As the end this part of my journey looms with each mile I ride, I find myself thinking back at the many people who I’ve met, who’ve helped me, who I’ve helped and who just for one reason or another have made an indelible impression in my memory which I know will never fade. There are so many new friends and people who I hope one day I’ll see again and have an opportunity to share more and to learn. And then I think of the friends I haven’t seen in so many years. And those here who supported me and believed in this journey prior to my departure in July 2005. I’m heading to Eureka Springs, Arkansas to meet Laurene and Sean Franklin, a couple I met in Winter 2003 when I started planning this journey. AT the time they had just started their fledging internet-based company — Cycle Gadgets — offering technology products and gadgets for motorcyclists. Since then they’ve moved from their modest garage in Northern Indiana to new digs in Northern Arkansas. They helped me with GPS information and lighting.
Outside Memphis two brothers from Marshall, Texas taking a hunting trip and enroute to a property they inherited years ago are amazed and fascinated about the places my motorcycle has traveled. They must take pictures. Of me. The bike. It’s the first time they’re visiitng the Ohio property and they will be canoe hunting they tell me. I ask to take their photos too. They smile.
It takes a couple days to get there but first I can’t imagine a ride across our great country and through Memphis without paying a visit to the KIng. So I made a quick loop by Graceland, tuned my iPod to Heartbreak Hotel and shake, rattled and rolled through Memphis and across the great Mississippi River. I spotted a truck weigh station just over the bridge in West Memphis, Arkansas, where Stan “The Man” Griffen and Eric Morris of the Arkansas Highway Police satiated my curiosity on how trucks are flagged for weighing and the technology involved, while they peppered me with questions of my travels and the flags on my panniers. “You really went to Sudan, Allan?” But even better, I’ve been feeling a bit heavy riding across east. Carrying a set of tires on the back of the bike certainly ads maybe 30 pounds or more to my load. With my desire to be fully compliant with BMW’s “recommended” load rating, I asked Stan and Eric to weigh Doc and give me the official low-down. I haven’t put the bike on scales since riding onto a scale in Western Tanzania. With tires and that bottle of wine someone offered me I clocked in at 660 pounds +/- as this scale is really geared for loads in the tons.
Sean and Laurene put me up in their beutiful home on Beaver Lake and I spend a day brainstorming and planning a rally for next fall. I will speak and share some of my stories and photographs (– Cycle Gadgets — ). Sean helps me update my maps on the Garmin GPS they sold me more than 3 years ago. And the morning of my departure, Sean fires up his beautiful yellow Gold Wing and takes me for a ride. Leaving about 7am we take a long loop to their shop in Eureka. The crisp air just cold enough to bite my face as I rode with my visor up so I could take in some of this beautiful backcountry. As we dipped into a small hallow, the run rising behind us and basking the green and yellow grasses in a orange aura glow, refracting off the morning due clinging to each blade. I’m mesmerized by this beauty but must keep focused on the twists and turns until we come to another lake where we cross a nearly 100 year old one-lane bridge as the fog lifted itself off the surface of the water in slow motion. It pays to get an early start in the morning. Especially in the Ozarks.
Doc Meets Graceland – Long Live The King!
Roadside Images – Arkansas & Tennessee
Brothers from Marshall Texas – “You really been to all those places?”
The Road to Eureka Springs, Arkansas — always taking the backroads.
With a set of tires on the back, Doc weights in at 660 pounds… how accurate is it?
Stan “The Man” & Eric of Arkansas Highway Police
Coffee at the locals only shop is entertaining with conversation moving from bikes, to politics to iPhones and more. The owner of the coffee shop, Roscoe shares his microfiger guitar – it’s so light, durable and good tone. I bang out a couple riffs before mounting Doc and head toward another iconic “dot” on the map of Arkansas: Bentonville. Yes. Where Sam Walton built his now legendary and somewhat controversial empire – Wal-Mart.
Jerry & Bob partners at Bentonville BMW give me my first peek at the BMW F800GS. It’s beautiful and wonder if when I return sometime in the future to India, Iran and Pakistan if I will be riding Doc or a new 800? Time will tell.
It’s unfortunate that I’m unable to connect with Steve at Airhawk, the ‘asspad’ that I’ve sat on for my entire journey and perhaps the most important accessory I’ve used during this trip. So I move on and continue my strategy of riding only the backroads across America — and cross into Kansas where heavy head winds dramatically impact my fuel economy and massive bugs reduce my visibility. It’s flat and yet there are hills. Interesting. I take a liking to downtown Parsons and old town Wichita — all in the Flat Hills of Kansas.