Thursday, October 8, 2009

No Interstates Today

Well, hardly none. Last night was spent in Mount Pleasant at a very nice and pleasant new hotel, with gas and restaurants within 100 yards. This morning it's foggy and drizzly and the temperatures are cool, enough to require the quilted jacket liner. I had to ride on I-30 for a few miles (hence the "hardly none" comment at the top of this paragraph) but it was only for a short distance, to get to US-259.

US-259 has some nice sweeping curves as it wanders along property lines between farms in southeast Oklahoma. Downtown Idabel probably looks the same as it has for the last 100 years, with its angled parking in front of the storefronts on the main street through town.

A few miles up 259 and I was riding through Broken Bow OK. North of town I turned onto Alt 259 to ride through Beavers Bend State Park which straddles the dam which created Broken Bow Lake. The road was a delight: narrow, hilly, twisty, deep in the woods. It made a loop through the park and exited a little further north on 259 crossing over the dam and some bridges with views of the lake along the way. Definitely worth a return visit!

Back onto 259, the road started its ascent up into the Oachita National Forest; it immediately became so foggy I was unable to see but a few feet in front of me. Lane markers were invisible and the rare vehicle coming the other way was visible only when it was right in front of me. I put my flashers on, in hopes that no one came up behind me too fast. As soon as I reached the top and started to descend, I could see blue skies and sunshine ahead of me. Once down onto level straight roadway, the temperatures were significantly warmer.

Soon I was heading into Fort Smith AR and to the National Historic Site for a national park stamp. This is a nice area and I always enjoy coming here for a stamp. I parked the bike in the parking lot next to the site and walked the two or three blocks to an old restored drug store soda fountain, where I had a float, a packet of cheese and crackers, and took a break off the bike, planning my next stop.

It was a nice break, but I needed to get back on the road if I was going to make it to Russellville by late afternoon. US-64 runs parallel to I-40 and passed through some really great little towns in AR on my way to Ozark AR where I'd drop south on 309 to Paris AR then over Mount Magazine. I poked around a little bit on the town of Alma AR, the spinach capital of the world (so they say).
My next stop would be the overlook at Mount Magazine. As I climbed the switchback road up toward the top, the fog started to close in around me. Part way up the road, three deer ran out in front of me, reminding me to take it easy on this road, with its steep grade, switchbacks and limited visibility. At the fork in the road for the visitor center, I pulled in to the parking lot and went inside. While there, I decided that there was really no point in continuing to the overlook, since visibility would be near-zero. I shopped a little in the gift store, took some photos, and then headed back out, continuing south on 309 to Havana AR.

I love this road; it is so heavily wooded that it's hard to know if the sun is shining. It's pleasantly challenging, and the BMW with her new shoes on handled it very nicely. I could pick up a nice rhythm on the alternating S-curves as I lost altitude and dropped down into the tiny town of Havana.

From here it was just a short and very pleasant ride to Dardanelle then up to Russellville and the Best Western. I arrived at the hotel around 3:30 PM, where there were only a few other motorcycles in the parking lot. I unpacked, changed clothes and kicked tires a bit with a couple of other MTF'ers. Other riders began to return to the hotel from day rides and groups began forming for dinner. I walked over to a place called Dixie Cafe with 5 others and we had a relaxed and quiet dinner together.

Tomorrow: A ride up into the northwest corner of AR and southwest corner of MO for some national park stamps.

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