At dawn we are up and decide to find a good breakfast, we gear up and hop on the bikes and go a few miles down the road to a little local combination caf?®, gas station, convenience store, bait shop and who knows what else. We park next to the large vertical above ground fuel tanks (including diesel) and open the front door of the place. The owner has a mop in his hand and we realize our boots are full of clay from the rain and camping. We ask and are directed outside to a garden hose to prevent our host from having to mop up after us. He is a big man, older, and sounds just like the actor George Kennedy. I ask him from what part of the upper Midwest he is from and he replies Illinois, and I say "not Chicago?" and he admits to growing up just outside the city limits...he feeds us a fine breakfast, far more than we can eat, and we talk for while, about the lake, our camping experience and his grown children.
We return to the camping site, towel out the water in the tent, pack it wet and head to the northern most reaches of famed Arkansas Scenic Route 7 in Lead Hill, about 100 miles. The only gas station/convenience store in Lead Hill is a busy place, folks buying lots of ice and soda, this is a dry county. We gas, do a little washing and again talk to the locals. A man shows up on a brand new KLR 650 with his 8 year old son on the back and he has just returned to the motorcycle community. He has concerns about his selection of the machine and we reassure him with our stories of guys riding them to Alaska and down to South America. My first choice of a dual sport would be an original R80G/S (I have a R80ST) since those bike are so reliable and if needed, easy to work on.
Arkansas Scenic 7 is a wonderful road and we decide to look for camping early and to spend the day riding up and down Arkansas Scenic 7. Just after crossing the Buffalo National River, I see a sign showing remote camping. 7.2 miles down a wet sand, clay and gravel road (heavy on the sand and clay, easy on the gravel) we find beautiful tent sites, a few feet from the river with privacy. We are set up in minutes and we dry our wet gear. A small fancy dog wonders up to us and we walk the area looking for the owners and get to meet some of our neighbors. We are the ONLY folks without local plates and we get a zillion question. But we are eager to ride route 7 and we brave that 7.2 miles of hilly, windy, all weather dirt road on sport bikes...
Seven is one long sweeper after another and if you do it right, you can ride the curves with only throttle, no shifting or breaking. At Booger Hollow (population seven including one coon dog) we stop for lunch, soda and a candy bar. We talk with some other motorcycle riders and head south to Russellville for a little shopping for dinner and breakfast. Going back on seven the road is empty and no cars get in our way. The dirt road is drying now and we make better time. We share our Italian sausages and French bread with some neighbors for use of their cooking fire and talk for quite a long time with them, mainly about lifestyles we have adopted. We are well educated, well paid professionals. They all work in the same truck body plant. The bottle of whiskey takes a SERIOUS hit.
Dawn Sunday, our adventure is coming to a close. Some fresh, juicy peaches, somewhat bruised from the dirt road make a fine meal and we depart the rapidly warming, bug infested, river bottom. As we climb the dirt road, the morning light is blotted out by thick black clouds, suddenly we are driving by headlights when it should be bright morning. Luckily, the storm waits until we are on the paved road. Then it comes down. We ride, it rains. A cell phone inside a jacket pocket gets wet through and through, my maps, inside a plastic bag, inside a breast stitch pocket get wet.
Happily, in the heavy rain, we ride the 75 miles to Russellville for our last communal meal, this time at a waffle house. It is our first chain restaurant since Thursday, our wet gear drips in a corner, the eggs are overcooked and greasy, we plot our long, separate rides home. It will be the longest single ride she has ever taken, over 800 miles for the day, my ride is much shorter. We are wet and cold, motorcycles head north with riders wearing only t-shirts, patrons enter the restaurant in shorts, t-shirts and flip-flops, we shiver. One final gas stop together. We ride towards Little Rock, just before I peel off west, we stop early at 60 miles for a final cup of coffee and a recap of the journey. We want to keep riding and keep the trip going, but houses, jobs and pets lure us back to reality.
We get back on the highway, and I peel off on the loop west of town. I am wet and sticky under the stitch, I stop for gas, let my boots and socks dry and pack the stich in the H@W bag at 95 degrees and 100% humidity. My arms, unexposed to the sun quickly grow brown and tan. The mesh gloves leave an interesting pattern of tan on my hands. I make only gas stops and the slab is moving fast...at seven in the evening, I return home to find my neighbors celebrating the holiday with picnics, cookouts and much cold beer. The bike goes into the garage, I grab a cold beer, check mail, messages, email, strip and shower. Finally at 1:15 the phone rings, herlong road to Dayton is done. She is so proud of her long ride and rightly so. She will earn her iron butt soon and have a new K12GT or RS and will never look back...