never know the worth of water till the well is dry."
Hot Springs, AR to Vicksburg, MS: US-65 South to Eudora, SR-159South
to Kilbourne, SR-17 through Oak Grove, Forest, Pioneer, Darnell, to
SR-134 East to Poverty Point National
Monument, SR-577 South to I-20 East to Vicksburg. (MAP)
The bike feels strange when I get on it this morning. It feels
a little, I don't know, wobbly. Then I look down and realize its
the horrible roads of Arkansas. There are groves, ruts and channels
taking control of the motorcycles steering. It reminds me of
a well-worn spot on Manhattans West Side Highway where every
time I drive over that area I can feel the road through the steering
as it moves the vehicle around.
I head down Hot Springs Main Street to check out the town, the
boyhood home of President Bill Clinton. The place is filled with history
and historic buildings. It turns out that Hot Springs National Park
is the oldest unit of the National Park System, established in 1832.
That makes it 40 years older than Yellowstone, but Hot Springs wasnt
declared a National Park until 1921.
The water is what brought people here, and what brings them still.
Odorless, tasteless, colorless water that flows from the southwestern
slope of Hot Springs Mountain, coming out of the ground at 147 Fahrenheit
degrees. People have used the hot spring water in therapeutic baths
for more than two hundred years to treat rheumatism and other ailments.
Eventually, the area became a resort known as The American Spa and
people from the world over came seeking the healing qualities of the
Today the park protects eight historic bathhouses with the former luxurious
Fordyce Bathhouse, built
in 1915, serving as the park visitor center. The entire "Bathhouse
Row" area is a National Historic Landmark
District and contains the grandest collection of bathhouses of its
kind in North America. The government also controls the flow of the
800,000 gallons of water that come out of the mountain every day.
In town there is a fountain where
anyone can fill up his water jug. I take a sample with
me in my camelbak water reservoir.
A short way out of town I come across a motorcyclist pushing his Honda
along the side of the road. The bike is in horrible shape, but the
guy looks worse than the bike. He hasnt had an accident or anything
like that; he is just a really shabby looking fellow. His teeth are
the worst set I have ever seen on a living creature.
I ask him if he needs any help and what the trouble might be. He tells
me he cant get it started. Looking at the pea sized gas tank
I ask if perhaps he is out of gas. He tells me no, that he gets
a whopping 80 miles per tank. He pushes the kick-starter a couple of
times, the bike starts, and he rides off. Im left wondering about
the state of dental affairs in rural Arkansas.
Before lunchtime Im at the Arkansas Post National Memorial,
along the Arkansas River.
This site has a long and complex history dating back to 1686 when Henri
de Tonti established it as a trading
post at the Quapaw village of Osotouy. Over the years the post moved
due to flooding on the river, but by 1819, it was a thriving river
port and the largest city in the region. I get the park stamp and see
they have a bonus one for the Trail of Tears.
Shortly before 4 PM I arrive in northern Louisiana at the Poverty
Point National Monument, but there is something funny about this place.
It is part of the National Park System, but the Federal Government
doesnt run it. The state of Louisiana manages the site. It is
listed in the Fodors guide to national parks, but it turns out
that nobody here really wanted the site to become part of the NPS.
Some over reaching politician
thought it would be good idea to get some federal funding. That
all backfired and now they cant dig up and study the ancient
Native American earthworks at the location. And I cant get a
park stamp because they dont have one.
I figure if I get moving I can reach the Vicksburg National Military
Park before they close at five oclock, and then I can move south
to Natchez, getting a head start on tomorrow. Natchez has a local connection
number for Earthlink, my Internet Service Provider, and I can upload
some material to the web site. And Ill be that much closer to
New Orleans so I can spend more time there tomorrow.
As soon as I get back on the motorcycle I know something is definitely
wrong. The bike gets very wobbly.
tire must be flat. I pull over and confirm what I already knew. Its
flat as a pancake. Im not getting to Natchez today. Those thoughts
I had this morning about the bad roads in Arkansas werent exactly
I find a nice spot to pull off the road and put the motorcycle on
the center stand. Then all the luggage comes off so I can spin the
rear wheel freely. I use a little water from the camelbak and find
a very small puncture in the channel between two treads. Fortunately
for me, BMW includes a tire repair kit with all of the new motorcycles
they sell. I stuff the hole with a rubber
plug and some sticky adhesive, and use the three included air cartridges
to bring the tire back to life. The whole thing takes about 30 minutes.
Stopping at the next service station I pass to fill up the tire properly,
I pull out the BMW Dealer directory and call Herbert Cycles in
Baton Rouge. Theyre on my route tomorrow, and about 200 miles
from where I am right now. I need a new tire. Although I got this
one in Austin, only about 2,000 miles ago, I really shouldnt
run a motorcycle tire with a plug for longer than I need to. Putting
one on a car tire is no big deal. Youve got three other wheels.
But on a bike, the two wheels you have are your life, and a sudden
of tire pressure could mean a crash.
Miles Today: 303.4
Total Miles: 24,192
Time on Motorcycle: 5 Hours 31 Minutes
Average Speed: 55 MPH
States Visited today: 3 (AR, LA, MS)
Total States Visited: 38
National Park Service Passport Stamps 3
NPS Stamp Totals: 176 Stamps, 33 States
Weather: What else but SUNNY
Number of flat tires to date: 1
ON THE ROAD:
The Company You Keep Determines The Trouble Youll Meet Church
Billboard along US-270 near Center Grove.
While I was riding
around today I was thinking hard about what the extra statistic for
the day would be. Every day in these journals I list a bunch
of stats in THE DAILY TAKE and the last one is always a random
thing, something different everyday.
So while I was riding today,
I was thinking to myself Oh yeah, I havent had any
flat tires so far. Zero. That would be a great stat to list.
But wait. If I list it, and write it down, then Ill get
Well, I didnt even have to list it. Apparently, all I had to
do was think about it. Or maybe I already knew, subconsciously, that
I had a flat, but hadnt completely realized it yet.
Call it kismet, a premonition, superstition, fate, destiny, or bad
luck. Call it whatever you want. Ill call it a flat tire.