Here's what's up with me...
During the summertime weekends there’s usually a group of us riding. During the weekdays most folks are working, traffic is lighter, and I like to take solo day trips. This way I can go where I want to go, when I want to go, at the pace I want to go.
So Thursday morning I got up and looked at the world through my window and saw that it was a glorious day and thought to myself what a great day to explore roads and places that the guys I ride with usually don’t necessarily want to go. Wiping off the last rides’ bugs from my windshield, gassing up, I headed out Hwy 12 from Rogers and went my normal route to Hwy 127 and across to Hwy 23. I stopped at my normal jump-off point to head either North or South at Chauna’s corner (a convenient store/gas station). I walked out of the doors and looked first to the south and then to the north and I saw nothing but white puffy clouds and blue skies both directions.
So I reached into my pocket and retrieved a quarter, flipped it up in the air, and let chance tell me which way to go. It was heads – that means north. I headed up north on Hwy 23 which is a beautiful section of road till I got to Eureka Springs where I found hardly any traffic in the city. On the weekends it’s very crowded. I turned to the west on Hwy 62, through and out of Eureka. This section of road is very scenic and there’s many switchback curves which are fun when I’m riding alone, but rather arduous when I happen to get behind a Winnebago or a semi or a Ma and Pa Kettle on a Sunday drive – unable to achieve anywhere near the speed limit.
I headed over to Hwy 187 North down to Beaver Town and stopped at the scenic overlook and took some pictures of the one-lane wooden plank suspension bridge, a historic landmark of this area. Then I jumped on my bike, headed across the bridge and meandered up to Hwy 23 at Holiday Island. What a beautiful stretch of road. Then I headed north towards Missouri.
When I got up into Missouri I hit 86 and headed east, following that all the way across the bottom of Missouri till I got to Hwy 65. I turned north on Hwy 65 and went up to Hwy 76 and peeled off to the Branson strip where, by-the-way, on weekdays there was very little traffic. I would not even attempt this on the weekend because traffic is extremely heavy with tour buses and “blue hairs”.
I went to one of my favorite lunch spots, the Outback Restaurant and Pub. This particular restaurant is not part of the franchise chain. The menu is different. The ambiance is different and I like it much better. I’ve been there so many times that when I walk in the door the wait staff knows me and seats me at my usual table. Another reason I like this restaurant is the cooking area is out in the restaurant rather than back behind closed doors so you can actually watch the cook make your meal. Believe me, he takes pride in that.
I left there and headed back over to Hwy 65 and turning north I went up to Hwy 176, turned to the west and took a right on the first road I came to which is Misty Mountain Road. It goes up the hill to Misty Mountain Sheepskin Company where I go to get my seat covers from Gene Haskins. Gene has made several sheepskin seat covers for me through the years and I have to admit the one he made for me this time is the best I’ve ever had. Not the long nap, not the short nap, but the plush nap. To put it in understandable terms – it’s the difference between Fescue grass and Bermuda grass. For long rides, which I take often, believe me when I tell you it is butt ambrosia. He did an excellent job of custom fitting the seat cover to my bike. I can do nothing more than sing his praises. Thank you, Gene!
Leaving there I continued on Hwy 176 to Day Road and took a left down to the Copper Run Distillery. A quaint, small distillery nestled in the Ozark Mountains. I was too early to do the tour of the distillery but I went in to their Visitor Center and sampled some of their spirits. They were very good.
I headed back to Hwy 65 south to Hwy 160 west over the top of Branson. Hit Hwy 13 for a mile or so to Hwy 76 west towards Cape Fair. When I got to the curvy part before Cape Fair I noticed there were Fire Trucks and Ambulances parked on the road with their lights flashing. As I reached them I realized there was a group of Bikers in the center. It seemed that one of their group riding a beautiful brand new Victory motorcycle had not been able to negotiate one of the hair-pinned turns and had slammed into the side of the mountain. It did not look good. I was able to pass and go on into Cape Fair where I get my gas. While I was there getting gas the ambulance showed up in the parking lot across the street from the gas station and the life-flight helicopter landed and took the injured bikers to the hospital. This gives me pause because I hope that they will be ok. (Footnote: whenever you ride on these beautiful curvy highways on motorcycles, if you are not proficient or careful they can eat your lunch.)
I rode to the west on Hwy 76. This section of highway I have personally named “The Ribbon”. I have never been able to count how many right and left curves there are in this 10-mile stretch. On a scale of riding experience I rank this section of highway 9 out of 10. It is a very dynamic ride.
When I got to Hwy 39 north of Shell Knob I turned to the north and rode to Aurora, Missouri, crossed Hwy 60, headed down through town and turned left on the last street before the railroad tracks. Two blocks down on the left is an establishment called Bootlegger’s. Its claim to fame is that it was a bank back in the 1800’s and the décor still has elements of that time. They’ve kept parts of the original bank in tact like the teller window with the bars, and the ornate pressed-tin ceiling. Besides being a restaurant it is also a microbrewery. The brewery is located in the vault of the bank. I did a taste test of several micro-brewed beers that they had available and chose one as a favorite that I drank with my meal. Their food is good too.
After taking pictures of the inside of the building I stepped out and noticed this quaint little down-town area had very well-done murals on the side of several buildings. I thought to myself, “I have to get pictures of these.” Check out the photo Album.
I headed back to Hwy 60 to the east and turned to the south on Hwy 37 at Monett then to the west on Hwy 62 at Gateway, Arkansas and cruised on back home. I pulled up into the driveway, got off my bike, and looked back up at the sky. Besides the sun being in the opposite direction, the sky was still blue and beautiful with a few puffy white clouds. What a beautiful day to ride.
My bud Lawrence belongs to an online motorcycle club for Honda VTX Riders and him and his some of his group had a trip planned to go up somewhere around Chicago. On his first leg of the trip between Rogers, AR and St. Louis, MO he would have to ride alone. The first person he was going to meet up with in the VTX Club lives in the St. Louis area. I thought what a good idea it would be to ride with him then split off and do my own thing (brewery tours and sampling the local food) when they headed for Chicago. I thought of the fact that I had never seen St Louis from the land - I’ve seen it several times from the Mississippi River when I was working on the tugboats quite a few years ago, but never from land.
We had planned to start out on Thursday even though the weather didn’t look very good. I got to his house a little early, expecting to have to wait a little bit for him to get ready, but low and behold he was sitting on his bike waiting for me. He must have been excited about going on this ride. We headed out to a local breakfast restaurant so we could stoke up and talk about what heading we were going to take.
I want to stop here for a moment and explain and talk a little bit about Lawrence.
Lawrence is a scrappy older man that, like me, loves to go on adventures. He owns a 1300cc Honda VTX that has almost every accessory known to man on it. He has custom saddle bags, a wide open faring, and an extreme amount of electronics on the handlebars and in the faring (Sirius radio, the weather channel, GPS, and more). He wears a sanctioned motorcycle suit with an awesome full-faced helmet with a retracting inside sun shield. It’s kind of like riding with Iron Man. Because of his vocation everybody calls him ‘Doc’ so I’ll call him Doc from this point on.
We ate a small breakfast and headed out into a sky full of low-hanging clouds. It wasn’t raining at this point and my hope and desire was that we would ride out of it as we headed north. Much to my chagrin it caught up with us before we got to Joplin. Doc flashed his lights at me and took off really fast for the nearest overpass so we could get out of the rain and put our rain gear on. So we struggled for about 10 minutes pulling our rain gear on and removing electronic devices to dry places. By the time we pulled out from underneath the overpass the rain had stopped. I decided to keep going with the Rain gear on for approximately the next 150 miles, even though I wanted to take it off right then.
We hit Joplin and the I-44 jog to the East at the exact time that people were headed to work – somewhat of a harrowing experience until we got out of the Joplin area. The clouds began to rise but it was still overcast. Of course, the highway was very straight and somewhat boring.
We came through Springfield and decided to take an early lunch. We stopped in at a sandwich place where we met some interesting people. We couldn’t talk with them for very long because Doc wanted to get back on the road.
As we got closer and closer to St Louis I started seeing mileage signs telling us how close we were getting. The closer we got the more excited I got. Doc was a real trooper and stayed right behind me the whole way. It comforted me to be able to see him in my rear view mirror all the way. I’d ride with Doc any time.
As we got real close to St Louis we spied the Gateway Arch rising above the skyline. By this time the sun had peaked out and it was starting to get a little steamy. The first place we went to in St Louis was the Gateway Arch to observe it and take pictures. What a pleasant place to hang out. Underneath the Arch was a nice and very informative museum that I especially liked. The only problem was security at the museum where they had metal detectors. I carry so much hardware all the time that I set them all off. I thought I was going to get strip-searched before I could get in.
We went back to the parking garage and got on our bikes and attempted to cross the river. The Highway Department, bless their hearts, is doing highway and bridge construction everywhere, which brought traffic headed across the Mississippi River Bridge to a standstill. By that time it was starting to get real warm and we were baking in our helmets.
We got to Collinsville, IL (a suburb of St Louis) where we were to meet up with Docs friend. He was still at work so we decided to check out the local pubs on Main Street. We found out for most of the local population, other than watching Cardinal baseball, this is the thing to do. It reminded me much of the ‘Cheers’ TV show set in a Boston Bar where everybody knows your name. I half expected to see Sam Malone (the bar tender on Cheers) behind the bar slinging beers.
We finally met up with Docs friend who I found out right away was an extreme Grateful Dead fan. He saw my Grateful Dead ‘steely’ skull on the side covers of my motorcycle and said “We’re gonna get along real good.” His girlfriend (whose house we stayed at) had cooked up some pulled pork barbecue in the crock pot that was hot, steaming, and ready for us.
After dinner we retired to the back yard and listened to many songs that his friend had recorded from concerts: The Grateful Dead, Pink Floyd, and a fantastic guitarist that I can’t remember his name.
Note to self: I must get the recording of that guitarist. I had never seen him before and he was the best guitarist I had ever heard.
After some shut-eye we got up and they were going to head East and North and I was going to head back across the Mississippi River into St. Lous.
I made a bee-line for the Anheuser-Busch Brewery. When I found it I had to try out my new tripod, taking pictures of myself in front of the brewery. Thinking to myself “What an odd thing to be doing,” but I guess I’ll get used to it.
Everyone working at the brewery was very nice and very informative. I tried to get perspective pics of the different areas of this sprawling brewery. One thing that caught my attention was the bottling plant area that was fully automated. It was so amazing to me to see that many bottles and cans of beer with no humans around … amazing. (Check out the pictures in my photo album.)
I loved seeing the Clydesdale horses but we were kept several feet away for their protection (and ours) but I could still feel the awesome power of these animals while in their presence.
At the end of the tour we went to the sampling room and I enjoyed immensely sampling Anheuser-Bush’s latest creations. A special ‘Thank You’ to our tour guide, Scott. He was extremely knowledgeable (sorry for asking so many questions, Scott).
