Brian A. Hopkins
So when my buddy Daniel decides at the last minute that he and his Honda XR650L are going to go along for this trip, I scrap my plans to ride out there and back and just toss my Dakar on the trailer beside his bike. I figure what the hell, I've ridden that route several different times now, so it's not like there's anything real interesting to see. And, despite my loathing for trailering, it'll give me time to visit with Daniel, who I don't get to see enough of cause he spends all his time at the office, at the gym, or talking on the internet to his girlfriend in upstate N.Y. Plus it'll save wear and tear on the bike, the tires, mytiredoldself, etc. So, Wednesday night, we load the bikes on Danny's trailer and leave them in my driveway for Lucky Dog to guard overnight. The plan is to get an early start Thursday morning. Only what do I wake up to Thursday morning?!?!? There's four friggin' inches of snow on everything!
Danny's Honda XR650L and my BMW F650GS Dakar, patiently waiting on the trailer under a blanket of fresh show.
What has Mother Nature got against me lately? Not that a little snow is going to deter us, that's for sure. Though it's noon by the time Danny swings by to pick up me and the bikes, we're finally on the road. Just east of OKC, the snow pretty much disappears, and it's all clear sailing ahead. We get to Eureka Springs around dinner time (not much to tell about the trip out there, since we're sitting in the cab of a truck and our bikes are rolling along behind us on a friggin' trailer!) and commence to meeting and greeting folks. Gary Miller's here. Connie's here. My friends Chris and Rich have both bailed on me -- wieners! But it looks like it's going to be a good turn out.
We grab some dinner and do the usual hanging-out-at-the-hotel stuff, then finally we hit the sack with visions of dualsport riding dancing in our little pea brains.
The next morning, it's up and at 'em! Only ... dayum! ... the thermometer on my Beemer is reading 29 friggin' degrees. Brrrrrr... I strap on my heated vest, fire up my heated grips, snicker at Daniel-san sitting on his bike and shivering, and say "Let's ride!" (Danny actually bought a heated vest for this trip, but he never got around to wiring the electrical socket to his bike. Ha!)
They're dividing folks into three groups: fast, intermediate, and slow. Must be thirty-some riders total. We join the intermediate group, partly cause Connie wants me to watch out for her and the fast group might be a bit too much, partly cause we're wusses. No problemo. I make Connie promise not to crash, cause every time Connie crashes it seems that I follow suite.
Danny says it's time to get the show on the road.
Only, we encounter our first problem. Connie's battery is deader'n a doornail. We jump-start her bike and let it run for a while, hoping the battery will take a charge. No luck. We wind up push-starting her bike off and on during the day. No biggy, as it's a small bike (Kawasaki Sherpa 250) and push-starts easily. Later that night, Danny drives her all over northern Arkansas looking for a new battery -- no luck. I think she feels kinda guilty about having us push it for her all the time, cause the second day she bails on us. Tweren't no bother, Connie -- really.
Gary miller wants to know what the hold up is. Uh, Gary, I think that's your wife trotting along behind you with your helmet, buddy. You might need that!
"Time to fly!" says I. (Funny thing, one of the guys made a really neat video of the weekend. He caught me on film doing this little move and looped it several times in the video so that it does look like I'm flapping my arms in a vain attempt to defy gravity. Hilarious!) (Photo courtesy of Daniel H.)
Finally, we were all underway.
Our first break somewhere in the mountains. The sun's out. The temp is really just right for working the bikes offroad. Life is good. Danny stands in sunbeams and discusses his masterful handling of the trails with another rider.
Another break somewhere in the mountains. Danny and Connie with Danny's Honda.
My BMW F650GS Dakar and Connie's Sherpa.
Lunch at the Cliffhouse Inn in Jaspar, Arkansas. Left to right: me (aka bahwolf), Danny, Connie, and Connie's friend Rick (who put us all to shame by riding a V-Strom 1000 on street tires everywhere that day!). This great restaurant hangs off the side of a mountain -- same place we ate on the first day of riding last year. Great food, excellent service, wonderful atmosphere. Highly recommended.
