On Friday September 3, 2004 my son Joe and I completed our first Saddle Sore 1000 ride. I rode my 1988 K100LT, and my son rode the venerable 2001 Ducati ST2 he purchased earlier this summer from Sue and Jon Diaz.
We left Joplin, Missouri at 0545 and headed south on US 71 into Arkansas. The ride south of Fayetteville on I-540 was incredibly beautiful. This new highway goes through the Boston Mountains and the scenery was fantastic with the sun coming up as a giant red ball and all of the many steep valleys on both sides below us filled with fog. We made excellent time to Alma, Arkansas where we turned east at I-40.
Just north of Alma, we saw the first of many troopers for the day tucked well back up an on-ramp. This was to be the order of the day, and we saw many LEOs as it is Labor Day weekend.
Headed east on I-40 we met several west bound motorcyclists, the majority of which were (surprisingly) riding BMWs. We saw at least 3 late model GSs and one Cruiser, and an older K-bike. (Did we see you? I was on a dark brown K, Joe on a sapphire blue ST2)
We made excellent time and made 2 efficient gas stops at North Little Rock and at Marion, Arkansas just after we turned north on I-55 at West Memphis. Blasting north across the delta land of eastern Arkansas, we continued at a brisk pace to Luxora, Arkansas where we stopped for a City Limit sign picture for the Glacial Lakes MC Grand Tour of Biblical Proportions grand tour. I glanced at my rear tire and commented that is was getting squared off from all the slab riding. Joe happened then to look at his rear tire and to his horror saw that the center of the tire tread (which was good at the beginning of the ride) was down to the steel belts 2/3 of the way around the tire. What had been a good tire was now toast.
What now? 460 miles into the ride..not quite halfway...The sinking feeling that our planning and preparation was in vain began to settle in deeply. The nearest town of any size was Blytheville, Arkansas. Well.. It is worth a try. The failed rear tire on JoeÔÇÖs Ducati was holding air, so we rode (conservatively) into town to see what we could possibly do on Friday afternoon before a holiday weekend.
Snooping around, we found that there were no motorcycle shops in town, but were able to find a store which sold lubricants, tools, and ATVs. As a last resort we went there and they had a (barely) used tire in the back room which would work, although it was a 180 instead of the stock 170. Hey, it worked and suddenly (3 hours later) we are back in the hunt for the elusive SS1000.
Discouragement and despair turned into optimism and we decided that we had gone this far, we were going for the rest. We resumed our northward course to Sikeston, Mo and then up I57 to Mt. Vernon, Illinois for our northeast corner of our planned loop. It is all downhill from here, merely having to ride west an hour or so, then through St. Louis at 9:00 PM in the dark, then 300 miles down I-44 to home. Again keeping close in mind the expanded presence of the LEO community at all points along the journey.
We successfully arrived home in Joplin at 2:00AM Saturday, tired and very satisfied. It was easier in some ways than I had envisioned, and harder in others. We had our ups, we had our downs. The best moments were riding through the Boston Mountains early in the morning and riding east on I-40 across Arkansas to Little Rock.
The most crystal image of the whole ride was riding side by side with my son (and favorite riding partner), a couple of feet separating us, running slightly above the posted limit, 900 plus miles into the ride, at around 1:00 AM on a nearly deserted I-44 with all of our riding lights blazing, knowing that we had toughed out a problem that nearly made us quit, and our goal was nearly in the bag.
A great time and I am still buzzed two days later. Hope you enjoyed my report. Tom