Poetry September 2021 I recently returned safely from a wonderful motorcycle tour. By the numbers, it was 13 days, 12 nights, and 4600 miles spread out over 10 different States in this incredible country. My Yamaha FJR flipped 80,000 miles during the journey, and except for an untimely run over a stick that took out my rear tire, the bike ran flawlessly and gave me terrific service. In the southeast, September is usually a good month to ride, and this year, it did not disappoint. With very little exception, I had dry sunny skies over me. It was a tad warm at times, creeping into the mid-80s during the afternoon. But as the sun set, the temperatures fell to more comfortable levels and the mornings were very nice on this trip. I did get one full day of off and on rain, but it was tolerable under my rain gear. I camped 8 out of the 12 nights and opted for hotel rooms for the other 4. The campgrounds I chose were good, but I enjoyed the Army Corp of Engineers campgrounds the best. They are always spotless with large spread-out sites, good clean hot showers, nice paved roads, and amenities fit for duty at the site. If you are a camper, don’t pass up the ACOE campgrounds whenever possible. Logistically, I left the house alone and had 3 days to myself to explore and enjoy. On the evening of day 3, I arrived at my good friend Josh’s house in southern Illinois. Josh then led me on a wonderful adventure through Indiana and Ohio, two States I had previously not seen. On Day 7, we arrived in Flatwoods, West Virginia for the 2021 Eastern Owners Meeting (EOM) of the FJR Riders Group. We found some familiar friends and made new friends over the weekend as we enjoyed the gathering very much. On Day 8, Josh returned home and I continued by myself for the rest of the trip. I think it was the perfect combination of time with friends and time alone. I’ve been doing this for a while now. And the more I do it, the more I like the way I’m doing it, and indeed, seek to do it more often. My method is straightforward: make as few plans as possible. I simply do not like trip planning for the motorcycle. First, there are way too many variables that can stifle the plan. Things like weather, mechanical issues, and rider health make it better in my view to be open and flexible for each day. Perhaps more importantly, the unknowing is fascinating and welcome. Your mind is free to wander and take in wherever you go. So I bring enough gear and clothes to handle a big range of temperature and weather. I bring the maps and the credit card. Then I wake up each day, and I wing it. And it’s pretty darn cool. A self-proclaimed literary idiot, for some strange unexplainable reason, I’ve taken a recent liking to poetry. I don’t care to write my own poems, but I do enjoy reading some of the classics. By definition, a poem allows for the expression of feelings and ideas through the use of style and rhythm. During this trip, I was thinking about that, and it occurred to me that riding the motorcycle is sort of a poetry in its own rite. I hope you enjoy the pictures. Day 1: Lafayette, LA to Harrison, AR, approximately 525 miles. Route: https://goo.gl/maps/5hBLJDSXbZS3bgzH7 “These woods are lovely, dark and deep, But I have promises to keep, And miles to go before I sleep, And miles to go before I sleep.” Robert Frost I packed my horse the evening before. I woke up rested and excited for the adventure ahead. At the last minute, I decided to switch to my mesh jacket and brought both the quilted and windproof liners. The forecast was warm and that proved to be a good decision. I took the big slab north to Alexandria, and as the sun starts to rise, I’m on Hwy 167 steaming toward Arkansas. By late morning, I cross the border and in Camden, Hwy 7 turns to 2-lane and the curves start to appear. I enjoyed riding through the Ouachita River flood plain, full of rice ready to be harvested. The nutty aroma in the air is nice. I got to the southern part of Hot Springs about lunch time, and this place caught my eye. The gang there were rocking the open kitchen, and my chicken sandwich was pretty good. After lunch, I routed myself around Hot Springs to avoid the traffic and in Jessieville, reunited with the scenic Hwy 7 and continued north. Mt. Nebo is looking quite well today. Late afternoon, I stopped at the overlook south of Jasper. They call this the Arkansas Grand Canyon and today, the view is very good. I arrived at Shady Oaks Campground just south of Harrison about 5 pm, and set up my camp at my usual spot. This is nice place to camp in the region. With plenty of daylight left, I decided to ride to dinner. On a clear day, the Ozarks are really nice. Dinner was only a mile or so from the campground. Grabbed a “local” brew (Little Rock, I think) and ordered the wings. Back at the campground, I poured myself a shampoo snort. My wife made me homemade cookies for the trip, and I enjoyed a couple of these as I sat by the fire. Today, I was hoping to make miles north. I wanted to get into the higher elevations and start enjoying some cooler weather and twisty roads. 