That was the question!
A while back one of my riding buddies told me he’d like to ask some questions about cross-country touring. Said he has a couple of trips in mind, but is wondering if he can do it. Now, my friend is a big, strong man and a capable rider. There are no outward reasons for self-doubt. Clearly, his reluctance (perhaps fear?) has to do with the unknown.
Of course, my response to him was to tour — and that’s a convenient segue to the rest of my tale.
While I haven’t toured for a couple of years, I’ve taken plenty of long rides and been on a few overnighters. During that time I’ve grown a little older, lost some strength and stamina, replaced a powerful bike with a not-so-powerful bike. Those changes eroded my confidence and conjured up doubts, questions, reluctance — and perhaps even fear about my ability to complete a cross-country trip.
The antidote for that fear was to tour in spite of my doubts. . . so here is Pearl (Suzuki Burgman 400) earlier this month loaded and ready to leave on a trip to Des Moines.
I rolled down the driveway at 4:15 a.m. and by 4:20 a.m. was filled with the sense of freedom and exhilaration that comes from moving forward on two wheels. Lingering doubts? Reluctance? Fear? No, no and no!
Texas was hot, even in the piney woods, but when I reached the Boston Mountains in Arkansas, the temperature began a steady drop. Severe weather and flooding in Missouri forced me to take an uninteresting detour via superslab, so let’s skip all that and pick up with the ride back to Austin.
Headed south from Des Moines on secondary roads, looking forward to some good ole Heartland scenery. While the Midwest has lost almost all of its prairie land, Iowa and Missouri roadsides, fence lines, and ditches are covered with native grasses and wild flowers. I saw tons of chicory, prairie clover, sunflowers, Queen Anne’s lace, ironweed, coneflowers, and many others I couldn’t identify. All morning a steady, light rainfall softened the light, but made stopping for pictures difficult.
One weird observation is that it seems like every time I’m in Missouri it rains. What’s up with that?
In Springfield, Missouri, I searched out the World’s Largest Fork. Pretty good roadside attraction and worth taking the time to find it.
South of Springfield, the road turned into a narrow Ozark state highway with plenty of twists, turns, and changes in elevation. What a relief and joy to lean into the curves and knock those rubber doodads off my new rear tire. That’s what I’m talkin’ about!
I’d called ahead and made reservations at The Trails Inn, a mom-and-pop hotel in Eureka Springs. It was reasonably priced, had all the basics, was exceptionally clean, and the owners were friendly and helpful.
But here’s the kicker. When I pulled in, the hotel parking lot was full of Burgmans, Silverwings, a Pacific Coast and Helix, and a few other types of scooters and motorcycles! Note the custom-yellow Burgman 650.
Turns out a group of scooter-loving friends come to Eureka Springs each year to ride and b.s. for several days. They immediately walked up, introduced themselves, and invited me to their cookout. Had an awesome hotdog and was put on the mailing list for next year.
As always, unknown friends are found in every turn of the road. If that doesn’t boost sagging confidence, nothing will!
After an early good-bye to my new friends, I couldn’t wait to get onto the Pig Trail Scenic Byway, which gets its name from wild pigs that carved trails through the thick forest. Being a weekday morning with little traffic, the road belonged to me. The best word I can think of to describe the Pig Trail is enchanting. Love it!
The Ouachita Mountains and Arkansas River Valley are not technically part of the Ozarks, but in my mind it’s all the same. While the Ouachitas, located in Western Arkansas, seem less rugged, they’re every bit as scenic and green as the Ozarks. Magnificent riding. All I know is the drive through Arkansas went way too fast!
Crossed the Red River and entered the piney woods of East Texas. Spent the night a few miles outside of Alto with my good friends, Lynda and David. I dislike the fact that they moved away from Austin, but am happy I get to visit their rustic hideaway in the trees.
Coming home the next morning, I reflected on my 2,200 miles on the road with Pearl. I had to admit my touring life has slowed down a bit and, yes, there have been changes and adjustments. In the end, though, the mileage and scenery are the same, no matter how fast or slow I travel. Isn’t that what really matters?
So to get back to the original question. . . . The answer, most definitely, is to tour!
Peace on the Road!