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Arkansas Traveler


Jul 8, 2007
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N. Houston
"Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure or nothing. To keep our faces foward and behave like free spirits in the presence of fate is strength undefeatable."—Helen Keller


"Life is…a fatal adventure. It can have only one end. So why not make it as far ranging and free as possible?"—Alexander Eliot

With thoughts like that continually strolling around in my mind, I decided it had been too long since I had “behaved like a free spirit in the presence of fate”. I need to go off on another solo adventure.

So on Wed. July 11, I put in my mind to leave by the next morning on my first camping trip and my longest motorcycle trip – and solo as usual. I worked late into the night, but managed three hours of sleep and then woke to load the bike and take off. My only plan was to get to Arkansas. Once there, I would let the weather, roads, and rivers dictate my wanderings (in that order). 1800+ miles, camping (2 motel nights) and many people with many stories they shared with me. Many roads and many sights. Too much for a ride report, really.

Below are a few maps of the routes I took each day with a bit of explanation and a couple more photos following. No day was a marathon day. The first was probably the longest at 387 miles. My traveling days were not meant to be an exercise in distance, but rather a discipline in “seeing” that which I often overlook and hearing those I often ignore. It was more about wandering than arriving and more about gaining some confidence after a year of losing.

After the maps – a few photos with short explanations. Then a list of some things I learned.


I wasn’t sure what route I would take, but I had heard someone say 259 all the way to the Talimena Parkway was the quickest, so that is what I did. I ended up camping (for the first time since I was 4) at Beaver’s Bend State Park on Broken Bow Lake. I pulled in when it was almost dark, but got a great spot. There were even showers. I wasn’t sure if campgrounds had them or not. Later I found out that some do not, and I learned the art of bathing by an outdoor faucet, a sink, or a river. Lots of stories, but not enough bandwidth here!

My campsite


I hung this every night from the center of my tent as a reminder

A clean tent.

The next morning – a look at the lake below my tent. The fog was beautiful.


I felt great waking from my first night on the ground (air mattress). I thought I would probably head further north to make sure I was away from rain. First, though I had to try out the camp showers. Nice. Really. I was surprised. But I was more surprised when I stepped out of the showers to find rain coming down in buckets. I went back to my tent and sat, and sat, and sat. Finally, when it began to let up, I started packing up. A ranger came along and asked if I had any experience riding in the rain because it was raining everywhere. Disappointment set in, but since I didn’t have an agenda or an itinerary, it didn’t matter. Just point me in the direction where I will be out of rain the soonest. He called a dispatcher and said if I would continue on north, I would be out of rain within 1-2 hours. Cool. I loaded up.

The on again, off again rain and heat and humidity was frustrating and tiring. Getting only three hours of sleep two nights before and then difficulty falling to sleep in a tent the night before left me pretty tired. Plus the continual concentration can really drain you more than you realize at the time. Fighting rain, wet roads, and fatigue had me stopping in Smithville just to regroup and get out of the rain for a while. That is where I bought my Arkansas map and started getting an idea of where I would end up. I noticed a town in Oklahoma named Muse, so being a bit of a mystic, I decide to take a detour to Muse before I continued on my trip. (Yes, I was amused)


Then I was on my way to the Talimena Parkway. I never saw another car or bike on it. I must have hit Arkansas at just the right time, because there were hardly any people on the great motorcycle roads. After a while all the vista/scenic overlooks began to look alike, so I just rode like the wind and enjoyed every twist and turn and climb and descent. I would recommend the parkway. However, I found the overlooks to be disappointing because often you couldn’t see over the ‘foreground’ of bushes/trees to see the background. Maybe it just hasn’t been cut in a while because of all the rain.




At the end of the Parkway is a state park called Wilhilmina. It’s very nice and had this cool train there




Once in Mena, I looked for a place to stay because I wanted to head north. However, there were no rooms left, so back on the road – to Hot Springs.

