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Alphabet Soup

Friday, January 27, 2017   (1 Comments)
Posted by: Jim Auckley (#148105)
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I anticipate each new edition of the Owners News. When I come in from the mailbox, I retreat to a worn leather recliner and savor the magazine in the natural light from a large window. I’m delighted, but after an initial page-through without actually reading anything but the titles and a few photo captions—just to get the lay of the new magazine—I have a creeping feeling of jealousy. Here are stories of people riding across continents, riding through Switzerland or touring the oh-so-scenic western United States.

I’m jealous because 95 percent of my riding is local, most of it on two-lane rural blacktops. As an aging baby-boomer and someone who is downstream of two spinal stenosis surgeries, I’m mostly limited to day rides of three to five hours near home. In my state, county roads are designated by letters rather than numbers, and it only takes a moment of remembering what twisted pretzels those alphabet soup roads are to cure my green-eyed envy of the exotic rides I see illustrated in the Owners News.

I live in Lewis and Clark country, near the confluence of the Missouri and Mississippi rivers. The landforms here provide two outstanding foundations for twisting, hill-struck roads. Bluffs lining the Missouri River are threaded with small blacktops weaving their way through openings in the maple-clad uplands. Just to the south is a large limestone plain that nature has been at work on for a long time; the hills strain to be called Ozark mountains, but the valleys, cut by years of generous rainfall, are deep, winding and inviting for a rider on an easy-steering BMW R 1200 GS.

The best of the Ozark-foothills traces are the alphabet roads. I have an easy 15-minute ride from my garage door to OO. This road connects the far west end of a suburban Route 66 byway to the real ghost of historical Route 66 at a town called Pacific. OO is only a few miles long, but it traverses a rolling landscape of pastures and timber, and it includes one flat-out, blind curve that I always navigate with two fingers draped over my front brake lever. There is a patch of field here, just below a house, that, in spring, includes the densest ranks of daffodil flowers I have ever seen—short lived, but gorgeous in their moment.

OO feeds me into Route N, which leads to at least four alphabet roads heading south into the cave-riddled limestone that forms a landscape my grandfather once called “rough country.” NN is a 10-mile treat that includes a multitude of curves, two of which will scare an unwary cyclist. That wonderful yellow road sign with the arrow graphic, twisted like the devil’s backbone, stands roadside. I can make a loop ride out of this trip by working my way to HH and following it back to the north.

Even better is to drop off on Route Y for a few miles and hook up with WW. This road starts out easily, but quickly turns into one of the highest rated rides on my Butler motorcycle map of the Ozarks. I pass a shambling building here with a sign that announces “Joe Mamma’s Hilltop Tavern,” just before connecting with WW, and though I have yet to see the lights on in the place, I love the quirky name. I count 34 curves in the 10-mile length of WW.

I am fortunate to be able to often ride on weekdays. The alphabet roads are remarkably free of traffic through the body of a day in the middle of the week (in mid-morning there is the random mail truck, and in the afternoon maybe a school bus making its rounds). It’s unusual to get stuck behind a car or, more likely, a pickup or logging truck. WW is a marvel of curves and elevation changes, and it includes fields and woods with few houses in its length.

To read the rest of this story, refer to the online edition of the May 2016 issue of Owners News, available in our Digital Archive.

Comments...

David Prigel says...
Posted Monday, January 30, 2017
Hello Jim, I live across the state in the exact opposite corner and currently I am mending from a mishap and my bike needs a bit more mending than myself. I really enjoyed your article and currently I am only doing short rides. 3-6 hours currently the longest. Thanks for the inspiration and if I am ever wanting to wander a long ways from home I will give Lewis and Clark counties a try. I have done some consulting with a large farm near Labelle many years ago. Thanks again for a great article. Dave Prigel

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