As I came back out into the main hall I noticed banners in the arched ceiling area of the huge welcome center with flags representing the different nations where Anheuser-Bush sells their products. I noticed that opposite the flag banners in this expansive ceiling area they had large mirrors hanging at different facets that reflected back the banners with the flags, creating a surreal image that I really thought was interesting. (Again, check out the pictures.)
I left the Brewery and asked some locals what would be a good local eatery to try while I was in St. Louis. Everyone pointed me to Pappy’s Barbecue which is in the downtown area. Because of the road construction that was going on I had to take a roundabout way to get there and at one point got lost. There was a very nice lady walking across the street that I stopped to ask for directions. As she was giving me the directions I noticed this building with a wonderful aged patina across from us and said to myself, “Self, you’ve got to get a couple of pictures of that.”
I finally found Pappy’s Barbecue and much to my disappointment there was a line out the door and halfway down the street – usually denoting that it’s a very good place to eat. I finally made it through the line and got their daily special, a smoked pulled-pork sandwich. It was delightful. Waiting in that long line delayed me leaving St. Louis so I was starting my trip back to my neck of the woods later than I had planned.
I had planned to take the scenic routes back but time was catching up with me so I took off West on I-44 all the way to Rolla MO to Hwy 93. I got off the interstate thinking I would take at least part of a scenic route but I found Hwy 93 traffic at a complete standstill. I turned around and got back onto I-44 and went all the way to Springfield on it. By now the sun was starting to get low on the horizon and I didn’t want to take the chance of riding through forested areas at night where lots of deer and other animals tend to come out. So I decided to stop for the night at a little motel in Branson that I’ve stayed at before.
While in Branson for the evening I ate at Fuddruckers (a hamburger joint). We used to have a Fuddruckers in Rogers but they moved. They serve up a decent hamburger.
After getting a good night’s sleep I headed to The Outback Restaurant (not part of the Outback chain) where I got myself an awesome steak shish-kabob – best I’ve ever eaten. Then saddled up to head back onto the byway through the Mark Twain National Forest, a beautiful ride, down to Hwy 23 to Hwy 187 and across the one-lane suspension bridge at Beaver Town Arkansas. I stopped there for a few minutes, realizing how lucky I am to live in an area filled with such beautiful scenery. I took Hwy 62 into Eureka then caught Hwy 23 south down to Hwy 127 over to Hwy 12 and back into town and home. Another great ride in my memorable adventures.
Not that I won’t go to any rallies, but after years of doing the ‘Rally’ scene I’ve decided to change the focus of my adventures this year. This will allow me to travel on my own schedule instead of on Rally dates and coordinate with the ever-changing weather.
There’s three things that I truly enjoy in life. One, of course, is riding my motorcycle. The second is good grub from local establishments wherever I go, and third is sampling local micro-brewed beers along the way. I thought to myself……..”Self” (I do that when I talk to myself), “what better way to do all three than doing brewery tours and sampling the local quinine, mainly barbecue, at the different places that I go. Shazam, what a good idea!
The first place I decided to go that I’ve been thinking about for a long time is Kansas City to do the tour at Boulevard Brewery and sample some of the world-famous Arthur Bryant’s dry rub barbecue.
So in early April when the weather was chilly to start but warmed up in the afternoons, I decided to take off to Kansas City. I started out about 8 o’clock in the morning at a brisk 30 degrees outside. But the sun was shining – in other words it was ‘leather weather’.
I headed out on I540/Hwy 71 North. When I reached Missouri the temperature was starting to rise a little and 540 turns into Hwy 71. It’s straight interstate road. When I got to Joplin I had to jaunt to the east on I44 to head back north on I49/US71. I made my first fuel and coffee stop at Carthage, Missouri where I met several interesting people and made some new fans performing my poetry. Miracle upon miracles, my buddy Greg called me at the exact time I stopped to get fuel. He said, “are you headed to Kansas City?” and I replied, “Yep, I am!” I told him I couldn’t really talk and got back on the road.
By the time I got to Butler, Missouri, the chilled wind was penetrating to my bones and I was beginning to shiver – not a good thing while riding a bike. So I pulled over to fill up and drink a hot cup of coffee. Then I jumped on my bike again on the last leg of the trip on into Kansas City. It is kind of a boring ride and straight all the way up. Not what I’m used to riding on the beautiful curving roads of the Ozarks. Just to hunker down and straight ride is not a whole lot of fun. But yeah, now I’m in Kansas City, and lost.
Kansas City, for anyone who hasn’t been there, is a very confusing city to get around in. The interstates snarl through it like a writhing entanglement of snakes and many of the city streets are diagonal instead of parallel. I was looking for the Boulevard Brewery so I pulled over at a warehouse that had the Boulevard sign on it. It was closed, with nobody there, so I walked across the street to a garage where there were some workers standing around to ask them for directions to the brewery.
One dude stepped up and told me really good directions. I told him what my plan was and he said “that’s a great idea.” I also made mention that the next day I planned to go to Weston, Missouri (just north of KC) and do a brewery tour there also. So then I headed up Southwest Bvd (one of those diagonal streets) looking for the large smokestack that said ‘Boulevard’ on it. Finding that, I pulled right into the parking lot where they had specified motorcycle parking – isn’t that great. Took some pictures of the outside and followed the signs (see the pics in the album) to the brewery tour where I met this nice young man who works for Boulevard Brewery and he signed me up for the tour. I did the tour of the Boulevard Brewery and found it was a very interesting story of how they came to be and how they concoct their different brews. It’s definitely worth the time to do the tour if you’re ever in the area.
The tour ended up at the tasting room that was set up like an old Irish pub. I got to taste a couple of their experimental beers that are not on the market yet. One which is aged in Jack Daniels, once used for whiskey, charred barrels. Every brew I sampled was quite unique and excellent. I was asked by the young man guiding our tour if I would do some of my poetry for the group. I was glad to oblige. The people that I met on the tour were awesome and a group that had come together for the tour invited me to join them at their table. It was wonderful conversation and they were a very friendly group.
When I finished there I headed off to find the original Arthur Bryant’s famous dry-rub barbecue. As the map showed, I should have been able to just travel up to 18th street and head East to Arthur Bryant’s, but when I got up to 18th street, much to my chagrin, it was a one-way street heading the wrong way so I continued on down to 16th Street but it only went two blocks at that point so I headed back towards 18th street and turned to the east on 17th. It only went a couple of blocks before it ended and I had to turn left or right. By this time the confusion is starting to set in. I’m in a ‘foreign’ city to me and I’m thinking, “am I ever going to get to Arthur Bryant’s?!”. So I turn back towards 18th street and found that it had become a 2-way street at that point. A few blocks down and I saw the big Arthur Bryant’s sign – yeah, I finally made it.
Met a rock-and-roll band that had stopped in their van to sample the barbecue also. Us both being artist, I shared some of my poems with them. They were really cool and, by the way, the rib tips are divine at Arthur Bryant’s. If you’re ever in KC and can find an Arthur Bryant’s (there are 3 of them) it is worth stopping in.
Now… trying to get out of KC without any malfunctions or entanglements, I headed up into the snarl of interstates that intertwine through the heart of KC. What a confusing mess! They had exits to the right, exits to the left, and five lanes of traffic with exit signs in a banner across all five lanes of interstate with arrows denoting which lane you needed to be in for each destination. People were driving like maniacs, knowing full well where they were going, trying as hard as they could to keep me from going where I needed to go.
The hotel I was going to stay at was in Platte City, which I knew was a suburb of KC near the airport, so I used the Airport signs to guide me north. Oh, and by the way, US71 is now Interstate 29 - same road, different number.
I finally arrived at the Travel Lodge in Platte City, Missouri. The people who managed it were very nice and the room was clean. It was becoming nightfall and after the stress almost causing me a nervous breakdown trying to go through KC, I decided to hunker down for the night.
The hotel Manager, an East Indian named R.P. and I had a transcendental conversation about theology and philosophy after I shared a couple of my poems with him. It was a very enlightening conversation and I enjoyed it immensely.
Kansas City Barbecue and Beer-The Adventure Continues – Day 2
The sun beamed across the horizon through my motel window, beckoning me to rise to greet a new day of exploration. First thing I did was get all my gear stowed on my bike. Then I made my way to the hotel lobby area where my continental breakfast was waiting for me.
Continental breakfast, they make it sound so international. I guess if you call bagels and cereal international, then it was OK.
Getting on my bike, I said my farewells to R.P. (the Manager of the hotel) and headed out on a very clear and somewhat brisk morning ride. I hooked on to Hwy 92 West toward the next stop on my adventure, a quaint little town on the Missouri/Kansas border called Weston.
Arriving in this little town felt like stepping back in time to the 1950’s. It’s as if time had stood still for this little hamlet since then. The main street had quite a few vintage automobiles, as if they had been parked there for the past 60 years. The brick facades were very reminiscent of movies I had seen from that era. The people that I met seemed very friendly and eagerly gave me directions to the places I wanted to see. I half expected to see Andy Griffith and Opie walking up the street with Barney trailing behind. This may have been a Missouri town, but it was very reminiscent of Mayberry.
The focal point of my travels to this unique little town was the Weston Brewery, which was slightly off Main Street. It has two claims to fame – one - When the mainland US was half the size it is now, it was the furthest west brewery in the whole United States at that time. It was built in 1842 before the Civil War, and two – it’s an interesting fact that it’s the tallest building in the town, though five stories of it are underground.
Originally it was the Royal Brewery up until Prohibition. When it re-opened after Prohibition it was renamed the ‘Weston Brewing Company’. As far as breweries go, this micro-brewery is small in size but large in history.
I took the tour of the brewery and found that the chambers below ground were constructed with arched stone ceilings that were very similar to ancient Roman architecture. As I descended to the different levels of the brewery I felt much like Jules Verne traveling toward the center of the earth. It was surreal.
At one of the lower levels the arched hallway opened up into a larger chamber and I found myself in O’Malley and Sons Pub which looked to me very much like a classic pub in Ireland and had a small stage for music and entertainment. They brought me multiple samples of the micro-brewed ales and beers that they produce. I found all of them very delectable and the atmosphere was charming.
I struggled to climb back up all the stairs (my back and hips were hurting pretty bad from previous injuries from a motorcycle accident). When I broke into the sunlight for the first time after the tour, I was completely blinded after being in the dimly-lit confines of the old brewery. Then I made my way over to the restaurant on the brewery complex. I found they had several different dining areas, each one painted a different color and carrying different memorabilia and portraits on every wall. I was intrigued by the décor and the art, much dating back to the pre-Civil War era. I ordered bangers and ale for lunch (by the way, bangers are an Irish sausage sandwich, heavy on the Irish – aarrrggh. Hahaha)
As I came out of the restaurant there were several people walking toward me on the Beer Garden deck. Now, you have to remember, I’m far away from home and thinking I’m in a place where nobody knows me. Out of the middle of the group a voice resonates, “Hey, Sharpie! How are ya’ doin’?” This caused me to pause and I looked and found in the middle of the group the dude that I had met the day before at the garage in Kansas City where I had asked for directions to the Boulevard Brewery. I had told him my plan to come to Weston the next day and he must have liked the idea ‘cause here he was. We talked for a while and I noticed the day was waning and I still had miles to go before I slept. So I mounted up on my faithful iron horse and headed out of Weston and back towards Kansas City on I-29/US-70.
