ability. We wished him well and a safe trip; he had a full day in the saddle to get home, at least 12 hours. He later reported that the bike ran cool and that he experienced an uneventful ride and light traffic all the way to the Austin, TX city limits. Once in Austin, however, that all changes. He said he just parked it on the speed limit, didn't stop for breakfast, grabbed lunch in Palestine, TX and was home in time for dinner.
After breakfast we headed south on Hwy. 16 across Greer's Ferry Lake to the town of Greer's Ferry where we took Hwy. 92 east to Hwy. 25 to Hwy. 167 which we took north a short distance to Batesville. Batesville was where our first ride for the day was to begin, and Hwys. 92 and 25 was the route that we had chosen to get there. I can't recommend that the reader do the same as there are many semi-tractor trailer and logging trucks on this Hwy. which makes for less than pleasant riding and a well abused road surface. We also encountered spilled diesel fuel at the apex of a turn which caused my back tire to slip about 6-8 inches to the left at highway speed. Unsettling to say the least. Beyond that point we had to watch for and ride around fuel spills until we changed highways in Batesville.
From Batesville we took Hwy. 69 to Melbourne and thoroughly enjoyed many miles of practically non-stop sweepers. This is a nice section because the road is wide and multi-lane in many places with plenty of climbing lanes so you can avoid getting caught behind slow moving traffic. In Melbourne we began the second ride of the day, which was Hwy. 9 southwest to Allison at the intersection of Hwy. 5. This was the first time I had ever ridden this section of Hwy. 9 and even though it had been recently graveled and there were still some loose pebbles on the road surface, the ride is so excellent that we didn't complain as loudly as we would have otherwise. This is a combination of curves, lower speed sweepers, beautiful countryside and vistas, and fun, tight, turns. Of everything we'd ridden so far on this trip, this was the ride I liked the most. From Allison we continued on Hwy. 9 a few miles south to the Ozark Folk Center where we spent several hours watching demonstrations of how things were made in the Ozarks prior to the availability of electricity. We saw the making of lye soap in a kettle over an open fire, how brooms and whisk brooms were hand made, the operation of a foot lathe for the making of round stock such as chair legs, bed posts, rolling pins, etc. We learned how Coopers made wooden items such as kitchen utensils, pails, buckets, chair legs, tool handles, and yokes for plow teams. As we left the Cooper's shop Rodney said "Four words - Back to the Future" because the Cooper reminded him of Christopher Lloyd in the movie. We saw desserts baked in a wood burning stove, and watched wool being spun into yarn. We learned that a pair of knit wool socks requires at least 350 yards of yarn. The gentleman that was running the foot lathe shared much useful information with Trip who has recently been spending some time with a well known group of East Texas wood turners. After leaving the Ozark Folk Center we rode into Mountain View to the Dogwood Hollow Steak House for dinner, then back to Fairfield Bay for the night.
We rode only 134 miles today, but spent several informative hours at the Ozark Folk Center. Map of the day's ride.
Thursday, October 5, 2006 - When we walked outside this morning there was a definite change in the weather. A cold front had come through during the night and the temperatures were in the low 60's, the humidity high, heavy overcast, and a fairly strong breeze was blowing. It just seemed off at breakfast with Chris not there.
Preparing to leave after breakfast I dug my riding jacket out of my T-bag, but Trip and Rodney had not brought theirs. We headed north on Hwy. 9, then took Hwy. 5 to the loop just outside Mountain Home. We took 412 east, then Hwy. 101 north to Bakersfield, MO. By then we were all ready for a hot cup of coffee so we stopped at Hayes Grocery on the west side of town. Walking back outside with our cups we heard some machinery running in the lot behind the store so we walked over to see what was being done. A man named King Solder was shoveling something about 2 1/2" in diameter and about the color of pears onto a conveyor belt which dumped them into a machine. The green coverings were coming out of the far end of the machine on a conveyor belt, and the black and brown cores or centers were coming out of chutes on the near end of the machine where they were being bagged by a young man named Larry Burns. I asked him what he was doing because I did not recognize either what was being shoveled into the machine or what was being bagged as the resulting product. Larry answered "hulling walnuts", and handed me one of the cores from the bag he was filling. He explained that the bags would go to a sheller that would break the hard shells and extract the nut meat. Then he broke one of the shells to show me the walnut inside. As he handed it to me I noticed that the palm side of his hands and fingers were completely black. He held them up and explained that it was a stain that came from the hulled walnuts, that nothing would remove it, and that it would wear off in about a week. The skin and pulp that covers the shell are collected and returned to the fields. We walked away thinking that we now knew why the nut is called the Ozark Black Walnut.
