Go West Young Man! part 2

Posted: December 3, 2020 in Life and Memories, Motorcycles, My view of the world, travel

Part 2

“Its about 30 songs to Little Rock”…

I have been a huge fan of music as long as I can remember. I never learned to play an instrument, outside of cupping my hands and making sort of loon sounds…though, to think about it, I did pick up a Jews harp somewhere and was able to make some twangy noises from it after I learned to not bash my teeth with the metal spring (so I guess I “did” play an instrument). However, music has always been a part of my life and if I was in a car or in my room or working outside I was listening to songs. A few months before this trip I had bought a Sony Walkman and I thought it was the best thing since sliced bread because I could not only listen to the radio, but I could take my own cassette tapes along with me and listen to my favorite artists as I carried on with my work. It was considered one of the necessities I packed and as we got back on the road from the few hours sleep we had taken in someone’s front yard, I made sure I had access to cassettes and batteries for the day’s journey ahead of us across Arkansas.

I discovered that Arkansas was a pleasant surprise to travel through, for we went from Mississippi River bottom land, to heavily wooded rolling hills, to flooded rice fields…all within 75 miles of entering the state. Driving along the interstate at 55 mph (the National Speed Limit law was still in effect) could be tediously boring at times. At the time, the general rule of thumb for song lengths was 3 to 3 ½ minutes for play-ability on the air. I would start doing self-challenges to break up the monotony, such as “OK I believe we are thirty songs away from Little Rock.” And I would start keeping count of the songs to see how accurate my estimates were. I also started estimating the distance to the next fuel stop, using numbers of songs instead of miles. My motorcycle had a four gallon fuel tank and I could go about 125 miles before I had to go to reserve, so we tried to stop about every 100 miles for fuel and a stretch…and to also readjust my load, which I seemed to do about a thousand times on this trip. At first my estimations weren’t very accurate, but they slowly started getting better as the trip progressed.

Little Rock is about in the center of the state and the state offered even more surprises as I-40 turned north out of the city and soon we were passing swamp land. I was very surprised to see swamps with turtles in the water and sunning on logs next to the interstate in central Arkansas. I had assumed there would be no swamp land outside of Louisiana, but I was dead wrong, as we pulled to the side of the interstate to take some pictures of this unexpected site. Arkansas continued to throw us a curve ball as the road began to curve back toward the west, it carried us up into the ridges and highlands and the southern foothills of the Ozark Mountains. I had always assumed the Ozarks were in Missouri, which they are, but they straddle the state lines between the two states and a large part of the mountains call Arkansas home.

We actually made pretty good time across the state, despite stopping in Little Rock for lunch at a Mexican restaurant (which, it turns out, we made a habit of) and mid-afternoon found us pulling into a winery outside of Altus, after Earl spotted the sign for it on the interstate and indicated that he wanted to pull off. I had never been to a winery and I didn’t know what to expect as we walked in but I soon found myself sampling a plethora of many different varieties of their grapes as we sat there conversing with the owners and before I knew it, I was feeling the effects of too much wine. I believe Earl was feeling the effects of too much wine also, for he ordered two cases of a couple of different varieties to be shipped back home to Tennessee. As we staggered out of there and back to our bikes, I was thinking “Oh boy, that was a mistake”, but after I plugged the earbuds in, turned on the music, and got back on the road, the effects of the wine, combined with the steady undulation of the concrete road surface seemed to meld into a pleasant rhythmic feeling as we headed west once again.

Just before dark, we made it to a state park just north of Sallisaw, Oklahoma where we set up the tent and stretched our damp sleeping bags out to dry before we placed them into the tent. I was hoping by the next evening we would be far enough west to escape the damp dewy mornings that came with higher humidity areas, so I could start sleeping comfortably under the stars without getting soaked by dew. After the small breeze quickly dried our sleeping bags and we placed them in the tent, I reflected on the day as I built a fire in the camping area firepit and wondered why I had never though to do this before now, as the almost mystical feel of release and freedom from the worries and toils of the everyday life washed over me and I started to fully understand why others had taken motorcycles, camping gear and courage and taken off for months and years at a time of exploration of our marvelous planet…something I was just beginning to comprehend.

Jim

12-3-20

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