We make it to a rode that ran by a power line hill that dad couldn’t resist getting off on to. He checks them out for a ways and comes back to get me and go check them out further. We ride the power line for a few miles and decide to turn around when we hit a large fallen tree across the trail. We could have moved the tree or gone around it but we were heading in the opposite direction of the TAT and knew we should go ahead and head back. The power line was great to ride and it was the most offroad type riding we did on the trip.
There were these types of trails all over the Ozarks that we would have loved to check out but we kept to the main line after this.
That day we made it to mile 300 of AR and decide to head to Clarksville for the night. We stayed at the Budget Inn that was an old hotel that had been recently renovated. It reminded me of some of the places we stayed at on road trips when I was a kid. A very nice older Indian couple owned the hotel and it was very nice.
The owners told us the Mexican place down the road was a good place for dinner. We walk in and I order a Corona with lime only to be told, what do you know, it’s a dry county! I could have burnt the restaurant down along with the rest of the town. What is the deal with this state! I could rant for hours about this but what is their deal with alcohol? Do they not know that they can make lots of money off of it? What kind of Mexican place can you not order a margarita at? Is this the prohibition? Anyways I get over it and enjoy my food with lemonade. The food was good but would have been better with a cold beer… We wake up the next morning and hit up the local motorcycle shop for some Injector oil to put in the 175. Thankfully they had some and he would be good for another few hundred more miles.
Today was another great day of weather and just as good a day if not better for the trail.
I really feel like the Ozarks are the non tourist trap version of the Smokey Mountains. This is a place for real outdoors enthusiasts and still very much has its wild feel to it. I keep thinking about how I can’t wait to bring my wife and daughter, soon to be daughters, back here some time. We made it to the infamous Oark General Store and pull in for fuel and lunch. I seen Swamp’s sticker on the front door when we came in so I knew this place had to be the real deal. If you haven’t read any of Swamp’s ride reports on here you definitely should.
We both have the catfish special for lunch that was fantastic. I had Old Fashioned Butter Cream pie and dad has Coconut Cream pie that had just came out of the oven for desert. This place was as perfect as the rest of the Ozarks.
A real deal no tourist trap feel here that is everything that places like Nashville Indiana tries to be but are too touristy to ever be. The locals were amazing and talked to us and told us stories about people from all over the world that had stopped in.
We sign the book and I read it while I was eating. A lady at the next table came over and told me that she was the one that brought the book to the store and had the idea of having people sign it. She told me since two years ago when she started it that they have almost all 50 states the only ones not being a couple on the East coast (get with it people) and over 20 countries from around the world. She was a really cool lady that gave me an old hippy kind of feel and she was wearing a Bella Fleck shirt so I knew she was cool.
We head back outside and there are a few people talking and a guy playing the banjo on the front porch!!!! Wow, we were in our glory. Dad danced with a couple of the local ladies for a bit and made them light up like Christmas trees! It was quite the sight to behold! The guy on the banjo really had some chops and it was great to hear. It was all almost too good to be true but it was. We rode off and I was just thinking how awesome of an experience that place and the entire Ozarks were.
We go through more amazing roads after Oark and do Warloop Road. The Warloop section was definitely the most technical riding of the trip though it was no problem on bikes like ours. Again, I cannot imagine wrestling a big hog of a bike like a GS or Tenere or even my DL through sections like this. An XRL or a KLR would be the biggest bike I would ever want to take on this trip (refer to my sledge hammer to an axe comparison at the beginning of the report). We ran into a couple riders on the side of the road and stopped to see if they need help. It was a guy on an XR650L and a KLR rider with a flat rear tire. They were on Arkansas 500 ADVrider ride. We try to give them a hand with my foot air pump but the guys tube was too shot for it to do any good. A guy from the pack came back that had a tube and an electric pump so we headed on after we saw they were in good shape and only a few miles from camp anyway.
At some point in the Ozarks Dad ran out of fuel and so we used the 1.5 gallon can that I had attached to my rear rack. The 175 was getting anywhere from 80 to 120 miles per two gallon tank depending on the terrain. We road through more great scenery and water crossings and were just basking in the glory that is the Ozarks.
We make it to a spot called White Rock Mountain lookout and enjoy the views and nature for about 15 minutes or so. We road on and finished the AR section and stayed in Siloam Springs for the night because bad weather was starting to set in.
