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.
Fall is my favorite time of the year, but it has an unwanted effect on my passion, motorcycling.
Muleshoe here. Autumn is such a wonderful season. The holidays begin, family gatherings are penciled in on the calendar and plans for the coming new year are all taking shape. But this is also the time of year when riding takes on a new dimension. The world around you is changing significantly as are the road conditions and new dangers that hide around every turn. These new road hazards are a result of the lower temperatures. Leaves begin to cover smaller back roads and frost can linger on shady patches of asphalt, both of which can act like a giant Slip and Slide. Deer seem to avoid anyone wearing blaze orange and hang out near the roadways. So, rides tend to become shorter, and start later in the day, allowing the temperature to rise a little.
I have enjoyed several one-day rides lately in our beautiful state, many towards Hot Springs and beyond. One-day rides seem to have a different purpose. On a long ride, the focus is generally the destination. Usually a rally somewhere far away with a couple of nights of fellowship and libations. Of course, most are planned for the summertime. Often, many will camp instead of staying in a hotel. Food on long rides is wherever you find it. But one-day rides are centered on the ride itself and destination eateries.
When planning a ride, it usually begins with “where do you want to eat?” With that decided, the next decision is what is the best route to get there. Distance to the chosen food mecca is never a factor, but instead what would be the best bike route to take? “What would be the most scenic, the best road conditions.” How we get there is based on what we hope will be the most fun to ride. Sometimes the road is chosen first, followed by a web search for open restaurants along the way. Such rides never include gas station sushi. Almost every town has a good spot to eat. If the internet doesn’t offer up a new favorite, a search of multiple cars in front of a cafe will reveal a pretty good grub stop.
My favorite method is seeing a catchy name that confirms there is a tasty treasure simmering behind the front door. One such gem is in Talihina, Oklahoma. You just can’t pass up a place with the name of Pam’s Hateful Hussy Cafe. To my delight, the pie and coffee were worth the investigation. A return trip would confirm anything on the menu is just as good. It seemed to be the meeting place for the whole region. Everyone obviously knew everyone.
A recent journey west on Arkansas Highway 270 and south on Highways 27 and 8 took us in a pocket of the Ouachitas I had not been through before. Route selected, we decided Mt. Ida would be our first search for a good lunch. With no real preparation except selecting a route, we had no idea what would await us for Sunday dining. Using the “follow the herd” method, we pulled into a great little spot named El Diamante Mexican Restaurant in the old downtown. Already surrounded by several cars, it was obvious this would be good. Our arrival was just in the nick of time. At 11:45 a.m., we were immediately seated. At 12:10 p.m., the church crowd was already waiting for a table. A wonderful plate of tamales, rice and beans left me with a full belly and a big smile. I was so full I was a little afraid I might fall asleep on the bike.
We soon departed towards Caddo Gap and Amity. The roads in that direction are awesome. All great road surfaces with easy twist and turns through the hills, your worries are all put on hold for a few hours. I was caught off guard with the beauty of the little village of Caddo Gap. The road through the town curves in a long crescent with several country homes all painted white and set on the curving hill side to our left. They all face towards the valley on the other side of the road. A long mountain ridge, running north and south, serve as the backdrop on the far side of the valley. I wanted to stop and just gaze upon the picturesque scene, but time was against us. It would be getting dark and colder soon, and Arkadelphia was still many miles ahead. Home up Highway 67 and another ride in the books.
My most recent ride was an old standby. Up Highway 7 from Hot Springs to Russellville, east on Highway 64 to Morrilton and south on Highway 9 to Highway 5. It was the cold air that changed the dynamics of the ride. The first thing you notice is how alert you feel. The crisp air will flush out any mental cobwebs that may have tried crawl on board with you. And so within just a couple of minutes it dawns on you the road must be pretty cold as well. When the asphalt is cold, it doesn’t have as much grip as on a steaming hot summer afternoon. The tires can slip just a tiny bit in a hard curve, slip just enough to let you know it is time to back off a little. In colder weather, speed is not your friend – 55 or 60 miles per hour is plenty fast. Any faster and the wind chill really starts to bring the temperature down even more. A 55-degree afternoon can turn into just above freezing at highway speeds.
Because of a time crunch, we did violate the first rule of fine dining – a quick gas station sandwich and we headed back south. The ride down Highway 9 is always a fun ride. Just a few miles from Benton and Little Rock, the portion of the road from Williams Junction to Highway 5 is a good run if you only have a couple of hours to get away. By the time we stopped at Crows Station to split and head to our respective homes, night was beginning to creep in. The air temperature was dropping quickly, and the road ahead was getting dark. But I could still make out the trees along the way. I slowed down a little and began to focus hard looking for deer just waiting to ruin my day. To hit a deer on a motorcycle never ends well. I was on full alert. It is at that point in any journey you just want to get home and relax.
Well I am almost to Malvern, so I had better close out the logbook on this ride. So, until next time, ride safe. Muleshoe.