Monday, May 29, 2006

Ft Smith, Arkansas to Conway, Arkansas

The second day of a two day trip is usually all about getting home to relax. For the second part of my Memorial Day trip I thought I would try something different. I got into Ft Smith on Saturday, got a hotel room early and did a little site seeing. I had a great day and any tension or anxiety I was experiencing from my non-riding life was completely out of my mind. My plan for Sunday was to get over to the Ft Smith National Historic Site early, when no one was around. I had a good night's sleep so I got up at 6:30, showered and headed the few blocks to the park. I walked the paved sidewalk trail that ran along the Arkansas River. The park is small and right downtown. It's okay but a pretty small National Park compared to most I've been to. There's not a lot to it. There is one part of the park that is really touching and sad however. The Trail of Tears overlook has five small signs explaining how many tribes from around the U.S. were herded up and forced into exile in Oklahoma. All of the tribes lost thousands of their people with one group actually losing half of it's member's. It's a pretty shameful story. the thing that stood out to me is to see a picture of the wealthy land owners who had been forced from their homes in Georgia. It just brought home the fact that these were productive, intergrated citizens that lost everything. It was not our greatest moment as a nation.

By the time I had done a walk around the park clouds were gathering to the west and I decided it was time to check out and get back to Conway. I picked SR 64 for the return trip. It runs parallel to I-40 but twists both north and south. It looked pretty fun on a map. It turned out to be fun on the 1:1 version as well. The great thing about the road was it went through enough small towns to keep things interesting but still covered a lot of secluded back country. Traffic was typically light, I guess as 64 runs along I-40 most people opt to take the boring route.

Maybe the best aspect of this ride was the fact that I came out in Russellville, where I usually head south. I got to see the park around Lake Dardanelle for the first time. It was such a nice area I turned around to stop and get some pictures of the bike. The return trip, instead of being a race back, was actually as enjoyable as the first leg the day before.

Second Day Mileage - 136

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Conway, Arkansas to Ft Smith, Arkansas

For this ride I decided to visit Ft Smith over the Memorial Day weekend. I thought I would follow a route I've been across a few times before. I started out on SR 64. Making my way to Russellville was familiar but not boring. The small towns between Conway and Russellville are quaint and the scenery is always outstanding. Riding is always relaxing to me once out of town. Conway is really full of the worst drivers I've ever encountered. Once out of the city limits that all changes.

Once in Russellville I took a left at AR 7 and headed south to Dardanelle where you hang a right on AR 22 and proceed west again. Like most roads in this part of the state, there isn't a lot around. Very small towns like Liberty and Carbon City are spread out frequently but you don't see a lot of traffic. I was surprised at the lack of holiday travel. 22 passes by several recreational areas and there weren't the lines of slow moving R.V.s I had anticipated seeing.

I passed by the Subiaco Abbey again and stopped for lunch at the Grapevine Restaurant in Paris. I've eaten there a few times and it never fails to please. The staff is super friendly, the menu varied and the food delicious. Once through Paris I hit uncharted territory as I had turned south for Mt Magazine on the previous trips. This portion of route 22 looked pretty similar to the first part which is to say a great ride. There was an interesting stop in Charleston I made. The story of Charleston National Commemorative Site is a pretty good one especially after Lisa and I visited Little Rock Central High School a few weeks ago. Where the Little Rock School Board rejected the ruling of the Supreme Court in Brown vs. the Board of Education, Charleston on the other hand voted almost immediately to integrate. It was apparently a great success and used as a model for several surrounding communities. Not enough followed their example though.

Finding the Ft Smith National Historic Site was easy enough. Route 22 went right into the downtown area and past the park. Like most traffic signs in Arkansas, the familiar brown and white national parks signs are just far enough apart to make you wonder if you missed your turn. I'm use to more frequent signs and this has been a complaint of mine since I got to Arkansas. As I needed a bottle of water (the temperature was 92!) I stopped at a gas station and asked the clerk for directions. I'm not too proud to ask despite what my fiancé says. I drove through the main street of Ft Smith, the town, which looked like so many other towns across the US. It was a mix of closed department stores, bars, lawyer offices and banks. I had merged onto SR 64 again and was headed toward the Arkansas River. After checking the hours of the park I decided to find a hotel. There are a few clean looking places to stay and I lucked out, finding a room at the Howard Johnson's. A rodeo was in town and rooms were going fast.