We hit up a local casino that had a free shuttle for diner and eat like kings at the buffet. It was great and we made it there about a half an hour before they were shutting the buffet down. After stuffing face we used the players cards with $10 free money on them we were given when we came in. Between the both of us we cashed out $8.49 and decided it almost paid for one of our diner! We are real wild gamblers let me tell ya, you’d think we were KLR riders. It was a great night out and it felt good to put on clean shirts and take a break from the trail for a few hours. Yeah, we got really dressed up with clean shirts and all, they could tell we were high rollers. We went to bed knowing that tornados and bad weather were on the way and that we may not be riding any more.
We woke up and rolled the bikes out of the hotel rooms. The sky was looking good and the wind was not bad at all. So we decided to ride on as long as we could for the day. The riding was mostly loose rock gravel roads and was pretty good. Not quite like the Ozarks but way better than I expected for Oklahoma. We make it to Moody’s General Store around lunchtime and decide to stop for fuel and food.
The place was another little jewel in the middle of nowhere. I had a deli sandwich and dad ate some sort of BBQ burrito deal with tater skins. We noticed they sold cold beer! We had yet to have a single drink on this trip due to all of the dry counties we had came through. So we just had to ask the lady at the counter if we bought a couple of beers if we could drink them with our lunch in the store. She reluctantly agreed only if we pored them into styrofoam soda fountain cups. BINGO! We were in heaven. We ate our lunch and drank our beers in the dining section, which also happens to be the local video rental store. Great food, great atmosphere, and cold beer this really couldn’t get any better. Full and satisfied we got a couple of candy bars for dessert and pressed on.
I would guess around mile 50 of the Oklahoma trail Dad took a spill in a particularly sharp, rocky, bumpy spot. Dad was braking plenty hard but it was too rocky and his rear wheel was jumping so bad he couldn’t get traction. He laid it down very smooth like the experienced rider he is. I rolled up to see if he was ok and he was picking up the bike by that time. I said to just roll his bike down the hill and I would meet him at the bottom and Dad shook his head OK. Dad gets to the bottom and we see that he is fine and start checking over the bike only to see that the only real damage is his windshield being cracked into about four or five pieces.
The headlight grill was a bit bent up so we straighten it out and donate the windshield to the woods off the side of the road. We see that everything else is good so off we go.
The riding started getting classic Great Plains straight and flat after we crossed the river in Salina. In Salina we stop for fuel and I can tell the weather is now starting to set in. I ask the attendant what time the storm is really supposed to hit and she said she heard around eight or so. I say thanks and head out the door thinking to myself that we should be good and hunkered down in a hotel by that time and feeling pretty good about pressing on. As we get out of Salina we ride through many cool farm roads that are straight and flat so we are hitting pretty good speeds and making killer time. The roads are straight but there are a lot of cool little creek crossings that run through the farm fields. It is a bit hard to tell how deep the water is but we blast through them with no problem. I would say the deepest crossing at this point was only a foot or so deep. We see tons of snakes and turtles and armadillos today as we go through the countryside.
The sky was getting a scary shade of gray so we pick up the pace and around mile 100 hit a HUGE construction site. The road all of the sudden turned into an area with nothing but mud and huge construction equipment. There were signs that said authorized personnel only and that blasting was happening on the site so to turn around. What do we do? Of course dad forges on and we ride in the twenty-foot wide tracks of the construction vehicles. At one point we ride beside a piece of equipment with an operator in it and I figured we were about to get a major chewing out. Instead of getting yelled at the worker waved at us and we kept rolling forward. Just to give an idea of size I would say that the construction area was at least 20 acres large and gave me the feeling of the limestone quarries I was used to back home. Only there was no rock in this area, it was like they were mining for mud. The area had received significant rain within the past couple of days and you could certainly tell at this point. We make it to the top of a hill and decide to stop and get an idea of where we were supposed to go. The site was definitely newer and had completely destroyed any road that was present when Sam revised the map last. We do the best we can and decided to turn right at the top of the hill which looked like it would take us back into the woods and hopefully we could find the old road we were supposed to be on.
