May 14 finds me holed up in a Best Western Motel in Russellville Ark. I arrived here yesterday after a very wet sodden day travelling over what would have been very scenic back roads in the Ozarks Mountains. The rain blurred my visions of the rolling hills that surrounded me, and even if the roads were tight and twisty, the weather left a little to be desired. Which brings me back to wimping out and waiting out this second day of rain in my dry room, as tomorrow is supposed to be dry and only partly cloudy as I head down Arkansas Hwy. 7 which is believed to be the most scenic highways in Arkansas. I know that the portion of 7 I travelled a couple days ago north of Interstate 40 was great, so I didn’t want to do the south part in the rain. Tomorrow trip is already entered in my trusty GPS and shows about 525 kms to Vicksburg where I will spend the day at the civil war memorial park.
The following is an update since my last post
I left Phoenix and travelled up into the highlands (between 8 & 9 thousand feet) near Show Low and stayed in a little town just east on Hwy. 60. I awoke to quite cold weather and it was trying to snow. After conversing with another biker who was heading west, I headed east thinking (by way of cloud formation) my ride was going to be better. It was not to be so, as the clouds got very dark and the temperature dropped to 0 degrees C. and it started to snow. At one time I needed to stop at a rest site for about 30 minutes as the pavement was now white. Thank Heaven for todays technology as I stayed warm with my good clothing and turned up the heat on both my bike seat and handle grips.
It finally warmed up enough to melt the snow and I was off for Albuquerque were I took a nice back road up to Santa Fe were I stayed the night. The next day after listening to another biker who advised me to be careful in old town Santa Fe I was off to see the oldest Mission still in use in the USA.
When ever I am traveling, although I’m not overly religious I enjoy viewing and touring old churches. They meant so much in by-gone years that I find them very interesting to view and wonder what these long since gone people thought and how they lived.
The inside of the Mission was very interesting and it made me think of the church called the Lady of Good Hope, that Nancy and I visited in Fort St James many years ago. These churches harken back to a time that life was quite hard, simple, and very community minded.
I left Santa Fe and travelled by another neat back road to Taos, New Mexico. This town I’ve have visited before and found it very enjoyable, as it has a very long and intriguing history. I have read many books on this area and the town of Taos is always mentioned as an important town in the mid 1800’s. Kit Carson was one of many that travelled through and he made his home here. Mountain men would come and trade their furs, gold seekers travelled through, and generally people heading west would know about Taos. It also played an important part in the historic Santa Fe Trail. Before the Americans came the Spanish were here when this was all part of Mexico. They created Missions all through this area, and as usual mistreated and misunderstood the native people who had lived here for thousands of years. There is still a large population of natives and they have a village in the town where they will allow you (if you pay) to see their working village and some celebrations.
The town now is quite touristy but in an acceptable way, as most inhabitants are of the artistic bend. There is many art shops showing off paintings, sculptures and other handicraft items. Just west of the town the Rio Grand River Gorge Bridge is worth seeing and viewing the many houses that are built into the ground. Solar power around here is very popular as even if New Mexico gets very cold in the winter the sun is usually shining. The houses I’ve mentioned and the Rio Grand River was visited by me on a past M/C trip.
This time I visited a local market and bought a couple gifts from a local native that were made from the gourd plant, for my family back home. The houses and most buildings in the area are very appealing to me,and here is a couple of pictures I took.
When I left Taos the weather was great, just a few scattered clouds and about 24 degrees with minimal wind. I had read about Hwy.64 east that heads up and over the Sange de Cristo Mountains before and every description that it was a good M/C road was proven true. Lots of big sweepers and just enough tight technical corners of 15 to 25 mph corners to keep you on your toes. The pavement was good and the best thing was there was very few other vehicles sharing the road with me. Went through towns with great names such as Angle Fire and Eagle Nest and was exposed to more great scenery and views. I had previously travelled on Hwy 64/84 coming down from Colorado and thought that road was good, it doesn’t hold a candle to this road east out of Taos.
