Birthday ride 2014

18, Aug, 2014

Every May my wife and kids get out of school for the summer. Their work is over but mine is gearing up. They need me to spend time with them and entertain them. Yes, they find stuff do (quite a bit actually) but still need my time too. School starts in August and then my birthday comes right after. I take the day off work and celebrate getting some of my time back.

This year I decided to take the day riding east. I was thinking mostly Arkansas but was open to some Missouri if I ended up that direction. I started out heading up to Spavinaw, Summerfield Road, etc. then east on highway 20 out of Jay. I turned south and east through farm country until I got to Rogers. I missed the turn to highway 12 (which is a nice sweeping drive over the lake and through the trees) and ended up stuck going south through Rogers which turned into Springdale (later the edge of Fayetteville). I worked my way east and south until caught up to highway 16. I decided to take 16 to the Pig Trail (Highway 23) and get to the Oark cafe for lunch.

It’s a Monday morning so traffic is really light so you can get in a rhythm through the curves and enjoy. I wasn’t in a hurry so I rolled off the throttle when I caught up to a pickup on a curve with double yellows. I figured there’s a passing zone in a bit and I’ll go around then. He pulls to the edge of the road, sticks arm out the window and waves me around. I can see it’s clear and roll back on the throttle.

I turn south on to highway 23. After a little while, there’s a white car following me. He’s keeping up but staying back. We get half way through the mountain stretch and close up behind a semi. The semi immediately dives onto a gravel turn out and lets us pass. The pavement is built up so the trailer bounced pretty good when it dropped off the pavement. Good thing it was empty (or mostly). I’m thinking: “He didn’t really need to do that” but gave him a wave when I went on by. The turns got tighter and the white car was getting closer so I pulled over on the shoulder and let him go by. I’m still a bit rusty and this is the first serious trip on this bike since I put knobbies on it. I’m almost to my turn off anyway.

Turn east down highway 215 to Oark. Another beautiful ride along the Mulberry river and the clouds were keeping the heat away.

Special of the day: BLT with cucumber and tomato salad. Wash it down with an iced tea. It’s much quieter than the weekend. You can tell most of these are regulars.

I’ve been to the Oark Cafe 5 or 6 times and finally saved enough room for their world famous buttermilk pie. Mmmmm. I was halfway through before I remembered to take a picture (close call).

There was a couple from England riding coast to coast on dirt roads on TAT (Trans American Trail) when I went outside. They asked if I was local because they had a couple questions. I explained that I was out on a day trip but have been through the area several times. I tried to point them in the right direction. We talked for half and hour then it was time for everyone to get back on the road.

This guy was riding the TAT using some updated GPS routes. There’s a surveyor that’s helping Sam (TAT creator) update the outdated parts of the route (especially the western parts). He’s testing the updated route out. He’s been riding off and on with the couple from England.

I headed south just outside of Oark on highway 103. It’s a fun road that drops down into the valley. Any road that says “Steep and crooked road for next 9 miles” has to be fun. I stopped at the top of the biggest drop in elevation on the route and took a picture. I took the same shot with my SV650 the first time I rode 103.

I rode by a lake road sign and turned back to explore the road. About 1/4 mile later, I was at a small lake and the road halfway around the lake. It was a nice day so I parked and relaxed for a bit. It was nice feeling the wind, hearing the birds and faintly in the distance was Steve Perry singing. Steve Perry? Someone really must have been a big Journey fan to have it cranked up enough for me to hear it upwind with them far enough into the trees to not be seen.

I saw a gravel road heading back into the forest and headed down. I passed some houses (one of these probably was playing the music) and the trees got heavier. A fawn deer that had mostly lost its spots saw me coming and scrambled farther into the trees. I followed this road a little longer past some fields, more trees and some houses (some lived in and some abandoned) until it dumped me right back on to the middle highway 103.

I didn’t want to backtrack across the highways I just rode down. I was thinking about how to get across at some other road when I realized that I was heading at a 10mph cautionary switchback at 40mph. I grabbed the brakes and brought the bike to a stop in the opposite lane part way through the turn. I decided a little backtracking wasn’t so bad and got settled down in the next couple miles. I figured I could head south at highway 23 to the interstate if I wasn’t feeling it.

The rest of highway 103 was feeling good and I turned west to go back down highway 215 west of Oark. Halfway down 215, there’s a fawn with spots running down road in front of me. I roll off the gas and watch it try the rock wall before scrambling under the guard rail toward the river. A little farther down the road, run into the mowing crew that was taking lunch when I came through a couple hours earlier. Get past the mowers and run into some gravel in the middle of the road. I dodge it until there’s some more across the while I’m leaned over in a turn. The front wheel skids, I hang off the bike more to stand the bike up a bit more and keep rolling without letting off the gas.

The intersection of highway 23: South to the interstate or north back into the mountains/forest after all these issues? NORTH, no doubts. I’ve shaken the rust off, am focused on the ride and loving it. Best riding of the day from here until highway 412 (which was fine for a straight road heading home).

It tried to sprinkle a bit in Fayetteville but didn’t actually get rained on. I saw some damp pavement and puddles beside the road on highway 16 and highway 412 in Oklahoma. My wife asked me how much it rained on me today and was shocked when I said I didn’t get rained on at all because it poured for a while at home.