5.29.2007,11:55 AM
Ozarks High: Road of Joy
Road of Joy


My decision to avoid I-40 and instead ride on Hwy 64 entailed less than 10 seconds of debate. Despite the increasing concern about the time of day and uncertainty of travel time, I just couldn't make myself ride on the interstate that Saturday. I shortly discovered no need for that concern. Hwy 64 ran parallel to I-40, but on the south side of the Arkansas river until it crossed over by bridge and then under I-40 shortly before Clarkesville.

I remember reflecting throughout the day on how wide the Arkansas River was; no river that I am aware of in Texas equals its expanse. I also reflected on a small segment of its history that I was familiar with: the river that was coveted by both the Spanish and the French, and before them, the American Indians. Like any large body of water, the river was almost like life's blood; providing water, food, and transportation. Several also serve as territorial boundaries and now they offer recreation.


Wars have been fought over such rivers with thousands of people dieing. "Mine; you can't have any!" Come on, people. Let's share this resource, with all the living, and let's take care of it, too. It's a delicate relationship; like any relationship, you have to give, not just take and take. It's ironic that we have bathrooms and complex septic systems to deposit our excrement, yet we dump our garbage and waste in that which gives us life. It's like shitting in your kitchen.

On my travels, I constantly find myself trying to imagine what the landscape I see looked like before humans covered it with cement, plastic, asphalt and paint. Although I was offered glimpses of the river from its shores, only when I was in the mountains and looking down was I able to dissociate our human influence and alterations from what was then. When it was innocent and naive of our inconsiderate footprints and machines. Only when the trees and hills below overwhelmed and obscured the human influence could I imagine in my mind's eye what it may have been like.


I soon found a sign indicating the turn north on Byway 21. Having ridden north on Byway 23 and then south on Byway 7 this morning, the only road running north and south remaining was 21. The two BMW riders from DFW area I met on Byway 7 mentioned that this was their favorite, which I would later agree wholeheartedly.


The road was more narrow than Byway 7 and not as constantly demanding and technical. Although 21 wound around on mountain ridges, it also swept down and up the valleys, over creeks, through forests and rural farms. Segments contained miles of tight twisting curves and other segments were wonderfully sweeps, providing me with the pleasure of flicking side to side as I swept one wide curve and then the next. It reminded me of the alternate push of legs and feet on lake ice; first one side then the other, gracefully leaning side to side wearing a smile on my face and in my body. Or like rocking a colicky baby to a peaceful calm.

The alternating tight turns and gentle wide sweeps provided me with minutes of intense concentration and navigating the roads. And then I was rewarded with miles of gentle sweeps, allowing me to relax my concentration enough to absorb the changing scenery.

As I rode up and up the mountain range, vistas of rolling hills and ridges opened before me. Completely covered with green trees, it appeared as if I was riding a magical plush carpet of green; being so surrounded by green that any other color that entered my vision grabbed my attention. And if I held out my hand to brush the soft plush carpet that lay before me, I may feel the furry softness of green leaves, their individual shapes and sizes all lost in the expansive scale that surrounded me. This landscape was alive, hundreds of backs of furry living entities that sheltered and nourished individual ecosystems hidden to my sight.
Yet I knew intimately that they were there.

I encountered very few other vehicles on this road until nearly Berryville on Hwy 62. In a high valley somewhere between Edwards Junction and Boxley, I pulled off to the side of the road and next to a creek. The solitude and quietness invited me to climb down the bank and sit beside the running water for a break. The sky was blue and cloudless, the sun bright and the air cool and dry. It felt wonderful.


I sat with a peace that infused through me, allowing me to think about several current things in my life with out all the constant distraction and nagging, pulling me this way and that. It allowed me to think clearly, and rejuvenated direction as well as strength. I was able to make some decisions that had been hanging over me back home.



I mounted the bike with a restored peacefulness that had been elusive the past several weeks. I found myself genuinely smiling, inside and out. And it felt good.

By the time I pulled into Berryville, the day was slipping by quickly. Riding west on Hwy 62 towards Eureka Springs, I reflected that, by far, Byway 21 was the best road I had ridden on this trip. And I hope to ride it again some day.

I pulled into the motel at 7:15 pm, tired and stiff but happy. Offered a shower in one of the rooms, soon I was cleaned up, muscles relaxed again from the hot streaming water, and changed into clean clothes. I joined the other riders sitting outside and we chatted and laughed, relating stories about our rides that day and in the past.




Four of us decided to go out for dinner and I was invited to ride pillion on a BMW GS. That's the closest I'll ever get to riding one; I'm too short. I was impressed with how comfortable it was, and with the agility the rider handled it with a passenger on crowded, narrow and winding streets.

Full, tired and at peace, I fell sound a sleep in the cabin. Sleep interrupted only by a wonderful dream.

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posted by Macrobe
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