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

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