5.28.2007,8:50 PM
Ozark High: Uh oh.....
Uh oh

After leaving Dardenelle State Park, I retraced my route back to Byway 7. Or at least tried to. The intersections to the park from BWY 7 were confusing and if it weren't for signs pointing the way, I would never have found it. And that's the key; the signs point the way *to* the park, but when you leave...... you're on your own. So I got lost and executed a nervous but successful U-turn on the highway after a mental chat inside my head:

Self: "Oh crap! I have to do a U-turn! Noooo!!!!"
Rational Self: "Yeah, so what. About time you did it without panicking."
Self: "But, but.... we nearly lost it the last time we tried it, yesterday!"
Rational self: "And you didn't go down, did you?"
Self: "No, but it was damned close."
Rational self: "Quit your blubbering. Do it and get it over with so we can get outta here."
Self: "Okay, but your're piloting."

U-turn completed, a bit sweaty but with a smile.

Pull alongside shoulder and stare at map in tank bag......where the heck are we????

Rational self: "Think back. Water on right side riding west. Have to go east. It's simple."
Self: "No its not, both roads have water on.... oh wait. Yup. Take a right up here."
Rational self: "Duh."

Finally picking up Byway 7 again, we (me, my bike and the many voices in my head) headed south through Russellville, through Dardenelle and searched for Hwy 154 in Centerville. Before turning onto 154, a glance at the gas guage and mileage caused me pause: should I get gas?

Nah, we'll be fine.

Turning east onto 154, I looked for and found the sign for Petit Jean State Park: 16 miles. I was hungry by that time; I had eaten only one left over protein bar that I found in my tank bag. I had planned to eat lunch at the lodge in the park, but wasn't sure about timing: it was already 2 pm. Hunger got the best of me and my hand was a bit heavy on the throttle riding along the narrow rural highway and up onto the mountain. A rude awakening would loosen that up in a hurry.


As the miles slipped by, the road climbed and began to twist and turn. The now familiar sign appeared on my right ahead: "Severe twisting and steep road ahead next 10 miles. Use caution." Okay; been there, did that. Gee, I'm hungry.

The turns got tighter and the road steeper; as we climbed the mountainside, the speed was posted at a steady 10-15 mph. One hairpin turn and then another. We were doing fine until the third hairpin turn: roll off the throttle, shift down, lean, lean...um, where did the road go?!?!?!

I overshot the apex and crossed the double yellow line by 6 inches. Luckily no vehicle was coming in the opposite direction, but it sure shot an adrenaline surge into my brain that screamed "Slow down and pay attention!!" I sternly berated myself for allowing my concentration to wander away from the road and navigation, slowed down and pushed everything else from my head except for navigating the rest of this road and finding the park. And food. Familiar enough with hypoglycemia, I knew I needed food.

Self to brain: "Dude, you need to eat!"
Brain and body: "I'm working on it!!!"

Rolling into the park, I saw the pointing sign, "Lodge" (translation = food). Follow that sign!

Hidden behind two parking lots and nestled under tall trees was a rock and wooden lodge. Vehicles of all sorts filled the lots and I was lucky to find a spot to park the bike. A quick glance to the right spotted cabins also constructed of stone and wood shaded and sheltered under the canopy of pines and deciduous trees. They looked cozy and comfortable, inviting despite being close to the main lodge (my preference is for more isolated cabins and lodging).

Quickly shedding the touring coat, I marched into the lodge and searched for the restaurant. After being seated I ordered a tall ice tea and a BLT sandwich, and walked out on the deck while waiting for my order. The view down below into the canyon was mostly hidden by tall trees, but I could see some of the ledge cliff walls. On the grassy area below were several artists with easels erected, painting their own perspectives on the canvases. The high sun presented a challenge in capturing the landscape with the camera, but I attempted a few shots anyway.


The deck and it's roof presented me with my favorite yet difficult lighting challenge: shadows and contrasting bright light. A visual perspective can be manipulated depending on metering and exposure. Expose for the shadows? Or adjust the exposure to capture the colors in the bright lit area outside of the shadows? A camera can't do both equally well, so I usually photograph both. Another perspective pattern in my photography is.... well, I'll let you guess.



I almost inhaled my lunch and inquired into details of a park road on the map: Red Bluff Scenic Drive. On the map it is depicted as a one-way drive with three pullouts that overlook the valley below and other mountain peaks nearby, including the two highest peaks in Arkansas. I was informed that it was not far up the road and that it was a 'cute' drive.

Noticing the time and considering the ride back, I decided I should have time to do the scenic drive as long as it wasn't long. After gearing back up, I followed the park sign to Red Bluff Drive and turned down a paved narrow road and a narrower bridge built over a creek. I didn't see any other vehicles ahead or behind me and entered into a forest of tall trees. The only light was from directly above the road and down into the opening of the canopies.

Rolling on at a respectable 10 miles an hour (suggested by the sign), the pavement suddenly gave way to..........DIRT! Loose sharp gravel and sand. "WHAT?"

I slowed down and shifted into second gear, riding carefully with the pointy sharp-angled stones making my tires crackle and pop and my teeth chattering together. This was becoming unpleasant. Soon the gravel got deeper and the dirt was now properly classified as 'sand'.

Um, I'm not sure if this a good idea: tires pumped with air for street riding and a load, which was no longer loaded; tread getting a bit worn; no cell phone signal; alone; 20 miles of gas left in the tank; getting late in the afternoon....

Rational self: "All systems, hear this! This is not a good idea. Turn around and go back."
Self: "Well, how the heck are we supposed to turn around on this looooose gravel and sand??"
Rational self: "Good question. Don't try a U-turn on this, okay?"

We rode on slowly, carefully and scanning the area for a place to turn around. By that time, even second gear was too fast on this stuff. Shifting down into first and steady throttle, I finally spotted a sandy area to the left. And decided to try a three-point turn to get us headed in the other direction.

Carefully, I backed the bike into the sandy spot, stopped and realized I'm going to have to use some throttle power to get the rear tire out of the sand, onto the gravel and immediately turn right. Now sweating profusely, I did just that, but not without the rear tire squirreling side to side in the sand.

Once on the gravel and pointed in the opposite direction, I stopped, sat there for a moment, giggled at myself and the situation I found myself in, and tried to reduce the sweat pouring out of my pores. I pulled out my camera to take a few pictures; I wanted to remind myself that this happened.


If it had been earlier in the day, if I had not been alone, I would have enjoyed the challenge of navigating the 'scenic drive' all the way around. But not knowing how far it was, or how long it would take, and that if anything happened to me, no one would know.....I knew I made the right choice.

Self: "We could have done this, ya know."
Rational self: "Shut up!"

We finally came out on pavement and I sighed with relief. I retraced my route out of the park to stop briefly at the scenic overlook. Parked there were two Goldwings, their riders and pillions just disembarking.

"Did you like the park?", they asked.
"Oh, yes. The lodge is nice and the scenery beautiful. But the Red Bluff
Scenic Drive? It's gravel. And there is no warning. So I'm warning you now."


Down, down and around and round we rode. Riding west on 154, picking up Byway 7 again and searching for Hwy 64 that runs parallel with the river and I-40.

Now the goal was finding Byway 21 and north to Eureka Springs.
Byway 21, the green magic carpet road.

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posted by Macrobe
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