Jail Break, Mena, Arkansas, 2004
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Queen Wilhelmina State Park (north of Mena, Arkansas)
September 16-18

bulletRide Length: Nearly 1100 miles total
bulletRiders: The Chain Gang
bulletWeather: Hot and a little rain on the ride up and ride home
Odometer: 6851

It's 6:52AM on Thursday morning (9.16.2004)... just finished loading up the bike (I am curious to see how it is going to handle with all of that gear on it; there must be 100 pounds of "stuff").  I've been up since 4:30ish.  I'm not sure if it is the excitement of the trip, or the jetlag from my recent ("recent" in that I landed on Tuesday) trip to Algeria and London.  Who knows, but I am ready!

I must admit, I have been keeping an eye on Ivan.  I've been watching him over the past few days and it appears that we're going to be safe... I say "appears", I guess we will find out: 

The plan this morning is to meet a friend (Jim) of a person I've never met before (Steve) at McDonalds north of Houston. 

Background: There's a bunch of us that participate (daily) on a forum called F650.com.  It's a site dedicated to just that--BMW F650s.  As you would expect, if you've ever been part of a forum before, the personalities are all over the place.  I am quite excited to meet all these folks at the rally.  

As I was saying, the plan is to meet a fellow named Jim.  Jim is a 61-year old friend of Steve, AKA Prof.  Prof is a friend of Darren, AKA Damalden AKA DAM, who is a guy I met on the forum.  Darren and Steve are leaving from San Antonio and are going to meet Jim and me (leaving from Houston) in Palestine, Texas at noon (you keeping up?).

I won't have a chance to update the site until I return... stay tuned!

OK, I have returned...

I pulled out of the garage around 8:30 on Thursday morning.  As I mentioned above, the plan was to meet Jim at McDonalds at 9:30.  I got to McDonalds a bit early to grab a bite to eat.  Yes, I had already eaten cereal, but that was much earlier...

At about 9:30, Jim shows up at McDonalds.  He drives an F650 "classic."  Jim takes a quick bio break, then we briefly discuss the route. 

We're going to Palestine, TX to meet DAM and Prof at noon.  We took 45 up to Huntsville then took 19 to Crockett and 287 into Palestine. 

For the most part the ride was uneventful, though the back roads out of Huntsville to Palestine were scenic.  We did see too many logging trucks.  I'm actually surprised many of these things pass inspection. 

As planned, Jim and I arrived in Palestine at 12:00.  No sign of Prof and DAM.  Damn.

We called each of their cellular phones with no luck, so we left messages and found something to eat. 

Something to eat turned out to be KFC.  We were a few bites into the chicken when my cellular phone rang; it was DAM.  He and Prof were at some local place down the road.  The plan: Jim and I will finish up and meet them there.  By the way, my odometer read exactly 7000 miles at the KFC.

Have you ever been in a situation where you kind of have someone pictured in your mind prior to meeting them face-to-face?  Well, I had DAM pictured because I had seen a picture of him on his Web site, but Prof... Prof I had wrong.  Prof has a hip hair style and an even hipper goatee. 

While eating lunch with Jim at KFC, I found out that Jim and Prof used to work together teaching many many years ago.  I also learned he likes to snowboard and go off-roading.  I hope I can say the same at 61 years old!

DAM's bike is a black GS.  Prof's is a classic like Jim's.  Prof has a trailer with all of his gear in it.  I actually thought the trailer might slow us down a bit.  No.  80mph (BMW) 75mph (GPS) most all of the way to Mean and Queen Wilhelmina State Park.

Prof's bike has over 93,000 miles on it and it is still going strong!

Overall, the ride was quite nice.  The weather was perfect except one little patch of rain.  Actually, the rain was nice as well; it cooled us down a bit.

And, for the record, my bike is handling great with all of the gear on it.  It's almost like it isn't there. 

We stopped a few times for gas and drinks, etc.  Prof's daughter is expecting twins and is apparently really close to delivering.  At one stop, he was unable to reach her on the phone.  He appeared to get a bit nervous, but we later found out she was simply out having dinner.

Here's an "Open mouth, insert foot" story for you: we stop in Henderson, TX to get gas and drinks etc.  The lady behind the counter is quite attractive, but has obviously been in some sort of mishap because she is on crutches.  DAM, Mr. Smooth, is in front of me in line.  "Damn, they let any old cripple work here?" he asks. 

She steps back a bit to reveal she only has on one leg.  DOH.  Fortunately, she takes it well and replies, "I'm actually waiting on a new leg, but it is not ready yet."  Poor DAM.  He goes on to explain he "didn't realize..."  Apparently she lost her leg to cancer long ago.

We finally arrived at the park at 6:45.  I stopped to take several pictures on the road from Mena to the park:

We checked in, though it was a bit of a slow process.  We were obviously racing daylight to get camp set up before it got dark.  Fortunately, we made it... just barely, but we did.  For those who want to know EXACTLY where we camped, our camp site was at the following coordinates:
(N 34 41.160', W 094 22.772')

Prof said if we could make it back up to the restaurant by 7:30, he'd buy us dinner.  At 8:00 sharp, DAM and I walked in to find Prof really upset about a pecan shell in his salad that nearly cracked his tooth.  Even though we were late, Prof still bought us dinner.  Thanks again Prof!

