Noel was talking about riding Friday so I decided to take the day off so I could tag along. Then he comes back with something about a chainsaw, his left foot and some stitches so he can’t go. I guess he really doesn’t like riding with Suzukis. I decide that I’ve already taken the day off so I’ll just load up the tent and go on a trip anyway.
My wife wanted me to take her out on Thursday evening since I’ll be gone so I don’t get a chance to pack yet. Guess I’ll do it in the morning before I leave. In the morning, I take my daughter to daycare and then go pack. It’s an overnighter so how much time could that take to pack? I’m finally on the road around 9:30AM and heading down Hwy 412 on a Friday morning. It’s already better than going to work.
I have a paper map of Arkansas (I glanced at it once during the trip) but didn’t print off any other maps. I do have GPS and some map programs on my phone (assuming I can get some signal to download them) so I can get myself unlost if needed. I have a rough idea of what I want to do on this trip. I wasn’t going to plan this very much and we’ll pick some roads in the general direction. I knew I wanted to take the Peel Ferry, camp somewhere in the forest and wanted to ride Push Mountain Road. Everything else was negotiable.
It looked like going north around the lake would take me pretty far north and way too close to all the stuff around Branson so I decided to take Hwy 90 and then work south of the lake. Then I could work east and south around toward Mountain Home and on to Push Mountain.
I did the normal Spavinaw, Summerfield Road, etc. and on to Jay, OK. I caught up to a pickup going through Spavinaw so I pulled over and let him get ahead. I caught him again as the Horseshoe Curve tightened up. Guess I should have waited a little bit longer.
On to Noel, MO. It was 11:30 so I turned at the Hwy 59 junction to see if I could find any places to eat. I ran into this cafe with several cars in front of it (always a good sign when the locals fill the lot). Someone told me that there’s only two places to eat in Noel, MO but I saw at least 6 places including this one plus a couple older ones that were closed.
Mmm, fresh bacon cheeseburger and curly fries. The burger wasn’t a premade patty and the fries were hand cut. Good eating right before a lot of twisties. I paid up and headed back to Hwy 90 for some fun.
Most of the way to Washburn, MO and there’s a big thud as I was following a car. I’m not sure if it was big pothole or a rock or something falling off the car in front of me but it was a large jolt so I pulled over into a parking lot of store to see if I had damage. I couldn’t find any damage under the bike and the tires/wheels all looked fine. I look over in the parking lot and see a couple BMW GSs sitting at the store and wondered if they were heading somewhere today. I pull back onto Hwy 90 and have it to myself the rest of the way to Washburn. Turn south and then back east onto Hwy 112 which takes me into the Mark Twain National Forest and to the Roaring River State Park. I pulled over to see if there’s a way across without having to go all the way around. I look across the road and there’s Hwy F going the right way so off we go.
The next stretch is rolling through the hills and light traffic. I was going along and noticed that I’m farther than normal without the fuel warning light coming on. It finally comes on at 157 miles instead of the normal 135 miles (43MPG) running back and forth commuting down the expressways. I got 50.4MPG on that tank and the rest of the trip was 50MPG+. Guess I was keeping it in a higher gear and rolled on and off instead of winding it out. Maybe the bag on the rear seat was making it more aerodynamic.
I basically was choosing the northern part of my route to get to the Peel Ferry. I’ve never been on a ferry and this seemed like as good of a time as any to try it out. The Peel Ferry is free and the last of the four ferries that crossed Bull Shoals Lake. I passed several Harleys when I was less than 1/2 mile away so I figured they must have just unloaded the ferry. They just started loading as I came over the hill so I just rolled on behind the line of cars. We had room for one more car so we sat for about 5 minutes and then took off for the other side.
There was a retired couple parked behind me. The wife walked up and started asking where I was from and where I was going. She was very encouraging of my trip and talked most of the way across the lake. Her husband walked up when we were loading back up to get off the ferry. He looked at the Oklahoma plates and asked if I was heading for home. “Nah, still heading out”. He gives me a big smile and tells me to have a fun trip.
There’s the dock on the other side. There’s just one person on an R1 waiting to cross over to where we just came from.
A first for me. I dropped my street bike for the first time in nearly 25 years of riding. Yes, I’ve dropped, dumped, been thrown off, etc. on my dirt bikes many times but never dropped my street bike. I pulled into a gravel parking lot to double check where I wanted to turn south. I put my feet down and the bike started leaning left. I dug in harder but my foot just slid on the rocks as it slowly went on over. I hit the kill switch accidentally as it went the rest of the way down. I took my helmet off and gave it a good pull but didn’t have momentum to get it off the ground. I looked at the mirror and there was a guy walking up behind me. He reached down and grabbed the handlebars and picked it up. He was telling me that his dad is short and this happened to him sometimes. I thanked him and started an initial glance for damage. I turned and the guy had already walked back over to his truck. My mirrors were knocked out of whack but I couldn’t find any damage on the bike after I wiped all the white chalky dust off it. I’m glad I didn’t break my bike in Isabella, MO.