I took 88 to 270 into Hot Springs. 88 was a nice road and I would ride it again. It was dark by the time I left Mena, so camping was out of the question and I had also split open my knee while photographing in Wilhilmena park, so I needed a place where I could do some “doctoring”.

I didn’t care for Hot Springs, however I did ride up and down the main streets of town a couple of times looking for a place to sleep. There were absolutely no vacancies in the whole town. I have no idea what was going on in town, but I was tired and wanted to sleep. It was 10:30 when I checked the last place. Finally, someone sent me to Malvern saying I could probably find a place there. I stopped at the first place I came to and sure enough they had a room for me. She was kind to put me on the end and even let me park my bike up right close to the room. Like I said, I didn’t care for Hot Springs and probably would not go back there.


Day 3 and Day 4


The motel room gave me the opportunity to check the weather channel. It seemed I would stay pretty dry if I stayed north of 40 and west of 7. I had heard mixed comments about scenic highway 7, but since there was so little traffic everywhere else (except Hot Springs) I decided to give 7 a try. I am soooo glad I did. It was absolutely one of the most fun rides I’ve taken on my bike. Not many people, but some. I met some interesting characters at stops along the way on 7. It’s a real motorcycle road, for sure.

Meet Terry and “Seven” Smith (I think that is his last name). He goes around promoting motorcycle safety on this purple Cajun machine with his dog “Seven”.





Terry rescued Seven from hwy 7 two years ago when he looked like this:


He got him healthy and at the time I met Seven, he had been 28,000 miles with Terry on that bike. He rides leashed in the pillion seat, not the cage. He has been in commercials and filmed with several different celebrities (including me)! He only wears his helmet in the winter though.


Sort of reluctantly (and I can understand why!) Terry handed me the traditional Mardis Gras beads that he gives out to rally attendees in Louisiana……… usually men, of course. He said, “Well, I always give these out, but uhm, well, um,,……. You can have these, but you probably shouldn’t wear them while you are up here riding and camping alone.” Right.

I talked with Terry for about an hour and then had some conversations with other riders all through out the day. Lots of comments about the BMW – but I never saw another one……. Until, I passed one on 7.

Next campsite Petite Jean




After a late start in the a.m., I loaded up again (getting better at packing each time) and headed further north to avoid rain again. This time I stayed on 7 some more and ended up having a game of ‘chase’ with some squids (not my choice).

I went to Lost Valley Campground. What a pretty place. I staked my claim on site #2 and set up my tent, but left my bike pretty much loaded because I was in a hurry since I wanted to go fishing on the Buffalo River. Lost Valley is right across from an Elk Preserve where they were reintroduced in the 80’s – and thriving. One thing I noticed about Arkansas however, is that they do not have a lot of places to pull over on the side of the road. No shoulders at all. That’s frustrating for someone who wants to take pictures along the way. So I never did get any photos of the Elk. This is a pull out for the Elk Preserve, but they are usually not at this spot – and never during the heat of the day. They are usually about 300 yards down where there is no pull out.




So off I go to the Buffalo River – just one mile down the road. Lots of stares came my way when I pulled up on my bike and offloaded a fly rod, fishing pack, water, and camera gear. A few were fishing right at the bridge with regular fishing tackle. I slipped into my wading gear in the restroom and then loaded with gear slung around neck, shoulders, and waist I walked past them, stepped into the water and just kept walking up stream for about 1.5 miles. There I was in complete solitude and was able to go swimming in the deeper holes and fishing as well. The water was low (surprising to me since they had so much rain) and was not running very fast. I knew there would not be trout in this area because the water was too warm. But there were a lot of bluegill. Look at this guy:


(should have moved that rock blocking his mouth)

Those are his natural colors – no photoshop done at all. The water is pretty clear but the rocks all have a golden color so it gives the river a golden look.



deep swimming holes



And there was this mystery fish/amphibian which I “speared”.

My ego deflated when I got it out of the water and realized it was not a fish after all.