525 miles is a bit much for my normal liking, but a lot of that was on the 4-lane, and truthfully, the day was very pleasurable. Emphatically, Mr. Frost reminds me that in my life, I’ve got many more miles to go before I take the big sleep. There is much left to do and I look very forward to doing all of it. And unlike my younger years, I think now I’ll enjoy the miles much more. But for today, I was content with my journey, and look forward to whatever tomorrow will bring. Day 2: Harrison, AR to Pilot Knob, MO, approximately 350 miles. Route: https://goo.gl/maps/rxg6TkYcM8FpHpX8A “Keep your face always toward the sunshine - and shadows will fall behind you.” Walt Whitman I slept good in my tent. Since it was warm, I used the sleeping bag as a blanket over me. I made coffee, had breakfast, and then broke camp. Soon I was heading north toward the Missouri border. The sun is shining brightly, and I’ve got the world all to myself. I couldn’t resist a stop at this vista to take in the view. But that stop cost me another ½ hour because when I got to the Peel Ferry, I just missed it going away. Oh well, I’m in no hurry. I caught the next ferry and was on my way. Let me say something about the riding in southern Missouri: It is fan-friggin-tastic!! The roads are in wonderful shape, as I do not remember hitting one pothole anywhere. As you ride through these small hills, the banking on the curves is confidence inspiring and quite frankly, addictive. Honestly, the whole place reminds me of one long wooden roller coaster. You remember – the kind that has the smaller rises and falls, but wiggles and shakes you left and right as you go up and down. I was freestyling it and having a ball. I’d check the map and take whatever looked twistier. In Wasola, I stopped for gas. The sign at the station said “deli”, but it was more of a fried chicken, stale pizza place. I asked the gal if she could make me a sandwich, and I think it was a decent lunch for the middle of nowhere. During lunch, I talked with a guy from Hill Country Texas riding a Gold Wing. He asked a lot of questions about my bike and I let him sit on it. He was a nice man. Today, I’m running in and out of the Mark Twain National Forest. There are sections of the forest scattered throughout the southern half of Missouri. In between forest sects, the farmland is quite nice among the rolling hills. Mid-afternoon, I entered the Ozark National Scenic Riverway. There is still plenty of water here, considering the time of year. Then I turned north on Hwy 19 (excellent road) and crossed the famous Current River. This is a beautiful clear stream in the Missouri hills. When I was a kid, my parents took my siblings and I here and we paddled the Current River. I don’t remember that trip, but I imagine it was good fun. Now getting later in the day, my camping options were limited. I found this State Park and grabbed a site for the night. The sites are nice and spacious, and the concrete pad was convenient. But they charged me $34.00 for this site, a bit expensive. The other thing is that this park is no less than 20 miles away from anything to eat, restaurant or groceries. So after I setup camp, I rode into Pilot Knob and grabbed a Jimmy John’s sub along with a cup of ice for my evening tottie. Went back to the campground and lit a nice fire. It was another good day, one that was filled with two kinds of sunshine. Besides the obvious good weather, today I resisted the temptation to look back on any shadows. Rather, I was content to just enjoy the sunshine in front of me, and to soak up the rays of those Missouri hills for the beauty that they are. Nearly all of the road today was uncharted water for me. The newness of that was exhilarating and I often found myself quite giddy about whatever might lie around the next curve or over the next hill. I’m in the zone now. It’s only going to get better from here.