I'm over hibernating and not riding. The few day trips, and the ( cold, boring, mostly slab ) trip to Key West I've had this winter hardly satisfied my needs. I've been watching the weather closely, waiting for some of the low temps in Arkansas to only be around freezing and warmer during the day.
Global Warming my ass.... this winter has been brutal for us.
So finally last week, the weather looked like it was going to warm up in AR, so I packed up, got out of my responsibilities, and started heading South ignoring the snow in the forecast for Illinois. I need to get out in some mountains and ride!
It was a little chilly, I didn't leave nearly as early as I wanted, coming up with extensive excuses takes time! ( the clock was wrong in this pic ) actually 11am
As the Weather Gods has promised it started snowing, and for about 4 hours there were isolated snow showers.
I made it through the snow, thankfully it was quite windy, not really allowing the snow to accumulate on the highway. As you can see here the sun was out by this time.
I was on a real tight budget with the whole recession and all...... I had planned on only camping like usual for me, but after riding all day in below freezing temps, I happened by this no-tel motel while getting fuel, planning on riding a few more hours South in MO. $22 for a warm bed was to good to pass up considering camping in a state park after buying firewood could cost the same.... I wasn't near anywhere to camp for free, and since I left on such short noticed I was unable to use Tent Space successfully, though I tried.
There was a good BBQ joint next door, and I spent some time studying the Arkansas Altlas, dreaming of the roads to come.... I was much better prepared this time to explore the fire roads and trails having better suited tires and quite a bit more dirt riding experience than I had last year when I was here. I was going to get dirty...:wink:
In the morning I finally jumped off the slab.
It was still around freezing, but slowly getting warmer.
* At this point I'm going to let the pictures of the roads do most of the talking*
As you can see, there was still plenty of snow. I was wondering what the fire roads were going to be like... For the time being I enjoyed the twisty roads, not pushing hard at all, the roads were covered with salt, and were deciving.
OK, time to get dirty. At this point I changed the setting on my GPS to avoid all roads but minor or unpaved one's. Generally for this type of ride I will study the Atlas, find an area I want to explore and point the GPS towards that spot, letting it choose the route with my preferences. After it calculated the route I'll go in and review it and make any waypoints needed to take me around this area I'm looking to explore. This method has worked well for me, with the GPS taking me places that I wouldn't have found, or down "roads" that aren't even in the Atlas...
It was quite challenging and fun. The roads were muddy, and very loose in places.
It was 50?? and sunny, what a great day!
This sign says it all.... With some new found confidence from my tires, I was now taking a different stance when riding on the loose stuff - stand up, elbows out, and when in trouble just gas it! Instead of going around obstacles I was just going a little faster right through it. I figured the snow would help cushion me if/when I went down... 3
Yep, it happens.
This was one of those moments that was a little scary. The rut's turned to ice, I was carrying too much speed, when I knew it was inevitable I gassed it while going into the ditch, keeping the bike from flipping, but throwing me over the handlebars when I hit bottom and sunk into the mud. It was a soft landing, and was pleased that I didn't land in the stream. I was also amazed to see the bike sitting just like this when I looked up.3
At this point I was glad I was OK, and so was the bike. Now I just need to get myself out of this ditch.... I scouted ahead and found a possible way out. Getting there would prove to be tough with my rear wheel needing more traction. Bouncing up and down on the seat would eventually get me there one foot at a time.
I found a nice place to camp next to a river, with an hour and half of sunlight left I did a little fishing with no luck. I hadn't seen another soul for hours, and it was just me and the sounds of the roaring river. Perfect.
I gathered some wood to burn, opened a bottle of Jack and settled it. The temps dropped fairly quickly once the sun went down. By 8 pm it was about 30??F. I had brought a down jacket, so I was nice and warm next to the fire.
