Today’s our last day in the Ozarks. Our plan is to head north and east, placing us at the Trail of Tears State Park on the Mississippi River near Cape Girardeau, Missouri. Departing the Dogwood Motel under a crisp clear sky, we head north toward Mountain Home, Arkansas. A final famous road awaits: Push Mountain Road, officially known as highway 341. We stop for a photo but there is no Push Mountain Road sign as it’s so frequently stolen the state gave up on replacing it. Arriving in Mountain Home, we stop for breakfast on the town square. There, we bid farewell to our Can-Am rider as he’s heading to Saint Charles, Missouri to meet family and friends.
Our foursome departs Mountain Home to ride along Norfork Lake then enters Missouri at the small town of Moody. There we shuffle positions with the Suzuki leading, then the Honda followed by the Victory and finally me on the Triumph. About 10 or 12 miles south of West Plains, Missouri on county road ‘E’ at high noon, we’re riding north on a straight slightly undulating road through sparsely populated farmland. I spot a deer running along the left side of the road adjacent to and in the same direction as our bikes. It veers right and manages to find a gap between the Honda and Victory. I think all is well until I spot another deer following the first. It too cuts between the two bikes but this time the Victory clips the doe in the hind quarters and they both go down. At this point it’s as if the scene unfolding before me is running at ¼ speed. With the right side of the Victory striking the ground at about 45 MPH, my friend Marty is separated from his bike, slides and rolls for 50 feet before coming to rest on the right shoulder – motionless. Shit! I glance down the road to see the Victory had uprighted itself and was idling down the centerline, like an aimless Zombie, slowly drifting to the right before dropping off into the grassy drainage ditch. I pull up to my fallen friend as he begins to move his legs when I firmly tell him to “Stop!” I want to ensure there are no spinal injuries before he attempts to get up or remove his helmet. So we begin with him slowly moving each foot, leg, fingers, hands, arms and finally have him slowly move his head from side to side. Thankfully, all looks well. A lady in a red Jeep travelling south pulls up and asks if anyone’s called 911 – “No, not yet.” After another minute a vehicle with a blue and white flashing light in their windshield arrives – it’s a First Responder. Then another arrives. This is rather unexpected: we’re in the middle of rural farmland and within a few minutes we’re surrounded by vehicles and people eager to offer assistance!
The Honda soon returns and he along with the First Responders tend to Marty who’s now sitting upright. I go to evaluate the Victory, 50 yards down the road. Two guys are already there and had switched the bike off. We upright the machine, start it up and I then ride it 200 yards along the ditch to a farmhouse driveway. The bike is somewhat beat but looks like it might still be roadworthy: front fender is blood stained and bent; the front brake is spongy; the right crash bar is pushed back making it impossible to drop the floor board; a fork protector is bent. I walked back to Marty where he’s now standing with his helmet off. I then walk another 50 yards to the fallen deer, laying in the east ditch, a huge bloody injury visible on its right flank. Flailing on its side, the doe was severely injured but not dead. A gentleman retrieves a firearm from his vehicle to put the animal down.
An ambulance arrives and Marty seems OK with no broken bones but has some nasty road rash, most noticeably on his right leg. We decide to go to the medical center in West Plains for a more thorough assessment and then try to arrange for someone to look at the bike. It’s said that adversity brings out the best or worst in a person. Following is an example that exemplifies that point perfectly.
One of the locals had a cellphone with great coverage, plus he knows the area, so it was suggested we initially try the Polaris dealer in West Plains. He dials the number to Mega Motorsports hands me the phone and a gentleman named Chris answers. I inform him of our situation and he patches me through to a guy in service. I tell him I have a bent Victory and that we’re 600 miles from home and ask if they can quickly assess the roadworthiness of the cycle. They’re open for another five hours but unfortunately they can’t look at it today. How’s about Sunday? Nope… closed Sundays. How about Monday then? Nope, they’re really busy with over 100 vehicles backlogged so they cannot look at it for two weeks. Two weeks!? Yeah, that’ll work. We’ll just get a motel and hang out for 14 days. Maybe this guy is deaf and he didn’t hear the part about this being a cycle crash and we’re 600 miles from home? Nope. He’s just an apathetic jerk who basically wants nothing more than to kick us to the curb – as quickly as possible. Hey, thanks for nothing, pal.
Our next call is to D & S Cycle just north of West Plains on highway 63. I speak with the owner, Stan Ellison and once again explain the need for someone to look over a bike that was in a crash. He closes at 1:00 pm on Saturdays but said he’d stay open until we could get the bike to his shop. So a man in a red pick-up drives off and returns a short while later with a small tilt trailer. I ride the Victory into position, strap it down and we head for Stan’s shop. Two of us follow the trailer to the shop while the other follows Marty in the ambulance to the medical center.
Once at D & S Cycle, a “Closed” sign dejects us but a yank on the door reveals Stan waiting within. We get the crippled Victory offloaded from the trailer and point out the issues noted with the bike. I hand the keys to Stan and we ride to the medical center to check on Marty. He’s already in a hospital gown having his wounds cleansed and dressed. After his arms, legs and torso are wrapped in gauze he’s given a clean bill of health and we depart. Ninety minutes later we’re back at the cycle shop and the Victory looks like it hadn’t moved. Oh, oh. A closer examination shows the bike is much improved: the front brake works and all the bent metal has been straightened! The most impressive repair was to the front rotor. It struck the pavement in the crash and was bent inwards about ¼ inch. That’s why the brake felt spongy: each time the wheel turned, the rotor pushed the pistons into the calliper. Then the brake lever needed to be pumped to push the pistons back against the disk. A mallet and piece of wood was all Stan needed to get the disk back to within a few thousandths of true. A truly gifted mechanic. Compassionate, competent, and honest, this man stayed open two hours past his normal closing time to help us out of a serious bind. What did he charge for all of his assistance? Fifty dollars. If I ever get to heaven, I’ll be buying Stan a beer, because I know he’ll make the list. And for anyone taking their toys to Mega Motorsports for service, I have to ask, “Why?” Those bozos don’t deserve your business. Do yourselves and Stan a favor and check out D & S Cycle instead.
Back on the bikes at 3:30 pm, we decide to ride divided highway and have Marty lead. After a few test stops to check the brakes, Marty got up to speed. What an Iron Man! He led us 180 miles to Charleston, Missouri and a setting sun before calling it a day. The next morning we got on Interstate 57 for the final stretch home. The Victory performed well: Thanks again to Stan and all the other incredibility helpful and kind folks of West Plains, Missouri for all your assistance in our time of need.