Start: Shawnee OK (32760)
End: W Memphis AR (33190)
I am up early and on the road from Shawnee, after bidding Carrie farewell and a safe trip back to Texas. Another interstate day. After so many days of heat, it is wonderfully cool on the road this morning, fog hugging the valleys and swales of rural Oklahoma. I ride into the glare of the morning sun, admiring the scenery and the impossibly red clay earth. Apparently this part of the country is home to lots and lots and lots of turtles, the kind kids keep in aquariums, ya know? They are all over the road here, like little stalled Volkswagens on the shoulder of I-40. I don't actually run over any of them, they seem to be mostly out of the roadway. Thank goodness. I prefer to leave them in peace.
Oklahoma highways are bad. Thump, thump, thump. I hate roads that are patched over and over again instead of properly repaved.
I've left Shawnee with better than half a tank of gas, and reading mileage signs and doing the math in my head, figure my next stop to be in Henryetta OK. Well, I'm not sure if I was daydreaming or if I missed it in the construction (and there is lots of it here) but I ride right past Henryetta. Oh well, I'll just stop at the next gas I see. I keep riding. Nothing. Now I've gotten into a middle-of-nowhere patch, and there are NO gas stations, though I never did see a blue sign telling me how far until the next services. I start to worry ... I've been on reserve for thirty, forty, now FIFTY miles and I must be running on fumes by now. Worse yet, I'm in the middle of another stretch of construction work, the sort where they shut down one side of the freeway and run both directions, single lane, on the other side. There is NO shoulder so if I run out of gas, there is NOWHERE to safely pull off. Time to pray. Keep me safe, dear Goddess, and please don't let my little scoot quit on me. At LAST I see a Citgo sign to the right! I don't breathe easily until I pull up to the pumps. Whew, that was way too long to run looking for gas. My tank holds 2.9 gallons, according to the specs. Today I put 3.197 gallons in it. Oh my goodness. Three-tenths past the maximum capacity. I think the tank was about as empty as you can possibly get and still have the motor running. My angels are watching out for me. :)
I cross over into Arkansas, which is hilly and pretty in this western part. Gas again in Clarkesville AR, this time not waiting until I am just about run dry. ;)
Coming into Little Rock, I get caught in nightmare traffic, and the worst and stupidest construction cone job I have EVER seen. Many lanes of traffic get pinched into a single lane. It's city traffic, so people are getting aggressive and pushy and not letting cars in ... I jump past a bunch of cars by riding on the ill-defined shoulder, cutting into the lane at the last possible minute. The fellow in a battered pickup behind me is quite unhappy about this. He scowls and shouts, and tailgates me much closer than reason and safety allows. I can see him in my rearviews, gesturing angrily. Let it go, dude. I am happy to get away from him as soon as I can.
Just past Little Rock is the designated lunch stop and the meetup place for the Texas riders joining us for the rest of the ride to Murfreesboro. After a little circling and an assist from Rob, Janelle's husband, I find them in the parking lot of an Iron Skillet. We exchange greetings and hugs - Suzanne (Ears), Janelle (NavLady), Camellia (CC) and Janet (RoadPattie) are here and waiting! It is wonderful to meet these ladies; they are fabulous beyond words!! We go in for lunch and fall into happy road camraderie, telling stories and laughing our heads off. I dig the deck of playing cards out of my pocket and toss 'em to Suzanne, saying, "I got a little present for ya." She thinks the cheesy Route 66 cartoon on the back of the deck is great, and she beams. She's our local cardshark - poker, Texas Hold'Em is her game. I resolve to not play for money against her. We have a great lunch, then head out to hit the road again. While everyone is tanking up, Marty, Kathy and Bob pull in. More greets, more smiles. We decide to keep the groups mostly the same as we've been in all day (and I'll ride solo) and gather again at the hotel in West Memphis. I'm too hot standing around in my gear, so I take off down the road.
From here, it's just a straight shot down I-40 into W Memphis AR. It's beastly hot and humid, and mostly boring and uneventful. I pull into the hotel first, but Sue and Turbo are only a minute behind me. Time to get cleaned up and take a small nap. We'll go out for dinner in town tonight.
A group of eight of us head into Memphis looking for a barbeque joint that apparently no longer exists, and end up in a parking lot of a Kentucky Fried Chicken wondering what to do. Asking a passerby, we're directed to Beale Street, of course. So off we go, RoadPattie in the lead. We get to Beale Street, looking for parking which is nowhere to be found in the heavy street traffic. Stopped at the next red light, she turns around and shouts back, "Where do you think we should park?" Everyone laughs at her, saying, "Why didn't you pull in where all the BIKES were?" We've lucked out, it's Bike Night on Beale Street, but Janet was concentrating on the road so much, she entirely MISSED seeing it. (I have to say, I was concentrating so much on not hitting her, I missed it too. LOL.) Three right turns get us to the proper place, and we ride into the slow parade of a Bike Night.
Woo, party time in Memphis, a town that knows how to throw a great party! We wander the street for a while, drinking in the sights and sounds, enjoying ourselves thoroughly. Blues blares from every doorway. There are hundreds of bikes, more arriving every minute. We select Pig On Beale for dinner and sit down to superb barbeque. Dinner is one of those fabulous ones where everyone is in a wonderful happy mood, and these Texas ladies are hysterically funny ... they'll have you in stitches the whole night. I laughed so much my face hurt.
Afterwards, more wandering to see the sights of Memphis, before we finally straggle back to the west side of the Mississippi to get sleep for the last leg of the journey to Tennessee tomorrow. We accidentally get on the riverfront road heading back, which is perfectly wonderful, the lights shining across the dark water of this, the greatest river in America. I am entirely happy.
Next: Day Five