Well, it's the day after returning home and I can say it was a real blast! I had been looking forward to this trip for quite some time for a variety of reasons- not only was it to be my first real mototrip in about 18 months, but it was also a shakedown cruise for touring with The BatBike and some newly-acquired riding gear, and I would also be meeting riding pals I had previously only known via internet.
I was up very late Wednsday night due to a much longer than planned workday doing an electrical service on the bike, correcting (or so I thought) some wiring problems with the heated grips and installing a set of MotoLights. By the time I turned in it was 3.
Up Thursday morning later than I would have preferred but it was all I could do to get what sleep I got. On the road around 10 or so, everything is going smoothly and I'm reveling in the freedom of the open road once again! So far so good.
Once out of TexSux much of my journey was through Oklahoma. I have an odd love/hate relationship with this state. Mostly love though. I passed small towns, forests, plains, lakes, truck stops, airports, casinos (with 20-foot inflatable slot machines outside!) and even a winery. And yet the state still feels remote and empty.
A right turn in Muskogee set me on an eastbound course and just as I suspected things were about to get interesting. I was on US 62 and this road would be a recurring theme over the weekend. Some parts were fairly plain while others were beautiful and nicely curvy. I stopped for fuel in the last town on OK's eastern fringes, oddly enough named Westville.
Arkansas was next. I was in the northwestern corner and anybody who's ridden the Ozarks knows the reputation. But first I had to get through Fayetteville, or 'Fetvul,' as a southerner would say. This included a wrong turn (or lack of a correct turn I should say) and a boring run up I540 to Bentonville before returning to 62 for the remaining eastward stretch. This is where things got REALLY interesting!
62 East of Rogers starts out boring but soon enough becomes a nice forested 2-lane snake that winds delightfully through hill and valley, and delivers many yellow signs with squiggly things and low numbers on them.
I don't remember exactly where along 62 it was when I felt an overwhelming urge to drain my bladder. Keeping an eye out for a good place to pull over in this rural countryside for a bush to run behind, I spot an old abandoned farmhouse. I jump the fence and run behind it and feel the sweet relief. If you're wondering why I include this detail, it is because just as I feel most relieved I suddenly hear what sounds like a voice saying "oops!" just behind me, like somebody has come around a corner and caught my private moment. My heart skips a beat as I turn to see nobody there! Broad daylight and I'm having a possible encounter with the supernatural! I took a very nice picture of the house as I left. I haven't found any lurking apparitions in the picture- yet.
The part between Garfield and Eureka Springs is probably the best part I rode, although along this part I fell in behind a couple on a Harley and a Japanese cruiser. It was all I could do to keep from eating the woman's rear tire as she slowed to a creep for the turns. I so wanted to pass but there was no place to do so. I resigned myself to taking it slow then (not that I wanted to carve a burning path, but I would have been more comfy just a tad quicker), and was rewarded by being able to spare a tiny bit more attention to the scenery.
Eureka Springs was all I had heard it to be- beautiful and charming, and popular with motorcyclists. I noted how many places claimed Jacuzzi suites, and how many had vacancies. Good to know, in case Branson proves a bust- but why should it?
More curves, more pretty country east of Eureka Springs. I know I'm most of the way there. I also wonder if my friends have arrived yet and if they're wondering where the hell I am, as the ride up is taking longer than anticipated. But soon I am turning north on US 65, the final stretch- 28 miles to go!
The road into Branson passes through some dramatic cuts and outcrops that make me glad I took a few hours of geology in college. But I'm even more glad when I finally see the exit I want and turn off the highway. I take a moment to pull into a gas station and affix the cartoony stuffed-toy bat I brought to the back of The BatBike, so if all else fails trying to find each other, my friends will at least have no doubt where I parked- and hopefully get a good chuckle in the process!
Finding Branson Towers was not difficult, if only because I knew to look under the rusting water tower. I pulled into the parking lot and up under the awning over the front door. I immediately spotted BoxerGrrlie and Hilda (her /6 for those who don't know). I pulled up and said hi, then parked. A quick slightly more formal introduction, then I checked in and found my room. Soon after that I met Bradford Benn and Tracy, who rode together with BoxerGrrlie. We went with the group of fellow early birds to the Thai dinner, which we all enjoyed and needed after so many good miles. The ride back to the hotel was enlivened by missing a turn which was referred to as a 'navigational gaff,' and the evening was topped off with more socialising.
Friday was a beautiful if cloudy day, and we were up bright and early to grab a bite to eat then go ride. My three new riding buddies and I wasted no time getting underway. Bradford Benn had the GPS unit so he got appointed ride leader and he did a great job picking routes through the Missouri and Arkansas countryside. Our two Airheads and two Oilhead RT's traveled very harmoniously together as we took on the Ozarks.
Our first stop was Eureka Springs, where our intention was merely a short break to take in the feel of the place. As we were about to leave the parking lot, a couple walked up and asked if whoever was on a certain bike was behind a couple on a pair of cruisers the day before while coming into town on 62. "Why, yes," I said, or something to that extent. They turned out to be a very nice couple and that made up for the slowness the day before. Once underway, Bradford led us on a loop of old historic 62 through town. That was a really terrific scenic cruise through the town and was quite fun, what with all the steep parts and tight turns. Only later did he tell us that it was unplanned- just a fluke of the GPS, which didn't really know we were in town or something like that. I know he's going to be writing a ride report too so maybe he can explain that better. Along this scenic detour we spotted the nice cruiser-couple again and exchanged a wave with them.
Pictured below: the haunted farmhouse