Jun 9
Farm to Market road 51

Farm to Market Road 51 near Glen Rose Texas. The segment between
FM 205 and US 67 offers 6 miles of motorcycle heaven.

I didn’t get to ride anywhere near as much as I had hoped to. I hoped for at least a full day dedicated to exploring Farm to Market roads during this trip. I got less than a full morning. But oh what a morning.
I just didn’t have any energy. Everything took longer and I just had to drive myself to get moving.
As a result, we were a day late getting on the road. Once we did, I still couldn’t seem to get things moving at a decent pace. I would eventually discover that I had an infection that was dragging me down, and sapping my strength and energy. But on this one glorious morning, I felt full of life.
Our daughter and the grandkids were meeting us that afternoon at the campground. We were going to run into town that morning for a little exploration, and to pick up a few supplies. Going south on Park Road 59, I should have taken a left at FM 205. But on a wild hair, I turned right. I was just looking for promising roads as I made what I thought would be an extended loop back to Glen Rose. I ran west on 205 for about 6 miles until it merged with FM 51 in a T intersection. This road was smaller, more winding, and threaded its way around, and occasionally over more hills.
As soon as I turned onto it, I saw a warning sign with the squiggled arrow and advising 30mph. With the wife on the back and having not seen the road before, I didn’t fudge the posted warning speed by much. Leaving the first set of curves, I could already see the next sign for the next set of curves.
By the third or fourth repetition of this pattern, I must have been literally squealing with delight. I felt my wife’s fingers dig into my kidneys as she growled the warning, “All right now. Don’t get crazy!”
I did my best to not get crazy for the next 5 miles until we hit Highway 67 again. Another left turn had me heading back toward Glen Rose. As I approached the intersection with FM 205 on the north side of the road, I noticed that a paved road continued in the same direction on the south side. A sign read, “Down Town Glen Rose.” I hit my right blinker and followed it south along the Paluxy River into Glen Rose.
Glen Rose is a charming little town of about 2000 people. It has a distinctly “Mayberry,” feel. We found a couple of antique shops, but I was surprised and disappointed to discover them closed mid-morning on a Tuesday. I’m sure that saved me some money.
The few roads I saw this trip were not the Tail of the Dragon, or the Talimena run, but they were certainly enjoyable. The thing that catches my imagination about this area is that it covers hundreds, if not thousands, of square miles of these roads. And the map shows a spider web of county roads, many of which I know are paved. How many sets of tires could a rider wear out before hitting the same road twice?
I need to get back down there and hit at least a few more of them.

- Guy Wheatley

May 23
A small road

Small roads with trees almost touching overhead can make for pleasant riding.

We took another short ride this weekend. The original plan was to go to the Magnolia Festival in Magnolia, Ark. We’ve never stayed for the steak cookoff, and had decided to do so this year. The steaks are reputed to be world class and, in years past, the price was more than reasonable.
But Friday night BikeNight at Dougaloos made us reconsider. We got caught in a nasty downpour. I wanted to go on the bike, but Mrs. Sharon talked me into taking the truck. I’m glad she did because the sky opened up while we were there. There were a couple of BikeNighters there on their motorcycles, and they got pretty well soaked going home.
So when we got up Saturday morning and the sky looked threatening, we decided to pass on the trip to Magnolia. Staying late enough for steaks would mean coming back after dark. That’s bad enough by itself. I’m sure not trying it on a motorcycle, after dark, in a storm.
The sun occasionally peeks through the clouds all day Saturday, though, daring us to come out and play. We want to take at least a short ride. I decide it’s time for another of those exploration of small roads on the outskirts of town. This time we pick the southwest corner.
I don’t check these areas out on a map first, and I don’t have a gps with me. I can’t get lost because I’m bounded on all sides by known roads. But within this area I’m exploring, randomly picking a direction at each intersection or fork. And somehow the weather adds to the expeditionary feel, threatening but never actually raining.
Selecting a direction, I have no expectation for what lay ahead. I am amazed again some of these areas feel so alien. Dipping through a hardwood bottom on a narrow road with branches touching overhead, it’s hard to believe that I’m fewer than 7 miles from my front door. I’ve usually got only a general idea of where I am. It surprises me then, when I occasionally cross a road that I do know. It’s an odd feeling to suddenly be transported from an unknown, mysterious backroad to a place I know and have been before.
We ride for a couple of hours. We backtrack from dead ends, and occasionally circled back to take a different direction at an intersection from the one we’d taken before. Our wanderings cover about 25 miles of road before dumping us onto the familiar FM2148 from Gun Club Road.
Taking a left, I head south down to Clear Springs road and follow it to County Road 1217. By the time we reach Highway 67, the sky looks as though it’s through playing games and is serious about another deluge. Heeding the warning, we turn east onto Highway 67 and head for home.
The epic journeys that cross state lines are wonderful and adventurous. But this ride reminds me that on any given day, there is fun and adventure just a few miles down the road.

- Guy Wheatley

Apr 11

What looks like a rural road is actually south State line Ave, inside the city
limits and just a couple of miles from my house.

It was a beautiful day, but we had chores to do. I decided that I could at least make the quick runs to the store on the bike. My wife loaded up behind me and we hit the streets.
Heading home on the last run, we decided to take a short ride. It couldn’t be very long, and I didn’t want to get very far from home, so where to go?
I remembered seeing a couple of roads on previous trip as I headed out of town.
“I wonder where that goes?” I remember thinking. Well, today was the day I was going to find out.
The road in question was on the edge of town and ran parallel with the city limits. Leading off it were other roads that also beckoned with narrow shadowy lanes. We explored some of them that day also. Others await another day.
These roads were fun in that they were unpredictable. They might pass through affluent neighborhoods for a while, then dive through a rural area. Some sections were well maintained while others narrowed to almost a single lane filled with cracks and potholes.
And I was rarely sure what lay ahead. I didn’t know if the road was going to suddenly turn to gravel, dead end or meet with another road. Often, as I was preparing to turn around, the road would suddenly widen and smooth out as it entered a more prosperous area.
We rode for an hour-and-a-half, but barely put 30 miles on the bike. Most of the time we were doing 25 miles-per-hour or less. We climbed hills and dove through woods. We passed in front of mansions with private ponds, and shacks with so little paint I couldn’t say what color they had been. And all of this time, we were no more than 10 miles from our front door.
This adventure took place in the southeast corner of Texarkana. I’m not sure how much of it was inside the city limits and how much was out. But it was all close to home. There are still some roads out there to explore. Once they all become familiar, we’ve got three other quadrants waiting for us.
Not all rides have to be long.

- Guy Wheatley

Oct 6

A 1-and-a-half minute video from the Talihina Scenic drive.
Watch for the squirrel 48 seconds into the video.
He survived.