From Bakersfield we turned south on Hwy. 87 into Arkansas to Hwy. 223, then to Hwy. 56 to Calico Rock for lunch at the ice cream parlor. Wild Mountain Blackberry ice cream is a fine finale to a meal. Afterwards we took Hwy. 5 south to Hwy. 14 west to Hwy. 341 (Push Mountain Road). There, Trip mounted his video camera to his sidebag guard bar, facing backwards, and Rodney and I rode behind while he taped. From there, we rode for another couple of hours over roads that we selected from the map because they looked like they might be fun, then turned south on Hwy. 65 to Clinton for dinner at the Western Sizzling Steak House. This is a buffet and if you leave hungry it's your own fault. All I ordered was the soup and salad, but that includes all the salad you want, plus 3 kinds of soup, plus pinto beans, rolls and cornbread, and all the dessert you can eat. In addition, a baked potato comes with it if you desire, and your bottomless drink is included. I'm fairly certain I heard the bike groan with I saddled up. On the way back to Fairfield Bay we rode under a partly cloudy sky with a bright, super-sized, Harvest moon to guide us in. Once back, Trip and Rodney both commented that they would not be leaving in the morning without their jackets, and Trip thought he might even pull on the chaps.
We watched the video, were encouraged, and planned to continue experimenting with taping while riding the next day. We got in 350 miles today and were certified in "Ozark Black Walnut 101". Map of the day's ride.
Friday, October 6, 2006 - Our last day in the Ozarks before packing up and making the forced march home. It was easy to tell as we got ready to go for breakfast that the subject was on all of our minds. As always, we're down to the last day before we know it, and it seems impossible that today's ride is the finale before turning for home.
I knew when I walked outside that I wouldn't need to remind anyone that they intended to take their jackets today; it was noticeably cooler than yesterday. We left Fairfield Bay on Hwy. 16 to Shirley, then rode Hwy. 9 all the way to Mammoth Spring which is just south of the Missouri border. Along the way Trip taped some more riding on one of our favorite twisty roads. While there we toured Mammoth Spring State Park and saw the spring which runs 9.78 million gallons of water per hour. (That's equivalent to 200,000 bath tubs of water) We toured the hydroelectric generating station that was installed in 1927 and ran continuously until 1973 when it was donated to the Arkansas Parks Department because it was no longer economical to operate.
Also in the park is the historic train station which opened to steam train traffic in the 1860's and was closed on August 9, 1968. The entire station has been excellently restored and transformed into a railroad museum. Also completely restored are the baggage room and a caboose dating from sometime between 1927 and 1942. After lunch in Mammoth Spring we headed south on Hwy. 289, then to Ash Flat on Hwy. 62. Turning southwest on Hwy. 56 we intended to again take Hwy. 289 out of Myron but the intersection was not marked and I rode past it. Consulting the map I saw that we could take 69S out of Violet Hill which was not far ahead. Not finding that intersection either, we continued on Hwy. 56 to Hwy. 9 south to Melbourne. From there we took Hwy. 69 southeast to Hwy. 58 which had been recommended to us. True to it's billing, it was a nice ride with frequent curves and elevation changes.
When Hwy. 58 intersected with Hwy. 14, we turned west into Mountain View where we connected with Hwy. 9 to head for Fairfield Bay. 9 miles out of Shirley there is a "Steep and Crooked" warning sign so Trip stopped there to mount the video camera on his engine guard bar to tape the ride into Shirley. Since we were going to get back into Fairfield Bay earlier than normal Rodney split off to do some solo exploring. When he caught up with Trip and I at the condo he reported that he still disliked Hwy. 66 but that Hwy. 110 from just south of Shirley to Botkinburg was a fun ride.
Since Trip and I got back a little before Rodney we lounged on a rock that Trip had noticed a day or two prior that looked like a chaise lounge; it was surprisingly comfortable. We watched the videos taken during the day and were pleased with the results; they should make a nice addition to the trip report.
We looked at the map and considered how many hours we had ridden from Lindale to get to Fairfield Bay, and how many hours it would take us to get back home. We decided that rather than spend 12 hours on state highways and secondary roads we would take major highways and the Interstates to get back as quickly as possible. I don't like riding at night, and didn't want to be riding west as the sun went down, so starting early and riding tank to tank seemed like the best option. Map of the day's ride.
