This is a series of columns called the Muleshoe Chronicles. Muleshoe is a retired U.S. Air Force veteran who likes to ride. He lives in Benton. Read more of his columns at mysaline.com/muleshoe.
Muleshoe here. On Saturday, a couple of friends and I struck out to savor some of the closing days of summer on our iron steeds. I have had an extremely filled season of two wheeled adventures and I am starting to feel the fatigue with the many weekends of riding.
Besides my body suffering from the overwork, most of my household chores have sustained significant neglect as well. Dust in my house has become part of the decor and new life forms in the fridge bring on fear of even opening the door. But passion will always prevail over practicality. Yesterday however, started off a little differently. I was extremely tired when we headed off and I felt I was on-board simply as a passenger. I felt as if the bike was on autopilot. I really wasn’t in control, just along for the ride. I knew instantly this was extremely dangerous, but I couldn’t shake the mood. I would take control at times that were necessary, but otherwise I was just sightseeing.
So far this year I have missed very few opportunities to ride. I am usually rolling all day Saturday and a portion of Sunday. Several weekends were overnighters. The Ozarks have been the usual destinations. The hills and curves, dips and banks are always an open invitation to experience the freedom of motorcycling. The regular destination has been around the Jasper area.
Twice our route took us north on Highway 123 west off Highway 7 at Lurton. This road is as much of a challenge as the iconic Highway 23, the Pig Trail. Highway 123 skirts along the western side of a ridge in the middle of the Ozark National Forest. Long overlooks are slowly fading as the trees on the cliff side of the road gain more height. The road is a back and forth volley of curves that require constant weight shifting to adjust the angle of attack as you enter each loop ahead. At times it feels as if you are on one of those death defying paths across the Andes, except on much better road.
Just when you start to feel you might conquer the ordeal, suddenly the road falls out from under you. Downward at more than a 25 percent grade, hairpin curves bring your speed to almost nothing as you look at the road ahead in your rear view mirror. As luck would have it, twice I would meet a car coming up the hill in the very sharpest point of the curve. No room to swing wide. Back and forth more than 20 times, what seemed to be thrilling at first, proved to be scary and exhausting in the end.
At the very bottom of the run of fright lays the little hamlet of Mt. Judea (pronounced Judy). The Mt. Judea Mercantile is at the corner of “catching your breath” and “which way now.” A country store with a little bit of everything to offer including t-shirts to validate your just completed act of survival.
The road to Jasper lays to the north and west. The Ozark Cafe, focal point of Jasper, is the natural lunch break for all who pass. It is usually midday by the time you find your way to little village in the hills. The landmark restaurant is the perfect stopping point of a great burger and cold ice tea. Perfectly located in the heart of Newton County, Jasper is where adventures begin on the Buffalo River, maybe hiking the many trails or running the world class roads on your iron horse.
Our destination was the Hub, 13 miles north on Highway 7. It is actually no longer the called the Hub. It is now the Marble Falls Resort. But for many years following the demise of Dogpatch USA, bikers have gathered at the Hub to celebrate the joy and fellowship of riding. It is a Mecca of motorcycling. The Hub, I mean Marble Falls Resort, was once connected to Dogpatch as the place to spend a night or two when visiting the now almost forgotten amusement park.
Debbie, the owner, is the perfect hostess. She does her best to ensure all her guest have a comfortable and accommodating stay. The adjoining restaurant is the 5-star of the Ozarks. Every night offering a special ranging from prime rib to seafood. Although only breakfast and supper are served, the day is usually filled with biking excursions throughout the region. Lunch is then where you find it.
One of our treks took us up to Harrison. On this particular outing, we were on the hunt of a War Memorial. After zipping up and down the many side streets on our quest for the Honored site, we finally found it. Duh, at the courthouse. Who would have thought it would be at the center of town, and at the courthouse with all the other memorials. Gosh what were they thinking.
After paying our respects, we realized we were parked right in front of a new spot in town, Wow, right in the middle of a small city not necessarily known for its liberal and cosmopolitan thinking, was the most elegant setting for an adult beverage establishment.
As if taken from the heart of the Argenta district, The Pour House is located right next to the store front that houses the Cavender’s Store. Harrison is also the home of the All Purpose Greek Seasoning, favored by all who grill on the open flame. The Pour House is located on N. Willow in Harrison. Jean Cochran has brought to the city a wide selection of beer and wines set in a parlor room of comfortable furniture and fine artwork. A little out of place in our biker vests and boots, we found it a wonderful spot to just rest and enjoy a cold beer.
Another trip to the Hub found our journey home to be down on the western side of the National Forest on Highway 23. I have been up that treacherous route once before. This time our run was downhill. Much longer than Highway 123, the Pig Trail is usually a little less tricky. However on this day we found freshly laid asphalt. Normally safe except during times of rain, new black top is not a problem. But when the temperature is in the upper 90s, the oil starts to ooze to the surface.
To compound the problem, out in the middle of nowhere we encountered workmen weed-eating on the thin shoulders, throwing fresh cut grass onto the tight corners of the road. When spread like a blanket, fresh cut grass will make the surface slick as ice. I was extremely glad to get to the bottom of the hill. I would suggest anyone give that road a few more months before venturing that way. Allow for the elements to flush away the gremlins that plague all who ride.
In between the longer trips have been a couple of one day adventures over the Tri-Lakes area. Equally blessed with great roads and countryside views, the Ouachitas are always perfect for an afternoon run. And of course, Hot Springs is always a great place to stop for a bite to eat. Fat Jacks is my favorite. Great gumbo and etouffee is always on the menu, and the best cheeseburgers in town. As the summer slowly comes to end, I have ridden over 4,000 miles. I only wish I had time for 4,000 more.
I finally managed to snap out of my bout of melancholy yesterday. I took back full control of my motorcycle and got back in the groove. I really don’t know what was going on, but I do know it wasn’t good. One must be in full control at all times. I just have to chalk it up to another lesson learned, and thank goodness it wasn’t the hard way. Riding a motorcycle is serious business. Full concentration is the only way to ensure many years of safe pleasure on two wheels.
Well I am almost to Malvern so I had better close out the log book for now. Until next time, Ride Safe. Muleshoe.