Day 3: Early Start, Hot Finish
Knowing that the afternoon temperatures in Kansas would approach the century mark, Jon, Mark and I were up at 5 a.m. and on the road an hour later, headed north on Arkansas Scenic Highway 7 and climbing quickly into the Arkansas mountains. Thermometer readings in the upper 60s felt good as we guided our bikes on mostly deserted roads for the first two hours.
There’s something special about watching the sun come up over the mountains, breaking through the dark forest trees, and casting stark shadows on the road in front of you–especially if you’re on two wheels. We made several rest and observation stops as we traced our way through the twisting mountain roads. The brief stops gave us an opportunity to safely take in the grandeur of where we were. Trying to peak through the trees to catch a glimpse of the valleys below or the sun rising above the horizon can be downright dangerous and there’s never enough time to fully appreciate what lies on either side of the road when you’re trying to keep your ride between the white and yellow lines.
We stopped at one of my favorite places in Arkansas–the Clifftop House Inn–but it didn’t open for breakfast until 8 a.m. and we arrived at 7:15. The Clifftop House Inn has in the past provided extremely tasty pies as well as stunning views of the Grand Canyon of Arkansas, but this time we had to settle for the stunning views.
When I plotted this year’s route through Arkansas I made sure to include roads I hadn’t ridden on during several previous trips through the northwest part of the state. I’m glad I did. As we worked our way west and north on a half-dozen triple-digit numbered state and county roads our meanderings treated us to ever-changing gorgeous views and the most challenging roads we’ve seen since we left the Tail of the Dragon in Tennessee. Add in a spooked doe that bolted across the road in front of me as I charged up a mountainside that forced me to test my ABS brakes, and you have the recipe for an energetic morning ride.
By 11 a.m. we crossed into Missouri and two things happened: the land began to flatten and the temperature returned to the 90+ range with 150 miles of hot straight Kansas asphalt waiting for us. But we slogged on.
The journey across the Sunflower State to Wichita was marked by three things: miles of orange-cone dotted construction zones, an enormous slice of peach pie and ice cream for lunch for each of us, and a singularly idiotic pilot of a four wheeler who decided it would be a good idea to pass three motorcycles on a two-lane road on the right shoulder of the road. No harm was done, fortunately, but the event did pucker our posteriors as the moron motored by.
We made one final stop at an historic hotel and cafe in Beaumont, Kansas, that, beginning in the 19th century, had served stage coaches, steam railroad passengers and now motorcyclists and small plane pilots who land on the road next to the hotel. Unfortunately, the place was closed on Mondays, so after a brief and dry look around at the historic site that included the original water tower for the steam locomotives, we climbed back on the bikes and finished the last of today’s 420 miles. A cold beer at Jon’s house and a warm hug from my sister-in-law made for a good end of the ride.
Tomorrow is an off day and Mark and I will each have a rear tire replaced and I’ll have all the fluids changed on my bike. The rear tire that will come off was added last year at the same Wichita Harley-Davidson dealer who will do tomorrow’s work.
Early morning starts make for tired riders, so a drink with my brother and I’m done for the day.