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Friday, August 16th 2013

7:05 PM

The Misty Mountain Sheepskin - Hwy 76 Ribbon Excursion


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.

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