After fighting through DEEP DEEP mud and water we finally come to a dead end and get off the bikes to see what in the world was going on. The wind was blowing like mad and it was getting very dark at this point. We decide to ride straight back out through the mud and water and get anywhere but where we were. We get out of the construction area and find on the GPS where in the world we were. I found the next place on the roll chart we needed to be and we headed for it.
At this point we were getting pretty tired and I was really beginning to worry about the storm. We head down the straight flat roads like we had all day long and come to a creek crossing at mile 112 like we had dealt with in the past. The only difference was that this one was noticeably deeper and had a very fast moving current. Without much of a second thought Dad blazed forward like always, ten foot tall and bullet proof.
Right about two feet into the water I could tell this water was way too deep and way to swift to be right mindedly going through. Dad slowly moves forward and about half way through the 20-foot long section we had to cross stops and his bike dies on him. The current is moving so quickly he has to put his feet down and lean the bike over at an extreme angle to keep from getting swept away by the current that is now up past his muffler. I helplessly watch him struggle across and push his bike to safety. Dad gets to the waters edge on the other side and starts walking toward me waving his hands for me to come on but to stay as far right as I could since the current was moving left. I cautiously continue forward slowly and steadily and make it to the half way point and have to stop because I am getting the feeling that I am getting swept away, which I was. The crossing area was about ten feet wide and by the time I had reached the middle section of the crossing I had about two feet to the left before I was pushed off of the edge into the rapids. I keep the bike running and lean it over as far as I can. At this point water was up to my seat and Dad had his hands on my front wheel turning it and helping me keep steady. The water was about knee deep two feet into the crossing.
He walks with my bike and me to the other side where I had made it and kept my bike running amazingly.
We were absolutely in the middle of nowhere and Dads bike was deader than a doornail and my nerves were so shot I thought I was about to have a mental breakdown from stress.
There was a vehicle next to us with a couple in it looking at us like we were insane. They call me over and asked me if I knew what we were doing like I should have been arrested for what we just did. I told them about the TAT and showed them the map and where we were going and they said we were going to be going through about another 15 of these types of high crossings if we continued on. The rain had been worse than we knew and the whole area had flooded. As they were looking at the map the man noticed that we were supposed to go through the construction area before we made it to this point and he asked me if we had went through there. He asked like if I said yes than he would have put me under some sort of citizen’s arrest or something. So I answered him in a sort of shaky “no” answer and changed the subject. I asked if the were about to cross the water and they said no way they were just coming down to see how high it had gotten, not much to do in these parts I suppose. We talked for a bit more as dad worked on the Yamaha and then they headed on saying that if we needed help their home was only about a mile up the road. Before they left they showed me the only way to get to a main road that didn’t involve crossing another one of these creek/rivers and how to get into a town that had a hotel. These folks must have thought we were absolutely insane.
I hadn’t been watching dad while talking to the folks in the truck and by the time I had turned around to go help him he had taken the exhaust system off and spark plug out to try and drain as much water out of his motor as possible. He said he dumped at least a quart of water out of the pipe and every time he kicked the bike over water just gushed out of the exhaust port from the cylinder. He had me kick it through a few times as he put his finger over the spark plug hole and said his finger was getting soaked with water every time I kicked through. We were in a bad spot for sure but I knew if anyone could handle the problem in the entire universe it was my dad. He has ridden, raced, and worked on motorcycles his entire life and can fix or come up with a solution for anything. He figures water has gotten into the crank so the only way to get the bike going again was to try to get as much water out as possible by turning the motor over and letting it purge itself. After kicking for a bit I got my tow strap out of my tool kit and we tow the bike since it would get the motor turning and water out with little effort.
