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

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