After eating, we stepped out on the porch to take in the scenery and head back down to our camp site.  We were standing there BSing when I feel something really big land on me.  A bat.  Not just one bat, but two bats.  Someone in the group was on top of their game, because I heard them say, "It's a bat!"  To which I replied, "Get it off of me!" 

Turns out it was two bats.  I'm not sure if this was a mother-child situation or a mother-father situation, but regardless, DAM used his hat to swat the bats away. 

We headed back down to the camp site, obviously looking for more bats, and recounted all of the day's adventures.  Turns out I rode 445 miles and was actually in the seat riding for 7 and a half hours.  I guess that puts our average speed right at 60mph. 

Though the camp site was all gravel, I slept quite well to the chirping of the local bug population.  The facilities were quite nice and the place was exceptionally clean.  There was a lot of stuff for kiddos to do as well:

Friday morning I showered and headed up the hill to the restaurant again to get some breakfast.  $5.95 all you can eat... that's me.  Prof was there and he had my membership package.  I'm now official... Inmate #1629. 

I stopped to take a few more pictures of the place.  It is just really pretty here.  The sky was blue and the butterflies were out for their breakfast as well.

Walking back down to camp, we ran into Jim, AKA Codeweenie (CW) and Brian, AKA Seacuke. 

Remember me talking above about how you expect people to be?  Well, CW was pretty much what I expected--he's a  34 year old programmer.  On the other hand, I expected Seacuke to be older; he was about my age. 

CW has a big 1150GS and Seacuke has an Aprillia.  CW let me sit on his GS, but it's obvious I'd have a tough time handling that bike at parking-lot speeds.  I need (A) longer legs, or (B) a lowering kit:

Both of their bikes are awesome!  The event was full of awesome bikes...

We also stopped and talked to one of the workers at the camp.  DAM needed some beer and didn't want 3.2 "queer beer."  Beau, the worker, told us of a place in Crystal Springs.  It was about 70 miles away.  Learning of the distance, DAM asked if I wanted to go with him on a "B, double e, double r U N... Beer Run!"

Geared up and heading out, we found there were some folks who needed to go to Wal-Mart; DAM decides he could use a folding chair, so Wal-Mart it was.  Well, we also found out that Prof was looking for volunteers...

On the ride from Mena to the park, the curves were pretty curvy!  The problem was that there was loose gravel on many of the curves.  Prof managed to get a hold of some brooms and was looking for some people to help sweep... sure, why not?... Sweeping, Wal-Mart, Beer run... we were off.

The sweeping didn't take too long... but I did notice several of the inmates being true to their orange jumpsuits.  Shouldn't they be sweeping?

Once the roads were all swept off, Wal-Mart was the next stop. 

Inside Wal-Mart, 6 guys went in 6 different directions to buy all sorts of stuff.  My direction led me to the fabric center.  My search... a thicker piece of foam for my ass.  

The little thin piece I had in my homemade seat pad wasn't enough.  $4.98, a borrowed pair of scissors from the little greeter dood who thought I was going to steal the scissors, and a little nip and tuck in the parking lot, and my butt was much happier. 

1.jpg (93342 bytes) 2.jpg (78252 bytes) 3.jpg (73823 bytes)
(Thanks Codeweenie for the pictures above)

DAM and I then began the next leg of the adventure--Beer Run.  We took off in the direction Beau told us...

... not that I didn't believe Beau, but I entered Crystal Springs into my GPS just for good measure. 

The road to Crystal Springs was awesome.  We were running 80-90mph the entire way.  I tried the "knee close to the ground" trick around the curves, but never got close.  I guess I have a lot to learn.  Even so, it was damned fun running the curves at those speeds. 

I saw "Bill's Store" on the way there, so obviously I had to turn around and snap a picture.

We finally arrived at the beer store and DAM got a 30 pack of Bud.  It was like 25 bucks or something ridiculous like that.  Anyway, DAM strapped down the beer and we took off to conquer the curves again. 

You know, I questioned the taking beer back across county lines and into the park and all that... I'm of the opinion it probably wasn't legal...

The round trip turned out to be 145 miles.  For beer. 

I stopped again for the obligatory photos of the scenery, bikes, and us:

And, just when you thought you couldn't stomach anymore obligatory photos, I took some more:

On the way back, I did noticed my GPS kinda flopping a bit.  Unacceptable.  Upon further inspection, I noticed the part of the RAM mount was broken.  SOB!  O well, no more GPS until I can get a replacement part from RAM.

We arrived back at the camp to see all sorts of people who weren't there when we left.  In addition to all of the people, were all of the bikes. 

Flash was there in his hammock.  I immediately recognized Flash's bike; it's got over 140K miles on it if his odometer is correct.  I was going to ask him, but he was napping in the hammock.

