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Old 06-09-2013, 09:44 PM   #33
Near Normal
Joined: May 2013
Location: North Georgia
Oddometer: 140
Day Five

When Kudzu Attacks! Near Rudyard, MS
Sardis, Mississippi to Beebe, Arkansas.
I was looking forward to the sight of the Mississippi River today as it would symbolize the “gateway to the West” on this trip. The roads to the west of Sardis soon had me back on the dirt, and the Toad and I soon found ourselves winding through fields taken over by Kudzu, an invasive vine that was once imported from Asia in an effort to control erosion and supposedly provide feed for cattle. As it turned out, the cattle did not like Kudzu all that much. The vine thrived in the hot and humid climate of the south, and you will see sections of the southern landscape that are completely overrun with the stuff. Abandoned houses, barns, and anything else stationary in its path gets covered up. When I first moved to the South from California, I saw Kudzu for the first time along roads in Mississippi. I said to my wife Donna, a Southerner, “How nice, they plant ivy here to landscape the roads.” She just looked at me and rolled her eyes.
The bridge crossing the Mississippi River at Helena, is narrow, so there is no way to stop on it for photographs. Once across on the Arkansas side, I wound down to the water’s edge at a loading dock for barges for a few pictures. Before too long I was paid a visit by security. I was informed by these men that the whole dock area was closed to the public and that taking pictures of a “secure facility” was not allowed. I did not know that a dock for gravel barges could be so strategically important, but now I do.
After a quick visit to the Arkansas Visitor’s Center, I was back on the TAT. One of the first things you notice about the dirt roads in Southeastern Arkansas is that they really like to lay the gravel on thick. Either that, or it was just my luck that the gravel trucks had just been by for the season. Anyway, the course gravel can be four to six inches deep in many places, causing moments of excitement, especially in turns. The Toad did not have enough power to blast through this deep stuff. Instead, we just did our best wallowing along searching for the shallowest covering.
Just outside of Marvell, the home of musician Levon Helm (The Band), I noticed a sign that read “TAT Sign-In and Rest Stop, ¾ mile.” Sure enough, sitting outside of an old country store that was now closed was Percy Kale, a retired gentleman who now enjoys spending time welcoming riders on the TAT to Arkansas. Percy has a logbook that he keeps of riders who stop to visit. It is interesting reading all the comments that riders have left in the log about their ride experiences or goals. Percy also enjoys showing people around the old country store, which he has turned into a kind of museum. Toys, glassware, tools, farm equipment, antique household goods and photographs are just a few of the items in the building. If you do the ride, stop and spend some time with Percy, it will warm your heart.
Outside of Marvell, on the way to Beebe, you will pass through the White River National Wildlife Reserve and some smaller state parks. You will enjoy riding through the scenic forest roads, but again, deep gravel was an issue here as well.
When I finally arrived in Beebe, I had traveled 221 miles for the day. This makes 1,062 miles (Toad odometer) traveled to date. No real mechanical issues so far. I broke a kickstarter spring (not a problem-Hodakas have external springs) and the oil pump is still not delivering enough oil to the motor. I have been compensating by mixing additional oil in the gas. Other than these things, it is still buzzing along like it was 1978.

Riding the Levees near Ark Bayou, MS
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