We pulled the bike for at least an hour with no results. Dad would change plugs in between tries and let the other three plugs he had get a chance to dry but still we were getting water gushing out. There must have been a gallon of water in there. We stop for dad to change the plug again and I tell him that if we don’t have any results within the next 15 minutes I need to pull him into town, about 20 miles away as the storm was really starting to set in. After a few more towing sessions we were about to give up and I hear one of the sweetest sounds I have ever heard in my life, FIRE! We both look at each other excitedly but not too excitedly as if we were to get too happy it would jinx the whole starting process. We tow for a bit longer getting a little bit more fire with each dry spark plug until finally dad bump starts the 175 while in tow, gets fire, and holds its own idle with the throttle open. I was beyond relieved as if someone had told me now I don’t have to get blown away in a tornado in the middle of this forsaken Oklahoma town. We get back to the spot with our gear and tools and Dad unties the tow strap and hops off his bike. I get off of the XR to hold the throttle open on the 175 while dad puts his exhaust back on and gets everything ready to go. Who would have thought a 1971 CT175 with the exhaust off would have sounded like the best thing ever. I have never appreciated ringing in my ears so much my entire life! After being stuck for every bit of two hours we are finally ready to head out. We head to the road the couple had told us about and didn’t cross any more flooded streams but dads bike was struggling terribly. We make it to the road we are looking for that will take us to town. We are still 20 miles away and Dads bike dies. After switching the spark plug again he has no luck starting it. I think oh no here we go again. Dad calmly comes over to me on my bike and tells me he is out of gas. I laugh inside and have never been so happy to hear somebody was out of gas. I take my auxiliary tank off giddily and we fill him up. He kicks the 175 over and she fires up and that sweet 2 –stroke music starts playing my favorite song again. We ride into Bartlesville OK throttles wide open as possible and find a hotel for the night.
At this point I would have done anything for some Bourbon so I head back into town while dad gets the room squared away. I saw a liquor store open while riding in so I headed that way. It was eight fifty and I knew I was pushing my luck in these one-horse towns to hope that anything was open at this outrageously late hour of the night. I get to the liquor store right before nine and see that the store closed at nine yet the lights were already off and the girl was closing shop! I was furious. It was a Saturday night for crying out loud and the only liquor store for miles was closing at nine. I ride back to the hotel feeling very testy and ask the lady where I could get a drink. She told me there was an American Legion across the street that was open late, I figured I didn’t have to ask but I assumed she meant past nine. I head up to the room, unpack, get a shirt and some shorts on, and told Dad I was heading to WalMart to get us something to eat and going to hit up the Legion for a drink. He said he was going to stay in the room and rest his ankle, as it had not been feeling too great since his little spill earlier in the day. I head over to the Legion and it is just as I had pictured. A couple of pool tables, a couple of honkies, and just what I was looking for, whisky. I set down getting stares from everyone in the place and order up double Makers on the rocks. I chug it down about as quick as I have ever drank anything. I drink the Makers, say thanks, give the bar tender a couple of bucks tip, and was out the door in about three minutes flat. Heading into WalMart I am feeling much better about everything. The whisky was just what the doctor ordered and I was still savoring the flavor. I hit up the deli for some sandwiches and chips and notice that they sell cold beer in this WalMart! I grab a six-pack of cold Shiner bock and head back to the hotel with the food. We eat and talk about the day and each drink a couple of beers. I was extremely thankful to be in the hotel room and not dead on the side of some road in tornado alley Oklahoma. I slept like a rock that night.
We knew at this point our time had ran out on the trip and that even if we did ride our last day it would be nothing but high water and bad weather. So, we wake up and start looking for the nearest town with a truck rental. It was Sunday so we pretty well figured we were stuck for the day. We find out we were right and use the hotel computer to make arrangements for Monday in the next town over with a truck rental. We head into Nowata OK about twenty minutes away with the rental and go ahead and get a hotel room. We were both hungry and it was lunchtime so we walked to a place the hotel owner had told us about called Outlaws Chophouse. It was a family owned local steak, ribs, and burger place that had the best onion rings we had ever had. We got stuffed and dad had a HUGE piece of coconut cream pie with meringue a mile high. This place was great and I would definitely recommend it. The rest of the day I spent doing laundry at a laundry mat down the street and we both rested up. I wrote down notes about the trip in the laundry mat while people looked at me funny. I guess its not every day you see someone washing filthy dirty riding gear in a laundry mat. The next morning we woke up early and Dad walked a mile or so to the Budget truck rental. I snatched some wood boards from behind the hotel to load the bikes up with. We loaded up and headed east back to Indiana.
We drove home feeling great about the trip and thankful that nothing major had happened to our bikes or us. The weather was as perfect as we could have asked for. We talked about plans for finishing the trail and maybe even a trip from Canada to Mexico. This was a trip neither of us will ever forget and that I am very thankful I was able to take with my father. We made memories that will last a lifetime and did the trail on bikes that many people would never dream of taking. This trip was what rides like these are all about.