Monday, September 16, 2013

Mena Arkansas to Eureka Springs Arkansas

I finished the Graceland blog before we set out this morning. Then we checked out, fueled the trucks with Pure Gas and headed north out of town on US 71, with me in the lead. Well, we got rolling after a miscue where I took SR 88 by mistake at a critical intersection because I was worried about a Chevy truck behind me instead of watching the GPS. Once I got back on 71, we started in earnest.

Lots of hills in places on US 71

And some flat straight places, too

And more hills

And curves

And motorcycles

And cows

Our plan had been to stop for breakfast at some quaint wayside diner. We found none. This area has obviously fallen on hard times and, while we saw some closed restaurants (and many other types of businesses), the only eateries we saw on 71 were a couple of fast food chain spots in Waldron. I guess they have the support of the parent companies while mom and pop places just can't compete.

One thing that there was in abundance were churches, mostly Southern Baptist. I can see in areas like this how they form a large part of the lives of the local people. This makes me appreciate how defensive they can get when society in general downgrades the importance of religion. It would be nice if they could realize that while this is an important part of their lives, the same does not hold true  for everyone.

We had the opportunity to continue up US 71 and catch the superslab north of I-40 for a shorter trip but we had decided to take the scenic route. We turned on US 23, still looking for food. In the small town of Booneville, we found the Rockin' Robin Cafe on the main drag and parked in the lot across the street.

The young lady working in the restaurant had what might be the most perfect Arkansas accent, soft and lilting. Sherm ordered an omelette but asked if he could substitute the toast and potatoes with something else. The young lady said no one had ever asked that before  but she didn't see why not. Sherm suggested a few slices of tomato so she brought him a whole tomato cut in quarters. Sandy and I had the breakfast special.

While we were waiting for the food, we used the free WiFi to catch up and I called Condi in Eureka Springs to ask her if there would be a problem with the motel if we arrived a day early. No problem, come on ahead. She also told me it had been raining all day in ES.

Rockin' Robin Cafe - Booneville Arkansas

Retro theme

The attached music room

Booneville does have a Mexican restaurant

Other places aren't doing as well

We continued north, commenting on the number of dead armadillos we saw. Possum on the half shell, as they are known in some quarters. Just before Ozark, we crossed the Arkansas River. Then we crossed I-40 and continued north on US 23, passing another very small WalMart. We had seen a couple of these and wondered why they were so little when we were so close to the Wally World headquarters.

Crossing the Arkansas River at Ozark

Modern looking bridge

Another tiny Walmart

US 23 got narrower and twistier as approached into what is known as the Pig Trail. There are conflicting tales of how this 19 mile stretch got its name, but nothing definitive. It did have some twisty sections and some steep hills, but the little trailer was a breeze to tow through here.

Part way through, we came to the store at Turner Bend on the Mulberry River, where we stopped for a break. There were a couple of riders from North Georgia here and we talked a bit about bikes and trips we had taken. Another pair pulled in on Harley's, one from Maryland and the other from Colorado. They had been riding together on a trip that had taken them as far south as Florida and would be splitting up later today to head for their respective homes. The Colorado guy was from near Loveland and wasn't sure if he would be able to get home due to the flooding.

Starting the Pig Trail

The typical corner sign

The typical corner

Pretty trees

Turner Bend

Two nice trailers at Turner Bend

Leaving Turner Bend, we continued to twist and wind and eventually caught up to a short line of traffic led by a Chev Impala that must have been driven by a flatlander. There was no place to pass and he didn't pull over at any of the pullouts, so we trundled along at a pace that was agonizingly slow, even for the trailer rigs.

More curves

Slow down for this one, but not THAT slow

Still crawling along

The big trucks did haul through here

Just like the Smokies

Eventually, we ran out of the hills but not the slow Chev. We followed the line all the way to Huntsville where everyone ahead of us pulled off.

Hay rolls in a valley

An unusual coloured cattle herd

Coming out of Huntsville, my GPS routed me up US 412 and across SR 127. Unfortunately, Sherm followed his GPS said to follow 23 and he didn't notice me turn off. We were quickly out of radio range and coordinated a meet where 127 rejoined 23 via cell phone. He got there first and waited while we dodged mama deer and her two children on 127.

Deer on SR 127

Once we were back together, it was an uneventful trip the rest of the way to ES. The rain, which had started falling while we were on the Pig Trail, eased north of Huntsville and roads were mostly dry all the way to the motel.

Turpentine Creek big cat rescue facility

We pulled into the motel to find JR, Condi, Watchman, Liza and Rick, a nice fellow from Texas we hadn't met before. We got our room, unloaded the bikes and gear, and parked the trailers in short order. The rest had headed to Grandma's Beans and Cornbread for lunch and, while Sherm opted not to go, Stewey jumped in the truck with us and we followed them. Sandy and I split a chicken salad sandwich on wheat bread and also split a blackberry cobbler for dessert.

Grandma's Beans and Cornbread

Sandy, Liz, Watchman, JR, Condi, Rick and Stewey

After lunch, we stopped next door where I found a new belt that met my rigorous standards. Then we went across the road to the Arkansas Adventure Rider store where Sandy bought a pair of bifocal sunglasses to help her use the camera on the bike. Then we went back to hang out at the hotel. Eventually, Magellan, Bassman and Laura arrived.

A Stewey sized mug

Watchman needs a new map

Rick from Texas

JR, Liz, Watchman and Condi

About suppertime, we had a discussion on where to eat. Forest Hills won out (partly due to the 10% off coupons in the motel office) and about a dozen of us headed over. They had a buffet and we all had that. I tried to avoid the sugars and starches. After supper, Sherm and Stewey joined Sandy and I for ice cream at the shop just up the road. Sherm and I had No Sugar Added butter pecan. Then it was back to the hotel where we sat out until bedtime. Sandy did get to watch a bit of the first episode of Dancing With The Stars.

Tomorrow will be the official first day of the reunion and we are looking forward to it.

Today's Route (171 Avalanche/trailer miles):

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