Wednesday, July 09, 2014

Arkansas Road Trip on Fourth of July Weekend

This is after the fact blog posting. Decided when I read that the Riverview Cabins & Canoes only had wifi at the front desk (saying you could “set in your car” or “set on the picnic table” to use it – this still sounded sketchy at best). So, technology remained behind on this trip to Arkansas on the Harley. So, here it goes to try and remember. And ramble. Last year, Tony and I discovered Arkansas on the Harley and did three trips, one Memorial Day weekend, one Fourth of July and the last for Fall leaf ride. This year there was last-minute talk about going on Memorial Day weekend, but you don’t just “wing it” hoping to find a place to sleep (and I don’t camp). While looking then, I discovered the Riverview Cabins & Canoes ( ) in Oden, Arkansas (30 miles from Mena and the Talimena Scenic Drive ( -- I like to post URLs when I can and they just redid their website since the last time I was on it. Even has an interactive map now) and, 12 miles from Mt. Ida (aka “The Quartz Capital of the Word” ), the closest place for gas and groceries). These cabins looked nice on their website. And the reviews were nice. And the price seemed right.

So, we locked and loaded Cabin #8 (the Rose Cottage – honeymoon cottage) that was the “closest cabin to the river.” Susan and Mike booked Cabin #12 (which we found was the farthest from our cabin). All week we were watching the weather. Changing daily. Talked about driving up. Still riding up. Trailering up. We knew we were stuck with the cabins even if we didn’t go. So, Wednesday we decide we’ll wing it, especially since the weather looked like it was coming through Wednesday night. Thursday morning, get up and take Kat for a walk. Kaboom lighting. Kaboom thunder. Hmmmm… watch the weather and it’s heading through McKinney and Bonham and Paris. Great. But, we see it’s dry on the west side of Dallas so Tony and I get packed up and head up the Tollway where it’s dry, before cutting over. And decide we could always stay more west and then head east when we think that the front is through. Dry until we get to Anna, Texas at the Love’s truck stop to meet up with Mike and Susan (Mike and Tony went to high school together in Anna). Raining a bit there. But, we look at the radar and looks “ok” for us to head on our normal route through Bonham and then Paris (stopping at Nancy’s Café) then Hugo, Broken Bow and then up to Mena, before jogging over to Oden to our cabins. Ride is actually dry and we make it to Nancy’s for breakfast (or in Mike and Susan’s case, lunch). Then off we go.

We’re all pretty loaded with stuff and our bikes are pretty heavy. I ordered charcoal from Amazon and a few staples (diet coke, water, pringles, baked beans, condiments) from Amazon Pantry (aside to  – Prime is great because of the free shipping. Prime Pantry is great because you fill up a box and have flat rate of shipping of $5.99 – when you’re heading on a bike trip with limited space and heading on a bike trip to a cabin in the boonies – it’s great to have the stuff shipped direct to the cabin! I just wish they could ship perishables.). Stop in Broken Bow for gas and liquor (note to drinkers heading to Oklahoma and Arkansas: figure out where you can get booze because it can be dry, dry, dry. We stopped in this place across from the Walmart – wanted to send Tony back in with a camera to take a picture of the older woman at the counter with this AMAZING HAIR DO – kinda big and teased and “boufanty” – Tony couldn’t wait to get out of their to talk about it – Mike didn’t notice so he had to go back in).