Not wanting to head into the snarled mess of highways in Kansas City, I caught 435 which is a bypass around most of the city then turned east on I-70. Another straight and uneventful highway; nothing more than a way to get from point A to point B at an accelerated rate of speed.
Then I turned south off the interstate on the Hwy 13. Unbeknownst to me, and the people who made my map, this is actually two different roads. The business route goes through every Podunk little town in that part of Missouri, and the other which takes a more direct route bypassing the townships. Now there’s one interesting thing I found with Hwy 13 south, approximately every 10 to 20 miles, instead of having a standard intersection where highways cross each other, they built these roundabouts. I, not being very familiar with these, once or twice headed off in the wrong direction. I found them somewhat confusing until I figured out how they work.
It started to get later in the day and the sun was dipping closer to the horizon. This route was taking quite a bit longer than I had anticipated. I really did not want to hit the curvy backwoods byways of southern Missouri and NW Arkansas in the nighttime hours. Deer and other animals are known to cross the road frequently and unexpectedly in these areas.
So I headed west on Hwy 52 towards I-49/US-71 for a safer and more direct passage. By the time I got to the outskirts of Joplin, MO, it was dark and I had to make a jog to the West on I-44 then go back south again on Hwy 71. This road I’m very familiar with and knew precisely where I was at all times.
It was about 9:30pm by the time I pulled back into Rogers. Even though I had a fairly good trip, it was sure good to be home again.
Friday, September 18th 2009
Chasing the Blue Spot in the Sky
Took off from Rogers, Arkanasas and headed south on hwy265. I was supposed to meet a friend of mine, Biff, down on hwy 412 East. When I pulled in to our meeting place where his bike was parked, I noticed the sky had totally clouded up and the temperature had dropped. We hung out at the Mexican restaurant and tried to figure out whether we were going to go for a ride or not.
I'm a hard core rider, but if it is raining when I go to take off I usually go back home because there's a point in a ride when it's raining that it ceases to be fun.
When we came out of the restaurant I spied one spot of clear blue in the sky to the East. I pointed it out to Biff and said, "It ain't raining there," and Biff said, "well that's where we should ride to." So we jumped on our bikes and headed east on hwy 412 towards Huntsville and that spot of blue sky. When we got to hwy 303 I noticed that the blue spot had shifted to the north so we turned left on hwy 303 and headed over to War Eagle Mill where we crossed the wooden bridge and stopped at the Mill for a minute. There was a couple of other bikers at the Mill standing around staring at the sky also. When they took off headed towards hwy 12, we followed right after them.
When we got to hwy 12 we looked to the left and then the right. To the left there were dark, rainy-looking clouds, and to the right was that spot of blue in the sky we had been following, so we turned right. We went down hwy 12 to hwy 127 where the old Lookout Grocery used to be. As we rose up to the top of the hill I noticed the spot of blue was to our left so we turned on hwy 127. We followed it all the way out to hwy 23 and looked for the blue spot again. It was to the north towards Eureka Springs so we headed north to chase it.
When we got to Eureka Springs and hwy 62 we took a left and then turned right on hwy 23 and headed down the hill to the older part of Eureka. At the bottom of the hill we stopped at The Pied Piper and talked to some friends of mine while drinking a beverage. Soon after, it started to barely sprinkle so we jumped on our bikes again and headed north towards that blue spot in the sky.
When leaving Eureka Springs a small fawn (spotted deer) ran across a yard and almost ran in between my bike and Biff's. We both beeped our horns and the deer ran back across the yard.
By the time we reached hwy 187 we had cleared the rain shower and we turned left to go down and cross the one-lane wooden suspension bridge at Beaver Town. Man, it was beautiful. We stopped at the Beaver Town Store and talked with the owner and watched the fishermen out in the lake by the bridge for a little while. Then the sky started to get dark again so we jumped on our bikes and headed towards hwy 62, which is a beautiful ride with a meadow on the left and a bluff covered with cedar trees on the right.
The road makes a 90 degree turn just past the meadowland and I had to slow down to make the turn. When I did, a rather large squirrel ran across the road into the path of my front tire, stopped, bowed his tail, and started to run back to where he came, then spun around and headed back into my path. I swerved drastically to miss the little booger. My front tire missed him, but his body went up under my motorcycle where he jumped up and grabbed onto my right foot. This, of course, freaked me out! Not wanting him to run up my pants leg or bite me, I quickly kicked him off. He rolled once and took off. Biff was laughing so hard he almost wrecked just watching me with that squirrel.
When we got to hwy 62 we headed west back into Rogers, still following that blue spot in the sky.
My buddy, Greg called me up Friday night. Said he and a couple of other guys were trying to get together a ride for Saturday. I said, “That sounds like it would be fun.” So I sat down with my maps and tried to figure out a good run to go on.
Saturday morning came and my air conditioner at home had frozen up so I was feverishly working to get it to work when my other friend, David called. He said that Greg had called him and he thought a good ride to do would be the Peel Ferry/Rockaway Beach run. I told him that sounded like a great idea. He said he had a couple of his friends that had never been on that ride that would like to go. I couldn’t leave till I got my air conditioner to work and he said maybe I could catch up to them in route. So I left a little late to rendezvous with them on highway 412 just past
I thought everybody would be mad that I had taken so long, but when I got there my buddy, Scott’s bike (a Harley Electroglide classic) wouldn’t start. Nobody had the tool (a specialized torx wrench) to access the wiring to the starter button on the handlebars. Lucky for them Sharpie (that would be me) had the exact tool needed for the job. Scott took it apart and had it working in a few minutes. Everybody was really glad that I showed up.
We went down hwy 412 to the East with David in the lead and me toward the back. It was a fairly large group so I looked out for the people at the back and David took the lead. We went down to Harrison on hwy 65, cut across to scenic hwy 7 and headed north towards
We got to the Peel Ferry landing and found the Ferry was on the other side of
When we got to the other side of
Just past Forsythe we turned south on hwy 176 and curved our way down the side of the mountain into
When we left
When we left there we went straight over to hwy 60 and headed toward
Then we headed back down hwy 60 west all the way back to hwy 71 then back to
Leaving for the Wild Hog Rally Friday, April 22nd 2011 10:33 AM
I had pre-packed my motorcycle the night before with all my clothing and everything I needed for the trip. I had checked and re-checked to make sure I hadn’t forgotten anything. I really think in a former lifetime I was a Boy Scout because I try to prepare for any malfunctions that may occur.
I got up Friday morning and was pleased to see that it wasn’t raining (after a week of almost constant storms). It was still cloudy but it was warm and dry – the perfect day to set out on a road trip. I jumped on my bike and rode down to Wesner’s Grill in Rogers and went on in. Wesner’s Grill is where most of the Bikers congregate in the morning to eat breakfast, break bread, and discuss riding plans. Upon walking through the door of course I had to pay homage to my picture and poem on the wall of fame (just checked to see if it was still there). I talked to some people that were waiting to get their food and told them where I was headed to. A short time later my bud, Greg, showed up and came on in and we ordered breakfast. We have a running joke between us that if we eat gravy before a ride we can be brave all day long so we both ordered gravy with our breakfasts’ and talked about which way we were going to head out.
Greg had brought his air filter for me to put on his bike before we left (he doesn’t have tools). After installing it we stood in front of each other bumping fist and yelling at the top of our lungs “Wild Hog” (we were heading to the Wild Hog Motorcycle Rally and Music Festival in Helena, Arkansas for the weekend). Then we jumped on our bikes and headed through the town of Rogers like conquering heroes. We had decided to take Interstate 540 because we wanted to get out of harms way as quickly as we could, fearing rain was on the way.
Heading south towards Fort Smith the sun peaked out several times but when we got to Mountainburg there was a very thick fog and the temperature dropped. We made it through that and as we got nearer to Fort Smith we turned east on Interstate 40. The clouds were clearing more and the sun was coming out. At this point you couldn’t wipe the smile off my face.
Riding the Interstate Friday, April 22nd 2011 2:55 PM
We made it to Dyer, Arkansas before our first stop for fuel. The weather was getting better and better all the time. We got back on our trusty iron horses and, with my bud Greg leading, headed towards Little Rock. We stopped for gas again in Russellville where I noticed the premium fuel was 93 octane (good – my bike will run better!). We talked to a couple of people at the gas station that wished us luck on our journey then we headed back out on the road.
As we got closer to Little Rock, the traffic started building up and around Little Rock the highway became three lanes wide instead of two. We tried to keep up a good pace and avoid the heaviest traffic.
We’ve Arrived – Checking In and First Night at the Rally Friday, April 22nd 2011 6:27 PM
After we checked in and talked to several people at the motel that were also going to the rally (of course I had to spout off a few poems to fellow bikers in the hotel parking lot which were well received), then we checked out our room. It was a very nice and clean room – as advertised – with a refrigerator, microwave, and coffee maker – which most of the hotels I’ve stayed in do not have.
We stowed our extra gear in the room, rested our bones a little bit from the long arduous ride, then we decided we was hungry. Remembering that we had passed by a small catfish restaurant on the way in, both of us had a hankerin’ for some catfish. We decided to double back a couple of miles and chow down. The restaurant was a dinky little place but obviously pretty popular with locals – and the fried catfish was good. Then we headed out for the rally grounds.
I was leading and, not knowing exactly where I was going, I tried to follow instructions that I gotten. When we split off onto Hwy 49 – B and came to a ‘T’ intersection (north and south), we decided to head North – being the wrong way. We were getting more and more into a residential area so I decided to pull over at a Wendy’s and ask for directions. Never made it in to the restaurant because I asked some people in the parking lot and they pointed me back in the other direction.
We turned to the left on Arkansas Street because we could see the rally grounds a couple of blocks away. This was an exit from the rally, but not an entrance. We were told to go down two streets further to get to the entrance and to check in at the Rally. We paid our $30 at the entrance and then went on in to the saloon to fully check in. These young ladies gave us a sticker to put on our bikes and a wrist band. Of course being parched by now (the catfish place didn’t serve beer), we decided to get a beer at the bar (good price – only $2). Then we toasted the fact that we had made it to the rally after weeks of planning and looking forward to the trip.
