March 1998 Ozarks Tour

Could've been better, could've been worse

For me, things couldn't have been much better. I was switching jobs, and strategically planned a few days off in between. The weather actually cooperated, and there were 4 days of 70-80 degree weather in the Ozarks with almost no rain. Let's Ride!!

A friend, Rich Chodacki (aka Viragoboy), decided to try to join me for the trip. At the time, he had recently purchased a learner bike, an 83 Suzuki GS550E. He and I left after work on Wednesday and made it down to Quincy, IL that night. His bike was having problems sustaining speed. We tried some carb cleaner, octane boost, but nothing was helping. Things could have been much better for him, as it became evident quickly that his bike was not going to make it. He was forced to turn back. The bike proceeded to fall apart on him, and he went out and bought a new 98 Virago 1100, hence the nickname. Yet, I digress.

So there I was, in the middle of nowhere. Just me, the bike packed with luggage, and a handful of maps of the area. No particular destinations, to schedules - hell, I didn't even bring a watch with me. I had looked at some maps beforehand, traced some scenic routes. I now had 4 days to hit as many of them as I could. Plus, I had four days of being on my own to try and figure some stuff out. There were many changes going on in my life, and this was a great opportunity to think about them and draw my own conclusions.

I rode through south-eastern Missouri which turned out to be a real treat. Mark Twain National Forest traverses this entire area, and the roads through the parks were fantastic. Nice elevation changes and everything from tight twisties to decreasing radius sweepers were prevalent. I stopped at a couple of parks and overlooks, and continued down into Arkansas. Jeff and I had ridden through Arkansas before, but we blew by Bull Shoals Dam. I was amazed at this structure. I ended up staying in a small town south of Bull Shoals on route 7 that night.

The next day, rain was in the forecast, so I decided to head south to try to avoid it. The ride down 7 was just as beautiful as I remember it, and I stopped at a few places that I'd been to before on the last trip. I then headed south, deciding that I needed to see Texarkana (yes, I like the movie Smokey & The Bandit). It was a dirty looking town, but the ride there was nice, and I only hit about 20 minutes of rain. Plus, thanks to those Texans who have a 70 MPH speed limit on state highways!! I proceeded over to eastern Oklahoma where I took some scenic route north (I cant remember the route number). A nice ride with fantastic views, and a 65 MPH speed limit. Stopped again for the night in some little town in OK.

The next day was only 490 miles long. I say only becase I'll usually average closer to 600 miles per day. However, this was 490 miles of twisties, twisties, and more twisties. I basically zig-zagged across the state of Arkansas, hitting state routes 21, 23, the Mt. Magazine Scenic Highway, and finally state route 9 which brought me to Mountain View, where I spent the night. It was an exhausting day of riding, but those were by far the nicest roads I have seen to date.

The next day was the jaunt home. I had done enough riding at that point, and was still pretty tired from the day before. Plus, this was my first long ride of the season, and I was not in great riding shape - although the Corbin proved it's worth to me. I hit about 2 hours of twisties getting back to the superslab, and then got on I-57 for the long and boring ride back to Chicago. Luckily, the flow of traffic in southern Illinois was going 95 MPH. I set the throttle lock and cruised for hours before having to stop for gas. When done, I had ridden 704 miles that day, and was home at about 8:00 - 12 hours after I had left including a breakfast stop, gas stops, and a stop in Champaign-Urbana where I went to college.

This was a great getaway for me. It was really unfortunate that Rich's bike died, because he would have really enjoyed it. Have no fear though, this is slated to be our October trip for this year. I can't wait.

Here are some pictures from the trip:

Last Update 2/5/99