"The Trans Arkansas Trail" - The "TART"
Planning the TART
took several months of planning in MapSource and daily viewing in Google Earth to determine that I had maximized the amount of dirt we rode on. Then the real chore came when planning a workable date that was available to everyone that was planning on riding. Then last minute changes were made to the route after input from Mike (10Cup), we broke the ride up into three legs and added camping areas to our intinerary. Then last month we determined that we would leave on Thursday, October 7th, 2010 and so we did
This route was designed as a South to North or North to South route through central Arkansas. It starts at Eldorado, Arkansas in the south or Blue Eye, Missouri in the north (both on the border of Arkansas).
throws everything at you during different stages of the ride. It can be benign, exciting, dangerous, and just plain exhilarating. When we started the route we started it with a bang! TEN inches of deep baby powder Bull Dust in the first 10 miles. This should have been a clue for us. There were also loose rocky trails, high speed gravel, very long technical uphills, dangerous downhills with baby head rock and loose sand, deep sand, some mud, puddles, creek crossings, tarmac, chip & seal, deer lease problems, Paper Mill property, ATV tracks, unused and overgrown trails, rocky trails with huge crevasses to fall into, closed gates, locked gates, private property, beautiful scenery, a number of re-routes to perfect the route and some great camping places.
A DISCLAIMER* Though parts of the TART could be done on scooter, this is NOT is not a big bike or a street bike trail. If you are a really good technical rider it is suited for a 650 cc or below bike. However, it would be very dangerous to try some parts of the ride on anything bigger. You can get lulled into thinking that the route is easy and all of sudden, wham! here comes a technical section. There were also areas that so remote that it would take a significant amount of time for help to arrive. I strongly recommend riding with a buddy or at the least traveling with a personal locator. It should also be noted that much of the southern section of this route is very low lying. During rainy period it may become impassable.
Routes and tracks of the TART
will be available to anyone that wants them when I am finished cleaning them up and adding way points. Also, there is still a small section left unridden which will be done in the next few weeks.
So, take a seat. Come along for the ride! Welcome to the "TART"
You can check out this map on http://www.dualsportmaps.com
As planned we left on the 7th and trailed to JoeNuclear's house to avoid scrubbing off the new knobbies. There would be more than enough tarmac from Joe's to Eldorado.
We off loaded about 8:30ish and waited for Joe's house to show signs of life.
At about 9:30 we were finally en route for Eldorado.
Our first stop was nearing Hot Springs. We at the "Cajun Boiler", it was outstanding.
Sorry, we were kinda hungry
Mike (10Cup) on the left and Joe (JoeNuclear) on the right
So after we arrived in Eldorado my GPS popped up with "Flamingo Motel" just ahead on the right. Flamingo Motel? I don't remember programming a stop there but Mike did when I asked for input. So, there we were the "Flamingo". Wasn't bad really, we had a "working" lady who wanted to offer her services, and a cheap room (no, not by the hour). The motel was clean and was only $42 a night and it was a family owned busines with the proprietors being most gracious people.
We sat down after dinner and had a few beers and proceeded to teach Mike the fine art of poker. It was a good evening with good friends.
The others would join us on Saturday at Choctaw Recreation Area.
Getting ready to leave the next morning, can you say overloaded? Not heavy but certainly bulky.
So, we finally bid Eldorado goodbye at around 9:30 am. Don't plan on getting aired up there. All of the gas stations have straight air chucks and you can't get them onto your rims. We ended up having to air up Joe's tires with my air pump.
Joe couldn't even get his air gauge working. Airing up here sucks! The hole town sucks ummmm... air I'm thinkin....
Coming out of the Bull Dust. Man that crap was powdery if you stopped for a second you were enveloped by this choking cloud of dust. I am not even sure you could navigate this area when it was muddy? It was my first time in deep bull dust and I hope the last for a while.
The trails were fairly rough and some were corrugated badly. After about an hour Joe and I had to adjust the loads on our bikes.
We had beautiful country lanes lined with pine and shady. It was a very relaxing portion of the ride after negotiating the bull dust.
Through on of the many Weyerhauser Forests
This is also oil country, which seems to be shared wealth with the county because most of the roads in this area were paved. Paved usually means money.
