Too much water; I'm headed for the desert.

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by Jamie Z, May 30, 2011.

  1. Jamie Z

    Jamie Z Long timer

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    In April and May of 2011, the Mississippi River reached and exceeded record flood levels. Above average snow melt combined with two major storm systems in April dumped huge amounts of water throughout the south and midwest. The result was unprecedented flooding along the Mississippi River and its tributaries.

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    I work at a casino situated directly along the Mississippi River. In late April we were informed that the casino would be closing because of high water. Flood stage in Memphis is 34 feet. When the river stage reaches 40 feet, the casino becomes inaccessible. The predicted crest was 45 feet, then revised to 48 feet after even more rain.

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    Our last day of work was April 29. We were advised that our pay would continue for two weeks, and then management would re-evaluate the situation.

    I found myself suddenly thrust into an unplanned and unrequested paid vacation with an unknown end date. It might be just a week or so, or it could be as long as six weeks. Only the river level would determine that.

    With water everywhere around me, I headed for the desert.

    A preview of the coming report:

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    Jamie
    #1
  2. MikJogg

    MikJogg Weekend Adventurer

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    Great,a new Jamie Z report !:clap

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    #2
  3. scarysharkface

    scarysharkface Imbecile

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    #3
  4. doublen

    doublen Been here awhile

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    I was tired of the water and snow myself and made a run to Arizona. It was brutal getting there but worth it once I made it!
    #4
  5. manshoon

    manshoon Been here awhile

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    #5
  6. Jamie Z

    Jamie Z Long timer

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    I left on a drizzly late Saturday morning. My plan was to ride up the west coast of Tennessee along the Mississippi River and cross I-155 into Missouri.

    The first problem.

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    And then again.

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    And again.

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    Water was everywhere.

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    Finally by getting off the minor roads I crossed into Missouri.

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    Where the flooding was no better. They were preparing for the worst in Caruthersville.

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    The National Guard was there.

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    And it seemed Martial Law had been declared.

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    Much to the chagrin of some local residents.

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    I aimed to head west into Arkansas. More water.

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    At least I could cross some of it.

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    Though I didn't get far.

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    The folks on the ATVs said there was no point in trying to cross (I wouldn't have) since the road was washed out a few miles farther.

    Mountain View Arkansas had been a planned destination for the trip my dad and I made last year. We didn't make it. I'd been wanting to see the local bluegrass musicians in the square.

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    A thirty-second clip of some of the music.

    <iframe width="640" height="510" src="http://www.youtube.com/embed/fgGpQmG2k4I?rel=0" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>

    Almost dark, I rushed off to Barkshed campground in Ozark National Forest where I set up my tent next to a small creek and made dinner.

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    Jamie
    #6
  7. cyberdos

    cyberdos Easy Bonus Loop

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    LOL. It's the SUCK MY CURFEW sale! :rofl

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    #7
  8. malibu_dan

    malibu_dan Adventuring Mystic

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    I'm in. I was wondering where ya' had gone!

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    #8
  9. scarysharkface

    scarysharkface Imbecile

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    That is one mighty river. Hard to comprehend just how much flooding there's been recently. Your pics do it justice.

    John
    #9
  10. Jamie Z

    Jamie Z Long timer

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    I woke early with the plan to ride Push Mountain Road nearby. Good news, a road from the campground goes straight there.

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    Or not.

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    If I could get across this bridge, I'd be on my way to Push Mountain.

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    Or not.

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    What used to be a gravel road was now a hiking trail. Who knows if I could have made it through.

    I rode the long way to get to the north end of Push Mountain Road.

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    Stopped in Calico Rock Ghost Town. They have an interesting walking tour with historic signs posted along several blocks.

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    And then what many consider the best road in the state.

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    I stopped in Big Flat for a break. I made a mental note that my clutch cable needed a bit of adjustment. A little too much play in the lever than I like. I'll take care of that next time I make camp.

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    Fantastic city park, though long past it's last maintenance.

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    Next stop, the Ponca put-in along the Buffalo River. I've been here probably ten times, but never have seen as many people as was here today. The parking lot was overflowing.

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    People were lining up to put in and float one of the last wild rivers in the country.

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    For lunch at the Oark Cafe, I set my GPS for the shortest route, not knowing what I might find. First these cool mailboxes.

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    Yeah, they spun around on the axle. I checked.

    The road was fairly rough with gravel.

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    The road ended in the yard of a country shack. An older fella who looked incredibly like this guy walked down to my bike.

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    I asked him if the road went through to Oark. He told me it was washed out. "You 'member them mailboxes back there?" He motioned behind me. "Go pas' 'em and take the next road. That road'll take you right into Oark."

    He was right.

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    Excellent food at the Oark Cafe.

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    I once owned and drove a hearse, so I couldn't resist stopping to grab the phone number of this one for sale.

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    Riding down the Pig Trail, WTF is that?

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    It's Hunt's Hotrods.

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    Located at the Humpin' Cadillac Ranch. It says so.

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    A few mountains heading into Oklahoma.

