I set my alarm last night with the hope of catching a beautiful sunrise from the top of Mount Nebo. Instead a thin overcast with veils of dangling fog slowly drifting north was waiting outside my tent. I grabbed the DSLR anyway and snapped a few shots of Lake Dardanelle and weak attempts of the sun trying to show itself through the cloud cover. We’re in no hurry today. My friend’s appointment to have his rear tire changed at the Honda dealer is at 10:30 am and it’s only a 15 mile ride. So we lazily break camp and grab some breakfast in Russellville at the Waffle House, the “World’s Leading Server of REAL Hashbrowns” – whatever the hell that means. We get to the dealer at 10:30 and the Metzeler Z6 Interact has been delivered right on time. Ninety minutes later and we’re on our way up the Scenic 7 Byway for a roundabout wandering route that will eventually place us in Mountain View, AR.
And what a route! Scenic 7 Byway is famous throughout the Ozarks. Rural, winding, hilly and surrounded by forest, many consider it the most beautiful stretch of road in Arkansas. We stop for some photos at a scenic overlook before continuing on to highway 16 east towards Clinton, AR. Another rural crazy twisty road! Make sure you’re properly fueled out here. We travelled nearly 100 miles before arriving in Clinton and there are no towns or services along the entire route.
Once in Clinton, we stopped for some fuel and an ice cream cone where we struck up a conversation with an elderly gentleman with a large pick-up truck. In the back were about a half dozen silver liquid nitrogen canisters containing bull semen. Not a very common sight where I live! This guy had a constant smile on his face and loads of stories to tell. Typical here… folks are very amiable.
Around 3:00 pm we arrive in Mountain View, Arkansas at the Dogwood Motel, a no-frills family run establishment that’s clean and cheap. We’re here for two nights so I unload all my hard luggage and place everything in the room. After resting a spell, I gather up my clothes and ride about two miles to a laundromat. We were a bit low on detergent so the Suzuki V-Strom ran for a jug of Cheer. Three locals came in while our stuff had migrated to the driers and they provide lots of tips on where to eat. They also inform us this is a “damp” county and the nearest liquor store is in Baxter county, 12 miles west: “About a 15 minute drive.” By damp they mean that Stone county can sell beer, but only in restaurants and only after you’ve filled out a form to join a club. How ridiculous… politicians can be such numbskulls!
We weren’t planning on stowing a 40 ounce jug of liquid laundry detergent for the 700 mile trek home so, as our new friends were leaving, I offered them the bottle. I was then bestowed with “God bless you” about ten times. You would have thought I gave them the cure for cancer. Little did I know at the time, but all their well wishes paid off big time later this evening. Good karma.
We dropped our clean clothes back at the room then, taking the advice we received earlier, rode north on highway 9 for dinner at Anglers White River Resort. Stepping in their front door we saw a flat screen TV on the wall with a weather radar feed – BIG storm coming! ETA was about an hour. There was no way we’d have time to eat dinner and then shoot west for a beer run before the storm hit. So I told the guys to order me a large catfish dinner and that I’d take a ride to the Baxter county liquor store. Heading west on highway 14 the road is very hilly and winding, the western horizon warning of inclement weather with glowering distant lightning shining off my visor. Fifteen miles from the restaurant I get to the county line and… no store: Okay 2 miles more and I’m turning back. But it’s only another half mile and there it is, lit up like a carnival attraction. Place looks like a strip club with no windows and a solid door. I grab three six packs and place two in the top case and one in the side pannier. Heading back and approaching twilight, the darkening sky is lit with frequent flashes of lightning. But now it’s in my mirrors so I feel pretty confident I’ll get back without getting inundated. A few miles from the restaurant I see an object on my left dart across the road in front of me: four deer are determined to cross my path. The road here is very curvy but fortunately I’m in a brief straight. I instantly release the throttle and clutch, lock the rear and squeeze the front. The two six-packs in the top case ram forward with a staccato of glass striking glass. Weird, but I’m thinking, “I hope none of those bottles broke!” As the locked rear has the bike sliding left on an upright 45 degree angle, I just barely miss the last deer in the string when I’m able to release the brakes and straighten the bike. That last deer was moving so fast on the pavement, her hooves slipped on the surface and she fell to the ground just a couple feet to my right. There, she frantically spun her legs to get up and resume her sprint towards the fading herd.
Arriving at the intersection of highways 9 and 14, I see all the bikes still parked, illuminated under the blue glare of Anglers’ gravel parking lot lights. With lightning strobes all around, I set off south towards the motel. I just survived a narrow miss with deer – I’m not taking on this storm too! I arrive and place the beer (none broke) in the fridge and under WiFi check the radar – Man, those guys better step it up, I don’t want my catfish dinner getting wet! After ten minutes, the room curtains glow under approaching headlights and I hear the sound of their engines. Whew! Three minutes later, the sky opens to a torrential rain and brutal gusting winds, garbage cans and plastic chairs being tossed across the motel grounds. I’m still deciding who had the closer call – them or me.