After fishing for a few hours and catching/releasing, I got back on the bike and headed to Jasper on 74. 74 is an awesome road and I enjoyed riding it as many times as I did. I would always ride it again. In jasper I intended to pick up cell service and some water and wash some clothes. It was getting dark when I finished, so I headed back toward Ponca and Lost Valley over the mountain. Buckets of rain started to fall on me. It was very frightening trying to maneuver those mountain roads with water, mud, and gravel rushing over them and gusts of wind hitting me in the bends. I made it back to Lost Valley Campground, but the area where my tent was set up was slopping mud. I decided to park under the pavilion and move my tent up there for the night. While setting up camp under there I met James and Cristine – a young boy/girlfriend who just graduated from high school out on their second extended camping trip (from Dallas). I didn’t realize parents let kids do that ………. My parents never would have.



The rangers were not happy in the morning when they found me there. We had a discussion and then I was on my way…….. but dry!




Day five was spent mostly just riding and checking out two places for a possible gathering of some riding friends.

I headed north to Eureka Springs and found the Riders Rest – a motorcycle only motel. $45/night for a double or a single. Covered parking for the bikes and a pavilion/bar/grill – but it's "bring your own".





After checking out Eureka Springs and the historic district, I headed south on 23 to ride the Pig Trail – Arkansas’ version of the Dragon’s Tail.

First I saw the nice barn. I stopped to get a picture and the next thing I know I’m surrounded by chickens and roosters. I had to stop traffic to keep them from being hit. Eventually, I crossed the road with them to keep them on the barn side of the road.\







Finally down to the Pig Trail. It really was a nice road. Lots of ascents and descents and lots of twists and turns. I rode it twice and saw a total of 2 trucks and 2 cars. It is very shaded with huge trees hanging over the roads so that was a nice break from the heat of the day. Definitely ride 23 north of Ozark if you ever go to Arkansas.

I stopped at this little motel in Ozark. Not camping tonight because I arrived late again, and I intended to visit the wine country of Altus the next a.m. anyway. This is a nice place. Also $45/night and they cater to motorcycles as well. A sweet older couple run this place and are quite fun. They put this sign up when I arrived, I think - hoping I'd do the chores.


Here’s the motel


And the Arkansas river bridge in Ozark at night

I’m parked in a not so good area to get that bridge picture. Is that Venus near the crescent moon in this picture?


It would be easier getting rooms here rather than Biker’s Rest and she has plenty of openings for the fall if any are interested. It is close enough to some good riding and also only 15 miles from Altus, the wine country of Arkansas.

Day Six


Day Six was a long day starting with taking a look around Ozark and then the “wine country” area of Arkansas.

Having toured the wine country of California, I was a bit disappointed. However, to be fair, I did not even taste any wine because I rarely eat meals when I travel by mc, so I did not need to be drinking wine while traveling on an empty stomach. So, maybe they are really very good in taste – but just not as pretty as the vineyards of CA. There are several (maybe 5-7) vineyards right within that area.

View of the area from a hill above


On the way to the vineyards, however, I did find this really pretty church and since my “signature photos” have somehow become churches…… well, I couldn’t let you down. I have no idea what all the different paintings and pieces of furniture or accoutrements signify, but they are pretty, right?





Then I started my slow return toward home. I needed to hurry to the next place to camp. Late again – too many sights along the way and people to talk to. But eventually I made it to a State Park south of Mena called Collcott (I may have missed that spelling).

On the way, I met Theona – a real live hippy who lives alone with 4 boys under 10 in a house she and her husband built while he was still living with her. However, they still do not have running water. She told me all about her life and I enjoyed listening to her stories and was amazed at her stamina. She on the other hand is waiting for her boys to grow up so she too can get a BMW and travel. We had a good time visiting.


