Day 7
October 7th, 2009
Motel 6
Eureka Springs, Arkansas

I loaded the RT in the breaking dawn, it was cool, but I could sense a warm day ahead.  The air was also humid, "yep back in the south."  I reset the trip meters and tabbed the "home" icon on the GPS.  I'd like to write today would be a day of grand scenery, spectacular riding, and quiet solitude, but I'd be lying.  It was none of those things.  It was just a transition day from a long ride out west to home, and on to the Blue Ridge the following day.

A radar check put a small line of rain in the Memphis area.  The rain that soaked Prattville the day before was now in Georgia.

I left Eureka on U.S. 62 East battling a tough sun.  The glare made it hard to read the road surface and even made it difficult to see brake lights on a red Mustang I followed  most of the way to Harrison.  Once again this is a ride I've done more then a few times. I know it to be long and mostly boring, any ride that puts you on I-40 will have those gloomy characteristics, sometimes you just do what you have to do.

Whatever I was looking for on this tour I found out in the deserts and mountains of a few days ago.  My mind felt rested and relaxed, the solitude of the last week seemed to renew me.  

After pushing my way through the school and commute traffic of Harrison, I went to U.S. 65 South.  For all my visits to the Ozarks never been on this road.  I normally take the more scenic routes of 7 or 21 in or out of the Ozarks, but this time I'm just going to follow the GPS quick route.

U.S. 65 South is not a bad road as it takes a rider out of the hills to I-40.  It transported me over the Buffalo National River, through thick forest land, and open meadows.  It also passes through several Ozark towns and villages, that I really wasn't in the mood to fool with this day.
 ​"It transported me over the Buffalo National River, through thick forest land, and open meadows."

I checked the elevation, it was consistently around 1000 feet most of the morning.

After too many miles trapped behind a 18 wheeler, mini van, and VW, I took all 3 on a quarter mile passing lane.  The RT was no ST 1300, but it wasn't shabby either.

By the time I arrived in Clinton, 60 miles south of Harrison, it was warm.  I turned off to use the parking lot of a auto parts store to open the vents on the Roadcrafter, remove my sweatshirt, and for the first time in trcent memory, broke out the cooler textile gloves.

An elderly gentleman in a green pick up truck pulled in beside me.  He spoke in a very slow southern drawl, and his cap told me what fertilizer he used,  "Travelin alone?"


"Whar too?"

"Well, on the way home to Alabama, from Arizona"

"Why waz ya in Ari-zonie?"

"No reason, just ridin, seein the country, takin pics, and meetin people"

"I reckon it's good work when ya can git it"

"Can ya tell me about any construction goin on I-40 east of Little Rock?"

"Cain't do it"

"why not?'

"don't recollect it, ain't been that way in a long spell"

"oh ok, thanks."  I understood every word succinctly, but then he was speaking native tongue.

It seemed I was on U.S. 65 a long time, but eventually I made it to I-40.  I disdain this interstate, but it was time to take my medicine after all those scenic, lonely roads I scorched out west.

By now the reserve light was on, but in Arkansas that is not a big deal.  Gas is everywhere.  I kept going.  "I'm gonna consolidate gas and lunch stop, do it all at once."  So I rode on through Little Rock and went deep into reserve, I went so far the GPS fuel light went off, I had programmed for 245 miles.  I finally heeded all the warning lights, and exited east of Little Rock to fuel the RT and me.

A Shell Station with 14 pumps called out to me, I went to it and found 93 octane!  I put 7 gallons of the stuff in the RT.  "Man I was low."  Across the street I saw a Waffle House and went there for a early lunch, well it was my regular window (11-11:30) but some call it early.

I took a window booth in the not so busy store, a plump black lady came for my order.

"Watcha gonna have?"

"lemme have the chopped steak, and tell her I want my hash browns crispy"

"you go it"

I had the chili instead of salad but wished I had gotten the chicken noodle soup after the fact.

I called Debbie, and picked up a voice mail from Peter Menard who was on the way south.  He said he was on schedule and would see me in Cruso on Thursday.  He was somewhere in West Virginia.

A young couple in their 20s came in and took the booth in front of me.  The young man had a baseball cap on with a fish hook stuck on the brim.  He said to me-"That your motorcycle out front?"

"yes it is"

"man that's a nice bike, I didn't know they made bikes"  I get that a lot on the RT.

"been makin bikes longer then cars"

"she wants me to get a bike, but I dunno how to ride"

"you like to ride sweetie?"

"oh yessssss"  My guess was one of her previous relationships was a rider.  I decided NOT to go there.  She asked, "so where ya goin?" 

"Home to Alabama from Arizona, then the Blue Ridge Mountains on Thursday for a few days."

"Gawd that must be fun"

"it is, y'all take care, gotta get goin."

A solo Long Rider always has a social air about him.   When I'm a long tour I automatically have a sense of being approachable.  Strangers approach all the time, I think it goes to the mystique of riding the country alone, and doing something different.  I'm sure being gray, and middle aged also helps, because when the riding gear comes off, they expected someone much younger.

But make no mistake, riding solo cross country opens a world you won't get riding in a pack, but a lot has to do with your own demeanor, and how you carry yourself.

Food was typical Waffle House, nothing fancy but suitable, and why they are so noisy  with just 4 customers still a mystery to me.

Returning to the road, I thought about how far I still had to go.  The Ozarks to home doesn't feel like a 600 mile ride till you look at the atlas, and start the ride.  On this day truck to car ratio on I-40 was close to 1-1.  I glided between the big rigs at 75-80 mph, with the screen halfway.  I was back in the Southeast, and needed the airflow.

