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.
We made one quick stop at Powhatan Historic State Park for a brief rest and photos. Located along the Black River, the area served as an important river port for Northeast Arkansas in the 1800s. High atop a hill, the Powhatan Courthouse (rebuilt in 1888 after the original burned 12 years prior) looks down upon the park and its few remaining structures, the Ficklin-Imoden House, the Telephone Exchange building, the town well, and what’s left of the 382-foot suspension bridge that was built in 1926.
After stretching our legs we continued on our way and eventually made it to the BW Hillside Inn in Clinton. The Hillside BW is pretty much the basic property, not extravagant in its décor, but still very clean and hospitable. While the amenities are pretty standard, it had cozy rooms, free wifi, nice bedding, and a very small complimentary breakfast area in the confines of the lobby. One of the nicest things about the Hillside Inn BW is that it’s located on the side of a hill (duh) and as you relax on the pool deck, you can admire the area below. The pool deck became an impromptu lounge area as we sipped on beers and admired the local insects. An important note to remember is that Clinton is a dry town, so if you like to enjoy a cold beer after your ride or have a whiskey shot to chase down dinner, you better pack in the booze from somewhere else. Luckily our hosts had plenty of beers chilling on ice in our chase van.
The next morning we loaded up and began making our way toward the capitol, Little Rock, Arkansas. Once again we preferred a leisure ride through the rolling hills and country roads as opposed to the mundane and fast pace of the interstate. In fact instead of taking the direct route straight to Little Rock, we made a large loop skirting the east side of the Ouachita National Forest. Lined by magnificent trees, and riding near several lakes and rivers, the cool air from the forest and waterways provided a big relief to the soaring temps. After circling a small section of the forest we bee-lined it to BW Premier Governor’s Suites in Little Rock. Upon our arrival we were greeted by some members of the local HOG Chapter, representatives from the Little Rock Convention and Visitors Bureau, as well as George Newcomb and Jim Luchsinger from Landers Harley-Davidson. It was quite the reception after a long day in the saddle with plenty of libations and hors d’oeuvres. We felt like royalty.
Actually even without the reception it’s easy to feel like royalty at the BW Governors Suite. As a Premiere property this was by far beyond any expectations I would have imagined. Before even getting to your room you’re greeted by a beautiful entry that leads in to a huge, open sunlit atrium courtyard area surround by lush plants, plush leather couches, and contemporary décor. The suites themselves are incredible; spacious and luxurious, the rooms are more than 450 square feet in size and come with amenities such as a refrigerator, microwave, lounge area, and iPod docking station all surrounded by exquisite décor. But the crème de le crème of this property is Vesuvio Bistro; a four-star restaurant offering traditional Italian dishes as well as chef Rosario Patti’s delicious twists on Mediterranean classics. I love a good rib eye and I would venture to say Vesuvio had one of the best rib eyes I’ve ever tasted. My stomach is grumbling right now just thinking about it.
Bright and early the next morning I had to make a mad dash to Landers H-D in Little Rock to get a minor repair done to the bike I was riding. Luckily George and Jim had arranged for a tech to get there before the shop opened so that it wouldn’t delay our departure time. After spending some time with John the service tech as he fixed my bike, the group met me at the dealership and we blasted our way back to Bumpus with little time to spare before the majority of our flights departed for home.
While the trip was a little too short and I didn’t get to do as much exploring as I would have liked to, it was fun and I got to see some amazing scenery, ride some new roads, meet new people, and stay in well-appointed hotels. I can’t ask for much more than that.
Best Western and H-D’s heritage are both deeply rooted along America’s scenic highways and byways. The two companies have a multi-year agreement to best meet the needs of riders and BW is the only hotel chain to market its hotels to H-D riders and motorcycle enthusiasts. Best Western has nearly 1,200 properties within the US and Canada that identify themsevles as “Rider Friendly” establishments, providing amenities such as complimentary wipe-down towels, access to a bike cleaning station, and sometimes even reserved bike parking, bottled water, and lip balm. By joining Best Western’s Ride Rewards loyalty program online, Harley-Davidson enthusiasts automatically receive Gold Elite status, which includes 10 percent bonus points on every Best Western stay and the ability to purchase points for award redemption, along with other signature benefits. HOG members may redeem Best Western Rewards for their annual or multi-year HOG membership dues. Harley-Davidson owners or enthusiasts can register for Ride Rewards by visiting bwrider.com or calling 1-888-BW2BIKE. Once registered, members earn 10 points for every U.S. Dollar spent on qualified room rates or 250 airline miles per qualified stay at more than 4,000 Best Western hotels worldwide.
What’s it All Mean?
Best Western hotels offer guests a great value and are located everywhere—from resort destinations, to airports, through small towns and major metro areas—providing guests with a comfortable stay. These hotels are typically AAA two- or three-diamond hotels and offer free high-speed internet, breakfast, free local calls (less than 30 minutes per call), free long distance access, copy and fax services, and a free-of-charge, publicly accessible computer with internet access.
Best Western Plus hotels offer guests a more upscale experience and each Plus property hotel is different. They all feature contemporary furnishings in comfortable and spacious rooms and common areas, they offer all of the amenities of Best Western hotels and much more. The properties are all AAA three-diamond hotels or equivalent. They offer updated furnishings and guestroom amenities, high-quality bedding, upgraded bath amenities, on-site laundry and/or same-day dry cleaning services, select sundry items, and fitness rooms available in many locations.
Best Western Premier hotels offer guests real luxury without a luxurious price tag, with an atmosphere that’s refined and stylish. All furnishings, fixtures, amenities and facilities are of the highest quality in the upper-midscale category. You’ll find all the amenities of Best Western and Best Western Plus hotels as well as stylish decor and personalized guest services such as a concierge, turn-down service, pre-arrival room preferences, credit card pre-authorization, and personalized key packet at check-in. Best Western Premier properties also offer on-site dining including breakfast and dinner at a minimum (some also serve lunch), premium linens and towels, deluxe bath amenities, typically 42-inch LCD or plasma television, premium clock radio with MP3 connection, oversized fitness room with upgraded equipment, and sundry shop.
Best Western is the first hotel partner to integrate TripIt into its mobile application, “Best Western to Go.” The popular mobile application for Android, iPhone, and iPad allows users to book hotels, access itineraries, and keep all their trip details in one place on their mobile device. The Best Western To Go! app features include: hotel locator, photo and description capabilities (add pictures and additional information to help remember and share details about locations you visited or plan to visit on your next trip), and mapping (input addresses of attractions and restaurants and use a GPS-enabled map to navigate through an area).
Best Western recently introduced a new booking capability that allows travelers to reserve hotel rooms on Best Western’s Facebook page. The Facebook booking platform delivers Best Western’s private and secure hotel reservation system to Facebook’s more than 800 million active users. Best Western’s 248,000-and-growing Facebook fans now can plan their next hotel stay conveniently and safety.
Best Western Hotels
Bumpus Harley-Davidson (Memphis)