Saturday, October 6, 2007

AMA IBET - Sweeping Through AR, MO, IL

No need to travel to ND to get a Fargo, or PA to get a Pittsburg! These and four other towns were pretty much on my route to Metropolis IL, where I was headed for a motorcycle group event the first weekend in October. Just a little work on the GPS gave me a route that would pick up 15 AMA points and add just a little over 200 miles to the trip, not to mention take me off the interstate and onto some great little riding roads through cotton and rice country.

My first stop would be Jacksonville, just a few miles northeast of Little Rock. I had waypoints in my GPS for two potential photo opportunities: the post office and a military museum. As it turned out, the post office was a tough camera angle, with the letters on the building facing a busy street away from the parking lot, helpful for folks looking for the post office, not so convenient for those of us who want a photo of our motorcycle and a little white flag! The museum was just across the road and down a side street. Now this is more like it! Big circular drive around an obelisk monument, great southern mansion-style architecture!

Jacksonville in the bag, I could now head back down to I-40 for a short distance east to Brinkley AR, where I exited to begin heading north toward Jonesboro and my night's stop. Along this route I would be going through a tiny dot on the map called Fargo. My research showed no businesses, no schools or other structures that might provide a photo opportunity. I could only hope that there'd be a sign marking this apparent ghost town. The GPS let me know when I was getting close, so I slowed down and hoped that the truck that was riding my tail would just go ahead and pass me, which he did. I spotted something green on the side of the road and there it was! Not only a green "official" town sign, but a "Welcome to Fargo" sign, both looking a little derelict and worse for wear.

Now the tricky part was going to be getting the photo without having to park the bike on the nonexistent shoulder of this steeply crowned country road. I fiddled a bit with the flag and camera angle, rolling the bike a bit to fine tune the shot. It didn't turn out bad at all!
When I first planned out this route, I was a little concerned about making it to Jonesboro before dark. After all, it would be 600 miles with the photo stops in Jacksonville and Fargo along the way. My original plan was to leave Houston after the morning rush hour but I woke up early enough to get on the road at 6:30 AM, early enough to be at the front end of the really heavy traffic headed from the south side and through the downtown. This was a good thing, getting me into Jonesboro at 6:00 PM, still in daylight.

The next morning I headed northwest toward Black Rock, a tiny little town perched on a bluff overlooking the Black River. I turned right immediately after crossing the bridge over the river onto a pretty little road that dipped down near the river then climbed up into the town. My destination for Black Rock was the post office, but this little road brought me straight into the center of town where I spied the perfect sign. Did you know that Black Rock is the home of the Zebras? I did pass the post office and pulled in for the photograph as back-up, but the Zebra sign is so much more interesting.

A little backtracking brought me to the fork in road where I picked up U.S. 412 through fields of soybean, cotton, and rice. The land is flat here, fed by streams and rivers branching off the Mississippi River. This road took me to I-55 where I headed north toward Charleston MO. The post office was my destination in this small city. As I headed into the quaint historic downtown area, I spotted a Welcome to Charleston sign. But I continued on to the post office which was a very old brick building nestled under giant Live Oak trees. I pulled up in front but could only see bits of the lettering across the front of the building above the door. It didn't seem to say the word "Charleston." I circled the post office block and pulled back up in front again. No signs anywhere. But I had fortunately seen that welcome sign on my approach, so returned to that spot and got my photo.
Now I'm pointed in the right direction to continue heading east toward IL and my ultimate destination.

Next entry: Smallest post office and ol' sorehead

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