Between Memphis and Little Rock I grew intolerably sleepy and took a exit I can't remember to find a place to take a short nap.  I didn't want to, but I wasn't safe.  I couldn't keep my eyes open, and left the interstate before I could hurt myself.  I got lucky and found a RV park next to a con store.  I parked the RT under a tree next to a picnic table and put my head down.

About 10 minutes later, a car pulling up awakened me.  It was a local cop in a cruiser.

"hey what's goin on?" he called out from a half down window.

"hey, nothing, just taking a nap, I was on the highway and couldn't keep my eyes open, I hope I'm not doing anything wrong"

"nah the folks at the con store yonder just wanted me to check ya out."

"oh ok, I'm about to ride out"

"stay as long as ya need, they thought ya might be sick or something"

"nah just sleepy haha"

When I got back on the road I felt much better, and set out to conqueror Memphis.  Nothing personal, but I don't like the city.  On long rides west or north I  have to deal with one of 3 Tennessee cities; Nashville, Memphis, or Chattanooga.  Of the three, Memphis is my least favorite by far, but the city is also the halfway point for this ride, and that made it palatable. 

I crossed the Mississippi River and back into the land of W radio stations and worked I-55 to 240.  Traffic was crazy, with several construction zones.  The line of rain I saw in the area this morning had apparently fizzled out.

Passing through the city was not fun, but I came through unscathed to U.S. 78, following the signs to Birmingham.  "By the time I get to Tupelo, I'll need gas, and a butt break," so I rode steady all way through.  In this part of the south there are no signs of Fall, everything was green and thick.

The road is good in Mississippi and I was able to relax and enjoy the ride to Tupelo.  I sang a few songs and pondered the meaning of life from the saddle.  Motorcycle tours are good for such mental exercise.

It was late afternoon when I peeled of 78 into a Exxon Con store for gas and Mountain Dew.  The pump had the good stuff (93) and I put all I could into the 7.8 gallon tank.  The RT seemed to ride ok on 87, but my mpg did suffer.  I reset the Zumo gas gauge (which is a fancy trip meter) and went to a parking spot.

Inside, the store was busy so I yanked a Mountain Dew from the cooler and a blueberry muffin, found a booth and took a load off.

I was not going to make it back in time to eat supper with my in laws, but I could with Chris, who lived in Birmingham.  I sent him a text, "coming through Bham, meet me at the Golden Corral exit 246 on 65 at 6:30p."  In 5 seconds he came back, "ok."  When it comes to eating he gets the message everytime.

After a quasi long break I left Tupelo, most of the time I ride from here home non stop.

I slipped back into Alabama in the late afternoon and a few miles later passed a sport bike whose rider was wearing t shirt, nikes (no socks), and shorts, but did have gloves on.

Instead of the long loop around Jasper, the Zumo directed me through town, where I saw some joker in a green Civic with a personal fan on the ceiling blowing on him.

The ride from Jasper to Birmingham on 78 is probably the worst road in the state.  Lots of traffic and urban sprawl that grows denser the closer you get to the city, I managed to slip by the radar trap in Summiton, and a few miles later enter the suburbs of Birmingham.  It had been a long day.

U.S. 78 connects with I-59 on the west side of the city, the only problem was the ramp to enter was closed, no signs warned anyone ahead of time.  "What the heck?  Why are all those cars making U turns up there?"  I found out why when I was confronted with the barricade a few minutes later.  The zumo was going nuts trying to recalculate as I turned and bobbed to find the next exit further north.  I know the city so I reached up and turned it off.  "Don't need that anymore, I'm home."

I jumped on I-65 and took off south to meet Chris at exit 246, better known in our family as the "Starvin Marvin Exit," so named for the lone con store that stood there many years ago.  He made us stop for it on every trip north.  That store is still there (different name) but the exit is a now a mega exit for Pelham.  It's jammed with con stores, restaurants, motels, and fast food by the mile.  If you can't find it at exit 246, they don't make it.
For the second time this tour I was in a Golden Corral parking lot.  Its quick, and they don't mind riding gear.  My son was in the parking lot waiting for me when I arrived at 6:35pm.  "right on time," he said,  "well yeah, yoiu know me."

We had a great time and nice meal.  We talked football, and about the trip.
"Well its gettin late, call your mother after I leave and tell her I'm on the way, I don't want to get in a conversation right now."


It was dark when I got back on 65 for the final 65 miles.  The night was warm, but I kept my speed down because of Ninja deer.  I thought about how it was going to be a weird feeling sleeping in my own bed in the middle of a long tour.

The ride home from Pelham was quiet and uneventful, and a hour after leaving Chris I was taking the 186 exit for U.S. 31 and home.  

Debbie had the garage door up as requested and I coasted in the garage after a 623 mile day.  She came out to see me and we went inside.  I left everything on the RT, for a quick getaway in the morning.

"You can definitely tell you came across the desert, you face is marked bigtime"

"yeah I know"

It was good to be home, and I definitely had a end of tour feeling, even though it wasn't.  I took a shower, and relaxed with my wife and big screen, and enjoyed what was left of the evening.

Before going to bed I went to my PC to set up the ride to Cruso.  My plan is to ride east, and north Georgia to the campground.  I've done the ride many times but never south to north.  I needed to configure the route in that manner.  I knocked it out in about 15 minutes, then brought the zumo in and downloaded it.  I also put my Sony camera on charge, good thing I was home because I had forgotten the charger, but the new ion battery went over a week without a charge, and it wasn't like I wasn't using it.

I watched a little more tv then went to bed about 12.   Felt good to be in my own rack.