Our initial target today is breakfast at the Rainbow Trout and Game Ranch in Rockbridge, MO. Situated off county N near the northern border of Ozark county, the town of Rockbridge is in fact the ranch and nothing more. Property grounds are self-sustaining with a trout hatchery, lodging, restaurant, post office, sporting clays range and horseback trails. The hatchery is used to supply fresh fish for the kitchen and we were able to witness the cleaning of several trout before being seated for breakfast in the main white wooden ranch building. Looking out the window from our table, an 1800s red grist mill sits beside Spring Creek adjacent to a seven foot falls, anglers trying their “luck” in the cold, clear waters. The hatchery also stocks the creek for its guests, so it’s more like shooting fish in a barrel than actual fishing. The grist mill is no longer operative and has been converted to a dining/drinking establishment open during afternoon hours.
Some breakfast items include three egg omelets with smoked trout – sounds good to me! But the image of freshly cleaned trout fillets was still lingering and dinner items on the menu listed trout prepared twenty different ways so I asked the waitress if I could have two eggs and a fried fillet – an item not on the breakfast menu. “Of course, how would you like your eggs?” (Awesome!) “Over easy.” The dish arrived a short time later and it was delicious. Then I got the bill: Eggs and fillet were $14.50, making breakfast with coffee, tax and tip $20.50. By way of comparison, the three egg omelet with smoked trout was $6.50. Bottom line: I didn’t ask the price before ordering and they took the opportunity to gouge me. While not much money and it certainly won’t break the bank, I deplore these shams. Besides this small transgression, everything else was terrific.
Crossing south into Arkansas on state highway 125, a sign soon warns Pavement Ends a short distance ahead. Sure enough, the road vanishes into Bull Shoals Lake, an enormous man-made reservoir. The complimentary ferry, which runs during daylight hours is offloading cars as we approach. We roll the bikes onto the deck besides a single southbound car. A couple riding a black Kawasaki Vulcan 900 joins the herd and we shove off. During the brief crossing, I learn that the Bikes, Blues and BBQ motorcycle rally had just ended yesterday in Fayetteville, Arkansas. With an estimated attendance of well over 400k, this rally is now larger that Sturgis, SD which has been dwindling each year (390k in 2013) since its record draw of 605k in 2003.
Continuing south we stop at Wild Bill’s Outftter at 1:30 pm. Located a few miles north of a Buffalo River access point on highway 14, Wild Bills has canoe and kayak rentals, lodging, and a general store to supply you with most anything needed for a float trip. And we needed plenty of supplies: beer, charcoal, lighter fluid and ice. We’re renting the Evening Star Lodge tonight, a home five miles south in the middle of the woods. The house has a grill and we previously took care of those cook items with a stop in Yellville, AR purchasing steaks, chops, and veggies there. Wild Bill’s counter is soon covered with our purchases and it’s clear there’s no way we can carry all this stuff to the house on our loaded bikes. So they offer to toss everything in the back of a pick-up and we set off for the house. We turn off onto a straight well graded gravel road and then take a left turn where the gravel becomes stone and the road takes a steep decent. If you’re not on a dirt bike this is a stretch of road that you might want to think twice about (and then once again for good measure). Coasting down in first gear, it was feet down with front brake, slipping and rolling the whole 300 yards. Very unnerving! Once unloaded, I removed all my hard luggage from the Tiger and motored up the hill (not too bad) to meet at a parking area along the river for our scheduled 3:00 pm float. A small old school bus pulling a trailer arrives and we all pile in for a short drive up-river to our launch point.
The Buffalo River is about 150 miles long and is Americas first National River. Dropping over 2,000 feet it claims the highest bluffs in the state. The water is warm, clear, shallow and slow with the canoe getting snagged on a few occasions. Surrounding land is beautiful. Numerous fish are spotted and large turtles can be seen resting on the bottom. A bald eagle, great blue heron and several ducks were the fowl representatives with a deer and raccoon representing the mammals. After a relaxing peaceful 4 ½ mile, 2 hour float we arrived at our waiting bikes.
Back at the home, we left the bikes at the top of the hill and walked the short distance down into the valley. Steaks, chops, and sliced zucchini are soon sizzling on the grill with cold beers clinking all around. After a fantastic gut stretching dinner, we sat on the wooden porch, listening to tunes with a few guys enjoying cigars and reflecting on the days adventure. Good times!