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Friday, April 29th 2011

8:05 AM

Wild Hog Rally 2011


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: bikerpoet@sbcglobal.net. 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!

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