When my wife and I purchased a used 1994 Gold Wing in March of 2006 we were excited to find out that our small Texas town had a group of Gold Wing enthusiast. The Stephenville Road Riders is a group of riders who have been having accident free dinner rides for close to 20 years. Along with these rides the group has toured most of the continental United States and some of Canada. Riding with them has been a pleasure for us, not just for the rides but the company that they give. No matter what their backgrounds, appreciation for riding and the bikes that they choose to ride, make for good dinner conversation. On a recent five day trip to Arkansas this group showed us that they are not just friends but more of a family.
It was Friday the 13th and it started out like one might expect Friday the 13th to start. Just 100 yards from our front door Kerry and I experienced a rubbing noise coming from the back tire. Geez we are all ready late getting to Hico and I am laying on my back looking up my bikes rear. Nothing found, so I put a few more pounds in the suspension and off we went. We’ve had our bike for 6 months and it had never missed a lick, but as the Road Riders were leaving the service station, where we met, it took three attempts to start. There is nothing like a little more to worry about when leaving for a long trip. What was the rubbing? Did we pack everything, and now why wont it start. A quarter mile or so out of town a side cover on Chuck’s bike came loose. As we pulled over so he could fix it Doyle informed us that Peggy’s intercom cord fell off and they had to go back and look for it, and for the rest of us not to wait, they would catch up. As they turned around my wife told me there was a cord hanging from their bike so I keyed up the CB and told them, but they did not answer. We assumed it was the upper cord missing and we minded our own business. After the first few miles it became apparent that my CB was not transmitting properly and we later found out that Peggy’s cord was found hanging from the back of their bike. And not to mention it was 45 degrees out. After we got our little mishaps past us we took mostly country roads to Texarkana where we had lunch. Then it was on to Arkansas and Hot Springs.
Now this group knows how to turn a dinner ride to a town 30 miles away into a 90 mile trip of nice country roads so when it became apparent to Chuck that hwy 71 in Arkansas was not up to our touring expectations he found routes that were. Routes 24 out of Locke burg and 27 out of Nashville made for some enjoyable riding with Rolling hills and Arkansas countryside. Then it was hwy 70 into Hot Springs from there.
Later we rode to Red Lobster for dinner and of course plenty of table talk, there I got to meet Dave and Joan for the first time. He had opened up a lumberyard in another town and did not get to ride with the Road Riders much. Dave is a colorful man and Joan spent most of her time laughing at his antics. Even when we were touring the hills of Arkansas when he keyed up his CB chances were you could hear Joan laughing in the background. I later asked her how two married people could have so much fun together and it not wear off. That's when she told me the secret. They don't live together. They met later in life, both had their own careers and after 10 years they still live separately.
Dave had me nervous with his tales of past rides with the Road Riders. If you remember I said that the dinner rides were without accident but this does not hold true for the cross-country rides. It turns out that Dave miss judged a corner on an Arizona mountain road and as he puts it, fell off the mountain. With Dave's colorful descriptions of that ride and other rides on the same roads we were about to take in Arkansas I was nervous.
Day two started with Dave saying Chuck would probably not let us get out of town without first riding up the dreaded tower and as chuck pulled up to the rest of the group he said first stop was going to be the tower. The tower is an observation tower in Hot Springs at the top of a winding road. Not quite the death-defying ride that Dave made it out to be but nonetheless a fun ride. I left the tower with a new feeling that just maybe Dave's choice of words at the Red Lobster had me more nervous than I needed to be. But my rear tire was rubbing again so in went more air, no more rubbing but I was riding a rock. I would check the problem when we got to Mountain Home our stop for the night.
From Hot Springs we took hwy 7 North to Fourche Junction where we caught HWY 60 east and then 9 to Clinton. From there 16 and more of 9 to Mountain View for lunch. After lunch it was on to Mountain Home By way of highways 87, 14, CR1113, 341 and 210 but not without stopping at the White River on 341 to take pictures. If you ever stop here don’t hesitate to walk over to the bridge and look down. There is a railroad track under it, that and the cliff on the west side of the bridge make for a nice background for pictures. The day was spent on roads that were made for riding motorcycles, 200 plus miles of switchbacks and rolling hills.
After checking into the Hotel everyone went to his or her rooms to relax before dinner except Garland and I instead we looked further into to the rubbing of my back tire. I had just installed a hitch the day before the trip and thought perhaps the wiring harness was too close to the tire, instead we found a rubber flap just above the swing arm had come loose. I pulled it the rest of the way off and everything was fine. Now maybe I could better enjoy the ride knowing my bike is still safe to ride.
Safe riding is somewhat arbitrary. Everyone sets their thresh hold differently. Whether it be the crotch rockets doing hairpin corners at warp factor nine or the putter who keeps away from winding country roads. I personally don't appreciate crotch rockets who push their limits on public roads but I do want to know what I can handle if I ever need to react to avoid trouble, especially when cornering. The Road Riders enjoy "riding" their bikes and after this trip I have a greater appreciation for their riding skills. Chuck likes the curvy roads and Garland is usually not to far behind. Riding on this trip helped me better understand what my bike will do for me and I was able to comfortably keep up with Chuck and Garland for the most part. Surprisingly Dave stayed back usually out of sight. We all rode our own way and if some fell too far back the others would stop and wait without complaint. If anyone wanted to stop for any reason we did. We all rode keeping the others best wishes in mind and it made for an enjoyable trip.
Day three we left mountain Home on hwy 412 for a 300+ mile trip back to Hot Springs. We started to get light raindrops on our windshields after the first 20 miles or so. The forecast was for spotty showers in the afternoon so Chuck figured if rain was starting this early we had better reconsider our route. We stopped in Harrison to look at maps and put on our rain gear. We decided to take 7 south towards Hot Springs forgoing some of the planned ride. 7 is a mountain road with plenty of switchbacks and hills. We road in the pouring rain and even though some may not consider it a fun day I enjoyed the challenge. After a stop at Booger Hollow to wring out our gloves it was on to Russellville for lunch at Coulter Steakhouse and Grill.
Coulters is the kind of restaurant where there are barrels of peanuts for people to eat while waiting to be served. You are supposed to throw the shells on the floor but it was freshly swept and I thought I was watching a behavioral experiment watching Dave ponder what to do with the shells.
After a good meal we had a dry ride to Hot Springs in the afternoon. Unfortunately the weather forecast for the next day was calling for more rain. Mary pulled rank and told Chuck they were not riding in the rain another day, so we decided to extend our visits. To kill our time we visited the shops in down town Hot Springs.
Hot Springs is a nice little town and we had a good time just being tourist, The ladies spent most of their time shopping and the guys sat on the front porch’s of bath houses waiting for them. The food was good at the Brickyard where we ate lunch. Later we sat on the sidewalk eating cheese and crackers and sipped wine purchased from a vineyard in town.
The forecast was good for day five of our journey. It was time to go home. The plan was to ride west on 270 and if fog on the mountain was manageable we would ride over it to hwy 1 but if the fog was a problem we would go south on 71. The weather was good and the fall colors on the mountain were just about perfect.
It has become a tradition for the group to stop and have some cobbler at a lodge on top of the mountain. Standing alone the lodge has a real sense of seclusion and the bands of fog blowing thru gave a warm cozy feel as we sipped hot cocoa and ate our cobbler. From there it was more of hwy 1 and the Talimena Scenic Parkway then catching hwy 271 south to Texas and then home.
My wife and I consider ourselves lucky to be able to ride with groups like the Road Riders.