They gave us a small patch for our rally fee then they had a vendor table with Rally T-shirts and patches. I saw another rally patch that was larger that I liked better to put on my vest (I have a vest with patches from all the rides and rallies I attend), and went off into the rally grounds looking for somebody to sew it on my vest. Found a real nice guy (wish I could remember his name) that had a vendor tent at other rallies that I’ve been at and he sewed my patch on. Of course, I had to regale him with a couple of my newer biker poems as he sewed my patch on.
Then we went over to the stage area, checking out some of the other vendors along the way and getting the lay of the land. This was a fair-sized rally ground, but not too big. The setting was right by the Levee (in Helena, Arkansas along the Mississippi River off of Cherry Street). We saw a few people we had noticed on our travels to the rally and went over and talked to them.
The music hadn’t started (they were still setting up for the band) and I was spying the food vendors while thinking about a meal for later. Met some people from Louisiana that were boiling up crawfish – one of my favorite things to grub on. So I put that in my mental notebook to be sure I would come back later and eat me some boiled crawfish.
They also had another food vendor there from Louisiana that was selling fried gator, gumbo, and red beans & rice – so my meals were planned out. Loving Louisiana food, I felt right at home.
Then we meandered around the rally grounds talking to other bikers and checking out the vendor tents. Then we headed back to the bar at the entrance where there was more of a crowd gathered and a local band was playing. We hung out, drinking some beer and having a good time. Then, being tired from our long day on the road, we decided to head back to the motel and hunker down for the night. We both had decided to get up early the next day to check out the breakfast at the motel and plan what we were going to do on Saturday. Hope the weather holds out and we don’t get any Spring rain.
Wild Hog Rally Day Saturday, April 23rd 2011 6:00 AM
We woke up early on Saturday morning and went on down to the hotel main office to eat some breakfast. It was OK, but not the greatest breakfast spread I had ever had. Of course, I talked to a few people in the dining room that noticed I was a poet and asked me to do a couple of poems for them. After breakfast we headed back to the room then headed out to our bikes and wiped all the bugs off our windshields in preparation for the day at the rally. Then we headed in to the rally.
We didn’t have to go into the main entrance this time because we had the rally sticker on our bikes, so we pulled in further into the rally grounds and parked right behind the stage on Cherry Street where the Port-O-Potties were lined up. Mental notebook – we parked there so that so we would know exactly where the Port-O-Potties were located as well as our bikes. I always like to scope out a rally to know where the food, the music, and the Port-O-Potties are before I settle in to enjoy the rally – this makes for a much more enjoyable time, especially after partaking of a few beers.
Walking around the rally grounds, my buddy Greg took off his sunglasses for a minute and I noticed that his face was lobster red except for where his sunglasses were. He kind of looked like a bright red raccoon. He was starting to feel it and wishing he had taken my advice and put on some sunscreen.
After a couple of the bands had played (Shenandoah and another band – good music), we decided we would get something to eat and come back to the stage area later because Greg wanted see an all-girl band that was going to play.
After the third or fourth time we hit the beer tent I decided it was about time to eat some boiled crawfish. So I got a large order with some potatoes, corn, and andouie sausage and I chowed down. My lips were burning from the Cajun spices – I love it!
We were talking to quite a few more people and the crowd was growing all the time. It was awesome. Everybody was friendly and I saw no trouble. We walked back out to Cherry Street where all the bikes were parked to check out all the custom bikes.
Being a little fried from the sun, we decided to air it out and head back to the hotel to hang out in the air conditioning during the hottest part of the day. We stopped and got a couple of disposable cameras and filled up our gas tanks on the way to the hotel. I gained some more fans and several people bought autographed books from me. To all those who bought my book – thank you so much and I hope to cross trails on the road again some time. Watch for more books or CDs to come!
Later in the day after it started cooling down a little bit we headed back to the rally grounds and did the same regular rally-ground stuff. I decided to try some alligator-on-a-stick which wasn’t bad but was real chewy. I offered a piece to Greg and he chewed on it for a while then spit it out and said it was the worst-tasting chewing gum he had ever had.
Then the all-girl band that Greg wanted to see started playing. They were pretty good, definitely Rock and Roll. After a while I went back to the food vendor tent and got me some gumbo and red beans and rice – dam, it was good!
Evening snuck up on us and the mosquitoes started swarming (they were bad because we were right by the levee) so we decided to go back to the main bar by the entrance. This was a rather rustic looking establishment with a deck out front, a bar inside with a stage, and another band playing. They were pretty good too. We hung out and I got a rally T-shirt and hat from the vendor (got to have your souvenirs you know), and we moseyed around the place and out onto the deck, talking to other bikers all along the way. Just having a good ol’ time.
Well it started to get a little late and I had decided I was about ‘funned out’ for the day and I would head back to the hotel. Greg opted to stay for a little while longer, wanting to talk some more to the young ladies at the bar.
On my way north on hwy 49 I saw several police cars, each one with their blue lights flashing and people pulled over. I made it a very mellow ride back to the hotel so I wouldn’t get into any entanglements.
I stopped at the liquor store close to the hotel since there is a liquor law in Arkansas that prevents selling any liquor on Sunday and I talked to a very nice lady and her sons who owned the liquor store.
When I got back to the hotel I decided to call Greg and warn him to take it easy on the way back to the hotel because of all the cops. He said he would heed my warning and would be heading back pretty soon. He showed up a short while later and we rested up for the next day’s ride home.
The Road Home – Part 1 Sunday, April 24th 2011 9:32 AM
We got up and went for breakfast at the hotel. Sunday morning breakfast was much better and included omelets, bacon, and really good gravy - so we chowed down. I told every one in the dining room "Happy Easter", then we loaded our bikes, checked out, and went across the street to top off our gas tanks before heading home.
Having watched the Weather Channel in the morning, we decided not to go to Memphis on the way home because the weather was edging in on us. Damn, I would have liked to have tried that world-famous Interstate Barbecue – maybe next trip.
We headed straight up hwy 49 towards I-40 and at this point the weather was still beautiful. The sun was out and just beaming. We got on I-40 and we were making good time around Little Rock and all the way to Russellville. When we got to Russellville the dark clouds started rolling in. We both had a hankering to go to Whataburger, but it was closed for Easter Sunday, so we doubled back to a steak place by the interstate. Before we went in we got our rain gear out because the weather was looking pretty bad.
While we were eating and looking out the window it started to rain pretty hard on our bikes. We finished our food and put on our rain gear. The rain slacked up for a minute so we went next door and topped off our gas tanks again then headed down I-40.
The Road Home – Part 2 – WET! Sunday, April 24th 2011 6:33 PM
As we were headed west on I-40 it rained pretty hard on us two or three times with a steady drizzle in between. Then… all hell broke loose. It started to hail – marble to nickle-sized hail. Ouch! That stuff hurts!
We saw several accidents and many cars and trucks off the road and someone even tried to fly their boat. Now boats are aerodynamic, but they’re not very controllable, so it flipped over and landed on another car – what a mess!
Greg was leading and he stayed pretty close to the back end of a big semi and we just kept going. There was no place to pull over and you couldn’t see well enough to know if you passed an exit or not. We didn’t want to stop for fear someone would run over us from behind since no one could see through the torrential rain and hail. We found out later that there was a tornado warning for that area at the time we went through.
We made it all the way to Alma, which is just before our turn north on I-540 towards home. The rain had finally slacked off. We stopped there to fuel up. There were a couple of people we had passed on I-40 who made it to the gas station while we were there and asked if we were the bikers they had seen on I-40. They said we were braver than they were and asked if we had seen all the accidents along the road and what did we think about them. We said we were just glad it wasn’t us.
Greg found out that his real nice rain suit had a slight malfunction and when he pulled it off to air out because he was hot, he looked like he had wet his pants. He was not a happy camper. So he put his last set of dry clothes on and we mounted up for the final leg of our trek home.
It rained several times on the way up I-540, heavy then light, then heavy again, with a little pea-sized hail mixed in – but we were getting closer to home and didn’t want to stop. Traffic was getting a little heavy when we got near Rogers so we decided to take the Pleasant Grove exit at the edge of town to get out of the traffic. It had been raining constantly for the three days we were gone so there was lots of water everywhere and it was still raining steadily.
As we were heading East on Pleasant Grove Road I pulled up next to Greg and yelled "Do you want to stop by my house on the way to your house?". He had is ear plugs in and couldn’t hear me. When we got close to hwy 71-B I pulled up to his right side to tell him to pull over at the next gas station before we both split off to go to our own houses. Unbeknownst to me, just before the entrance to the gas station there was a 1 ½ to 2 foot deep puddle in the road from all the rain. I hit it going 35 mph and went from 35mph to zero in half a second. Now to explain what this was like, it was like being dangled upside down in Niagara Falls. I didn’t dare breathe or I would have drowned! Water flew twelve feet over my head and when Greg looked over all he could see was a wall of water. So all the preparation I did to stay dry and keep all my gear dry went for nothing because me and my bike were like drowned rats. Greg was amazed that I didn’t drop the bike or wipe out and I was amazed that I didn’t wreck and was able to keep the bike running through all that water.
When I finally pulled up next to Greg at the intersection he asked if I was OK then he started to laugh and said all he could see when he looked back at me was a giant wall of water coming at him. He asked if I had a fun swim. I said "No" it wasn’t that fun, in fact, it kind of hurt.
We went our separate ways and I got home and pulled my bike up in the garage still shaking my head in disbelief of what I had just been through with the water. As I walked into the house I left a water trail like a slug and I was definitely soaked to the bone. But now, in reflection on the whole trip, I am very thankful that the weather was great on the way down to the rally and all the time we were at the rally. I’m even more thankful that we made it through the real bad weather stuff and got home safe.
This is one adventure that I will remember forever. Wild Hog!!!
p.s. Just email me if you want to buy an autographed copy of my book at: email@example.com. It is also available for download on Kindle – see the link on my web page. Thank you very much for all of the support and encouragement!
Tuesday, May 4th 2010
Springtime trip begins
A few months ago my friend, Biff, and I started talking about taking a road trip this spring and began looking at lists of Motorcycle Events to see where we might want to go. When we saw the 2nd Annual New Orleans Bike Week coming in May we knew that needed to be our destination. I lived in New Orleans for a few years and love that town. The thought of visiting some of my old haunts and chowing down on some gulf coast seafood made this a must-go event. Unfortunately, Biff had something that prevented him from going but another Biker friend, Tricky Dick, heard I was going and decided to join me for the trip.
I left out of Rogers and had decided to go down to Hwy 412 in Springdale and head East to go meet up with Tricky Dick.. As I went through Rogers, Lowell, and Springdale, everyone I came in contact with seemed to be on valium, all moving at a snails pace. The trip that usually takes 20 minutes took 50 minutes. It was very frustrating.
Once I finally reached Hwy 412 I went east and saw quite a few bikes. The weather was absolutely perfect - beautiful blue sky, with warm sunshine and a slight breeze to keep me cool. A saw a couple of flocks of geese flying north and have a good feeling that the weather will be good for this trip.