Connie checking out the view at the Cliffhouse Inn.
Another break. (Photo courtesy of Daniel H.)
Second morning. It's freezing cold again, but Daniel-san is most definitely ready to proceed. He's got his Gatorade on his saddle and life is most grand.
What-d'ya know?!?!? Here's my buddy James Pratt, showing up for the second day! James also rides a Dakar (and helped convince me to buy one back when my Tiger went kaflooey). He also rides a ZZR1200, which is how I first met him. These days, I don't think his ZZR gets out much, as he also has a CBR1000RR. (I want! I want!) So, Danny and I are discussing the fact that the intermediate group from yesterday was just too slow for us and how we're going to ride with the fast group this day. Well, Pratt -- who I know from past experience is an incredibly talented rider, on and off road -- decides he's going to lead a group today. His group is going to be called the WFO group. For those that don't know, WFO refers to throttle position. W is wide. O is open. And I think you can figure out for yourself what the F stands for. Which group do you think Danny and I are going to ride with? Ayup, you got it. There are only six of us in this group. Just perfect. As we saddle up, I say a little prayer that I'll survive the day. LOL.
Somewhere deep in the Ozark Mountains ... never know what strange structures you'll find.
Bikes taking a breather after some very hard riding.
Gabe has a problem with his KLR ... a stuck float bowl maybe. He bangs on the carb for a minute and it seems to clear things up. Daniel and James watch.
Couldn't have anything to do with that pretzeled rear brake lever (which got slammed into a boulder), could it, Gabe? LOL. Gabe's a great guy who I met here for the first time after communicating with him on the Oklahoma Dualsport board. I'm sure we'll be riding together again soon. His wife came along and rode behind him with the slow group on the first day.
Yours truly on the porch of an old cabin deep in the Ozarks.
"Come on, Danny-boy, give us a kiss." (Photo courtesy of Daniel H.)
Cool old structure crumbling into ruin in the Ozarks. (Photo courtesy of Daniel H.)
Danny and his ride with a fire tower in the background. (Photo courtesy of Daniel H.)
Yours truly crossing a creek. (Photo courtesy of Daniel H.)
One of many water crossings. (Photo courtesy of Gary Miller.)
And another. (Photo courtesy of Gary Miller.)
James Pratt ain't afraid of no water! (Photo courtesy of James Pratt.)
Nor is Gabe. Probably a good thing his wife is back at the hotel. LOL. (Photo courtesy of James Pratt.)
Kurt, another KLR rider, needs to clean some of the mud from his bike as well. Kurt is one fast SOB. He took over the lead of the WFO group from James at one point and then we saw what WFO really meant. I was behind James Pratt when Kurt took off down the trail and I whispered, "Please, James, don't think you have to match that pace," cause I knew then I'd probably try to keep up as well, and I was already riding near the limit of my skill level. Fortunately, James let him go. We were doing at least 60 mph on the little mountain trails, but Kurt left us like we were standing still. He can ride the snot outta that damn KLR! (Someone told me later that he's raced just about everything there is.) (Photo courtesy of James Pratt.)
Daniel. (Photo courtesy of James Pratt.)
Gabe. (Photo courtesy of James Pratt.)
Daniel. (Photo courtesy of James Pratt.)
All in all, an awesome time! We did nearly 200 miles each day, most of it offroad. With the WFO group, I rode faster offroad than I ever have before (there were many scary moments!). Crashes were few (well, there was that KTM rider who launched up a creek bank and slammed his LC-4 into a tree, shattering front fender, headlight, and headlight shroud -- but, hey, at least he didn't break any bones!). The weather was superb and the company couldn't have been better. Thanks to David Hemphill for organizing the ride. This was my second year in a row to attend, and you can bet I won't miss it next year. (Photo courtesy of James Pratt.)
Brian A. Hopkins
Copyright © 2011 Brian A. Hopkins, 2011-08-02 17:07, www.bahwolf.com