Saturday, October 7, 2006 (Dale's Birthday) - We were up at 05:45, turned in the keys to the condo at 07:05, and were sitting in John Osborne's parking lot at 07:10, packed, loaded, leathered up, and ready for a hot breakfast before starting home.
We left Fairfield Bay at 08:05 and rode Hwy. 16 into Clinton where we connected with Hwy. 65 south which took us to Loop 430 just north of Little Rock, AR. From Loop 430 we connected with I30 west and pointed them toward Texas. We intended to fuel in Benton, but there were long stretches on the service road between exit and entrance ramps, and I mistakenly thought if I kept going to the west side of town I'd find an easy-off, easy-on place to fuel. Wrong. After another misqueue at the Haskell exit, Trip fired up the GPS and told me to make for Malvern where he GPS'd me straight to a fuel pump. From there we rode to Texarkana where we spent an hour fueling and loading up with Mexican food for lunch. Trip didn't want us to lose time at Hwy. 37, where he would turn south for Lindale, so we said our good-byes in Texarkana before saddling up and crossing the state line into Texas. We all waved, honked, and wished well at the Hwy. 37 exit when Trip moved onto the exit ramp, as Rodney and I stayed in the throttles to Sulphur Springs where we fueled for the last time before home. Rodney and I parted at Hwy. 360 and Hwy. 121 where he headed to Grapevine and I to Bedford.
Trip reported getting home at 15:30, while Rodney and I each got home at 16:00; he and I had ridden 400 miles in 7 hours in the saddle. Not too shabby for an old, fat guy on a cruiser and a guy having to put up with the "Connie buzz". Trip also reported that he had ridden approximately 2500 miles for the week, which would put Rodney and I at approximately 2730 miles including the distance from Coppell to Lindale and from Lindale to our homes.
Hmm, time for another oil/filter change. Map of the day's ride.
Summary - It was explained to us by a local that the Arkansas Highway Department utilizes a procedure they call "Seal and Chip". The "seal" is putting down a sealer or new layer of tar over an existing asphalt road. The "chip" is covering this layer of sealer/tar with chipped rock or gravel which is then left for traffic to work into the layer of sealer/tar. The issue with this process is that after any "Loose Gravel" signs are removed there remains a substantial amount of "chip" that didn't get worked into the tar layer and is lying loose on the road surface in wait for the unsuspecting biker. It's disconcerting in the least to have the tires rolling off of the loose chips constantly, aggravating to have rock chips in your paint, fairing, body plastic and even helmet, painful when they hit your shins, and dangerous in areas where the "chip" has accumulated to the extent that a tire slides. At the least they should come back with a sweeper once the chip has been worked into the new surface to whatever extent it can, and they should leave the "Loose Gravel" signs up until the sweeper has done it's job.
On the whole Arkansas roads and road beds are kept in better than average condition, but the safety of two wheeled motorists needs to be moved up a few notches on the list of priorities. It's interesting that the state has realized the dollars that bikers represent in income and has started a campaign to attract riders to "The Natural State", including statements pertaining to how good the roads are, only to leave hazards like loose gravel on those same roads which discourages those tourist dollars from returning.
Eventually, we'll be back; partly because the more we ride Arkansas the better we like it, and partly because it is the best riding within 8 hours of where we live, so it's possible to make a long weekend trip if we ride hard. At the same time, however, until things change whenever we have a conversation with other riders about Arkansas it will get a footnote about the "G" word - Gravel.
My best advice: While in the Ozarks you can ride briskly enough to have a fully enjoyable time, but never enter a curve at a pace that prevents you from making a split second mid-curve course correction - ALWAYS leave yourself AT LEAST that much cushion. You will come upon enough unexpected gravel that you will need it.
Overall another excellent trip. I have made solo trips to Arkansas without getting wet, as has Rodney. Trip has done the same, and gone with other riders and stayed dry. But until this trip two or more of the Tank2Tank Boys had never gone to Arkansas without getting drenched; hopefully this week broke the spell.
We had better accommodations than we could have ever hoped for, excellent companionship, talented and skilled riders with whom we have ridden many thousands of miles and whose moves, competence, consistency, predictability, discipline, and level headedness give us confidence.
If you have an interest in riding Arkansas and are not familiar with the area, you can make a good start by Googling "Arkansas motorcycle rides" and "Arkansas motorcycle roads". Many of the rides listed in this trip report are the result of many hours of internet searches and reading the trip reports of other riders and local groups in the Ozarks. Feel free to take whatever information will help you design your own trip to one of the least recognized and most underrated areas of the country - the Ozarks.
- Dale McCorkle
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All requests to use material from this page should be sent to Robert Hilliard.