I turned south back toward Arkansas and Mountain Home. I stopped in Mountain Home, AR to get some water (I drained the camelback a couple hours earlier) and a flashlight at a convenience store since I forgot to grab one this morning. I headed south on Hwy 5 until I ran into Hwy 341 (Push Mountain Road). There’s a group of Harleys turning onto 341 in front of me from the other direction. I follow them through the first few turns and then I pulled off at a drive to let them get some distance. I had 341 to myself but it was 7:00PM so the sun was low enough to cast some good shadows on the road through the forest. I kept the pace a bit lower than I wanted because of the visibility.
I decided that I’d better find a place to camp while there was still some light to set up camp. There’s a sign saying wilderness area on a rocky trail heading back into the forest. I had to go a little over a mile to find a spot that looked good enough to make camp. As soon as I stop and take off my gear, I immediately get swarmed by buzzing insects. Some of them are biting but all of them are annoying. I quickly throw the tent up and try to stake the flys down but it’s pretty rocky. I grabbed a nearby rock to persuade my stakes to dig in enough to hold. The rock I grabbed was flint and shards broke off every time I hit the stakes. It’s supposed to be calm so I decided that staking the flys was good enough and jump into the tent to get away from the attacking insects. I grab a towel and wipe down and put on some fresh clothes. Now to get some food in my belly. I decide to take the easy way out and heat up some soup for supper. I open the zipper far enough to stick my stove out of the tent and fire it up (gotta love canister stoves with ignitors). I ate my soup and called my wife (3 or 4 bars on the Edge network in my tent) to let her know that I was safe and heading to bed.
The moon was so bright and clear that it seemed like someone left the light on. The night life was making a lot of racket but I didn’t hear anything crashing through the trees nearby so I wasn’t too worried. The bugs/birds/whatever finally annoyed me enough to go get my earplugs out of my tank bag. The temp dropped enough to get in the bag and I fell into a deep sleep.
I woke up at 5:30AM and thought “I’m not in that big of a hurry to get home yet” and fell right back to sleep. I wake up again at 7:30AM and am ready to get moving again. I make some hot cocoa and eat a granola bar for breakfast. It takes me a little over an hour from waking up until I’m pulling out to go. Back down the rock road to the last stretch of Hwy 341. My steering is feeling really heavy and I think my front tire is low/flat and I’m thinking that the sharp flint rocks cut my tire. I check the tire and it’s fine but coated in a bunch of white powder from the rocky trail. I go around a couple corners and carefully scrub the dust off the tires and it’s feeling normal again. Whew. I finished Hwy 341 and headed west on Hwy 14.
I was wondering how many small towns I’d have to go through until I found an open gas station on a Saturday morning when I got to Big Flat, AR with all the boarded up buildings on Main. I get to the other side of town and there’s a newer gas station/convenience store that was open. The white haired (and bushy white beard) husband and wife running the store asked me where I was heading and came from. I told them how I came from OK the day before and camped in the forest. “Weren’t you worried about the bears?” I said that I wasn’t too worried about it. “Yeah, I used to sleep out in the forest without a tent when I was younger. You’d probably be fine as long as you don’t get between a mother and her cubs”. We talked for 20 minutes or so before I decided to get back on the road.
Not a lot of pictures from here on out because it was just wandering through some mountains and valleys. I was going down Hwy 65 and realized that it was heading north around a bunch of mountains that were on my left. I decided to double back to Hwy 74 since it was heading right into the mountains. It was a fun road comes to a T without any warning. I quickly grab some brakes and take the south route down Hwy 377. More winding through the hills with the occasional clearing across the ridges.
I run into Hwy 16 and know it will get me home. I’m familiar with it west of Hwy 23 and decide to see how this part of it is. It was a lot of winding through the hills with a bunch of 30MPH cautionary curves so just roll on and off the gas for a while. I see some burned ditches and trees as I got farther along. I smell some smoke as I come around a corner to see some state workers keeping an eye on a smoldering ditch. I pass through some more small towns and start wondering where I can stop for lunch. I see a sign for the Hwy 23 junction and realize that I could be at Oark Cafe around 12:30PM. The special was a pulled pork sandwich with baked beans and homemade potato salad. Mmmm
The rest of the trip was fairly uneventful until I got back to Oklahoma. I was going down Scenic 412 through Kansas, OK. The speed limit was 45MPH and it looked like we were out of town so I got back up to speed. I met a cop and he tells me that he clocked me doing 59 in a 45. I told him that I thought it was 55 again (Really did think that, not a story). He takes my license and insurance and goes to his car. I breath a sign of relief when he gets out of his car without his ticket book. “I’m cutting you a break and letting you go. Slow it down”. He follows me for a few miles and turns off down a country road. I’m not sure if he was checking my speed or waiting to see if a warrant or something comes back over the radio.
I added 725 miles to the bike, did my first primitive camping, dropped my bike and avoided an expensive ticket (2nd time in my life I’ve been pulled over on a bike). I had a good time and am getting better at traveling some distance on two wheels.