I stopped at a gas station in Alpena, AR to top off my tank and get a drink and met three young folks in a pickup who were headed in the same direction but didn’t know the roads so I gave them info on the route to take. After paying for my gas and checking my bike over, I took off down Hwy 62 East.
About 50 miles down the road the highway dept was widening the road and one lane was shut down with a flagman so I had to stop for while. I ran into the same thing about 20 miles further and then twice more before I finally cleared the construction area and got to Mountain Home. I caught up with the pickup that I had seen in Alpena and gave them a wave.
I wanted to pick up some beer for my riding buddy for letting me bunk at his shop this evening before we start for New Orleans in the morning (I hate to go somewhere empty-handed). As I got to the little town of Viola near Tricky Dick’s place I noticed there was no beer available and was told it is a dry county. They said I could drive north 10 miles into Missouri and get beer so I took a slight detour and picked up some for my friend. I ran into a couple more bikers and the guy running the gas station in Missouri where I stopped and got to talk about the trip plan and told them to follow my website blogs about the trip.
I headed back down Hwy 62 through Salem, AR and found Tricky Dick’s shop. He has several bikes and had left one of his Drifters setting out in front so I’d know I made it to the right place.
He welcomed me with cold beer and showed me his shop and we made plans on where to eat this evening. We spend the time making plans for the trip to New Orleans in the morning with our first night destination to be Vicksburg, Mississippi.
This is going to be a great trip! Watch for updates as we travel along.
Wednesday, May 5th 2010
The Journey to New Orleans continues
We left Salem (Arkansas) before daybreak - about 5am. It was rather chilly and a little foggy in the valleys so I wore warmer clothes than usual. We headed south on Hwy 197 and it felt like the bike was a knife cutting through little bits of Americana as we passed through Evening Shade, Batesville, Knob Hill, and numerous other little towns.
I fully expected to see Burt Reynolds at the city limits changing the population sign in Evening Shade. (Note:Burt Reynolds played a small town coach in the town of Evening Shade on a television show a few years back.) The sleepy little towns were an awesome sight so early in the morning as the large orange ball of sun started beaming above the horizon.
We made it down to Helena and crossed the Mississippi River - it was quite a site with all the tug boats and barges pushing up and down the river. I noticed the river looked swollen today.
As we reached the Mississippi side of the river, Tricky Dick wanted to stop for a few minutes at a casino. I noticed that my arms were beginning to get slightly sunburned in spite of my sun screen so I bought a long-sleeved T-shirt to protect my arms. We left and headed south on Hwy 61 riding past miles of freshly plowed farmland on either side of the road. We came across a very bad accident that blocked traffic for quite a while as they used the jaws of life to free someone from a car that was involved. I was glad when we got that safely behind us.
We stopped to get gas when we got to Vicksburg, Mississippi, then checked into our hotel. I found a laundromat and got some help from a real nice lady named Viola to get my clothes washing. WE plan to go out and check out the local eateries and see the town this evening before continuing on down to New Orleans tomorrow. Looking forward to getting to my old stomping grounds.
Thursday, May 6th 2010
Next Leg of Trip to New Orleans Bike Week
Thursday morning was another beautiful blue sky, somebody must have ordered it just for this guy!
I headed down I20 East to Jackson, Mississippi and turned south on I55 and saw the first sign marking the mileage to New Orleans (168 miles). Stopped at a Harley Shop but it wasn't open yet so I took a couple of pictures and left one of my business cards in the door. I stopped for gas when I got to Hazelhurst and between there and McComb I was hit like a ton of bricks with the sweet smell of honeysuckle. It was pleasant for a while but got to be a little much before I finally drove past all of it at McComb.
At McComb when I stopped to get gas again I met some other folks from Arkansas - Dave, Dave Jr., Kevin (female), and Bo. They had been visiting some relatives somewhere in southern Mississippi or Louisiana and were on their way back home to Mountain Home, Arkansas. Enjoyed visiting with them and sharing a few poems. Dave Jr. is a multi-faceted musician who plays country music. Hope we cross paths again sometime.
It was only 134 miles to New Orleans so I should be there in a couple of hours. Everyone I've met on the open road has been ever so kind and friendly, and there is still not a cloud in the sky - not one.
More later from New Orleans.
Thursday, May 6th 2010
Friends back home
I've been talking about this awesome trip I've been on but I want to take a minute to talk about my buds that were not able to tag along.
Ron is in the Veterans Hospital after wrecking his Harley and will be laid up for a while. I hope you get better soon and back on the road.
My best bud, Biff, had some things come up that kept him from coming on the trip. Sorry you couldn't make it, wish you were here.
Jimmy is recovering from another knee surgery. I hope your leg gets better so you can ride again.
See you all when I get back.
Thursday, May 6th 2010
Final Leg of Trip to New Orleans Bike Week
I left McComb, Mississippi and it was only 100 miles to New Orleans. As I continued south on I55 I was greeted with deep piney woods and purple an dyellow wildflowers on each side of the road - very colorful. At the Louisiana state line the flowers were replaced by green grass.
Just past Hammond, Louisiana the road raised up on stilts to keep above the flood basin. There were cypress tress covered with cudzu vines and Spanish moss gently waving in the breeze. As I got closer to Lake Pontchartrain I began to see a few houses rising on stilts out of small spots between the cypress trees. The 'car ports' were actually 'boat ports' and each had boats setting in the watery "garages" beneath the houses. There were no roads through the swampland so their only transportation is the waterway.
I began to see row after row of Lafitte skiffs and shrimp boats with the nets blowing in the wind - none of them can go out because of the oil spill. It's a sad situation and many people are out of work because of it.
The cypress trees got fewer and fewer until they were replaced by all water around the raised roadway. I saw wisps of white clouds moving in and by the time New Orleans came into view it seemed to be covered in a gray mist. I turned onto I10 and traffic got really intense with cars cutting in and out of the road. The road wasn't in very good shape, full of bumps and cracks.
I crossed over a bridge into New Orleans east and looked to my right to see Ballinger Shipyard where I worked at one time. It was good to recognize some of the places from my time here a long time ago.
Counting the exits to my hotel I was happy to find it right next to the highway and easy to access. I was checked in by a nice, friendly young man named Zin. I was given lucky room number 711 overlooking the parking lot and swimming pool with all the usual ammenities. I'm glad it is close to the elevator to reduce walking distance.
I'm going to rest and cool off a few minutes then go check out the downtown area and rally grounds. Hopefully I'll find a nice restaurant and have a good seafood meal then rest of for all the activities for tomorrow.
Thursday, May 6th 2010
There was a few hours of light left so I headed to the downtown area. Traffic was extremely erratic and there were a couple of accidents along the way. Note to anyoneentering I-10 in New Orleans, no one uses turn signals and if they use the left signal, they will turn right just to confuse you.
Came off I-10 ramp and went down to the French Quarter to get some oysters before the black tide of the oil spill causes problems with the seafood. Stopped at Acme Oysters on Iberville right near the river; a jumping joint with a lot of people. Sat down in the bar and conversed with a young lady who was a transplant to New Orleans who had chosen to move here because of the atmosphere in the Big Easy and enjoyed being a pedestrian instead of having to drive around. She seemed quite knowledgeable and it's very comforting to know there are people in the world like her. I'm sorry, my memory of names is not good and I can't remember her name - sorry about that- but if she is following my blogs please know that I truly enjoyed conversing with you.
I went out from there to check out where the rally was being held. When I found it, the signs were not very informative so I had to go around the block 4 times before finally finding the place to enter the grounds. I spoke with the security guard to get rally information because I didn't plan on actually attending the rally until Friday. He really helped me out and I enjoyed conversing with him too.
After leaving the rally grounds I met a Police Officer on a scooter that I enjoyed talking with. He was very friendly and extremely buff - looked like he worked out a lot. He asked questions about Arkansas (like what the crime rate was like). He was truly one of Crescent City's finest.
Then I headed towards the uptown or Garden District area on Magazine Street. It is one way most of the way. Note to people coming into New Orleans to look carefully at the street signs because there are many one-way streets and you can easily enter the streets going the wrong way. The street conditions are not real good. I spent most of my time swerving and weaving past potholes and ridges in the pavement. Normal for New Orleans because there’s a heaving of the grounds that keeps them torn up. So be very careful and keep your eyes on the road.
I switched over at Napoleon to St. Charles to get to Garden District. It was really nice to see the landmarks I remember such as churches, community centers, Garden District mansions and such. The wrought iron work of the fences and gates, particularly intrigued me because I enjoy welding and working with metal.
I got to my old haunts where St. Charles meets Carrollton where the street car makes the turn around and found that one of my favorite iconic eateries that I used to go to was no longer there. It was called Camelia Grill - but, much to my delight, old Cooter Brown's was still there. Cooter's is a bar and eatery that I frequented often when I lived here. When I walked through the door it was like walking back through a window in time' nothing had changed. I got some grub and a good ol' Dixie Beer and sat down to enjoy it with the comforting feeling of being back in familiar old territory. I talked with a couple of people inside and, different than home in AR, once you buy a beer inside an establishment you can walk outside the door so I took my beer and strolled outside. Damn it did feel good to be back in Naw-Ah-lens (New Orleans to most folks).
There were some college-aged students on the picnic benches out front of Cooter's so I began conversing with them. One of the young ladies in the group said she really liked poetry. I think her name was Alexandra. She had a friend with her whose name I forgot. It was truly an honor and a pleasure to speak with her because she was alover of the art of poetry and it sure feels good to talk to someone who appreciates not only poetry but the way a poets mind works.
Now to the embarrassing incident - remember I said the streets in New Orleans are in disrepair, so when I went to back my bike out of my parking space I back directly into a dimple into the street and because of weakness in my left hip and leg from injuries, I had to gently lower my bike to the street where it wallered like a beached whale. It was totally and completely surprising to me when this young lady leapt to her feet and helped me to lift my bike back up. To her, my undying thanks. I will never be able to thank you enough for your help if you are reading this. I would never have been able to lift my bike back up without your help in the condition I'm in. Be assured that with the enhancements that I've put on my bike, it did not get damaged at all. It was a true test of the enhancements (like the covers for the highway bars and side bars that keep my bags from getting scratched), not that I would ever want to do it again because of the embarrassment.
From there I headed back to the downtown area now that it was twilight time and proceeded to try to find the onramp to I-10 East back to my hotel. I went around the block 4 or 5 times looking for the I-10 East onramp. I was starting to lose it and freak out. There again, another young lady in a car, seeing my reaction, pulled next to me at a light, rolled down her window and asked me if I was looking for the I-10 Dast onramp. I replied "You must be very observant." and she said, "Yes, I am." She laughed and said you have to get on I-10 West in order to get to I-10 East. Again, note to someone not familiar with layout of New Orleans, you have to know to head the opposite direction sometimes in order to get where you are going. Ha Ha!
