I wouldn’t really say I have a planned and detailed bucket list, but there are a few things I’d like to accomplish before I turn to dust, one of which would be to roll two wheels through every state in the country. I’m a little more than halfway through and was lucky enough to cross another two states off my list when Best Western (BW) invited a group of journalists to fly out to Tennessee and putt around Tennessee and Arkansas as we visited several of the Best Western hotels in the area. The event was designed as a short and sweet trip to familiarize us with the company’s recently introduced hotel designations, Best Western, Best Western Plus, and Best Western Premiere. Of course motorcycles would be our method of transportation from one hotel to the next. Free room, free bike, and the opportunity to explore new roads, I jumped at the opportunity.
I love moto camping just as much as the next guy, but there are times when a hot shower, clean sheets, and not being pelted by a squadron of mosquitoes trying to pierce my skin like a series of cruise missiles while I try to sleep can outweigh the fun of camping. The problem is, when you pull up to a motel or hotel you often don’t know what to expect as far as the quality of the room or amenities. You might end up dolling out a hard-earned greenback for a room that looks like it’d be better suited for delousing rather than decompressing. However, if you know anything about the Best Western line of hotels, it’s that they rep the three important Cs of lodging—clean, comfortable, and complimentary breakfast.
Arriving in Memphis on a late Monday afternoon it quickly became evident when I walked into the foyer of the Best Western Plus that this wasn’t your “typical” BW property. Warm, spacious, beautifully decorated, and welcoming, the lobby presented itself as an area for relaxing and socializing with a sitting area outfitted with lush couches and chairs and backed by a small bar constructed of deep, rich, dark wood. Upstairs, the room featured the same wood tones accented by bright lighting, warm color schemes, and modern styled furnishings. After a short rest and using the free wifi service to catch up on some emails, I made my way down to the lobby to meet up with the other journos for a quick beer and then a shuttle to the infamous Beale Street in downtown Memphis for dinner. If you enjoy music then you’ve heard of Beale Street.
Beale Street is a 1.8-mile long stretch of road lined by bars, nightclubs, and restaurants. A music lover’s dream, anyone worth his or her weight in music has played at one of the local live music venues. If you like bikes, blues, brews, or barbeque, you’ve got to put Beale Street on your to-do list. Host to festivals (Beale Street Music Festival), contests (World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest), parades (Liberty Bowl Beale Street Parade), and bike nights (Bikes on Beale) no matter if you’re a foodie or Dead Head, there’s something for you on Beale Street. We ate at the Blues City Café, which has some great barbecue, excellent service, and live music in the back bar area. They boast the world’s best homemade tamales, but being from Southern California and having my fair share of tamales in my life, I’d hardly consider them world’s best or even tamales for that matter. They looked liked greasy cigars.
While Beale Street is an iconic institution in music history, not every night is a raucous party. So if you hate crowds or are claustrophobic, I would suggest visiting on a Monday evening or early in the week, as there were very few people out and it was easy to navigate in and out of the various bars, restaurants, and souvenir shops. It wasn’t completely dead however, as many of the venues had some kind of live music, whether it be a local blues band or a local drunk belting out karaoke.
Early the next morning we hit the free breakfast in the BW breakfast nook and then shuttled off to Bumpus Harley-Davidson in Memphis to pick up our bikes for the trip. Bumpus is a good-sized dealership and has several locations in the Tennessee area. Some of the journalists found humor in the Bumpus moniker and it became a running joke over the next few days; it made me think of A Christmas Story. After everyone picked a bike to ride (a mix of Touring models and a couple Heritage Sofails) we hit the road. Our fearless leader, BW Senior Vice President of Brand Management and Member Services, Ron Pohl lead us directly out of Memphis across the Mississippi River and into Arkansas. The first part of the trip was spent mostly on the highway but then we veered off and hit some beautiful two-lane roads as we navigated our way to the town of Clinton. A mix of sprawling open country fields and back roads heavily shaded by tall oak, hickory, and pine trees, we weaved our way through small town after small town in the Ozark Mountains admiring the beautiful weather and scenery afforded to us.