"We never know the worth of water till the well is dry."
- Thomas Fuller, Gnomologia, 1732

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. (

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 it’s the horrible roads of Arkansas. There are groves, ruts and channels all over the pavement, taking control of the motorcycle’s steering. It reminds me of a well-worn spot on Manhattan’s 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 wasn’t 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 water.

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 hasn’t 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 can’t 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. I’m left wondering about the state of dental affairs in rural Arkansas.

Before lunchtime I’m 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 doesn’t run it. The state of Louisiana manages the site. It is listed in the Fodor’s 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 can’t dig up and study the ancient Native American earthworks at the location. And I can’t get a park stamp because they don’t have one.

I figure if I get moving I can reach the Vicksburg National Military Park before they close at five o’clock, 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 I’ll 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. My rear tire must be flat. I pull over and confirm what I already knew. It’s flat as a pancake. I’m not getting to Natchez today. Those thoughts I had this morning about the bad roads in Arkansas weren’t exactly the problem.

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. They’re 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 shouldn’t run a motorcycle tire with a plug for longer than I need to. Putting one on a car tire is no big deal. You’ve got three other wheels. But on a bike, the two wheels you have are your life, and a sudden loss 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

“The Company You Keep Determines The Trouble You’ll 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 haven’t 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 I’ll get one.”

Well, I didn’t 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 hadn’t completely realized it yet.

Call it kismet, a premonition, superstition, fate, destiny, or bad luck. Call it whatever you want. I’ll call it a flat tire.