Some tunes completed the whole experience
Since I hadn't caught any fish I resorted to some freeze dried mexican rice with beef dinner, I had bought a handful of Mountain House meals that were on clearance at REi last year. Since this whole trip was going to be on a tight budget I used what I had, anything can taste good with enough Tobasco and a little whiskey....
The next morning the mud was frozen in my oil cooler, I would keep an eye on the engine temp.
The mud in the ruts had frozen overnight, making for some interesting riding...
By this time the ice had melted, making for some sloppy roads.... Fun!
After coming to this crossing, and scouting it out, it was obvious I couldn't make it. I couldn't even see the bottom in the middle.... Time to find another way around
After a few smaller river crossing's I couldn't find a way through that big river so back on the pavement I went.
*embarrassing moment #1*
OK, so after going through a few streams, and getting back on the pavement I rode for about 10 miles, taking it easy, letting my tires clean off and warm up before I really leaned into a corner. The first time I did, I heard this awful scraping sound... :arg , looking down in horror I saw that my saddle bag had come open and was dragging in the corner's... ****. So I pull over, good thing I had a bag liner on this side with all my clothing, some food, maps, manual, etc in it. It was sitting in the lid....
Good news: nothing had fallen out.
Bad news: everything was soaked, it must have been open while doing a river crossing
There's a distinctive click when you lock the box, and last time I had been in it and closed it I had my helmet on already, didn't hear the click, so must not have locked it.... what a rooky move3
I was in need of some fuel, and some lunch so I set out for Harrison, hoping to find a Laundromat to dry out my stuff, and a car wash to clean out my oil cooler. Not exactly roughing it, but it seemed a lot easier than drying everything tonight over a fire....
A bike better suited for some of the roads I was riding, but not for the paved twisties and trip back and forth from Chicago....
After eating, resupplying, drying out my stuff, and cleaning my oil cooler I was ready to ride.
Even though I had eaten a light breakfast just hours before, when in the middle of nowhere I went by this place that had a sign " home of the 3 napkin burger" so I stopped. Needless to say the burger was amazing, if you ever go by this place try one out!
I ended up here, trying to catch some dinner. Again I had the whole place to myself.
This nights sound would be much different form the roaring river the previous night. Turn you speakers up real loud to get the real effect. It was so loud!
I didn't catch any fish to eat so plan B went into effect. As I was sitting there eating beef-like stew, listening to the great sounds, seeing a shooting star, and just enjoying the solitude I thought about being from Chicago I have access to 1000's of great restarunts nearby. Well you know, I was sitting by the fire thinking that this beef stew was better than any place I've eaten at home..... Just a thought.
Waking up a little late again because it was hard to get out of my bag at sunrise because of the cold.... at sunrise it was around 30, by 9 am it was around 40??F.
Today I will catch some fish for dinner I thought, this is becoming embarrassing. From talking with locals, an from the fish reports I had read online before I left, the fishing was spotty at best because of the ever changing weather with huge temperature swings daily, and high water from all the snow run off, fishing was difficult at best....
Breakfast ( at 11 am ) and fuel stop. Like usual when eating at a small cafe, I asked the waitress/cook/cashier lady "If I'm going to eat here once in my life, what should I get?"
I ended up with another very tasty burger....
The picture doesn't communicate how green the water was. It reminded me of the Chicago River on St. Pattie's Day- Today
So all the previous pics were my day, bouncing back and forth between dirt and pavement. I love my Garmin, and Atlas & Gazetteer.....
Now it was time to catch some dinner, making my way north to make the one day dash home a little shorter I ended up at Norfolk Lake at Wood Point CG, again having the entire place to myself.....
Yeah! It's not a trophy fish, but will fry up just fiine.... now if I could just get one more.....
* embarrassing moment #2 *
While unpacking and setting up camp I noticed that I didn't have my tent poles.1 WTF! How could this have happened? Did someone steal them while I wasn't looking? was my straps not tight enough?
I didn't pack any different than I had been for months of motorcycle camping, I thought my method was solid....