After I came back from Cooter's I decided I wanted to eat a sandwich. The only thing close to my hotel was a Popeye's chicken which didn't sound so good so I talked with a guy that said there was a sandwich shop down the road at Chef Mentaur highway. When I got there I saw the sign for the 'We Never Close Sandwich Shop'. It was about 9 pm so I pulled in to the parking lot and went up to the door. Much to my surpise, it was closed. Note to sandwich shop, maybe you should invest in a new name like "We sometimes Close Sandwich Shop". So I went down the street and found a Dominos pizza and got them to make me a sandwich that I brought back to my hotel and ate it while watching TV and drinking beer. What a life.
Got back to my room, took a shower, cranked the AC up to full blast and proceeded to find a channel on the TV that talked about all the different sites of New Orleans.
Friday, May 7th 2010
I woke up bright and early, bright-eyed and bushy tailed and decided to head out to the rally. I got it together and had the continental breakfast at the hotel then packed up, saddled up and headed to the rally. On my way downtown, there had been an accident on the bridge coming out of New Orleans east that had traffic at a standstill. I had to practically walk my bike across the overpass, breathing in exhaust fumes and dodging traffic to stay alive.
Once I got past the accident the traffic was movingback up to 70 mph and I got some air in my face and started feeling a lot better. Now once I got off of I-10 downtown, as I was already familiarized with where the rally is, I went right to the entrance and met the same Security Guard that I had talked to the night before. He didn't make me stop like everyone else, he waved me in and let me park in the most prestigious spot in the parking lot. Damn, it's good to make friends.
Once I got off my bike I talked to a couple more fellers that were from British Columbia, Canada. They were very nice and it was good to see other vagabonds that had come long distanced to attend this rally. If I'm not mistaken, I took some pictures of them and of my bike. I'll upload the pictures after I get back home. I went on in to the rally and started poking around and checking out the scene. Since it was very hot and muggy, the first place I headed was the Broken Spoke Saloon tent to re-hydrate my body via Anheiser Busch. Then I headed over to the tent for the official rally merchandise. I was probably their best customer because I new exactly what I wanted and in what quantity. The lady that was waiting on me was very friendly and helpful in me getting all the souvenirs from the rally that I needed. Of course, being the Biker Poet, I had to deliver a couple of poems and they were well received.
Then I headed in to check out all the vendors at the rally. They were all very nice and I had several conversations and did many impromptu performances where my poems were well received. After meandering around for a little while someone said one of the food vendors was handing out samples of smoked meat, this made my ears perk up. It was very good meat but of course it made me thirsty again so I HAD to resume my position at the Broken Spoke Saloon tent where they had some scantily clad young ladies serving the beer. It was much like Coyote Ugly because every once in a while one or the other of them would jump up on the bar and start swinging their hips to the music that was coming off the stage. Yee haw! There was one young lady that wore fishnet stockings, had white skin with black hair who reminded me of Elvira. I would say she was the most interesting-looking of the bunch.
After re-hydrating again I finished my walk around the rally grounds. It was getting extremely hot and muggy so after a while I decided I needed to go air it out. I would jump on my bike and ride to the French Qtr. I’m not sure if this was a good or bad idea. The roads left much to be desired and the traffic was horrendous and almost deadly. I think when people enter the French Quarter they must check their brains in before they enter. Anyway, I went to the regular haunts I had been thinking about: Cafe du Monde, Jackson Square, etc... Then I decided I was getting a little hungry and wanted to get out of the craziness in the French Quarter so I was going to go by the Central Grocery to get me a true, authentic muffalletta sandwich. But the only place I could find to park my big ol' bike happened to be in front of another sandwich shop a few doors down called Franks. I parked and got into a heated conversation with one of the cooks out in front of Franks. Where he said the muffallettas at Franks were much more authentic and better than anyone else’s and he would make it for me to make sure that it was better. And I’ve got to say for fact that he made one of the best muffallettas that I have ever seen or tasted in my life. It was so large that I had to unhinge my jaw in order to take a bite out of it.
I took the rest of my muffalletta and packed the rest of it on my bike and proceeded to head out of the French Quarter to get away from all the crazy people. Of course I passed by Jackson Square, the St Louis Cathedral, and the horse-drawn carriages that carry people around the French Quarter on my way out. At least the site-seeing part of it was very amusing and I enjoyed it.
Once I got out of the French Quarter I knew I had to get on I-10 West to go East so I proceeded to right where I needed to go. I stopped at the gas station around the corner from my hotel and restocked some brew for my room fridge at the hotel. Being later in the evening, after finishing my muffalletta and watching a little TV, I pretty much shut it down for the night to start again tomorrow.
Saturday, May 8th 2010
Last Day in New Orleans
I got up this morning and found that they have laundry facilities in the hotel where I was staying and since I had been sweating profusely for the past 2 days I decided to clean up my clothes. As my clothes were washing I ran in to a couple or people from Tennessee that were very nice. I don't remember their names but the girl had some kind of cheerleading shirt on. I regaled them with the continuing story of my adventure and a couple of poems that were well received. After doing my clothes, I figured it was time for me to get out and site see a little bit. I did not want to go back to the craziness of downtown so I decide to head out to the lake front to take in the sites out there. Where I needed to exit to go to the Causeway and West End Boulevard they were doing roadwork and traffic was backed up for about a mile and I had to push my bike along for almost an hour. While I was pushing my bike along this young lad on a Honda Shadow Saber with a very fine flame paint job came up by me and we had conversations between times the traffic would move a little bit. He seemed to be a very nice lad. He was headed to the Boyce Honda shop right off the exit. For at least 30 minutes of our wait time, he was looking at the back door of the shop he was headed to. Finally he had a clear spot where he could go through some dirt and pull into the back of the bike shop so he split off and I finished my arduous trip down the exit and onto the Causeway Boulevard.
I was so extremely hot and exhausted I pulled into the first gas station/convenience store that I came to whereupon I met this very nice man that was running the shop. I asked him how to get from there to where the lakefront is with as little traffic entanglements as possible. I don't know if it was a problem with understanding each other or what, but his directions were sending me opposite of where I needed to go. I backtracked to another convenience store and stopped to try to get some better directions whereupon I asked a customer coming out and he was very knowledgeable and helped me tremendously. He sent me in the opposite direction of what the first guy told me which was exactly where I needed to go, Veterans Boulevard which intersects with West End Boulevard and then to Lakeshore Drive - yeah! If he reads this blog, I want to thank him tremendously for leading me in the right direction. I told him the reason I was going out there was to take a trip down memory lane. He told me that all the places that were out by the lakefront had been destroyed in Hurricane Katrina and not rebuilt. But me, being a glutton for punishment, had to see it with my own eyes. He was right. The restaurant, Fitzegeralds, and the lounge, The Porthole, looked like 5-o'clock stubble of pilings on the edge of the water. This broke my heart but I still have my memories and I keep them in a very safe place - between my ears.
So I turned around and headed back to I-10, and came on back to the hotel room. Of course, stopping to replenish my stock of brew. When I got up to my room I cranked the AC up full blast and cooled down the room and made plans to pack up and head out early tomorrow. I don’t want to have to fight so much traffic to head out to the causeway 26-mile bridge, which I sure hope is worth it to ride across. Note: I found out that you have to pay a toll to come into New Orleans on the bridge, but not to go out of New Orleans. So just by accident, I made the right choice to not come in on the bridge but to leave by it.
I’m glad I came but I’m ready to head back home.
Sunday, May 9th 2010
The Road Home
I left the hotel in New Orleans this morning intending to leave on the 26-mile bridge. Since I came in on the wrong end of Lake Pontchartrain to catch the bridge, I had to wait until I left for home. I headed down I-10 west towards the Causeway Boulevard. Once on the boulevard I stopped at a gas station to fill up and prep for the days trip and the first day ride towards home. While in the convenience store a nice lady noticed I had Biker Poet on my vest so she asked me to do a poem. I did a couple poems and she liked them. Wish I could remember her name. I've met so many nice people that the names have gotten confused in my mind. I told her if she'd email me I'd send her a copy of the poems I did for her (Cry and Life). Then I headed toward the causeway and was stopped by the causeway officer and told I could not go across the Causeway Bridge today on a motorcycle because the wind was too high. Which of course upset me because I had planned and looked forward to it but I understood that they were trying to protect me.
So I talked with her and the other officer a few minutes and did a couple of poems. She said she wanted to check out my website and sign my questbook. She'll call herself 'The Causeway Lady' so I’ll know who it is.
I headed back down the boulevard and caught I-10 again to go over to I-55. When I got across the lake in Hammond, I stopped to top off my gas tank and get some one-of-a-kind goodies at the convenience store like pralines, dried shrimp, and Cajun peanuts before I left. Of course I talked to a couple of people there at the convenience store and was asked to do some poems for them, which everyone seemed to like. Then I headed up I-55 into Mississippi.
I stopped at the Loves truck stop in McComb, Mississippi that I had stopped at on the way to New Orleans and was asked for another performance of poetry and met some more new and very nice people there. My next stop on I-55 was in Hazelhurst where I stopped at a Stuckey's to get a bite to eat and ended up talking to the owner who was a lady from India. She was nice and was very impressed with my poetry. While I talked with her, one of her customers overheard some of my poetry and said he liked it also.
I made the turn at Jackson on to I-20 and followed it to cross the Mississippi River at Vicksburg, Mississippi. I turned off I-20 at Tallulah, Louisiana onto Hwy 65, which was very scenic. I ran through a small town called Transylvania and the water tower had a bat on it. While riding next to a levee a sea gull flew underneath my bike and hit my shin on my left leg and disintegrated all over my leg and the side of my bike, making a big mess and bruising my shin. I stopped at the very next gas station to clean up my motorcycle and myself.
At the next town I took a picture of my bike next to a large historic location sign that said it was the house where the Louisiana Purchase was signed. I continued up Hwy 65 and ran through several small towns including Lake Village. I had originally planned to go camping there on my way down to New Orleans and will definitely camp there if I go that way again - it was beautiful. At McGee Arkansas I stopped to refuel and talked with a really nice guy who gave me a weather report from his I-phone and showed me the satellite view which was very nice of him. I hope he reads this because I'd like to thank him again.
As I proceeded up Hwy 65 there was rain on either side but right over the road where I was riding, there was a big hole in the clouds with a blue spot where I was riding. As dusk came I was getting close to Pine Bluff, Arkansas and could smell rain in the air. A few sprinkles hit my windshield and for the better part of valor I decided to get a hotel room for the night and ride the rest of the way home in the morning.
Monday, May 10th 2010
Different forms of Bravery
At the Super 8 hotel where I stopped in Pine Bluff, they were nice enough to allow me to park my bike under the overhang at the entrance to the hotel, which was good, because it did rain overnight.