Then off to Oden. Well, one detour taken for a beer at the side of the road in Oklahoma before the Arkansas border. We first tried the Hilltop bar where we stopped on our first trip (very unsuccessfully since we missed the first dirt road and then the bike fell on a sharp turn into gravel on the second dirt road – no issues except for lifting the bike up – and then more unsuccessfully since the bar is closed). We next stopped at another bar down the street – the signs on the door were in Spanish, and a movie with Ashton Kuchar dubbed in Spanish was playing on the TV… and they only had beer and wine coolers. But, Tony and I like to have our little adventures – and also know that there wouldn’t be a cold beer until we got to the cabin since the rest of the ride would be dry. We get to Oden and the Riverview Cabins & Canoes just before 4 pm. They look cute. The check in cabin/office is pretty gravely and hard on the bike. Susan and I head on in to check in. The woman who checks us in is very nice and quite a talker. And I see that my Amazon boxes are sitting in the corner. The funny thing about check in is that she thinks that Susan and I are together – in Cabin #8… we figure that out and Susan mentions that she’s in Cabin #12, not with me. The woman says something classic like “I don’t question things… woman bikers together.” She really thought we were together in the honeymoon cabin. Then Tony and Mike walk in so they figure that Susan and I aren’t a couple. They offer to take the boxes in a gator to our cabin. And that the road to our cabin is completely paved. Well, I don’t know what “completely paved” means, but this wasn’t really the case. But, we get up there. And unpack. Mike and Susan come grab a couple of diet cokes and we sent them back to their cabin until we’re ready to head into Mt. Ida to grocery shop for the stay. Our cabin is really nice. It’s a studio apartment with a full-size kitchen (filled with “mix and match” dishes, cutlery, etc. – definitely not fancy, but utilitarian) and bathroom. And out on the deck is a hot tub. We do have a nice view to the river and river access. Surrounded by trees. Quite nice place to stay for three nights. Funny are the “rules” posted.
  • Do not turn AC below 70 degrees or it would freeze.
  • Clean up after yourself and before leaving wash dishes and clean up.
  • Do not feed Lady Bug the wiener dog. Do not let Lady Bug in your house (I guess Lady Bug likes to visit and get comfortable – and knowing wiener dogs, beg).
  • Quiet time is between 11 pm and 7 am.
  • Respect your neighbors.
Off we go to Mt. Ida to the grocery store – in this case Bob’s Food City ( ). Nothing special, but we get burger and fixins’ for the night and steak for the next night (we have a charcoal grill) and breakfast (I convinced Tony that Egg Beaters ( )were the way to go (and, after visiting their website, found out that they have different kinds – just not at Bob’s – and are made from real eggs with half the calories of shell eggs and can help manage your cholesterol), not trying to transport a carton of eggs on the bike – told him they tasted great and I’d get cheese just in case – because everything is good with cheese). First time Tony and I have ever gone grocery shopping on the bike. Interesting experience that we can do again, but don’t have to.

Thursday night we have our burgers and then off to bed, getting up and getting in the hot tub in the morning before our ride across the Talimena Scenic Drive. Tony also wants to find something called Indian Highway. Off we go. It’s not nearly as pretty as when we did it in the fall to see the leaves. In fact, Tony makes a comment about not knowing it was this boring. But, it’s really not boring. Tony and I just have been on rides that are better. Queen Wilhemina lodge is still closed. And then, we get close to running into a deer. But brake in time. But, something is broken on Tony’s bike and we pull over into the nearest vista. OK, I am not a mechanic and don’t have any mechanical inclinations. Broke isn’t a good word to hear when you’re in the middle of nowhere on a motorcycle. Tony and Mike check things out – something about the shifter near the pedal. Tony doesn’t have an Allen (or Alan?) wrench. Mike thinks to head out and try and run into bikers because someone is bound to have one. But, just then a biker shows up. And he has this nifty toolkit all in one thing (yes, it’s pretty obvious now about my mechanical skills) with an Allen wrench (note to me: google this so you can figure out how to spell it and look more knowledgeable). Tony “fixes” things even though not 100%. But, says that the bike is functioning and we’re not in any danger (I’m not 100% sure I “buy” this so the rest of the day’s ride isn’t nearly as enjoyable).

Get through the parkway and then stop at Pam’s Hussy Café (again no website) for lunch. Can’t beat a $3.50 burger and $1.75 onion rings! Not bad. And, across the street is a Pay Day loan and Pawn shop that is open on July 4! And, they have a box of Allen wrenches and give us one. Off we then head back to the cabins, on a different route (63 turns into 8 and dumps us back into Mena). Pretty boring ride, but OK since we’d just done the “good ride.” Again, before we get to the Arkansas border, we find a bar and pull in for a cold one (and like the one the day before, only beer and wine coolers – and the beer is 3.2). And then back to the cabin to relax and have steak and potatoes before jumping into the hot tub before the next day.

Saturday we’ve dubbed “on your own.” Tony and I are thinking of a light day. I really want to go to the Little Missouri Falls that I read about. But, on Saturday morning discover in the map in our cabin book (hand drawn) that there are 8-10 miles of gravel road… We decide we’ll head there anyway and check out the condition of the road and decide. Off we go to Mt. Ida, taking a right at the Quik Save and Exxon onto 27 (which turns into 8), through Norman. This road is really the nicest pavement we’ve been on the entire trip and it’s a pretty ride. We’re supposed to turn left at the second (not first) sign to the Little Mo. Falls (don’t know why). We do and head on our way. The road isn’t “that bad” but not great. We’re trying to remember what it was like in Custer Park. And then we run into a stalled car heading out of the park. We stop. Josh thinks his alternator is out (don’t ask me about that either). And there is NO cell service where we’re stopped. We offer to head to a place there is service and call his friends for him (they are on a beer run – nearest store for beer is 45 minutes away). He says that would be great and that we can get service only at the top of the hill a little ways up. We then ask if heading to the falls is worth it. He says it’s awesome. We then ask how the roads are. He says they are good except in one spot (downhill, hard right turn, with bumps, right after the top of the hill where we’re planning to call). Well, Josh was right about the cell reception at the top and we stop. He wasn’t so good about the condition of the roads. And, we still have at least 6 miles left. And, we would still have to head back 8-10 miles to get out. Yes, our adventure is over and we’re going to bail on the Little Missouri Falls. Get the bike turned around (not a hard task thankfully). And I’ve decided I’m going to walk down from where we are (note: if you know Tony, you know he’s not afraid of much and pretty comfortable in any situation. So, when he thinks that may be a good idea, I realize he’s a bit nervous about heading back down to where we came from).

