Saturday, and we got a late start. After the previous night riding in the dark, we were ready to sleep in. Once we got down to breakfast, we realized that it would be a bit longer before we left the hotel. The food at breakfast was amazing. Fresh quiche and waffles. In an effort to save money, we were going to get a meal out of breakfast. This hotel was a bit more expensive, so this helped us feel better about it.
Riding in Eureka Springs is easy because it is a motorcycle friendly town. There were bikes everywhere. We picked up a new pamphlet the previous night that had suggested motorcycle routes based out of the town. I preferred this pamphlet over the one at Harrison because it was less focused on a single town and more focused on the area, providing more meaningful maps. Unfortunately, I lost the map to scan, but I do have one photo of it.
Our late start afforded us a visit to the first cycle shop that was open. A big hat tip to Arkansas Adventure Rider in Eureka Springs [http://www.arkansasadventurerider.com/]. That cycle shop had a little bit of everything. They had more than one type of face shield for Hiatt’s helmet. Hiatt was at the point where he was ready to buy a new helmet cause his face shield was so bad. Instead, we got the replacement he needed and a wonderfully friendly shop.
We decided to try out the Beaver lake route first. The route started out going through downtown Eureka Springs. I was afraid I was going to wreck my bike during this part. The traffic was mild, but there were so many shops and people to see on this narrow two lane road. A pleasant looking walking path went through the whole of it providing a safe area for pedestrians. Even at 10:00 am in the morning, the area was quite active with people about.
One of my favorite features of this little town was an open creek that separated all of the properties on one side of the street. Each house or business had their own bridge going over the open ditch. Prior to this trip, there had been a whole lot of rain and lots of roads were closed all over the place. Therefore there was plenty of water for us to look at as we went by. I often stood up on the pegs of the bike to have a better vantage of the water. It is one of the features that defines the town and sets the mood.
Not too far outside of the town proper, we came upon a site that caused me to pull over and have a look. There is a train depot with several colorfully painted pieces of machinery just outside of it. Several pieces of the machinery were turning via a motor and it appealed to the kid in me. So we stopped in a no parking zone and had ourselves a look. I ventured far enough away that Hiatt started to tell me to come back. I could still see the bikes should anybody come up and make a stink about our choice of parking spots. We snapped a few photos and said we would be back. Little did I know it would be sooner that we both thought!
The grand feature of the Beaver lake route is an old one lane wooden bridge to drive over. Hiatt and I were both looking forward to going over a few times, getting pictures and video of the whole thing. So we headed down the route careful to follow the written directions lest we have another Jasper Disaster! At our turn, there was a sign stating that the road was closed a few miles ahead because of flooding. We looked at each other and decided the sign didn’t apply to motorcycles and went for it. Soon enough, we were faced with a very flooded and closed road. So we parked the bikes and walked down to the water to have a look.
The road was flooded as far as we could see. The only thing to do was turn around and head back the way we came. Of course, we were determined to find the wooden bridge and cross it flood or not. So I got to make a return trip through downtown and enjoy the town from the other direction. We would get at the bridge from the other direction! Through town and headed the other direction, we were excited to be making headway towards our destination. The goal was in sight and we were homing in on it.
The bridge wasn’t the only good part of this ride. Beaver lake has a dam that we visited. With all of the rain, the lake was very high. In fact, where we stopped, Hiatt remembered from a previous visit. The water was covering playgrounds and shelters. It was shocking to see so much water covering everything, but there was nowhere for it to go! While we were stopped viewing the water, we have a nice conversation with two other bikers enjoying the same view. I’m a huge fan of the motorcycle community. If you have a bike, its like you’re in the club. You are automatically treated differently. Before owning a motorcycle, I probably would not have stopped to talk to this couple. Since we were there, we make sure to help them get a picture together. Its amazing how many people don’t bring a tripod with them. The mini tripod pictured below is the same model we had with us. It fit in my pocket along with my camera and helped us take lots of “group” photos!
