Day 12 (July 23rd): EUREKA SPRINGS, AR to WINDING STAIR NAT'L. REC. AREA (Near Page, OK)
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Do you believe in miracles? It may be that The Chief (tm) now does.

Yes, it is true that the first miracle of the trip was that I didn’t perish during the downpour back on Day Two. But more to the point -- here in the town of the Christ of The Ozarks statue and the Great Passion Play -- we had yet another little miracle occur, and it was really something special.

To wit: not one day after boasting about how the water hydration pack was to become a staple of every upcoming daily trip, wouldn’t you know it, but I apparently went and left it on top of the trailer whilst pulling out of the parking lot? So after about forty minutes wasted on (1) an unsuccessful attempt to find a Eureka Springs bumper sticker for the trailer -- yet another good idea gone down the tubes, and (2) a visit to a gas station with what turned out to be a broken air hose, because the woman using it moments before announced that she had broken it, but not before I spent a good five minutes backing up the rig into a single parking space, and making sure that the valves on both tires were accessible...

…only then did I realize that I did not have the backpack. This meant I would have to backtrack and see if it might have fallen off the trailer, because the only other place I would have left it was on the motorcycle’s seat, and I was sitting on that already and would have been even more uncomfortable than usual if the pack had been underneath me.

A quick trip through town, staring at the curb along the opposite side of the street, met with no success. I went down the steep hill to the parking lot, figuring it probably had fallen off right there, but it was still nowhere to be seen. With great difficulty I managed to dock the Pork Chop Express (the new name for the rig -- Ed.) on the hill in front of the hotel, but the front desk reported no such item turned in to Lost & Found.

Resigned to now being without it, at least until I could find a place to purchase another one, I re-mounted the trusty steed and pointed it up Main Street for the last time. And just moments after I let out the clutch, what did I happen to notice in a spot I wasn’t really even focusing on? This.

To whoever noticed it (in the street, I presume) and chose to put it there for hopeful eventual discovery by its owner -- me -- all I can say is THANK YOU.

Before leaving town for real I fully rode the Historical Loop, and despite being caught behind a diesel-belching tour bus (terrible-smelling, though -- incredibly -- not so bad, pollutant-wise) I’m glad I did. I saw more old buildings, hotels, libraries and houses erected within the confines of sheer rock walls, or on narrow, steep streets, and even other natural occurrences such as The Grotto on Dairy Farm Hill. Route 62 out of town was wonderful, with sweeping curves, elevation changes, and wonderful views (such as Inspiration Point), thus adding more checkmarks to The Chief (tm)’s ever-lengthening tally of positives in the state of Arkansas. There were also several worthwhile-looking places of lodging and dining/beveraging, although these would not be within walking distance of downtown, depending on how hard you planned on hitting it.

Not too much further on, I must admit that cheated: I snuck a few miles up to Seligman, MO (not AZ), solely to say that I visited that state! But the swing paid dividends, as I saw a gas station offering fuel at just $3.74 per, at which rate I filled up the bike and topped off the spare gas can. Upon going inside to pay -- because you did not have to pay outside -- I noticed a stack of cardboard cases of tomatoes for sale. Now, The Chief (tm) has always hated, hated tomato juice, or tomato soup, but somehow happens to love tomatoes in their natural form. So before the gal could make change for me, I grabbed one that was bigger than my fist and placed it on the counter. She handed me back exact change for the gas, so I said, “Oh, and also the tomato, because how could I resist?” To which she replied something along the lines of, “Oh, we have about fifty pounds there, so just take it.” So, rather than pay $1.20/lb. for a two-pound tomato, I walked out of there gratis, and subsequently carried that thing across three states. It would have been four, but I finished the whole thing that same evening.

Right back over the border into AR, there was a motorcycle accessory store featuring many of the Important Items a long-distance biker might need, at prices perhaps above internet levels, but still far below what you’d expect to see at the dealerships. Alas, I needed nothing, but the place sure  agreed when my man Pals said that zip ties are a staple of life -- they had a vase of the things sitting right at the cashier station. Candy and gossip mags at the supermarket; zip ties at the motorcycle shop.

The road continued to weave through farmlands, and eventually some small towns, and then the town of Bentonville, which was more built-up and crowded with traffic. Here, I must admit, I was compelled to hit the horn for the first time and flash the finger to some a$$hole whose focus on his phone call directly jeopardized the safety of The Chief (tm). People, this simply cannot be tolerated. A few miles later, just before making the left onto I-540, I sat in the turning lane for literally ten minutes, but because of this I was able to snap this shot.

Once shaking itself out from short stretch with several interchanges for Bentonville, even the experience on I-540 became rather pleasant, with the road crossing long bridges spanning broad, scenic valleys.

Just short of the Oklahoma border I thought it would be a great idea to use the dry erase markets I had brought along, for a different, aborted purpose, to jot notes directly onto the plastic map window atop my tank bag. On straight stretches is would be no problem to briefly take both hands off of the bars to uncap the pen, but then I thought, hey, why not just clip it to the bag, then pull it out one-handedly when I need to, right? Wrong. I had apparently managed to buy pens without clips on the caps.

Somewhere in Pocata, OK, a station offered gasoline at $3.71, the lowest I’d yet seen, though I did not need any. Not knowing the exact location of my destination, only the town it was near, I tried to have the GPS direct me to another nearby town (because of course it did not recognize the closest one). Naturally, it also tried to send me on a route about twenty-five miles longer than necessary, which was perplexing because the moment it sensed I was completely ignoring it, the thing proposed another, far more direct route -- the one it should have proposed in the first place. Maybe it’s no coincidence that the thing has a woman’s voice?