I grab a bottle of water. And my camera. And then Tony insists on giving me a knife in case someone shows up and tries to get me (I’m thinking in case a bear shows up – I’m still obsessed with seeing a Black Bear). Off he goes and off I go. You can hear the water all around you. And there were blackberries to eat along the way (have to be bears). Tony stops along the way saying it’s not that bad and I can get back on – I opt to make it to Josh before getting back on. BUT, Tony points out 1) small waterfall and 2) bear poop (or skat if you want me to sound knowledgeable). Get back to Josh and then head on our way. We’re going to go to Burls Smokehouse. So much for a “light day.” Tony and I head to Burls (no website, no social media, but a spot for sandwiches, all kinds of canned preserves and things). Pick up some blackberry preserves in honor of the bear. And a full rack of ribs and Burls’ BBQ sauce. And then back to the cabin to watch the rest of World Cup and then hang out on the deck and in the hot tub. Last time we went to Burls we thought the BBQ was good, but not great (they serve it cold). We changed our minds with the ribs and BBQ sauce – they were awesome (Tony wanted me to put a sentence in here that described what he thought but it wouldn’t be appropriate). Tony and I didn’t stop there because we have enough HD shirts (for now, but Mike and Susan stopped on Saturday in Mena and went to: )

So, Sunday is ride back to Dallas day. Starts off as a good day, but every time we’ve come back it hasn’t ended as a fun day. Something about having to get home. But mainly about starting off in cool weather with a jacket and then ending up with swamp butt and sweat and traffic in close to 100 degrees in Dallas. And the wind always seems to be a killer on the return ride that we don’t notice going up there. We get a little cranky at the end. The cold beer we had in Anna aat Crows Café ( ) dropping off Mike and Susan helped (note: we were going to eat, but as mentioned earlier, I don’t do buffets and Sunday they only have the buffet for $12/pp until 3:00 pm). And the Pizza Hut pizza we ordered for delivery 30 minutes after we got home was good ( ). Should have stopped at Braum’s in Bonham ( ). Since we weren’t stopping at Nancy’s we tried the bypass to 82 and it worked out great and shaved some time off of the trip back to 121 and home.

So, we’ll be heading back to Arkansas and Oklahoma. We keep adding new highlights to our map of rides in the area. Probably Eureka Springs area since we only touched a few rides up there. Talking about finding a used trailer so we don’t have to deal with the “ride back” and heat (no, we’re not “pussies” – we just want to get to our destination and not have to deal with the rest of the logistics and a trailer would solve the problem).

ASIDE: According to Wikipedia, a “hex key” or “Allen key” is a tool of hexagonal cross section used to drive bolts and screws that have a hexagonal socket in the head. The Allen name is a registered trademark. from the Allen Manufacturing Company of Hartford, Connecticut, circa 1910. So, I don’t really know if we have an Allen key since it doesn’t say anything on it. Kinda like Wallboard vs. Sheetrock (trademark).

ANOTHER ASIDE: We didn’t find this Indian Highway that Tony wanted to take. I think TI found it. It’s 21 miles from Wade to Ada, OK. You can start in Honobia, Oklahoma about 17 miles until it intersects US Highway 271 just south of Talahina. Now I see that we would have needed to stay south a few more miles past Talahina in order to take this ride. Next time.

ANOTHER ASIDE: I bought Pringles ( ) for the trip from Amazon Pantry, thinking 1) they would ship well without breaking and 2) they would travel well on the bike without breaking. For the most part, this was true. They arrived in good shape only broken up around the edges. And they travelled better than other chips on the bike (Mike and Susan bought regular chips that turned into a crumbled mess). Please note that they didn’t fare as well on the gravel road attempt to Little Missouri Falls, but they did survive.

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