This time of the year the hunting leases on forest product land are active with hunters and ATV/UTV's. We were very lucky to have not been shot this weekend although we saw only a few hunters in their camps. These towers are virtually everywhere. Some were almost 4 stories tall and of course commanded royal views of the areas in which they were perched.
We had ridden about three hours now and came to a locked gate on a hunting lease. This would be common throughout the day. But this one was open on one end and closed on the other. We had committed some time to this point so we decided to go for it (use your own judgement).
As I looked back at the gate once through it. I noticed that it had a hunting club sign on it. We would see this over and over during the ride.
At about 1:30 I made I came to this intersection and waited for over 30 minutes for Mike and Joe. Neither showed up.
We were spaced way out due to the dust. I just gave it more time, half an hour, forty minutes...then it still nada? At this point I figured we had a flat, mechanical problems or someone needed fuel. There was fuel about 12 miles away so I hightailed it to Sparkman to see if they were there. Nope, so I hightailed it back. And once again waited at that turn and once again, nada?
Turned out that Joe had taken a wrong turn due to using a version of MapSource not compatible with my route which would plague him throught the ride. When he realized the error he routed back to the next intersection and eventually met Mike coming the opposite direction out of a particularly bad riding trail. This is when I found them at the corner shown in the screen shot of my GPS. Mike looked whipped. His allergies were raging and he said that he had enough and was going to Arkadelphia to overnight then go home.
Were down to two now, ugh!
After I had time to reflect on the day I realized that I should have rotated the lead and got Mike out of the dust. Perhaps this would have helped him cope better. I have allergies too, but no where near as bad as poor Mike. My bad. So, we bid Mike goodbye here.
Joe and I pressed on. This trail would deteriorate into an almost obliterated path. We slowly picked our way through jumping logs, dodging deer towers and counting our blessings that they were empty of hunters.
One of many streams but we didn't have to ford any today as all had bridges.
We arrived at Degrays Lake for our first night in the tents about 3:30 pm in time to pitch them and run out for dinner.
Joe and I got up and packed for day three. We didn't really get to motivated about leaving on at a specific time. Once we got moving we ate at the DeGrays Lake State Park Lodge (blech!). Save your money the food was mediocre at best and the waitress cranky as hell.
This day would see our most challenging riding. As we neared Lake Winona, Ar. we noticed the surrounding area becoming more and more steep and larger mountains appeared. After some rather boring riding in the morning we wanted and found technical riding. We passed the pump station for Lake Winona water supply. It is a very old facility and from where we entered the area it looked like it was an old CCC project and thus was not very well maintained.
Then we headed up in elevation on this trail for the next 20 or so minutes. The road went from this,
to barely an overgrown two track. There were places where my bike was brushing against limbs on both sides as we negotiated our way through. It was also very steep. Perhaps 35* or so. The road had been washed out over and over. The result was some really deep crevasses that demanded your full attention. Some of this area was very narrow and you had to be on your game to keep from falling in the crevasses and as I said it got narrower and narrower as we went up.
As per usual, there was no time for pictures on this section
When we came down the other side I saw a guy with a pickup sitting at the intersection of the trail and one of the main roads. There was nothing in the vicinity, I mean totally nothing. Very remote. I noticed he had a radio and figured he was a turkey or deer check station.
I said hello to him and looked at me with this incredulous look. He asked me "Did you just come down from that trail (pointing)? I said "yes sir". He looked at me again, then at the trail, then at me again and said "Are you y'all fucking crazy?" "Do you have a death wish?" "I've been up there exactly once and won't go back up there ever again"!
Turns out this guy was there to check in contestants for a triathalon. After riding this terrain I found it incredible that anyone would run that trail? Wow.
After some discussion with this guy we headed for the nearest gas and food. Near was a relative term. It took two more hours to find it. We did finally find the restaurant but not where he said. We settled on the "Jones Family Restaurant" in Perryville, Arkansas. I highly recommend their tasty hamburgers. Yum!
From Perryville, we went back East to our route and headed toward Bigelow, Arkansas. on Tram Road. Tram is a very, very long straightaway. No traffic to speak of. Joe and I were hitting it here. I clocked 65mph a couple of times because you could see so far ahead.
I reached the next turn and as planned waited for Joe until he was in my sight before proceeding on. I waited, and waited, and waited somemore. No Joe. Now what? I checked my cell phone for messages and sure enough there was one from Joe stating that he had blown a tire on Tram Road.