So I go back looking on my camera for when was the last time I had them. Turns out the last picture with them visible was before I ate at the cafe for breakfast.... where my bike was parked out of sight while I ate...
What a blow to my ego, I spend about 9 months a year on the road, between work and riding... so I consider myself a well seasoned traveler..... How could I not notice? After thinking about it, I came up with blaming it on my pack instead of trying to think that someone stole them, it's possible but keeping with my non-paranoia about bad people when traveling...... I did ride some very rough roads today.......Oh well. Either way I don't have them, and was just glad it wasn't raining.
I rigged up a rope to get me through the night, and focused on the beautiful sunset, and cleaning the fish...
HMMMMM Fish with beans, rice, and a potato I brought....
A little cooking oil sure gets the fire going.....
This was the first night I had some intermittent cell service, so I was able to check out my surroundings.
Those pic and the route was awsome!!! I used to live for a couple of years in Dimond City, AR. Makes me want to get out some more myself. Just did 1000miles in the cage to visit my wifes grandma in the UP of MI. Having a10month baby she didn't think going on the cycle would be a good idea. Thanks for the pics.
OK, time to head North back to Chicago. I didn't sleep in today, and was up at sunrise. It was chilly 27??F, and my tent was frozen pretty solid. My Therm-a-Rest Prolite 4, and Big Agnes Storm King ??0 bag had kept me very warm and comfortable this whole trip, it was just in between the bag, and the bike (with a Gerbings jacket) that was cold. I wanted to wander my way North until I made it to I-44, I still left the GPS set to minor or unpaved roads, so I was excited to see where I'd end up, I didn't have a MO Atlas with me, so I was flying blind in a way... I had around 500 miles to get home, so the more I screwed around the later I'd get home. Low's to be in the 20's in Chicago tonight.... So be it.
The roads on the Ozark Scenic Riverways were great, but quite rough. I didn't take as many pics due to the terrain in places, and didn't stop as much.... I had to be home tonight...
Hard to really see it here, but the Current River I came up to lived up to it's name, being a large, deep, fast moving river that I couldn't cross here, so I turned around. I hate turning around.
I tracked back and found another route, by this time I felt like I had been screwing around trying to get through here and was wasting daylight. I needed to get moving North.
I went and scouted out a route, and it looked like I could do it..... but it was going to be close. Obviously my main concern was sucking water into the engine, since my intake is only about 2.5 feet off the ground. Current River Here I come! More than likely I would not try this if I didn't have a SPOT Messenger with me...
As I went past the big rock in the pic, the front end dropped down over 2 feet into the river and the force of the river hit me. I gassed it and held on, and it just kept getting deeper. ****! Engine sputters, must be taking in water I thought. I twist the throttle even more, the rear end beaks traction, but lifts the front end up and over the big rocks in the river. When the rear end slide out I slammed my butt back on the seat to get my feet down to keep from falling. The water was over my knee's. I remember feeling that I was moving forward and sideways from the current...... I'm still on the gas. going . going. Made it! Loose embankment... got it!
I reved the engine a few time to make sure it was cleared out and running OK. It was. The only thing was now my pants and boots were soaked, I took the boots off off and poured the water out. A minor inconvienience right now when it was almost 60??, but I just thought about later...... Whatever I'm unstoppable ! :ricky
So after riding a little ways I came up to this. Couldn't help but think how convenient one of these would have been a little while ago, since my inflated ego had been deflated from the feeling of wet itchy feet.
Back on pavement.
I can completely relate to the dog...
While stopping for fuel I met Doc from St. Louis. He was heading home now, just out for a day ride, and I decided to follow him on his "great" route home.
It turned out to be a good choice, he lead me through some great roads, the best in the area he said. We didn't really ride that hard because the roads had a lot of sand, and gravel on them, especially in corners. So we took a nice mellow pace, and it was a nice way to end the trip, really.
At 74?? it was the warmest I had been riding in since last year.... Perfect, too bad I had to go home...