I had just left the mountains behind when I arrived at another old west historic town of Cimarron. This is town that any one reading western novels or history will recall. Many players in the town history are mentioned all through American history from the Mountain Man era, Civil War time, the wild west and the great movement of people to California and Oregon.
Along the highway was a great photo display and wright ups of some of the history of the area. This was also on the famed Santa Fe Trail.
This was also what was to become the start of a couple days ride through the panhandle of Oklahoma and beyond with strong winds and flat, and I mean flat farm land. I also made a decision here to miss Fort Benton as it was a considerable amount of miles to the north. Next trip to Colorado will have to suffice.
After the aforementioned 2 days in Oklahoma I arrived at Fort Smith Arkansas in very warm temperatures. My first two days of riding here was very warm and as this was the first time this year riding with only my tee shirt on, ( i had pants on to) I was rewarded with a fair sun burn to my arms.
In my past two times through this area I had only touched into Arkansas but never really exploring this great state. My plans were to spend 5 plus days here but with the weather I will be here just over 4 days. I have pretty well covered the north western part of the state in an area generally referred as the Ozarks. It is very mountainous with and over abundance of extremely twisty roads. I have travelled over the famed pig highway and although it is compared with the Tail of the Dragon I do not think it is of the same calibre. I have rode others roads here and in my view, they have been better and with less people on them. My lose definition of a good road is one that has only a few people on it, second a combination of big long sweepers and tight technical corners, thirdly it most have good pavement and signage that you can trust, and last but certainly not least NO TAX COLLECTORS.(oh yeah, it must have good scenery too) So far there seems to be no shortage of good motorcycle roads in this state, the only drawback is that it’s quite a journey to ride here from B.C.
It seems with tomorrows ride under my belt I will have rode the majority of what the locals say are good roads. I have had no end of advise from local people here telling me of some good road, and while I’m happy with this journey I’m sure there is many more roads that may tempt me back in the future.
On the ride yesterday my bike and I travelled through real back hill country towns were the majority of men wore long scraggly beards, work jeans with suspenders and some dirty ole cap on their head. The houses differed a long ways from other areas that I’ve visited in this state and there was a large percentage of very old mobile homes with various junk around them. Although the people that I met at different stops were very friendly and courteous and none of them was playing a banjo, so I felt quite safe.
As in a lot of other parts of the US there is a lot of brick houses which look quite neat. Only yesterday while I was talking to a couple of brick layers, they explained to me that the brick was only one brick wide and not a structural part of the building. They said it was late 50’s when people started to use brick more as a siding then actual structural component. Again most houses even in the rural areas are very neat with large well kept lawns and other landscaping. The wood they use to build houses here is mainly pine and they do have some large plantations of pine, but the predominate trees are all of the hard wood variety. When I mentioned Fir and Hemlock to this builder I wasn’t sure he had ever heard of these trees before.
Another odd thing about back here is when I tell people were I’m going they all have one city or another to mention to be careful in, seeing that I’m Canadian and aren’t packing a gun. All a person has to do is travel in the small towns of the US to realize that the average American has a lot of different ideas then we have up in Canada.
The day before yesterday when I had stopped at a town called Harrisson for the night, the sky as promised by the weather forecasters opened up and its hard to remember when I had seen that much rain. I was certainly very glad that earlier in the day a Marshall had warned me not to put off getting shelter to late in the afternoon as a storm was coming, he didn’t think a tornado but a wicked thunderstorm. He was certainly right.
The following is a few pictures taken along the way in Arkansas.
The pig trail was named after the amount of people using this road to travel up to Fayetteville to watch their beloved foot ball team. I was told, not to politely when inquiring, did they have a team called the Pigs that they are called the Razorbacks.
Typical hill through out the Ozarks.
My wet relaxing day is ending with patches of blue sky and hopefully also a promise of a good ride tomorrow.