Update from Flash (9.20.2004): Nice write-up, Bill.  One correction, however.  My bike only LOOKS like it has 14x,xxx miles on it.  Subtract the (imagined) 100k to get the real number.

I also met Bill from Las Vegas... who, by the way, was nothing like I pictured.  Bill was/is 77 years old and quite a great guy.  He grew up as a surfer in California and is now a retired college professor.  He had an F650 classic as well.

Dailyrider had a CS with 77,000 miles on it I believe he said.  I also met Sscratch and many other people, though names escape me at this point. 

Here's another big GS I liked.  But, if I couldn't touch the ground on CW's plain vanilla 1150, there is no way I could touch on this Adventurer. 

Word is though, BMW is going to make a lowered 1200GS.  A lowered 1200 with a HUGE gas tank would fit the bill...

... BMW... are you listening?

Anyway, the food was on the grill for the Friday night dinner.  We were all pretty much veggin' in our folding chairs telling all sorts of lies, when we see an ambulance go by. 

Prof looked at me and asked if I thought we should go check it out.  Definitely... More Adventure!

Prof and I took off down the road haulin ass like there is no tomorrow.  We were going around "25 mph" S-curves at 65 and 70mph.  WOO HOO! 

We kept going and going, but no ambulance.  Finally we saw a car and Prof flagged it down.  Sure enough, they told us there was a motorcycle down about 2 miles up the road. 

We took off even faster this time!  By the time we had gotten 7 miles down the road, we were perplexed--no ambulance... nothing.  We saw another biker and flagged him down.  He told us that the ambulance was just a bit further and that the bike down was one like ours.

Even faster still, when we rounded a corner we saw an ambulance, a rescue Suburban and a State Trooper all heading towards us.  Once they passed, Prof and I stopped.  We decided that the bike still had to be up the road a bit, so we kept on.  We rounded another corner and there was another ambulance.

Standing there was a cop, CW and another dood from our gang I didn't know.  Turned out, a guy named Bill (not me) was following CW and the other guy.  He was on his way to the Jailbreak when he lost it in an S-curve.  He hit the guard rail and apparently dislocated his hip among other things. 

He was wearing all his gear, and I looked at his helmet and didn't see any damage, so apparently he didn't hit his head:

Once the ambulance took off, Steve asked the guy, whose name I cannot remember, to go back to camp and get a truck and trailer so we could load up the bike.  In the mean time, Prof needed gas, so he and I took off on an 11-mile (each way) journey to get gas. 

After we gassed up, we headed back to the accident site to find another cop there.  I'm assuming you can guess... the BS was getting deep!

It wasn't much longer until Flash showed up driving the cook's truck (sorry cook, I forgot your name too).  We loaded it on the trailer and headed back to the camp. 

Once we got back to camp, there were even more people there than before.  I guess Prof and I were gone a couple of hours on the ambulance adventure, so most of the food was gone when we got back.  Fortunately, there was enough for Prof and I to make a plate.

Everyone also wanted to inspect the damaged bike on the trailer. 

Considering, I think the bike made it through the accident fairly well.  It appeared to have minimal damage, but unfortunately, I know those side cases are quite pricey. 

Bill, the guy who wrecked (not me), is from the Dallas area.  The cook is going to trailer his bike somewhere near there so he can get it without having to pay some exorbitant fee to get it home. 

Anyway, after my dinner, I headed back to my tent and crashed as I knew I would be leaving early this morning. 

This morning I woke up around 7:00 if I had to guess (I didn't bring a watch, nor did I want one).  DAM and I met CW and another guy (sorry.... forgot your name too) for breakfast.

We finished and headed back to the camp where several people were going to go for a ride to the hospital in Fort "Something" where they took Bill (not me).  I believe someone said it was about 100 miles there.  I hope they find him well!  Good luck Bill and Get Well Soon!

Me, on the other hand... I just got back from Algeria and London on Tuesday.  Thursday I left on this adventure, so I was ready to head home.  I packed up all of my gear and said goodbye to the folks still milling about at the camp and Prof who was setting up his tools for a "wrenching session."

I pulled out at about 10:30 and headed south.  I made two 10 minute coke and gas stops and made it home in exactly 7 hours.  I did hit a bit of rain on the way home, but it was just enough to cool me off... though... the humidity after the rain let up left something to be desired.

The gang was meeting tonight at 5:30 to do all the fun stuff... giveaways, etc.  I wish I could have stayed, but too much stuff, too little time.  If I do win something, please ship it my way! 

I think the plan is for everyone to leave tomorrow.  I'm glad I have tomorrow to relax before heading into the office on Monday.  Drive home safely everyone!

I did stop to take one last photo on my way out of the park:

Until next time...

Thanks for coming along with me on my adventure.

Odometer: 7937.

A few links here:

bullet Queen Wilhelmina State Park
http://www.queenwilhelmina.com
bullet Arkansas | Queen Wilhelmina State Park
http://areas.wildernet.com/pages/area.cfm?areaID=ARSPQW&CU_ID=1

My route is here:

Garmin GPS file (MapQuest) here.
 

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