Getting closer to the campground, the air turned much cooler, the roads turned wet and the clouds very ominous. As much as I thought I might want to, I had to decline to pick up a young female hitchhiker because the Pork Chop Express had no more weight capacity to give!

Mercifully picking up a cell phone signal, with the help of a nice Parks Service woman I was able to turn onto the road leading towards the Cedar Lake Campground in the Winding Stair National Forest. A few miles in there were a few homes, including the camp store, in which I had a helpful conversation with two guys regarding campsite selection strategies. One of the gents axed where I was from, and I said NYC via Boston, which he said clinched it, because he thought I might have been Irish! Now THERE’S one I hadn’t heard before. It was here that I learned that I had somehow missed a series of violent thunderstorms that had pelted the area for the previous thirty minutes.

The campsite area was well-marked, but somewhat confusing, as I could not determine exactly where my reserved spot was. That turned out not to be a problem, as an older gent (who lives with his wife in the campground, and who acts as the Park Ranger of sorts) gave me the lowdown, and helped me select this site. I was glad to be getting back to my “frontiersman” roots after several days in hotels, although by the dinnertime picture, you can see that I wasn’t roughing it entirely, as few outdoorsman pop open a $135 bottle of Robert Mondavi’s finest Cabernet, the Tokalon Vineyard Reserve, to go with along with that evening's Moosilaukee Goulash (?) People, lemme tell ya: after carting that bottle around for the previous two weeks -- and storing it for the previous several years -- the time just felt right. And although the Goulash doesn’t easily lend itself to identification by name alone, it was very tasty, and represented the last of the food selections that I hadn’t yet tried. I’ve got news for you: the choices I had made from the “Campmor” website, based completely upon the effort to keep sodium levels reasonable, could not have been any better. Each of the dinner selections were very good -- and this, despite the “Spaghetti Soup” incident of Day Three -- and the two breakfasts were very good as well, although I could say I preferred one over the other. There’s no doubt that I got lucky with these things because I actually look forward to eating them!

I did momentarily wish I was back in a hotel when I saw the sign warning about bears, and rattlesnakes & cottonmouths (“not dangerous, although poisonous”, the sign said. Uh, come again?) It also said to carry a flashlight while walking around on “warm nights” so as to be able to see the slitherers down there in the grass. Man, I thought, the Shreveport KOA had nothing on this place when it came to snake risk!

After setting up the tent, I went to the ranger-guy’s large, fifth-wheel trailer to see if he had change of a twenty with which to pay the self-pay station. He said I could pay him directly, and while he put together the particulars his wife handed me a hummingbird feeder (in the shape of Texas -- a gift from friends) and asked me to hang it on the trailer’s awning. A long reach, but once in place, I noticed the several other feeders on a nearby tree, and boy did those birds take a fancy to the sugar/water mix contained therein. Not easy to get a picture of one of the birds in flight -- here's the best one.

With enough time and even more big plans, I set off to go for a run for the first time in almost three weeks. It didn’t go all that well -- I cut my loop short just one mile out, down from the anticipated two -- but at least I got something in. Oh, and FWIW, the area was very hilly; since I’d started running in Myrtle Beach back in January, the steepest incline I had to deal with was probably the “ramp” down from a sidewalk to the road surface, so almost this entire route represented my very own, ongoing, Heartbreak Hill...

Another big plan involved the first use of the camp shower bag, which had resisted easy testing back in the safety of the bathtub in Surfside Beach, thanks to a kinked hose. Filled with five gallons of water and left to warm in the setting sun, two hours of exposure brought the temperature up to a comfortable level, so I do believe the directions which suggest that three hours in direct sunlight can heat the water until it is almost too hot! I used the bag to freshen up after the run, and found that just half of its capacity was more than enough for a good, cleansing shower. Finally, I used one of the lines I had brought to set up a clothesline, rinsed out all of my clothes from the ride that day in the spigot, and hung them up in my best effort to bring the local property values down.

When I visited the bathhouse to remove the ol’ contact lenses -- still going strong after having been worn twelve hours a day for the last two weeks -- there was a tiny tan/orange frog hanging out along the back wall. I thought it over and then, using my snake-detecting flashlight, encouraged the little guy to return to the wilderness where he belonged. I figured that, even if he liked the dampness of the interior of the building (from the showers, etc.), he couldn’t possibly have enough access to food in there, so he was best back outside. Opinions, comments, concerns?

Whilst doing some web page updating after dinner, I discovered that the laptop apparently cannot recognize the mix CD’s I burned, which is great, because it makes me glad I bothered bringing them. Oh, and while looking at a map website and considering my route for tomorrow, I noticed that there are two towns called Paris and Clarksville, near each other in very similar alignment, in both Arkansas and Oklahoma. Listen, people, whatever happened to originality?

Boy, is it dark out here in eastern Oklahoma. Yes, there are a handful of lights near the bathhouse, but that’s behind several rows of trees from me, and without my headlamp on I can barely see a thing. Too bad it’s partially cloudy up top because I’m sure the view of the stars would be breathtaking. OK, time to wrap it up, gotta hit the sack; I am hoping for an early departure tomorrow.

Hey, did you hear that? Is that what a bear sounds like at night?

Hey, What's That?


The Grotto

Welcome to Seligman, MO

Giant Tomato

Welcome to Oklahoma

Campsite Scene

Fit for a King


Camp Shower Bag