Then there was Bob and Sandy and their dog Ziggy. I had put a pair of earrings in the day before and one of them is such that it does not fit right in my left ear. But, I forgot to check and so it ended up in the left ear. I could not get it out and every time I removed my helmet it would rip or pull or get stuck in the helmet. After two days of this I was miserable. Finally at a rest stop I saw Bob with a truck that looked like it carried tools. So I asked if he had some wire cutters. Sure. So I held on to Ziggy while he dug around for wire cutters. Found, he handed them to me and asked If there was something wrong with the BMW. “Oh no, nothing wrong with the bike. I just can’t get this earring out of my ear and I need to cut it out.” He went pale and begged me to wait for his wife to return from the restroom. I assured him I could do it with my mirrors, but he was just getting more frantic, so I waited for Sandy. She wanted to try to salvage the earring. I knew there was no saving it. So after pushing and pulling and finally drawing blood, she realized that cutting them was the only way to go. So one snip and I was finally free and they were tossed in the can next to us. We talked a while and they shared some stories with me and then we parted ways. What a neat couple they were.


Finally – I arrive to camp after coming through some rain. It’s not fun setting up camp in drizzling rain or a hard rain for that matter. (you can see the peanut butter in there if you look. My sustenance and addiction






It was a pretty place, but I needed to clean up the tent quite a bit from all the rain and mud, so I took off after 10 and took my time getting to Daingerfield, Texas. I returned over the Talimena Parkway, but it was raining off and on and steam was rising off the pavement. It cleared eventually and I got these shots.




I stopped by Beavers Bend again just because I wanted to see it during the daylight – minus the rain.




Next – Daingerfield State Park and fishing again. I crossed the Red River and made record time because I was able to travel pretty fast along those long stretches of road


The park is nice and has some good shaded spots and a nice lake for fishing.







And did I mention fish?


Day 8 – and I don’t want to go home




Rolling through Tyler

A highlight along the way though, was Ben. We met at a gas station and he told me stories about growing up in East Texas. He hangs out at a gas station and just opens doors for people just to have contact with them. But this isn’t his town. He lives a few miles away. He told me he comes here so people won’t talk about him so much. Then he warned me that there was probably people talking right now about the fact that “hat man wuz talkin’ to a white girl, and what people gonna say ‘bout dat?” He told me left Texas for economic reasons – he couldn’t make money there and so he joined the Army and went to Vietnam. Then for 40 years he lived and worked in Colorado and came BACK to Texas for economic reasons – it’s cheaper to live here once retired. He thought that was an interesting point he made and stressed it a few times. He listens to Lou Dobbs every day, and so I got an earful of Patrick’s Playhouse stuff while we visited. He was glad when I asked if I could take his photo.


The trip home from there was spent reviewing in my mind things I would do differently and things I learned. I'll share:
1) I need to learn how to build a fire
2) I need to spend less time traveling and more time meeting people and listening to their stories
3) I need a voice recorder
4) I need better rain gear
5) Traveling w/o an agenda is wonderful and usually works out fine
6) There are few things necessary
7) Darkness does not mean "bedtime" to me - that's a problem when camping in desolate places w/o electricity or fire or a companion/friend/SO/spouse/someone, or something to do.
8 Load the bike evenly - not necessarily "neatly". the first day it was neatly packed but the weight was not evenly distributed.
9) Hydration pack!
10) The first aid kit needs to include antibiotic ointments. I injured a knee and it got infected by river water.
11) My confidence grew and I am a better rider and a better and a stronger person for facing my fears. Some confidence is beginning to return and I almost can say convincingly, "I'm competent" and believe it as well.
12) I think I understand trail braking now.

And I'm sure I'll think of more as the days go on.

The rest of the way home was spent looking for a good turn around spot because I felt more alive in a tent than I do in a big ol' house. It seems I can never get traveling out of my blood. I guess I was born to wander. Peregrinate – that’s what I’m best at doing. And so is my bike. As I rolled up the driveway a song by Third Eye Blind, "Motorcycle Driveby" was playing on my iPod and the last words as I turned off the bike were, "I have never been so alone, and I have never been so alive." Right.

Wow great trip and report!! Looks like you had a wonderful trip with great views and some nice folks on the way. Also got in some of the best roads. My wife and I have been riding in the Mean AR area with a few of the DFW Twtex folks and liked it so much we just bought 6.5 acres on the Ouachita river just outside of Pencil Bluff (270 and 88 intersection).