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    Oklahoma state welcome sign with my bike. A new one for my collection.

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    I made camp at the Winding Stair Campground in Winding Stair Mountain National Recreation Area. The place was deserted, and I rode around several times looking for a campsite protected from the wind.

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    I made dinner using my hard cases as a windblock.

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    Jamie
    #10
  11. Jamie Z

    Jamie Z Long timer

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    Another early day, the wind battered my tent as I packed it up. I got on Oklahoma Highway 1, known as the Talimena Scenic Drive headed west.

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    Along the way I found a little-used gravel road winding down into the valley. I followed it down for about an hour before turning around near this low-water bridge. I still don't know where it goes.

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    From a scenic overlook.

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    I came into Antlers, Oklahoma from the north on US 271. The town bills itself as the "Deer Capital of the World." Not the best place for a motorcyclist.

    I stopped at a park on the outskirts of town. Like Big Flat, this was a fascinating park, but was overgrown and long in disrepair. It was home to this cool suspension bridge.

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    And these bizarre bathrooms made from what looked like old drainage ditches.

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    The picnic tables were falling apart and there hadn't been a lawn mower here for years. It's too bad, really.

    Instead I went into town and stopped at the community garden to sit in the shade to make my lunch.

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    An uneventful and pictureless border crossing into Texas (I already have that picture) and then into Paris, Texas where signs led me to the Eiffel Tower. Damn it was hot. The sun was brutal.

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    I skirted around the southeast side of Dallas and stopped in Ennis for gas. My mileage was dropping like a rock. Usually my mileage goes up when I tour, but today and yesterday I was off by 10%. Could be the wind. Or it could be that small front sprocket I installed before I left.

    Near Lake Whitney I searched for a place to camp. On one side of the dam was a $15 campground. On the other side, camping was free.

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    Once again, my Pelican windblocks.

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    Jamie
    #11
  12. El Tee Dee

    El Tee Dee n00b

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    We sure could use a couple inches of that water.
    #12
  13. Laconic

    Laconic Hapless Rube

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    Nice.
    #13
  14. infoatnmmoto

    infoatnmmoto with the band

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    The entire city of Albuquerque was blanketed in thick smoke last night from fires on the AZ-NM border.
    Bring some water, please.

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    #14
  15. achtung3

    achtung3 Long timer

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    Maybe you need a Motoboat instead of your Motocycle?:lol3

    Enjoy the ride.
    #15
  16. Jamie Z

    Jamie Z Long timer

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    In the morning, a friendly squirrel wanted some leftovers.

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    I did a bit of sightseeing of the dam.

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    I passed through Mosheim, Texas, an otherwise unremarkable town, though I saw this. The "Mosheim Mafia Headquarters."

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    In this sleepy town on an inviting front porch with a picnic table was a sign offering a $1000 reward for turning in trespassers. They sure take their private property seriously in Texas.

    In Oakalla, a sign that I was no longer in Kansas, er Mississippi.

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    At a gas stop a local fellow talked to me about motorcycles. He looked down at my rear tire and whistled. "You're gonna need a new tire soon." It had some tread on it. I'll be ok.

    Past the flat part of Texas, I was entering the Hill Country (according to my map). I'd marked the scenic and twisty roads from Great Motorcycle Roads and stopped for a break just before embarking on the roads I'd marked.

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    I found my first and only geocache at this stop when I did a search for nearby caches and one was just a couple hundred feet away. And get this, the name of the cache is Motorcycle Rest Stop. No kidding!

    Hill Country. Been hearing about it for years. My first trip.

    This made me smile:

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    And so did this:

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    I was past lunch and vowed to stop in the next town for some good eats. In Llano (is that pronounced Yaw-no or Law-no?) I found Cooper's Pit Bar-B-Que.

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    Ahhh, just like home. Memphis is the BBQ capital of the world. I'll try the Texas version. I walked up to the entry. Wait, what the heck is this?

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    That's not BBQ. The guy showing me the meats looked at me, waiting. "Uh... I'm from Memphis," I told him. "I was expecting pulled pork."

    He stuck out his hand to me. "I'm from Nashville. I know what you mean, but we don't do it that way here." He pointed out the different cuts of meat. I chose a thick pork chop. They weigh it and charge by the pound. My most expensive meal of the trip, but probably worth it.

    When I say thick, I mean dictionary thick.

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    Good stuff.

    I practiced setting the throttle lock and taking hands-free photos.

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    They need water in Kerrville too, "nestled in the hills of Texas Hill Country."

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    Time to make camp. Riding outside of town I found this strange site. It's Stonehenge II. And undergoing repairs or restoration or something.

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    Not sure where to set up my tent I rode along the scenic Guadalupe River scouting out potential spots. Everything is gated, locked, and trespassers threatened with unpleasant things.

    Except for one spot. I know it's still trespassing, but the gate was open, there weren't any signs, nor were there any signs of recent activity, and the place was just too beautiful to pass up for the night.

