On July 21, 2006, Curt Jordan and I set out on a motorcycle trip to tour the central part of Arkansas. I planned the trip during the month of July for two reasons: first, we're in the dog days of summer and I couldn't think of a better way to chase away the summer blues than a ride into Arkansas and second, I wanted to give Mother Nature a chance to redeem herself for what she did to me in April of 2005.
When camping at Queen Wilhelmina, she threw at me the coldest night with the highest winds I have ever experienced. I'm still trying to thaw out from that night and I figured there was no way Mother Nature could throw a cold night at me in July...or could she?
Friday, July 21, 2006 - Curt and I met in Lindale at my casa around 1:30pm. I had to work that morning and couldn't get off until 12noon. Curt and I left Lindale bound for Queen Wilhelmina which is located on top of Rich Mountain some 14 miles west of Mena, Arkansas. The temperature was hot! When we left, it was 102 degrees and as we traveled from Texas into Oklahoma the temperature rose to 110!
Needless to say Curt and I stopped often to drink plenty of water or Gatorade to stay hydrated. As we approached Highway 1, the Talimena Scenic Byway, it began to rain and it rained on us until we reached Queen Wilhemina. After checking in and securing a camp spot, we pitched our tents, packed everything away and made our way up to the lodge for dinner. The temperature hovered in the 99-100 degree range all evening until sundown.
After we retired for the night in our tents, I remember thinking, "Why am I here, sweltering in the heat?". It wasn't long until my question was answered. Mother Nature steered a cool front through the area around 12 midnight that dipped the temperature into the low 60's!
Saturday, July 22, 2006 - Curt and I woke up Saturday morning amazed at how cool it was in July. Yep, Mother Nature threw another cold front at me, but this time she did me a favor. For the rest of the trip, the temperature ranged from the 60's in the mornings to the high 80's in the day. Curt and I weren't complaining. We felt lucky to have traveled here this particular weekend since the locals told us that the weekend before it was 106 degrees all weekend. After eating breakfast at the Queen Wilhelmina Lodge, Curt and I left to tour Arkansas. Our plan for the day was to take our time and tour Magazine Mountain and Mt. Nebo State Park. Both of us had never been to these places in Arkansas and we were looking forward to it.
We arrived at Magazine Mountain around 10am. We rode up highway 309 which turned into a very nice road to ride on motorcycles. Several switchbacks with a mixture of steep grades and picture perfect turn offs. Once at the top of the mountain we traveled the road that loops around the top of the mountain stopping at the newly built lodge. I've never seen a lodge this nice! Not only did it have all the amenities of a lodge in Colorado, but it was huge, sporting some 60 rooms and two restaurants.
After touring the lodge, we rode down the mountain and stopped at a restaurant called Shirley's Outback and Convenience Store. Although it was too early for us to eat lunch, I still got hungry just looking at the food available. If you want a nice dinner, Shirley's Outback is the place to get it! Curt and I continued our trek up highway 309 till we got into Paris, Arkansas. Then, we turned east onto highway 22. The next spot to see was Mt. Nebo State Park which was located near Dardanelle, Arkansas. Some 35 miles later we arrived in Dardanelle where we stopped for fuel and ate lunch at a Subway.
To get to Mt. Nebo from Dardanelle, one must travel up highway 155 which snakes its way directly up the mountain. 155 turned into a motorcyclists dream! I counted 9, steep switchbacks while climbing that mountain. 155 was obviously constructed a very long time ago because the road travels up the mountain in a more direct pattern than other roads climbing mountains. In fact, trailers over 24 feet are not allowed on the road.
Once Curt and I made it to the top, we stopped at the Visitor's Center for the park. Once parked, we noticed that people were gathering at the rear of the center which happened to be a launching area for hang gliders. After walking to the back of the center, we noticed that three gentlemen were readying their hang gliders for launch. Curt and I looked at each other, talked about it and decided that since we were in no hurry, we would stay and witness the launch. I got my camera and shot not only digital stills but some video of the event.
The men took their time and methodically prepared their crafts for the launch. After about an hour, the time had come. The first man carried his glider to the edge, testing the wind along the way. I noticed he was keeping a watchful eye on the pink-colored streemers strategically located on trees below. Once the wind was in the right direction and at the right velocity, he yelled, "Clear", took a few steps and like magic, he was off...soaring over the edge of the cliff looking to catch a lift in the wind to take him up into the clouds. Not long after, the other two gliders eased their way off the edge to join him.
The whole event was fascinating! I had never witnessed anyone launch a hang glider. I must say I deeply respect these guys. It takes a great amount of courage to step off a cliff on nothing but a wing and a gust of wind. My helmet is off to all of those that love the sport of hang gliding.
Curt and I left, traveled back down 155, turned onto highway 27 heading south. In the town of Danville, we hooked up with highway 80 which took us west to Waldron. Then, it was back to Mena and Queen Wilhelmina by way of highway 71. Before traveling up to Rich Mountain, Curt and I stopped in Mena for some Mexican food. At sundown, our campsite temperature was a lovely 75 degrees! Getting to sleep tonight was going to be no problem for me.
Sunday, July 23, 2006 - We woke up Sunday morning to sunshine and 65 degrees! I couldn't believe it was July? After eating breakfast at the lodge, Curt and I took our time and packed our gear for the ride home. But before we headed home, we decided to ride every bit of highway 1, the Talimena Scenic Byway. We rode highway 1, then rode back to highway 259 heading south. We stopped in Broken Bow, Oklahoma for fuel and to eat lunch. After leaving, we made our way back to Lindale by way of highway 37, which took us through Mt. Vernon, WInnsboro, Quitman and Mineola. I arrived home at 4pm. Curt, made it home about 30 minutes later.
All-in-all, the trip was excellent. We got to ride some excellent roads and see some awesome scenery. We put over 800 miles on our bikes with a total trip cost of about $125.00 each. Yep, I must say I'm one lucky guy. I actually experienced several 60 degree days in July of 2006! Mother Nature continued to amaze me. Stay tuned. The trips will continue...
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