Here's a link to our April and very colld trip to AR. I had to trailer my BMW as I'd recently had knee surgery so short rides were in order and the Triumph Trophy two up would have been too much to manage.

Here is a link to Jerry's blog (Lobos10s) and our April trip.
Great ride write , Arkansas is the best close escape to us , this remindes me , I need to go as soon as it cools down . In late October the colors are awsome . SEYA
Gypsy, What a nice ride and some adventure in the rain. You met some interesting people along the way.....was gifted with a wild necklace, had earring removal performed, saw the smiles of a young couple with stars in their eyes and conversed with a smiling veteran hermit for an hour. It may be a challenge to get any better than that on a road trip. Just in case it may get better, pick a time soon and try again. Thanks for the good report. Neal
Wow...GREAT pics and ride report too! Thanks for sharing!!
Thanks for the kind words. Arkansas really is beautiful. I'll be going back the first weekend in November with some other BMW riders and basing in Ozark.

If you have some good day routes or know of some great restaurants, I'd appreciate the information as this trip was more of just a discovery and wandering trip for me. But in November I'll need to have some planned routes and places to eat to offer the group. TIA
We (4 of us) stayed at the Ozark Motel with the "Harley gas pumps" in late May on our romp into and around Arkansas. I agree - it's an economical, biker friendly place. And that part of Arkansas is a great place to ride a motorcycle. I hope to go back.
FANTASTIC!!! Wish my wife would let me run off solo more often, those are some of the best trips.:clap:
Desert Skies, I could run off more often but I want her to go with me. Problem is she has 4 dogs that have to be boarded. Costs as much to board the dogs as it does us.
It's not the leaving her behind as much as it is she worries too much when I ride solo. As for pooches, I made it clear that we didn't replace the kids when they left home, I wanted us to be able pickup and go at will.
Great story Gypsy and particularly good timing for me as I'm headed up there this weekend for my first exploratory trip of Arkansas - thanks.
Great story Gypsy and particularly good timing for me as I'm headed up there this weekend for my first exploratory trip of Arkansas - thanks.

Thanks. After I got back and posted the story I realized how many people from this board have already been there and have written out some fabulous reports and recommendations on roads and such. You can look back through the ride reports and find several.

As much as I wish I had seen them before I left for Arkansas, the 'wiser' side of me says "Nah, you did it the right way for this time." Spontaneity, no plans, no time limits, no watch, no calendar, no idea - that is what made this trip extra great for me. It is what put the adventure and excitement in the trip. Just waking each morning and laying there a minute thinkng about what I wanted to do or where I wanted to go. Often, I didn't know where I wanted to 'go' until I pulled into the first town and just talked to other riders or the locals. Some of the best fishing tips were from people I just met at the local gas station. Sometimes planning can be overkill. Sometimes not. You just have to do what "fits". I wander much better than I march.

But for the group ride I'm planning in November, I will have plans and routes laid out for people, and I'm looking over the past ride reports to accumulate that stuff.
Great story Gypsy and particularly good timing for me as I'm headed up there this weekend for my first exploratory trip of Arkansas - thanks.

It was you I rode with Sunday right? Didn't know you were on here too. Anyway, don't mean to hijack the thread but you'll enjoy Arkansas. I went last month and had a great time. Not too many "bad" roads up there.

Thanks for lunch.:clap:

Gypsy, what a delightful ride report...interesting dialog, great pics with entertaining mix of bike shots, roads, scenery, people. Great job...this is a "10" for MC forum threads!!!
It was you I rode with Sunday right? Didn't know you were on here too. Anyway, don't mean to hijack the thread but you'll enjoy Arkansas. I went last month and had a great time. Not too many "bad" roads up there.

Thanks for lunch.:clap:


You're talkin' to Magus not me, right? Cuz, if we had lunch......... I would have made you pay.:lol2: :lol2: