Life is about change. Accustomed to the routines in life, we may not often think about how quickly circumstances can and sometimes do change. As a resident of Atlanta, Georgia for 27 years, I had a familiar love-hate relationship with the city, knowing it’s good features and bad, and making the city’s Appalachian Mountain surroundings my riding turf since I began riding motorcycles as recreation, then as a way of life. Fairly recent layoffs for both my wife and myself necessitated the sale of a home, and the decision to let employment opportunities lead the way in deciding whether we would stay in Atlanta or consider living elsewhere.
“Elsewhere” ended up being some 2,700 miles away, when my wife, Lora, got offered a job in Seattle. Under the circumstances, you do what you must, and while she moved to Seattle in the early part of summer 2010 to start work, I remained in Atlanta to organize the move of household goods and belongings across the country. I had promised myself that in the process I would take the opportunity to ride through some of the areas of the US I had never had the chance to ride before. Having my brother, Joe (a resident of Punta Gorda, Florida), volunteer to come along for the cross-country drive and pilot the “chase vehicle” and bike-hauling trailer would allow me to ride the motorcycle on several days of the travel week.
Starting out on Sunday the 17th, we began the cross-country trip. It would be a long driving day to Rogers, Arkansas, where a good friend, Jodi Lightner, sales manager for the Aloft hotel, had offered to put us up in a room if we could get there by Sunday night. This made it an almost 12-hour travel day, but we got to Rogers around 10 p.m. and were treated to a really great room at the Aloft, a very cool European-styled hotel. Thanks to Jodi!
The town of Rogers was a really nice surprise. Located off of I-540, it’s an island of new construction with a surprisingly cosmopolitan feel featuring yearly motorcycling events that take advantage of the Ozark Mountains just east of town. The next morning, a mid-October Monday dawned as a day of near perfect conditions with temps in the 70s and very low humidity—a beautiful autumn day in the mountains. I began my first riding day going east on State Road (SR) 12 through the Beaver Lake area, passing through Prairie Creek, and winding my way through Hobbs State Park before turning on SR 45 which headed south then west into the foothill town of Fayetteville. With Joe (manager and driver of the Winnebago) trailering behind, I took Hwy 71 south out of Fayetteville, a fine country highway which runs along the western border of the Ozark National Forest, making a stop at the scenic and serene Fort Lake Smith in the process. Highway 71 is a great alternative to I-540, the north-south interstate extension that runs just west and parallel to 71, and is the preferred choice for two-wheeled travel. The necessity of keeping to a schedule did not allow the time to take in more of the recommended routes in the Ozarks, but from what I saw on the afternoon’s ride, it is an area well worth a more thorough exploration. Next time, I guess. Arriving back at I-40, we put the bike on the trailer to head further west, finishing the traveling day at Oklahoma City where we got a room for the night.
The next day was a travel day, designed to get us further west and allow more riding time. From Oklahoma City, a full day’s drive past Albuquerque brought us to the small town called Grants, New Mexico. Studying the map after dinner, Joe found SR 53, a scenic loop road out of Grants that went south then west and features the state park El Morro National Monument.