After resting up and cooling down I decided to ride into Oklahoma to see what it looks like in this area. I have spent some time in other areas of Oklahoma and know from experience it's a pretty state with several different terrain types depending on what part you're in. Everything in this part of the country is bursting green at this time of the year. With as little rainfall as the area seems to get, I imagine in a few months it will all be brown. For now it was beautiful. I passed a small local motocross race track the was buzzing with activity. I rode back to Ft Smith, had a bland dinner at the hotel restaurant and headed back to the track. It was a regional race with the winner moving on to the national finals, although I'm not sure for what organization. I'll post an article about this race in a few days.

I was dead tire by about 8:30 so I decided to skip the final races and head back to the hotel. I checked out the 1/2 price beer offer in the bar and watched a local cover band play. The half price Fat Tire was good, the band wasn't. By the second beer I was ready for bed. My head hit the pillow and I was out. It had been a great day with some satisfying riding and a few fun diversions, and I hadn't even been to the park yet. I've decided to break this trip up into two posts, so I'll cover the return trip in the next installment.

1st day miles - 140

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Conway, Arkansas to Hot Springs, Arkansas

I left for a ride yesterday morning headed to Perryville, Arkansas. There was a motorcycle festival at the Perry County Fairgrounds. I'm not really into mass gatherings like that. I don't have any desire to go to Sturgis or Daytona Bike week but I've never been to one of these events so I thought I would check it out. I left around 9:00 o'clock headed west on Arkansas route 60 toward Toad Suck Park. The park occupies both banks of the Arkansas river and on this Saturday it was filled with campers, picnic'ers and fishermen. AR 60 is another fun Arkansas road. I haven't met a bad road in this state yet. Traffic was light and the going was just slightly faster than the speed limit of 55 with no problems. The problems only started once I got to Perryville. The dozens of motorcycles cruising past the town hall square told me I was in the right place. I parked in the public library lot and walked around for a bit. It was in the low nineties and sunny so I began sweating profusely. I walked around, checked out the custom car show, paid way too much for a lemonade and headed towards the fairgrounds. I paid five dollars for the entry fee, walked around some of the vendor's booths searching for a hat to protect my bald head from the sun. I didn't have much to choose from and decided to risk it without one. Big mistake. I walked around for a total of ten minutes and decided to head back to the air-conditioned hotel. I was feeling pretty ill.

Today I got up with an unsatisfied desire to ride. I decided to leave the camera at home and just ride. It was slightly cooler this morning. The roads around Perryville looked interesting so I decided to retrace my route. Once into Perryville I headed down AR 9 south toward Hot Springs. What a beautiful road! This part of Arkansas is sparsely populated with well maintained roads. The route cuts through the Ouachita National Forest which is full of pine trees and gorgeous scenery to spare.

I hit AR 5 and followed it west into Hot Springs. I've been to Hot Springs before, it's a beautiful old town with an interesting history and several historic buildings, several of the old bath houses are now part of Hot Springs National Park. It's a great down town to walk around and spend a day. But not today, I was having too good a time riding. I did a pass through downtown and tried to find SR 70 out of town. One thing I've noticed about Arkansas is the lack of traffic signs. I'm pretty good at finding my way around but on more than one trip I've had to do some searching for the right road. The rest of the trip was uneventful. SR 70 is a three lane highway, with the passing lane alternating between sides. The traffic was exceeding the speed limit and the side roads just dump right on to the highway. It's a frantic road with cars making left hand turns frequently, with little notice. The rest of the trip up I-30, I-430 and I-40 were pretty much the same.

This ride was so much better than Saturday's. I did something I haven't done in awhile, left the tank bag, and camera behind. I didn't have a destination picked and it turned out to be the best ride I've had in a long time.