I mounted up and turned back to find him. When I got there he was on the side of the road next to an old S-10 pickup? and two salty looking guys. One younger and one older. The old guy was holding a Bud Light. They were watching Joe working on the tire.
These guys were about as redneck as they come. They had been out checking their deer feeders when they came up on Joe. The hole in Joe's tire was big, in fact my thumb would have fit in it. Joe runs the TubeLess system and had the plugs he needed but didn't have enough to fill this hole (did I mention it was big?). The old guy and his son(?) happened to have a whole bunch of plugs to offer. And Joe was even using their electric tire pump. Great hospitality indeed.
Once Joe got the hole plugged he pumped up the tire. Then the young kid produces a spray bottle of soapy water to test the leak (I'm thinking this must be a common occurrence in these parts). Sure enough it leaks...argh! and Joe attempts the patch again.
This time I think he about 8 strands of plug material in the hole. He airs up the tire again and tests it with the soapy water. Voila' it works! We bid farewell to our friends and move down the road albeit a lot slower now doing steady 35mph. About 20 minutes later on tarmac the patch goes with a bang and Joe is dead in the water. What now?
We pull over and Joe tells me he is going to ride the flat to Conway, Arkansas (30 miles away) and I should keep going. I am reluctant to leave him but he has none of that and tells me to keep on. So, I shook his hand and wished him well.
I rode on alone determined to be the only rider to make it Eldorado to Blue Eye. I rode many more deer leases and marginal trails before I reached the Choctaw Recreation Area. Choctaw would be where I meet Tim (O'Leary) and Travis (MossyCreek) for my second night on the road.
Choctaw was nice digs. They had quiet campsites and hot showers which was a ++ in my book.
That evening we three played poker. Tim and I did ok but Travis ended up funding our breakfast the next morning. Thanks Travis!
We woke early the next day 06:00 and packed up. Next on the agenda was breakfast at the Huddle House in Clinton. The food was meh! but adequate.
From Clinton we went west to the route again. We had some wonderful vistas before dropping into a deep valley.
The bottom of this valley was a long trek. We descended for what seemed like 10 miles. When we finally got to the bototm we had this beautiful stream to cross.
I mentioned above that we had one long re-route This is where it occurred. I should have gone left instead I opted for a right turn. This caused a 55 mile ride around when 9 miles would have done it. Fifty five miles of tarmac. Taking us through Tilly, Witts Springs and finally back to Gilbert just five miles as the crow flies from where we started....ugh
I did change the tracks to fix this in case you're wondering. The route led us here.
The road just ended, no warning just ended very typical of Arkansas secondary roads. Travis said he saw a gate so I briefly went for a look.
Nothing there but a fence so we took the reroute from hell at my insistance. O'Leary did have a better plan but NOOOOOOOOOOOO I didn't listen. GRRRRRRRRR
So as we made our way back to the route we passed through Snowball, AR.. Looked nearly abandoned.
We were now nearing Gilbert. The plan was to get a cup of coffee and take a break. We ended up near the Gilbert turn off here at Fergusons Restaurant and country store. Great place to eat with some country atmosphere thrown in.
O'Leary and MossyCreek decided at this point (and since my 55 mile detour scrubbed their knobs off) to cut and run home as this was a natural jump off point for them. Once again I headed north on my own.
The rest of the roads were typical maintained NW Arkansas gravel. This was taken just off Dubuquec Road I believe.
I was really getting tired at this point and I had been on all of the roads that were left on the TART so I started edging my way toward home. I took a mix of tarmac and gravel but happened on this great old bridge.
So, this ends the TART ride. About an hour later I arrived home. Spent, jubilant, and sated with riding for a bit. My bike, as overloaded as it was performed flawlessly. I never once felt that I wasn't going to make the entire trip due to a mechanical failure (save a quick cam chain adjustment) Thanks Travis!.
The TART is a great ride! It absolutely gives you the best and the worst of Arkansas. It is NOT a big bike route in the mid section of the route. Lake Winona and it's trails will bite your butt if you try it on anything bigger than a 650. We rode the lowland forests, climbed mountains, reforged old trails, saw beautiful valleys and kindled stronger friendships. In short, the TART is what riding is about and the reason we do it.
Tracks and routes will be provided in the next couple of days. I will post when they become available.
Thanks for riding along with us!