Start: Osceola AR (22138)
End: Elk City OK (22725)
Early morning in Arkansas, and thank goodness the mosquitos are gone. I could not BELIEVE the size and number of them last night, when I went out to get a little bite to eat. Ick. I am at a Mobil station, doing my pre-ride check for the day, when I spot a woman in the gas station across the street eyeballing me. Sure enough, she finishes filling up her car, then drives across the road and pulls up next to me. Leaning out the window, she smiles and asks, "Where ya headin'?" I reply, "West, I'm on my way to Los Angeles," which elicits a "wow, cool" from her. Her name is Rhonda (oh, great, now 'Help Me, Rhonda' is going to be stuck in my head all day, LOL) and she rides too, with a local Women On Wheels chapter that's fairly active in this part of Arkansas. She went to the annual WOW ride-in held in West Virginia earlier this year, and asks me if I was there. No, alas, only one cross-country trip per summer for me! I explain that I was at a different event, the Amazon Gathering, and I tell her that I was on Interstate 40 yesterday and found it so completely sucky that I detoured looking for a better route. She grins and starts telling me about local roads. "Well, headin' wey-est, you can take 140 for a ways hey-ah, that's a good road. Not a lotta traffic, and no cops." She squints, considering. "That'll take you to Newport. Then you can take 67 back down to the intahstate, past Little Rock. It's not as bad past they-ah." Perfect! We chat for a little while longer, she wishes me safe riding, and I take off for the day.
It is absolutely FABULOUS riding the back highways here. The land is agricultural, still mostly fields of rice crisscrossed with ditches, interspersed with small bayous. Some of the bayous have water that looks dark as strong tea, some are covered with nasty green scum. Y'know, I've never actually seen a bayou before. Some day I'll get myself to Mississippi or Louisiana and see some of the REALLY big bayous, these are probably dinky in comparison. I don't know the names of the trees, but they look completely different from the trees to which I am accustomed. Hey, was that an armadillo squished on the road there? Sure looked like one, but I thought armadillos were desert critters. Geeze, it's humid, but other than that a tremendously beautiful day. The highways pass through a number of small towns, their namesigns announcing the population of maybe a few dozen or maybe a few hundred. I slow to posted 25- or 35-mph speed limits going through, and a couple of times there are children to wave at (kids always wave back to passing motorcyclists) and the rest of the time, I have clear sailing on open two-lane highway. Wonderful, wonderful. Oh, that roadkill was DEFINITELY an armadillo, his four little legs sticking stiffly toward the sky. So I guess 'dillos are more swamp critters than desert critters. Learn something new every day.
I work my way back to I-40 and it is indeed a little better in the west half of the state. Not great, but I can live with it. I make good miles and cross over into Oklahoma mid-day. I'm out of the lowlands and back into rolling hills now. I pass through some of the large Indian nations; reservations make up big chunks of this state. It's pretty, back to scrub forest in the undeveloped parts, grain crops (wheat? barley? and some more corn) in the farmland areas. I see horses, and more and more cattle the farther west I go. At a gas stop outside of Oklahoma City, I get in a conversation with a fellow biker. He immediately puts me in mind of Sam - a small Native American guy, wirey, the same kind of jovial bullshitter - my goodness, it would be the spitting image of her if Sam were an Oklahoma biker dude. Heh. He's wearing patches, and he must assume I am an indie, but I tell him that I ride with the Amazons but don't yet have the colors on my vest. We talk for a while, just shootin' the bull. He keeps calling me "baby girl." Normally I would be a little annoyed and find that condescending, but today it just makes me laugh ... I am about a half-foot taller than he, and must outweigh him by a hundred pounds; "baby girl?" LOL! Eventually, it's time for me to hit the road again. "You be safe, baby girl," he calls out, waving. Heh.
I had wanted to make it as far as Oklahoma City today, but I reach it and there's still lots of daylight left. Might as well keep riding. Day fades to dusk (and such a pretty sunset) and I've reached Elk City OK. I pull off and, tired of paying too much for hotels, find a cheapo no-name place to stay for the night. My goodness, I've managed to cross just about all of Arkansas and Oklahoma in a single day. I am less than an hour from the Texas border here. Making good time on my return trip.
Next: Day Fourteen