Miles - 161

Monday, May 15, 2006

Radial Engined Bike

From The

The radial engine is a thing of beauty and it looks like several other folks think the same thing. After we posted the radial motorcycle yesterday, we contacted Rotec Engineering, makers of these 7 cylinder radial engines, and according to them, there are at least 4 of these projects in various stages of completion at the present time.

The rest of the story is here.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Conway, Arkansas to Buffalo National River, Arkansas

Today's ride was probably the best in Arkansas yet. My lovely fiancé, Lisa visited last weekend so I didn't get a chance to ride. We did get to do some traveling. We went to Memphis and visited Graceland, which was a lot of fun. I was itching to ride all week though. The weather forecasts were all looking good for the weekend and I was so excited to ride I almost couldn't get to sleep soon enough. Some where in the early morning I heard thunder and lightning outside. I drifted off thinking the ride was a lost cause. I woke up again around 6:30 and checked the Weather Channel and local news to see that the rain was moving out. By the time I got dressed and ready the roads were semi-dry. I took my rainsuit just in case.

I had to hit the Village Inn on my way out of town. After the breakfast stop I headed north on SR 65 at 9:30 am. This is the same road I followed to get to the Natural Bridge so there weren't any surprises for the first 40 miles or so. That quickly changed after I passed the turn off to the Natural Bridge and hit uncharted territory. It's not just that the SR 65 became new to me but the road and terrain became an almost perfect motorcycle road. I very rarely speed but this sweeping, swooping road begged for it. For about twenty miles it was just me headed north. Everyone else was going the opposite direction. The blacktop was smooth for the most part, some sections were grooved but nothing unruly at moderate speeds. There were no towns to slow my progress (for most of the time anyway) so it was just one hill to climb after another. The curves were nice long high speed sweepers with subtle but effective banking. The scenery was perfect for the slightly more than legal speeds I was doing too. There were plentiful trees with nothing to distract me from the task of riding. It was definitely pretty but didn't offer a lot that you couldn't appreciate with more than just your peripheral vision. Somewhere around Grinder's Ferry I saw a few canoe rental companies loading up old school busses of tourists. The congestion caused me to slow down, which allowed me to see the sign for Buffalo National River. Lisa and I have National Park Passports and I'm always on the lookout for a place to get a stamp. I stopped at the vistor center, got my book stamped and as an added bonus the woman at the desk gave me a better route to take than what I had originally planned.

I stopped in the park to get some pictures. There were a lot of kids and adults getting ready to raft down the river. It looked like everyone was having a great time.

I got back on SR 65 and headed for Bellefonte where I jumped on to Arkansas 206, a nice two lane country road. I didn't go all the way to Harrison Arkansas as I had originally intended because the road the clerk at the visitor center suggested looked a lot more twisty. It was too, with a couple ninety degree turns. I hadn't rode a stretch like that since California. It was a fast 8 miles to Arkansas 7, the scenic byway. This road lived up to the title. It was as good as SR 65 with the one drawback of traffic. This road unlike 65 was two lanes with few passing opportunities. Once again I found myself riding a little faster than usual until I would catch up with a line of site-seers. Everyone was keeping the speed up though so it wasn't a big problem.

I passed an old theme park in the middle of nowhere called "Dogpatch" judging from the design of the buildings it was apparently based on the Lil Abner comic strip. I guess not enough people follow Lil Abner anymore to support the park. It's a shame it was gated and locked up as it looked pretty interesting. I made a stop at a Conoco station in Jasper for a slice of pizza and a Mountain Dew and a few more pictures before heading on. I was getting a little stiff by this time, I had reached the point in the ride when I was looking toward home. Scenic 7 kept my interest for the next 76 miles though. I was headed to I-40 at Russellville for the 40 mile dash back to Conway. 7 was filled with motorcycles headed in both directions. It was a perfect day weatherwise and it was great to see everyone taking advantage of it. There were mostly Harleys, metric cruisers and Goldwings. As fun as AR 7 was I was surprised to see only two sport bikes (an R1 and CBR1000 riding together).

The ride on I-40 was the usual interstate experience, crowded and hectic. Thankfully the 40 miles went fast and I got back to the hotel at 4:30 pm, feeling satisfied and relaxed as I usually do after a great ride like this.

Miles - 248