I had been on the road for a week when THIS adventure started in Dayton, my former hometown. My companion is brand new to motorcycle touring. Her bright red K75S was polished to perfection, new tires were fitted and all maintenance was current thanks to Jeff, the head wrench of BMW TriState. Jeff's work I TRUST.
Hunter S. Thompson, write of many well know counter culture books once rode with the Hell's Angels and wrote a book about their own little subculture. Not much of what he wrote about the Angels applies to us, but this particular statement sticks in my mind, twenty years after I last read the book. "You are either getting ready to go on a run, on a run or cleaning up after a run." My Rockster hasn't been gathering dust lately. I would have liked to have repacked the exhaust can, but had neither the tools nor the materials. The bike got loud on a previous high speed run this trip as the exhaust packing went west as I was headed east. Now I am just another squid on a sport bike.
I feel like a mentor as we go over packing lists and equipment selection. We are going light, so one H2W bag contained a tent, two campact sleeping bags and foam pads, with everything else is in saddlebags. Finally, after a leasurely breakfast, last minute phone calls and a full tank of premium we are off, a 2004 Rockster with a veteran long distance tourer and a tenderfoot on her first long ride,
US 35 out of Dayton is OK until it merged with the I-70 insanity. Tailgating trucks, and Indiana state representatives giving performance awards every few milies convinced us to get off the slab and onto side roads as soon as possible. Indiana 3 lead us to Rushville and pleasant farm country until we found SR 56. Louisville was skirted to the north, then on to the Lincoln trail, going west along the Ohio River in the afternoon rain. As we go west, I notice we are being pursued by a lone cruiser. He catches us outside a rural market and joins us as we break. His bike is a new Honda VTX cruiser, with 11k miles since the fall and he is on the way back from some computer consulting work. He looked at BMW's but was detured by the lack of a close dealer, nearest to him is Revard in Indy, three hours away. My companion is a trained listener and he reveals for more about himself then he realizes. He would make a good member of the BMW family and we urged him to visit vintage days at Mid-Ohio in a few weeks.
Since it is getting late in the evening, we make a run for the far southwest corner of Indiana at the junction of the Ohio and Wabash rivers hoping to find camping at a state wildlife management area. We find the area, in the middle of swampy fields filled with oil wells and sulfer flares. No camping, so we beat it back to US 62 and a small, independent hotel. It must have been a nice place until the interstate went in a few miles north. The female desk clerk in the 50's shows high anxiety to us in our riding gear but we suceed in getting a clean, low cost room with decent furniture and a hot shower. This will be the last shower we would see on this trip. The continental breakfast is minimal with homemade muffins and overripe fruit.
We cross the Wabash on a toll bridge and enter Illinois on SR1 headed towards the Cave in the Rocks ferry and very rural North West Kentucky. Cave in the Rocks ferry is a type I have never ridden on before. This one is a barge and a cute little tow boat and a VERY good pilot. I am amazed by how easily he can flip and turn the tow and barge; the front of the tow is mounted on the middle of the barge. The deck hand however is working hard, adjusting ramps and moving chains on every docking. A fee for the ferry man was expected, but none was required.
The roads in rural far northwest Kentucky are wonderful motorcycle roads, small, twisty and empty, ideal for lightweight sport touring bikes with generous fuel tanks. Gas is far between in these parts. We reject the first station since premium isn't available and wonder towards Paducah Kentucky. At about 10 am, we see a liquor store and stop. We buy fifth of good whiskey before we enter the dry areas of Missouri and Arkansas. We watch the rain come down with our feet stretched out. A view of humanity from the porch of a liquor store is certainly a different view.
We keep heading towards Cairo, Illinois on a two lane highway, slowly, though flat wooded land, finally the bridges come into view across wide, flat semi-flooded land, a vast river bottom. This river used to have firm banks and a central channel. Then the river boats took all the trees for steam and the banks became soft and the river spread. But the land is fertile. We cross a pair of two lane bridges and we are in the Missouri bootheel. A rich farming land with beautiful green fields of rice, corn and soybeans. This won't change to almost north central Arkansas when the land rises into the Ozarks. We stop at a little diner, well off the interstate, the only non-locals in for lunch for catfish and fried baloney sandwiches. Good southern food.
Moving across this flat farm land is slow, hot and boring. As we get toward the resort regions of north central Arkansas, the traffic buiilds for the holiday weekend. Finally we are at the first big Corps of Engineers lake in north central Arkansas, it is dinner time, we are tired and are looking for a good camping site. We reject the first area we see because of conflicting signs and a poorly tended dirt road.
We find a pleasant looking commercial campground with lake frontage. We stop at the front gate, shut the bikes off, remove out helmets and gloves and ask for a tent site. After a few minutes, a man in a golf cart shows us a beautiful tent site well away from the RV's and other large camping equipment. We accept the site. I set the tent up, my companion goes to the office to pay the $20 fee, typical for a tent site, I paid $18 earlier in the week at the Hungry Mother State Park and $31 a night in Asheville, NC. There is a downed tree near by and in a few minutes we have small camp fire going.
The man who showed up the campsite shows back up in the golf cart and notifies us that an error had been made in renting us this pretty site and shows us a rocky, hilly, noisy, crowded and cramped area instead. We refuse since we like the site we have and seeing no reason why the campgrounds office error is our problem. The campground manager comes down boiling in anger. Suddenly we have four campground managers screaming and threatening us. We stand our ground. They threaten to call the sheriff. We offer to make the call. They depart.
As dusk, the sheriff does arrive and tells us we are on private property and must leave. I mention the hotel and hostelry laws and that this is a public accommodation. The sheriff tells us these are BAD people, makes a radio call and finds us another place to sleep on the Friday evening before the 4th of July Holiday. We pack in minutes, get a refund and leave just at dark. The substitute campground is small and not set up for tenters, we find a grassy spot in front of the new pump house.
The owner of this campground is extremely nice and we talk for a while about his campground and the one we just left. Turns out the other campground is in severe trouble with the Corps of Engineers for selling time shares on rented public property and have become an embarrassment to the whole growing resort area. We set back up just before the rain, settle into the warm tent, sip some fine whiskey. We discuss the evenings entertainment and most importantly how we handled the situation and how our relative ex-spouses would have reacted in a much more negative fashion with much screaming and yelling. We fall into a deep sleep as the area gets lashed with heavy rain and high winds.
see part 2 for continuation