The Re-birth, Restoration, and Rejoice of Spring Spring Break this year was extra special. Since my return to motorcycling, I’ve taken a ride somewhere in the Spring every year. Except last year. 2020, which may be dubbed the Year Of The Crap, halted a lot of things, and it killed my motorcycling buzz proper. They say a pandemic comes only once in a lifetime, and that’s plenty enough for me. But as the new year brought new vaccines and greatly diminished infectiousness, it also brought excitement about returning to the way it was, or at least the new way it will be in a healthy world. So I started polling the troops from near and not so near early, hoping for a small gathering of buddies looking for adventure. It didn’t take long to put a posse together. Locally, my good riding friends Mike and Tom, with their Kawasaki Versys 1000 LTs, responded favorably at the idea of a ride. Farther away, my buddies Josh from southern Illinois, and Mark from southern Iowa, were equally stoked at the idea of getting together. I invited others to join, but it didn’t work out, although one other person did join us for one night. Five felt about right to me, so five we would be. I’ve ridden and camped with these gents many times, although not all together at once. That did not concern me. All of us have similar riding styles, similar interest, and I knew this would be a good mix for a trip. The destination was not firmed up until relatively close to the start of the trip. This was intentional. Where we ride is not nearly as important as it used to be. When you’ve got about a week to play, there are a few choices to pick from, equally good in their own rite. Weather has to be considered though, and considering a good forecast and with the Ozarks basically located in the middle of everyone’s home, Arkansas is where we decided to go. We chose Shady Oaks Campground just north of Jasper as our home away from home. We’ve camped there before and it’s a great location for riding the Ozarks. In this area, there aren’t many choices for moto-camping, unless you prefer primitive sites. Primitive sites are good for a couple of nights, but pushing it for a whole week, if you ask me. The weather was absolutely perfect for the entire trip. One two evenings, we got what amounted to about 10 minutes of sprinkles, hardly enough to wet the road. Otherwise, we were treated to overnight lows of 30-45, highs of 55-75, and TONS of severe clear sunshine. Terrific camping weather, for sure. The riding was terrific as we knew it would be. But we managed to mix in a lot more adventure than just ripping the twisties. And at least for your humble writer, I managed to get a lot more out of this trip than just adventure. It’s been a long year for Pants – between COVID, Hurricanes, Civil Unrest, and whatever else the real world threw at me, things have been restrictive in many ways. The passing of winter and the onset of Spring always reminds me of new beginnings. Brown turns to color in nature, and indeed, our imagination and attitude follows in kind. As critters of all kinds get more active, it is only natural for peeps to follow suit. Indeed, this Spring ride was extra special for me. Cognitively, after a year of death, destruction, and at some points, despair, I found myself with an opportunity for re-birth, restoration, and rejoice. An opportunity I captured in spades. I hope you enjoy the pics. Day 1: Lafayette, LA to Shady Oaks, approximately 520 miles. I packed the horse the evening before, got a good night’s sleep, and woke up 15 minutes before the alarm clock ready to rock. Mike and Tom agreed to meet at the gas station early. There’s plenty of time to get where we are going, but we might as well beat the workday traffic out of the city. On your marks, get set, ….. I’ve ridden to Arkansas probably 25 different times. For me anyway, the best way is to make miles early on the fastest shortest path into southern Arkansas. She’s barely working in these cool morning temps. We crossed the border into Arkie late morning, and exited the 4 lane in Camden, just in time for lunch. According to our knowledgeable and friendly, yet toothless waitress, this is the oldest continuously running restaurant in the entire State. I’ve eaten here before and the food is just fine. After lunch, it’s Hwy 7 we seek, and we find it immediately. Any rider looking to run north/south through Arkansas need only find this lucky number on a State road sign. Immediately, the path starts getting curvy, and the air starts getting cleaner. We stopped at the Nimrod Dam to stretch our legs. I got a thing for bridges and this one is just fine and dandy. Mt. Nebo in the distance there is looking quite well today under those blue skies. The green rye grass blowing in the wind is pleasantly distracting me. I’ve got some cool tunes playing in my ear buds, and I can feel the real world fading fast in my mirrors. We ran through Russelville with no problems, and continued north into the Ozark mountains, stopping at the overlook south of Pelsor. We pull into Jasper no worse for the wear. It’s about 5:30 now, and with 500 miles beneath us, no one feels much like cooking. So we stop for dinner at this little café’. We’ve eaten here before and the food is good. I think everyone picked a wood fired pizza. My “supreme” was quite tasty. Disclaimer: In case you are new to a Pants ride report, let me orient you proper. In my 200,000 plus miles of motorcycling, when it comes to ride reports, it is my believe that people really only want to know two very important things: (1) where did you go?, and (2) what did you eat?. Now, in keeping with that theme, there is going to be food porn. Some may consider what I do on a tour to be “roughing it”, and in their own mind, they very well might be right. After all, roughing it is in the eye of the beholder. But one thing we should be able to agree on – we eat well on these trips. The food porn stands on its own merit. Now… where was I? Oh yeah, after dinner, we rode the last 10 miles up to the campground, stopping at the rather convenient liquor store right up the road. This one, brewed in Little Rock, was pretty good. We pitched our tents on the most level ground we could find, as the sun set on this gorgeous and awesome day. Mark arrived from Iowa after dark. Josh will be coming tomorrow. Mike’s wife, Ms. Pam, baked us some double chocolate brownies, and these made for a wonderful treat by the campfire. A great start to a great trip. Day 2: Riding and Hiking in the Ozark Mountains. I slept well in my