After leaving the reservoir, we rode around generally following our path and taking some side roads that looked interesting. They were exciting, but we didn’t want to loose our focus and backtracked to stay focused on the goal of the wooden bridge. After going in circles for a while, we ended up asking for directions at a gas station. After getting pointed in the right direction, the road had some great elevation and switchbacks that made it quite exciting. On one particularly amazing sweeper, there was a sign for a photographer taking roadside photos. The website is http://ridepics.net/. The photographer took some amazing photos of us in action. Later, we remembered the website and found the photos.
Back on track, we found the road we were looking for and turned down it. The scenery was open fields, sweeping turns, and green foliage everywhere. The bridge was in our grasp and we were closing in quickly. My pulse quickened as the speed limit signs showed a lower limit. This means that the town is around the corner and the bridge we want. I can see the water and know we only have to go down a hill when I see another dreaded road closed sign… Before the sign, I pull off into the Post Office parking lot and park. I was going to walk down and see it at nearly any cost. After I’m done taking my gear off, I can’t find Hiatt, I look around and walk to the road waiting for him. In my excitement, I lost him. He was nowhere to be found. Then I see him down the road and he waves to me asking why I parked so far away. Back to my bike, I go around the road closed sign and join his bike plus two others that ignored the sign.
The approach to the bridge was under water and the bridge was not far off. We were not going to be able to ride across the bridge like we planned. For the second time in the trip, I pulled my pants up above my knees and removed my boots and socks. I tried to walk out and get on the bridge, but I wasn’t ready to get as wet as it took to get on the bridge. We were only going to look at the bridge this trip due to flooding!
Coming back from the wooden bridge the way we came, I took it slow trying to pull off and see something that caught my eye on the way there. Almost too late, I slowed and turned off into a flat grassy gravel area at our destination. It was HUGE tree cutting equipment. The saws were on the end of large booms and obviously built to go nearly anywhere and clear out trees. This was a cool stop!
Like a repeat of the morning, we were backtracking again back to Eureka Springs. We knew there were some great roads to look forward to one more time. Going down the switchbacks we cam up would be a new perspective. The road was a bit un-nerving though. They had repaired cracks in the highway with strips of tar. Each time a wheel of the motorcycle hit the tar, there was a tiny but perceptible slide of the wheels. One slide would not be bad, but there were numerous patches on the road making for a very interesting ride. It is the sort of thing that knocks your confidence one level down.
As we reached the outskirts of town, we were ready for lunch! It was around 2:00pm and we were finally ready for food. We wanted something local and fun, and we hit the jackpot!!! The Rowdy Beaver Restaurant and Tavern.
Stuffed, we were ready to try something different. Heading South to see more scenery seemed to be the right choice for us. In our guide, there was a decent route called the 215 to Oark. It was a very long route that would take us the rest of the day. Little did we know at the time, it would nearly be more than the rest of the day…
We spent an hour or so heading South to catch highway 215, the namesake of the ride. We were watching closely for 215 to come up. Without any trouble, we found highway 215. This is where the ride got interesting quickly. 215 parallels the Mulberry River. I say parallels because the highway starts near the same elevation and quickly rises with switchbacks and rock walls on each side of the road. This highway is perfect for cyclists that want to ride at high speed and test their skills. Except if they mess up, its gonna hurt a LOT! There were several pull outs on this road and we took advantage of one to hang out and breathe the fresh air. As an added bonus, there was a great view down to the river where we got to watch several boats pass a rapid. None of them tipped, but we were hoping…
After watching the boats for a while, we were hyped up to get moving again. I took the lead and was moving at a brisk pace. Then, before I realized what happened, I had a moment of sheet terror. I was riding close to the line on my side of the road, when something blinked by on my left and was screaming loud. I was so startled, that I let out a loud curse in my helmet. It took what felt like an eternity, but was actually about 2 seconds to realize it was Hiatt. I would expect his speed to have been 50 mph more than mine and growing when he passed me. I attempted to recover and catch up, but it was only by his graces that I was allowed to catch up. I was grateful that i was not in urgent need of a men’s room at the time, or I may have made a mess of myself!