The next morning, as I went down the hall of the motel, following enticing smells of the continental breakfast, I decided I needed to go the restroom across the hall before I ate. As I entered into the restroom and looked down at the thrown, I noticed a rather large brown recluse spider peering up at me. For you who are unfamiliar with the said brown recluse, it is a very dangerous spider who can do serious bodily harm if not kill you. He looked up at me and noticed me having noticed him. Much to my surprise and joy, he leapt off the edge of the commode seat into the water thereby rendering him into a vulnerable possession where I could press the lever and relieve him of his life, him being caught in the vortex of water, expelling him from my reality. Then, feeling proud that I had taken care of the situation to the best of my ability, I went back to the continental breakfast room to reward myself with breakfast.
One of the things along the breakfast counter to make was a waffle station. Not being all that familiar the making of waffles, I read the instructions posted upon the wall behind it. I poured the batter into the hot tray, closed the top, and it began to beep at me. Somehow what I had read on the wall left my mind and I had to re-read the instructions because it was messing with my mind to have it beep at me. Reading it again, I read that you are supposed to flip the waffle maker onto its pivoting point as soon as you close it so I did that. Which starts a timer and allows the waffle to cook on it's own. Then when I flipped it over and popped it out onto a plate it was crisp and done to perfection. I believe, even though I have not had and former culinary training, maybe it's time for me to call Chef Paul and tell him I'm his new waffle maker since, on my first attempt, I had created such a perfect, crisp waffle. Now I followed down the rest of the breakfast counter and decided not to eat the cereal, which I wasn't hankering for at the moment.
The next part of this story you may not totally understand, the basic reader of my blog. A friend of mine who prefers to be called Biff, and I, have a running joke with each other. I don't know how the whole thing got started, but my buddy Biff came up with this thing, but whenever you have to face something that is hard or difficult in your life you must eat your gravy and it will make you brave.
Now, getting on with the breakfast story, I noticed a crock-pot with a top on it at the end of the counter. Being an inquisitive human being, I had to look into it and see what it was. Much to my surprise I found it was a pot of gravy. Whereupon I finally got it, like a blinding ray of light, the meaning of what gravy is. It is that warm, somewhat gelatinous feeling of the gravy going down your throat that gives you the bravery to face any oncoming foe or life experience that comes your way. I turned and walked back to the front door of the Motel and looked out at the rain falling in the parking lot. It had not changed from when I first looked out this morning, but somehow I felt braver having to face such a foe as water coming from the clouds. So it gave me a whole new inspiration to go back to my room and put on my stuff, pull my head out of the sand and face life’s little pitfalls - yeah. Yet, somehow, I think I shall regret my bravery and all the gravy that’s in me. I'm ready to face it and chase it.
Monday, May 10th 2010
The Next Leg of the Journey Home
When I headed out from Pine Bluff the sky was gray but the cloud ceiling was high. I made good time going up Hwy 65. On my right and left were freshly plowed fields for planting rice and soybeans. I looked off in the distance and could see what I call 'glory rays' of sunshine coming through the few holes in the clouds. The cloud ceiling began to drop more and more, bringing the clouds closer to the ground.
When I got to Little Rock, Arkansas, remembering what a bus driver had told me at the hotel, I looked for Interstate 630 West. The highways around Little Rock were being worked on in several places making travel around Little Rock a very harrowing experience. They have entrances and exits from both sides of the 3-lane highway and the people driving on these highways don't seem to be paying attention to any other traffic on the road - especially motorcycles. Thinking I was on the correct hwy and going the correct direction, I continued on 630 west. I passed Hwy 430 North and South and shortly after that, I found myself on a city street in Little Rock as hwy 630 just ended and it seemed I was deposited into the center of the city, which I did not want to be in. I stopped at a Simmons Bank to ask directions and there was a nice young man that pointed me in the correct direction - back to highway 430. The signs on the highways around Little Rock are not good. There was no forewarning when you were getting to a different highway cutoff and with the exits going off opposite sides of the highway you almost had to be clairvoyant to know which lane you should be in.
I found Hwy 430 North and was told that Interstate 40 West towards Fort Smith would be my next exit. Much to my surprise, Hwy 430 split into two branches, the left being I-40 west and the right being I-40 East which became very harrowing again as I had to make my way across three lanes of traffic to get to the exit I needed. Making it to the right road, I was extremely happy with myself and my abilities to ride. I'm glad to be out of Little Rock and now it's a straight shot to Fort Smith then north on I-540 to home.
Monday, May 10th 2010
Riding in the Rain
While heading down I-40 west, the dark clouds dipped down very low. At this point I was assured that I was going to get wet. Soon after that the rain started coming. I had my Frog Tog rain jacket on but I didn't put the pants on because at the time it was not raining and they are very hot. Note to self - remember to put your rain pants on next time.
As I was continuing down I-40 the rain got heavier and heavier and the wind began to blow hard directly at me. As I was continuing down the Interstate about to pass a slow car (I was in the left lane and the slow guy in the right) a small car doing approximately 100 mph came zooming up in the right lane almost running into the car I was passing. He jammed on his brakes then shot the gap between me and the car I was passing, narrowly missing my front tire. I had to slow down to try to avoid him hitting me as he cut across into my lane - what an idiot.
Sometime after that I noticed my fuel running a little low so I stopped at a gas station along the way whereupon I got into a conversation with a young man driving a van. He said that I had passed him a ways down the highway and that he had also seen the idiot in the small car driving like a maniac. He was very nice and we had a good conversation - again I wish that I could remember his name.
I got back on I-40 west and it was still pouring rain and a while later I passed by a biker on a Harley. He was dressed in full leathers and he looked miserable. I continued on to the last exit before I needed to turn on I-540 to go home to Rogers, Arkansas where I live. After getting my gas, I talked with the people in the convenience store and was telling them part of the story of this trip. A short time later that same Harley rider caught up with me and pulled into the gas station so I went over to talk to him. He said he had seen me blow by him on the highway and was amazed that I looked so dry (of course, wearing my Frog Tog jacket and my BDU pants which both dry very quickly). He was wearing full leathers that were soaked and drooping and looked like they weighed 100 lbs. He was not a happy camper. He made a funny sloshing noise as he walked and left a trail of water behind him, much like a slug. I looked at his bike and noticed that tied to his ape-hanger handlebars was a Mexican Woobie blanket that was so sopping wet the ends were hanging down with water dripping out. I felt sorry for him, but at the same time, on the inside I was laughing.
I got on my bike and made the next exit onto I-540 and began to ride out of the rain. By the time I got to Mountainburg and the Bobby Hopper Tunnel it was not raining any more. By the time I got to Fayetteville I felt my pants and they were completely dry except for right above my boots. I saw my exit coming up and though I was sad that my adventure was almost over, I was sure glad to see that exit.
I pulled up in my driveway at 3:33pm and took a gander at my house and was happy to find it in exactly the same condition as I had left it - except for the grass had grown.
Now I could be bummed out that I got wet on the last leg of my trip, but instead I chose to accept it as part of the adventure. It’s good to be home.
I called my buds Biff and Jimmy to plan a ride and we watched the weather all week just waiting on Saturday and hoping the weather forecast didn’t change. Finally Saturday came and after many discussions about which direction to ride and where to meet we decided to leave from my house and head toward Eureka Springs.
For those of you who might not be familiar with Northwest Arkansas or Highway 62, it’s one of the best rides a biker could wish for with curving roads and beautiful views through the Ozark Mountains. Eureka Springs is a quaint little hamlet built in the hills full of shops on lots of little crooked streets that wind through town. Now back to our ride.
The guys made it to my house a little late and were anxious to take off but I wanted to take a couple of minutes to show them some things I’ve been working on around my garage. So after a few minutes listening to me and seeing my ‘projects’, we got on the road. Biff was leading as we headed out of Rogers on Highway 62.
It was a beautiful, sunny day (in NOVEMBER) and about 70 degrees. We decided to take what we call “the dam loop” on Highway 187 which goes over the dam at Beaver Lake and curves back around to run into Highway 62 again. There’s a place called The Dinosaur Park on the road to the dam where they have these life-sized statues of dinosaurs spread out through a park-like area where kids go and climb around in the summer time. You normally can’t see the statues from the road but the leaves are all off the trees now so they were clear.
There’s a sort of traditional local landmark on the dam loop road called The Shoe Tree. It started when some kids were out partying at the lake a few years ago and tied their shoes together and made bets on who could throw a pair of shoes the highest up in the tree where they wouldn’t fall down. It got to where people would make special trips out to throw shoes into the tree until there were hundreds of pairs hanging from every branch. Last summer the highway department cut down most of the original shoe tree to make way for a power line but I noticed that another tree has now started filling up with shoes. I’m glad the tradition is continuing.
We made the loop and stopped at a convenience store to gas up and wet our whistles and a few people recognized me as The Biker Poet so I did an impromptu performance and made some new fans. We headed on down Highway 62 into Eureka Springs and turned north on Highway 23 into the old downtown area. It’s hard to maneuver my big bike around some of the tight corners and bumpy streets with steep angles up and down the mountainside. Biff was in the lead and we were about halfway up Spring Street, the steepest road in town, and he suddenly stopped in the middle of the road. Jimmy was behind him and jammed on his brakes so I wrestled to a teetering stop; wondering what the problem was. Suddenly we saw the problem – a large deer had stumbled into the street and gotten startled and came slipping and sliding down the middle of the steep street. It was a large doe that couldn’t get her footing and was panicking and sliding everywhere. She slid past Biff and Jimmy but slid into my leg on her way down the hill. I looked right into her frightened eyes as she bumped me and they looked like two pinwheels spinning in opposite directions. I watched her in my mirror until she slid down to a point the road turned and she got her footing and ran off into the woods. Man was I freaked! I couldn’t believe a deer had bumped right into me in the middle of the street in the middle of a town.
Biff took off again and I gathered myself up and followed. We circled around a few side streets and stopped at a hot sauce shop. I love peppers and hot sauce and had heard of this place and wanted to check it out. I met a few new people in the shop and did another impromptu performance of my poetry, picked up some hot sauce and we headed out again.
We left there and headed out of town to stop for lunch at Anglers Inn. It’s a good place to hang out and the food is good.
Jimmy wanted to take Highway 23 back toward home so we looped back into Eureka and headed south. Highway 23 is another one of the routes that bikers love to ride all the way from the northern Arkansas state line where it starts, all the way south through the southern part of the state. We curved down the road till we got to where we need to turn on Highway 12 and stopped in at a convenience store called Shauna’s corner. It was getting late and I wanted to get home so I split off from Biff and Jimmy when we left there so I took the shortcut on Highway 127 back over to another point on Highway 12 a lot closer to home.
All in all it was a great afternoon ride for three good friends. Thank you, Biff, and Jimmy, for going on a Saturday ride in mid-November when the weather was great here in the Ozarks.
I performed at open mic night at Rockin Pig Saloon in Eureka Springs, Arkansas on Thursday, September 10th and had a great time. They have a great stage and encourage anyone who wants to entertain to contact them and get on the entertainment list. Hope to see you there sometime!