tent, but unfortunately, my air mattress has developed a small leak. I woke up twice during the night on the ground. Oh well – can’t do anything about that. All things appear to be in order this morning at the camp. Think I’ll make myself a nice cup of Joe to get things going. A warm toasted bagel would be nice for breakfast too. We take our time and gear up for the day’s adventure. I can tell right out of the campground, it’s going to be a good one. Mark couldn’t agree more…. We ran up and down and left and right through the good stuff. “Now be more specific!”, you might say. After all, the Ozarks are a big place. But truth is, it doesn’t matter. Once you get to the northwest corner of the State, ALL of the roads are terrific, and it really doesn’t matter which way you go. The chip seal pavement in Arkansas grips very well. The tree line is cut back at least 25 feet from the road, offering great visibility made even better by the leafless trees. This is a motorcyclist’s place – a rider’s place for sure. We find ourselves in the thriving metropolis of Deer, Arkansas, home of the Deer High School Antlers (no joke) about lunch time. The food here is good, my swiss/mushroom burger was very tasty. After lunch, we were looking to stretch our legs out a bit, so we rode a short distance to this place. Mark wasn’t up for the walk, so he broke away and did some more riding. I’ve day hiked a good bit in Arkansas, but admittedly, never taken this trail before. We chose the King’s Bluff loop and right from the start, it’s a terrific walk. About a mile later, we get to the top of the waterfall, which is pumping very good today! Starting to see some big rocks too. This is good stuff, man. Tom has found a running creek. We wind our way down to the base of the waterfall. Mike’s warrior 2 pose was damm fine. We get to the base of the falls and immediately and instinctively, shoes must be removed. This is a BIG waterfall (110 feet, if I recall correctly), and we’ve got it all to ourselves. Sometimes I get stupid when I’m in my happy place, ya’ll. And sometimes, I get real. The reality at that moment is that everything is super fine in the sunshine. I think a man can learn a lot about himself at a waterfall. The white noise of the water is quite therapeutic. When you realize the volume of the water running before you, and the truly remarkable task that water has accomplished carving out the mountain rock over many millennia, it gets you to a fine place. It reminds you that time takes care of everything. Pandemics and hurricanes and other nuances of life come, and they go. But the water keeps running, relentlessly and without prejudice. It cleanses all in its path, and then it takes the impurities and sends it down the mountain. You just have to stop and sit long enough to understand it, accept it, and believe it. And when you do that, you REALLY do that, then the water can take your concerns with it too, and leave your soul clean and free. The 3 of us separated a bit so that we could wander alone and enjoy the trail by ourselves. As I started heading more westerly back toward the bikes, the pedestal rocks started to appear quite majestically. Throughout the Ozarks, at about this altitude, which I believe is roughly 1700 feet, this seam of limestone/sandstone is exposed. I really enjoyed exploring this area. Who wouldn’t want to plop his fat arse on the top of these rocks, stare into the distance, and thank his lucky stars for the ability to do this? I caught up with Mike and we decided to walk the other loop, finding plenty of rocks over there too. Peace be with you, my brother. We are living right. We re-grouped with Tom at the bikes and headed back toward the campground. We stumbled upon Mark at the Liquor store. Seems he had a flat tire, so I patched it with a sticky string. As you can tell, he is really worried about it. The place next door (JJ’s Buffalo Bar and Grill) looked inviting, so we opted for outdoor seating just in time for happy hour. The chicken wings ain’t too shabby, ya’ll. After dinner, we rode 1 mile to the campground. Josh showed up just before dark. I don’t mind sharing that I was ecstatic to see him as it’s been way too long since we’ve shared memories together. We lit a decent fire and discussed the meaning of life. Of course, I was respectful and attentive. But between me and you, I know today’s meaning of life. Good roads, good trails, a good waterfall to take away my worries, terrific friends, and a decent beer to wash it all down. That was the meaning of life and today, I was living large. Tomorrow, we get to do it all over again. Day 3: Tell me about…. Missouri? A bit cooler than the night before, we woke up to the mid-30s. I put my ear plugs in because I’m next to Mark, and he snores louder than anyone I’ve ever met. Josh prefers hot tea to coffee, and I can accommodate that. We have breakfast and hot liquids and talk about choices for today. I suggest we run up to Missouri and see what that fuss is all about. I pull out the map and Mike starts plotting. Then we gear up and gas up. We ride north to Bull Shoals and just miss the ferry. The wind coming over the lake is quite chilly. I’m just going with Mike’s plot. We get on the Peel Ferry and make the short run across to Missouri. Highway 125 is totally awesome!!! A silky smooth road that twist and turns and runs up and down through the hills along Bull Shoals. It was literally like a 25-mile roller coaster. Josh and I took the lead and started ripping it. At one point, I downshifted to 3rd and let the red girl sing. I’d run her up to 7K approaching the curve, and then let off and let the engine braking pull me back to the apex. Then I’d give her the heat and do it again. And again and again and again…. We got to this creek and I decided to stop and let the adrenaline wane while we waited for the others. Hell yeah – this is good riding today! We grab a Subway in the town of Ozark, and then plot a ride west and south. Hwy 76, 160, and 90 were all very good roads – I highly recommend these for any rider. Late afternoon, we ended up in Jasper for dinner. Back at the camp, Josh took over fire duties, a job that he handled masterfully. Today was a riding day, and it was wonderful. I found uncharted water and uncharted land (to me). I shredded the tires with my buddy, whom I hadn’t seen in too long. I was in the zone and feeling it all day. The next time a non-rider ask me why I take the risk of a motorcycle, I’ll just think about today and then respond “you wouldn’t understand”. Today was a great day.