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    The long and narrow property lined the Guadalupe for about 250 feet one one side and the highway on the other, though a thick line of trees kept me virtually invisible from the occasional passing traffic. I'd just eaten dinner, and I was hot and sweaty, having not showered for several days now.

    I went for a swim in the shallow river. The water was cool, and I'm really squeamish about unfamiliar water, so I only stayed in a few seconds, but it was enough to rinse off and get my hair wet. I sat by the river to dry, ending a great day.

    Jamie
    #16
  17. Jamie Z

    Jamie Z Long timer

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    Another early day, I wanted to hit the road before anyone might come by the property where I was sleeping.

    I'm sure I've seen photos of this fence of boots before, or one like it.

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    All morning it had been kind of hazy/drizzling. Several people pointed out to me that the annoying mist was the most rain they've had in the area since sometime last year.

    I stopped at Lost Maples State Natural Area but when the ranger in the visitor center didn't even acknowledge me, I poked around at some of the pictures and turned around and left.

    Nearby is the Lone Star Motorcycle Museum. Looks neat, except it's only open for weekend riders. It was gated and locked.

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    Despite the dampness, I enjoyed the Hill Country sweepers. Damn! I forgot to adjust that clutch cable.

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    I stopped in Leakey, Texas at an obvious motorcycle hangout to see if they had any Hill Country stickers I could put on my bike. In short, they didn't, but the guy offered to take my picture in front of the sign.

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    Across the street at a gift shop specializing in wood furniture--really nice wood furniture--I spent some time talking to the shop owner. He recommended I go down the road a couple miles to another motorcycle hangout. He even made a phone call for me to see if they had Hill Country stickers. They did, but they weren't open for another half hour. No matter. I was astonished at the wood-working skill displayed at this place.

    At 10:30 I rode down to the Frio Canyon Motorcycle Stop.

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    The fella inside was decidedly unfriendly. He complained that he had to unlock the store just for me and he was busy in the kitchen. He corrected me when I referred to the business as a motorcycle shop. "Do you see a shop?" He tried to sell me on a set of Frogg Togg rain gear. I like Frogg Toggs. I own a set. In fact, I was wearing them. And finally, the sticker? Yeah, no. It was a tiny sticker that said "Frio Canyon Motorcycle Stop." At least it was free. I tossed it in the trash on the way out.

    Gotta love Cadillacs with tail fins.

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    Hill Country.

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    When I got home, some other riders asked me, "Why didn't you visit the Hill Country?" They had followed me on Spotwalla and claim that I missed the real Hill Country. What did I miss?

    I crossed the Pecos River Bridge on US 90. I saw the turnoff for a little picnic area, but I passed it up. I regret that now. The overlook from that picnic area is said to be one of the best in the state. Instead, I got this gorgeous view from the bridge.

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    According to information I read later, the rail line used to come down the canyon and through a tunnel. This was before advanced bridge technology. Reportedly the railroad bed and tunnel still exist, but the tallest bridge in the US was built to go around it.

    Now out of the Hill Country, my next stop was Langtry, Texas, a sleepy town off of US 90 known almost entirely because of one man.

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    Judge Roy Bean, often referred to as the Hanging Judge. Ironic since it's said that he never condemned a man to death, and it's unlikely that he even incarcerated anyone. The town didn't have a jail.

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    Bean owned a tavern in town and was the Justice of the Peace. The only sentence he ever handed out were fines, which were pocketed by Bean.

    Anyone know what this is?

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    The visitor center showed an informative, though comical video made in the 70s, and contained half a dozen dioramas which had miniature models populated with video projections of tiny actors. Brilliant! Thanks Tim for sending me here.

    These four women were in Langtry at the same time. Over the next few days I'd run into them or hear about them several more times.

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    Before I left Langtry I sent out a couple of last-minute couchsurfing requests hoping to find a hot shower and a warm bed for night. No such luck.

    US 90 runs along deep southwest Texas. Except for the highway, some train tracks, and miles of barbed wire fences, there's not much here. Mostly all you see is border patrol trucks sitting idle on the gravel tracks which line the highway.

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    In the distance I saw thick smoke. Across from a roadside picnic area, the mountain was burning.

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    I made an ill-advised attempt to get closer. Hopping the barbed wire fence I planned to walk the mile or so to the hill to get a better view of the flames. About 1/3 of the way across, a pickup truck appeared out of nowhere a couple hundred yards in front of me.

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    Like an illegal Mexican, I ducked behind some scrub and watched as the truck drove by before high-tailing back to my bike.

    I made dinner and decided to spend the night here.

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    As the evening progressed I watched the flames work across the mountain. Despite the distance I could hear the flames crackling and when the wind shifted, a wave of heat.

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    Jamie
    #17
  18. Yossarian™

    Yossarian™ Deputy Cultural Attaché

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    :lurk
    #18
  19. scarysharkface

    scarysharkface Imbecile

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    Indeed. :thumb
    #19
  20. iloco

    iloco Been here awhile

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    The item you asked what is this, is a tobacco cutter. Tobacco use to come in long pressed plugs and a person would buy the length he wanted...
    #20