Posted some photos in my 'Friends' album so check it out.
I was just sittin around the house not doin much of anything and a buddy of mine, Ron, called me up and asked if I wanted to go for a ride over to a festival in Oklahoma. Since I wasn’t doin nothin’ and the weather was great, I figured, what the hell…
We met up at Pig Trail Harley in Rogers and he said a couple more of his buds were going to come along too. We headed out and ended up in Centerton. His buds wanted to eat lunch at the Centerton Inn, which was just fine for me. One of Ron’s friends said he wanted to stop by his house (not too far from there) to get something; so we went by his place, which was a very nice place out in the country.
We left out headed towards Oklahoma and ended up on Hwy 59/10 in Oklahoma. We made a couple of turns and ended up at the Rally grounds near Grove, Oklahoma. It was a pretty nice Rally with a fair amount of vendors and a big bandstand. There were people in golf carts travelling around the rally grounds selling beer, which was great because it was hot. Made my way down to the bar on the rally grounds and saw some of the 13 Rebels (both Ron and I knew them). As I was leaving the bar a young lady stopped me and asked if I was The Biker Poet. Of course I said yes and her and her friend wanted to hear a couple of biker poems, which I was obliged to recite to them.
Went back up to the main rally ground which by now had grown from just a few bikes to a rather large number of bikes. I found it difficult to locate my bike in the midst of all the bikes. Whoops, here comes the golf cart with more beer again. How did they know I was thirsty? We stayed for a couple hours more and enjoyed the bands and the festivities. Then Ron and I got split up. A short while later my phone rang and it was Ron. He said he had to get home because he lives up on hwy 12 by War Eagle (in Arkansas) and if he heads home too late, the deer are coming out of the woods. I said I was about funned out anyways so we left.
When we got back to Rogers we split up and I went home. Another fun day of riding and rallying.
Friday, July 17th 2009
Little Sturgis or Bust
Left the house at 2:55am toward Sturgis, KY and the ‘Little Sturgis’ bike rally. My trip almost ended before it began when 5 miles from home loomed a huge gator in the middle of the road. For you who don't know, a 'gator' is a semi truck trailer tire tread that has been thrown off a retread tire on the highway. The reason they are called gators is that when they are laying flat on the road they look like an aligator in the water.
This particular one was laying on it's side, thus keeping the shape of the round tire. It was 10 inches high and approximately 3 feet in diameter. If I would have hit it, I would have been wrecked on the road with another demolished bike. It appeared in my headlights and by the time I saw it I had to swerve drastically to miss it. As I tried to get my heart out of my throat I hoped that that was the worst thing I'd have to deal with on this trip.
Sun Came Up
The sun rose about 5:28am to reveal a clear blue sky with a few whispy white clouds. This is going to be a fun trip.
Thank God the weather man lied.
I was headed down Highway 60 west in Missouri. I was surprised to find that highway 60 west was 2 lanes in each direction with a median for most of the way. They were working on sections of the road where it was cut down to 1 lane in each direction. There were dump trucks headed in both directions which tended to pepper me with sand and dirt.
About every hundred miles I started looking for a gas station. I found that the gas price in Missouri was much less than in Northwest Arkansas where I live. Also, premium gas is 93 octane when the top I can find at home is 91 octane. I noticed a marked difference in the way my bike ran (that was great).
The Trip Continues
On Friday (July 17th) at Charleston, MO, hooked up with a group of bikers also headed to Little Sturgis. We crossed over the Mississippi River on one of the narrowest bridges ever built. Semi trucks had their outside wheels up on the curb and their inside wheels were over the center line. The wind current coming off the trucks as they passed us on the bridge felt like it was so strong it was going to blow us off the bridge into the Mississippi. Now when I say ‘bridge’ I mean a bridge 10 stories up in the air over the river. It’s a good thing I do not have vertigo.
I used to work on the tug boats on the Mississippi River so I was interested in looking over the side of the bridge to see the tug boats and barges, you know, reminiscing. But every time I went to look over the edge another semi would come across the bride so I’d have to stop site-seeing to pay attention to where I was and what I was doing.
When we crossed through the tip of Illinois there were corn fields as far as the eye could see. We got behind a caravan of Combines and were stuck for quite a while just crawling along in the hot sun. Then we arrived at Paducah, KY.
In Paducah, KY the guys I was traveling with wanted to stop and have lunch. We stopped at a local steak house and we broke bread and told stories of the road. We talked about where each one of us had come from and where we were headed.
Great couple of guys - I wish I could remember their names. It was truly a pleasure conversing with them. (If you guys read this blog, please add a comment or send me an email. Thanks for breaking bread with me. That means a lot to me.)
More and more - Falling into line
When we left Paducah we headed up highway 60 toward Sturgis, KY. We passed more corn fields and bean fields.
We started picking up more and more bikes all the way up to Sturgis. There were small groups, large groups, and individuals all along the way that just kind of folded in with us so our arrival at Sturgis looked like one huge group. There were at least 500 bikes in our impromptu group by the time we got there.
At Little Sturgis
When we arrived at the Rally grounds they fed us through a gauntlet of orange cones till we got to the place where we could pay and get our wrist bands. Then to get back to the main rally grounds we had to circle around through a large part of the camping area on dirt roads. This was very difficult for me because of my bad leg and my large bike. I found my way back to the main rally grounds where I parked my bike near to where they were having the bike show.
From there, with my cane, I hobbled in to the vendor area. It was an extremely large area with corridors of vendors heading off in different directions. My focus at this point was to get my rally patch and souvenirs (cap, patch, pins, etc…) I ran into several people, much to my surprise, that recognized me as The Biker Poet whereupon I did several impromptu performances of my poetry.
One of the people I met that I kept running across was a Minister who lived near the Mississippi River and ministered to several Merchant Marines. I’m sorry I forgot your name, so please get back in touch with me if you read this blog. I really enjoyed our talks and reading my poetry to you.
Much to my dismay, I was denied CRITICAL, NEED-TO-KNOW information. The county in Kentucky where the rally was held is a dryyyyy county. I saw several people walking around with beer at the rally and when thirstily asked them where they bought their beer, they said “Not here.”
In other words, you had to travel three counties away from the rally to find a place to buy beer. So after being over-heated and tired out from the rally, I started my sojourn to find such a place. I headed down highway 60 East, periodically stopping at convenience stores to see if they had beer only to be told that I needed to keep going until I reached Paducah. By the time I got near Paducah the sun had gone down and I had to traverse a very narrow, very tall, two-lane bridge with semi trucks charging toward me. I missed the sign telling me what river I was crossing.
As I came off the bridge headed into town, I aimed just to the right of the oncoming headlights, not being able to see because my windshield was so bug-splattered. Much to my surprise, my lane of the road veered sharply to the right and I wasn’t able to see this until the last second. I leaned my bike all the way over to the right and carved the edge of the road, almost going into a ditch.
When I finally got into Paducah there were convenience stores and ABC Liquor stores. I packed as much beer as I could pack on top of my luggage because my saddle bags and tour pack were already packed to the brim with camping gear and such, and began my arduous ride back.
Saturday, July 18th 2009
Full Day at the Rally
Arrived at the Rally grounds early and watched them set up the bike show. Took some pictures of some interesting bikes. Hooked up again with my buddy, Richard, who I found out he has other buds that call him ‘Tricky Dick”. Also met “Cadillac Bob”, “Wild Bill”, and a few other people.
Hobbled through the grounds with my cane and through the building where they were going to have Jello wrestling and concerts then back to the vendor area where I ate some food. They had every different kind of food you could think of available so I enjoyed some Greek food for a change.
Also did some impromptu performances of my poetry by request as I ran across people who knew me.
Came back to the bike show area and found out that Richard had won in his category with his Kawasaki Vulcan Drifter that he made up to look like an Indian Chief (sweet bike with lots of leatherwork that he did himself.) Then Richard talked me into taking a tour of the campgrounds. With helicopters flying overhead they had John Deere tractors pulling 25 ft trailers with benches on them through the camping area. It was very much like going on an African safari, looking at the wild animals, with cameras flashing instead of guns. “Keep your hands and feet inside the vehicle and do not feed the indigenous creatures,” but there was plenty to see - worth the price of admission!
Finished out the Rally
I met and talked to several Vietnam Vets who had a booth set up and did my 4th of July poem for them which they immensely appreciated.
I also went and saw the bike races they held on a dirt track behind the rally grounds. They had a bunch of small bikes racing up and down the dirt track. I went back to the main building and enjoyed part of the concert that was playing. Made one last tour of the vendor area and my hip and lower back were starting to hurt pretty bad. Though I enjoyed my time at the rally, I was beginning to be all ‘funned out’ and it was getting late in the evening again.
Knowing that I would have to go back to Paducah for beer, I headed out as it was becoming dark. By the time I got to the narrow bridge going into Paducah it was pitch black dark. Even though I was aware of the wild right hand turn coming up, it still snuck up on me and scared me but I handled it without scraping my floorboards. Loaded up on more beer and headed back to Calvert City and the hotel I stayed in. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy roughing it on these outings, but is sure is nice to spend a night in a cool and clean hotel room and take a long shower.
Sunday, July 19th 2009
Ride Home from Little Sturgis Rally
I left Calvert City, KY to come home and hit highway 60. It was a beautiful morning with the sun beaming down. I crossed the river again heading west and there was much less traffic. I was able to take more time and look at the tugboats and barges on the river which was nice. I stopped at Charleston, MO and ate a little food at a Country Kitchen restaurant then hit the road for the long ride back to NW Arkansas and home.
The ride back was fairly uneventful. Saw lots of bikers out on the road. It was cool to talk to all the different bikers when I’d stop at the gas stations to see where they had been. Then things got interesting.
Before I got to Springfield, MO, I had this big semi pulling a tanker trailer come up next to me in the left-hand lane. When he got abreast of me he pulled over into my lane. I had to speed up drastically to keep him from running me off the road. Then I hit the James River Expressway around Springfield and saw him in my rearview mirror again. He raced up beside me now going 80 mph. He pulled up next to me in the left lane and tried to do it again. I’m sure it was just a game to him, but I was pretty freaked out. I didn’t want to get a speeding ticket so I raced ahead a ways and slowed back down to the speed limit. He did the same thing one more time only this time there was a car in front of me and I had to shoot the gap between his front bumper and the rear bumper of the car. I looked at my gas gauge and figured it was a good time to get gas so when he raced up behind me again I switched to the left lane, swerved around the car in the right lane (keeping a car between me and him) and made the exit for the gas station. I stayed at the gas station for about 45 minutes to give him plenty of time to get on down the road. It felt like something out of a horror movie but I’m sure he got a big laugh out of it.
Got to the MO/AR state line near home in late, late afternoon and made it home by nightfall. I was so tired I just went straight to bed. Looking forward to the doing the Little Sturgis Rally again next year.