Motorcycle Repairs, Hammock Fishing, and Tornados

Most of the last week has been spent riding mostly in Missouri, Arkansas and Oklahoma. All three of which I haven’t spent much time in unless you count cruising through on the way to somewhere else. In hindsight, that now seems almost criminal. The lush beauty of this area, the green covered mountains and clear rivers, the food, and the outgoing people have made me realize that I must go back again.

Because we are on a motorcycle trip, the riding conditions are a big part of the fun (or lack thereof) of this trip. In that regard, Missouri, Arkansas, and Oklahoma do NOT disappoint. For days on end we were able to enjoy sweeping mountain roads that had very little traffic. Our frequent stops to enjoy the scenery, take a “hammock break”, or eat lunch were memorable and relaxing.

On Thursday we said goodbye to Lorin who had to head back north. We will miss him! The same day he left, we had to deal with our first repair. The lower aluminum bracket holder for my left saddle bag broke. Since I’m NOT known for my mechanical skills, I hoped, prayed, and wished it to be fixed by itself. But alas, when I woke up the next morning, it was still broken. We left Robbie at a Starbucks in Hot Springs to take an online college placement test, while Riley and I searched for a repair shop.

As luck would have it, there was a Yamaha dealership across the street from the Starbucks. When I showed the repair man my problem, he thought about it for about a minute and said, “I can fix that.” He custom cut an “L” shaped bracket, fitted a rubber stopper to the end, and attached the bracket to the frame via a bolt that is on the frame. Voila! His repair fits more securely than the original. When I asked him how much I owed him, he said, “Aww nothing. We just want y’all to be safe.” Boy are people in Arkansas friendly! (Don’t worry, I gratefully tipped him.)

With all the errands done and the bike fixes complete, the boys and I headed to Hot Springs National Park. When I pulled into the campground, the ranger came hurrying up to us. At first I thought, “Great what did we do wrong?” Instead she said that she had just tested something and therefore “purchased” a campsite. If we wanted it for free, it was ours. As she is saying this, she is gesturing to a campsite next to the river. Boy was our luck changing! We spent the rest of that afternoon hiking some of the trails in the park, playing in the river, and enjoying a little off-bike time.

Friday we headed west and rode the Talimena Scenic Byway. This road has all of the things that make a great motorcycle road: good pavement, abundant corners, scenic views, and little traffic. This road one-upped most other roads because for mile after mile you are riding on the ridge line separating two valleys. It’s like riding on a camel’s back that has 100 giant humps!

My boys sure loved it, but for different reasons. They were loving the peg-scraping corners and the hills that will give you “tickle bellies” when you nail them just right. I was trying to keep up with them AND enjoy the view. That means my ride went something like this:

Quick glance left, “Whoa that valley is gorgeous.”
Hurry up and whip my head right, “Oh wow, look at those green hills fading into the distance.”
Focus on the corner, “Shoot where are those boys AND they better not be over their limit.” Speed up over that rise, and “Oh good grief they are way up there? I’ll never catch them.”  This internal dialogue went on for over 50 beautiful miles.

After the Talimena Scenic Byway, we drove for a while and settled in a small town south and east of Oklahoma City. We went to bed with a forecast that had us thinking we could get across most of Oklahoma today without hitting too much severe weather. When I woke up in the morning, that specific forecast had changed considerably. It was obvious that there was no way we could avoid the severe storms heading across Oklahoma today. We couldn’t drive around this one, and I didn’t want to drive through it either.

Although Oklahoma City was only about 80 miles away, we decided to head there and find a hotel with a parking garage and a storm shelter. That’s where we are now. We’re in a rather nice hotel (with a good storm shelter) waiting out a severe tornado threat. Our bikes are across the street tucked against an internal wall in the middle of the first level of a hospital parking garage. For the moment, we have fast wifi, good food, and comfortable beds. Hopefully it stays that way. If not, I know what to do. The weather channel host just said, “If you hear the tornado warning in your community, grab a helmet, if you have one, and your shoes, and head to the lowest internal level of your home or building.” Looks like we’re all set!

The old stone bridge over one of the rivers in Hot Springs National Park.

The old stone bridge over one of the rivers in Hot Springs National Park.

Sometimes it is fun to be off the bike too.

Sometimes it is fun to be off the bike too.

There were plenty of these little guys flitting around the river.  Their deep blue color set such a contrast to the surrounding brown rock and green growth.

There were plenty of these little guys flitting around the river. Their deep blue color set such a contrast to the surrounding brown rock and green growth.

Riley makes good use of his hammock.  Every time we pass a river I can see his body tense because he wants to stop and fish.  At that rate, we'll hit California sometime in August!

Riley makes good use of his hammock. Every time we pass a river I can see his body tense because he wants to stop and fish. At that rate, we’ll hit California sometime in August!

Curves, curves and more curves!

Curves, curves and more curves!

I know sunsets over lakes and oceans are gorgeous, but this is the first time I've seen one over a river that took my breath away.

I know sunsets over lakes and oceans are gorgeous, but this is the first time I’ve seen one over a river that took my breath away.

The Talimena Scenic Byway is worth putting on any Bucket List!

The Talimena Scenic Byway is worth putting on any Bucket List!

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