We continued following 215 to the town of Oark. There we saw three crotch rockets parked at the gas station. We thought nothing of it at the time and kept going. Out a few more miles, and we passed something that caught my eye. I slowed down quickly and Hiatt pulled up. I said that I thought I saw a sign for a bridge and wanted to see it. There were several cars there, so it seemed good to me.
It ends up that the bridge was the only way for a family to cross the creek and get to their property. There was a donation box to help maintain the bridge. I learned this because as we were leaving, I talked to one of the property owners.
The bridge was not far from the end of the road and the start of gravel in two different directions. We took what we believed to be the continuation of the highway, but concerned that it was gravel. I went about twice the speed of Hiatt, which was about 15 mph. Not too far in Hiatt had enough and we both turned around. Stumped, we figured we just got lost like normal and we started to backtrack.
Flying down the highway the way we came, I saw a Honda Goldwing. It was heading towards the gravel road. Goldwing motorcycles are not made for gravel roads. Further more, they are generally purchased by people that really pile on the miles. I figured that if we followed him, we would get back on the route. What else could there be out here… At the end of the road, the Goldwing turned left on the gravel road. I knew we made a mistake and would go over gravel for a bit and right back on blacktop. Then the Goldwing pulled into a building that looked like a restaurant. I felt dejected, but I would resolve the issue. I parked and walked up the the Goldwing guy. He was quite nice and once he saw our map, re-directed us to the correct way. We completely missed the rest of the route. It required minor backtracking, but that was part of the route. We thanked him and asked how far to the next town and gas. It was going to be close, but we would make it.
After a quick stop for fuel, we realized that it was getting late in the day and we still had half of the route left to traverse. So up the road we went. I was nearly stopped in my tracks at the most disgusting gas station I have ever seen in Clarksville, Arkansas. We stopped long enough for a photo and took off before it could get any worse.
As days wear on, I generally get short on photos and memories. This day seemed to be coming to a close and we need to get back. This may have been part of the encouragement for the bit of extra speed we had on the highway. Its important to be safe and we probably saw 10 cars and motorcycles combined on this stretch home. The route ended at Berryville. It is worth noting here that Hiatt is a hotel snob. I’ll stay just about anywhere, but he likes to stay at “name brand” establishments. We looked around Berryville, but could not find anything to his liking. I was willing to go to Eureka Springs, but Hiatt said he wasn’t interested and just wanted to take it easy after our day our day of riding. So he fired up the ‘ole Tom Tom and asked it to find us the nearest hotel that he was willing to stay at. It plotted a route of about 8 miles and he headed out with Hiatt in the lead. I got a good laugh when we were about half way there and saw a sign for Eureka Springs. As luck would have it, Hiatt was navigating us back to the same hotel we had stayed at the night before.
As we pulled up to the hotel, the three crotch rocket bikes (Ducati 1098, Aprillia, and modified FZ1) that we had seen the night before and at the gas station in Oark were at the hotel again. The guys were out front when we pulled up. They were quite interested in Hiatt’s Ninja ZX-12 as it was a comparable bike to theirs and possibly faster! There, we had a long discussion with the guys about bikes and where they were from. It turns out that they travel to that hotel a few times a year, trailered their bikes down for aggressive riding. They were either great riders, or good story tellers. I’m leaning towards good riders.
After settling in, we went to a local bar (across from the Pizza Hut from the previous night) and proceeded to have a couple of beers and dinner. We continued discussing the ride of the day. When I explained my issues and technique of using my rear brake and high gear going into turns, Garet explained that I should only use my front brake and use a lower gear to have more control going into turns. I gave this advice serious thought as I considered the next day’s ride. I was a little concerned because my front brake wasn’t that good, but it had to be better than was I was going. As nice as their company was, it was time for us to turn earlier than them and sleep for the next day’s ride. Another amazing riding day in the bag!!!