I rode the Talimena Scenic drive recently. This is a 53-mile mountainous road between Talihina, Okla., and Mena, Ark. This is one of those roads made for motorcycles. This road was the reason we were camping at Queen Wilhelmena State Park. I ran the 13-mile stretch from the lodge atop Rich Mountain back into Mena six times while we were there. I only made the longer 40-mile run from the lodge to Talihina twice. Once going east to west, then going west to east. Our original plan was to leave our campsite at the park, then make the run before heading home to Texarkana through Oklahoma from Talihina. But sitting in Talihina, we decided we had to make the run at least one more time. That meant going home, back through Mena.
I was experimenting with a video camera mounted to my bike. I was unfamiliar with it and only managed to get a short segment of the run leaving the lodge heading toward Mena. I missed the best part of the road because the camera timed out before we got to the twisties.
This was my fourth run of this stretch of road and I was riding fairly aggressively. I wanted to get some good video. One thing I did manage to capture on camera was a narrow miss with a squirrel. I was going into a long curve and saw the little guy come hopping across the road from the left side. I decided to try to take the line as far to the right as I could to give him as much time as possible to stop. I was fairly sure that if I tried to go behind him, he’d turn at the last minute and I’d hit him. In the video, you can see me drifting toward the right side of the road as the furry little kamikaze keeps coming.
At the last second he makes an impossible move and darts back the way he came. I then gently eased my line back toward the center of the road. Or at least that’s what I remember.
Watching the video, I’m surprised to see a substantial swerve right after missing Rocky. At first I thought it was a delayed attempt to avoid rodenticide. But the jag back toward the center lane clearly comes after passing the squirrel. It feels like I might have tried to give the varmint every extra inch by standing the bike up trying to get the wheel a few centimeters further to the right. The visible jag is clearly me trying to get back into a proper cornering line.
The thing is, I have absolutely no memory of doing that. Ultimately it made no difference, but if I had gone down there, I would have sworn that I was holding an even line. But in fact, I wobbled my way through the rest of the curve. It’s not a big deal really, but I find it disconcerting that my memory of the event could be so different from the facts recorded by my camera. It makes me question the validity of any memories during a stressful moment. It also goes a way toward explaining how in the aftermath of an accident, you can have two people both adamant that the other party is at fault.
I think the squirrel and I both learned a lesson. Hopefully he learned to watch out for motorcycles, and I learned that memory can be squirrely.

- Guy Wheatley

Oct 2
Campsite at Queen Wilhelmena State Park

Getting food ready for dinner as the campfire burns merrily at
Queen Wilhelmena State Park.

I took a week of vacation last week. Typical of my recent vacations, most of this one was spent working on the house. Buying a “fixer upper” seemed like such a good idea when I was a young lad in my 40s. Now in my mid 50s I’m starting to question the concept. But all work and no play makes for a dull vacation, so we did take two days off for a quick run up to Queen Wilhelmena State Park. It turns out to be a fantastic trip.
We take the backroads going by Millwood lake up to Hot Springs. Then we follow Highway 270 west, through the Ouachita National forrest over to Mena. We get to the camp ground right at 5:00 pm. By the time we registered and get the tent set up, it is almost 6:00. The plan is to run back to Mena and pick up sandwich supplies. I want to be back before dark, so we don’t have much time to look for firewood before hitting the road. Supplies in hand, we head back up skyline drive for the third time that day.
The sun is just dropping behind the mountain as we begin the 13 mile climb back to the campsite. The road is dark, lighted only by my headlight, but the sky is afire with the setting sun. The sky, at a little more than 2,000 feet, is clear and free of light pollution. I’d already noticed how blue it was during the day. Now, as the sun sets, it’s showing me colors I haven’t seen in years. Fiery orange silhouetting the mountain tops slowly changes to a deep velvet blue then dark violet. Brilliant stars speckle the sky overhead. Leaves haven’t started to change yet, but the air is still crisp with the promise of fall.
Riding this twisting mountainous road at night through bear country is foolish, but the beauty of it completely enraptures me. I think about stopping and taking a picture, but I know that a photo can never capture the moment. This environment has to be felt, more than seen. Some experiences are worth the risk, and this may be one of them.
Back at the campground, we start a fire and settle down to make and eat our sandwiches. Tomorrow we will run the Telimena Scenic Drive. Our plan was to then make our way home from Talihena Oklahoma. But plans change. I’ll blog a couple of more times about this trip and cover the scenic run in future posts.
The wind was brisk atop Rich mountain. I bungie the tent to the concrete wheel chock at the back of the parking pad to keep it from blowing away. Gusts of wind deform the tent throughout the night, but we sleep remarkably well. A long day of riding can do that for you.
Up the next morning, I’m surprised to find that I’m not as stiff as I expect to be. A quick run back into Mena for breakfast means two more runs of the 13 mile segment of skyline drive between the lodge and town. What a great way to start a day.

- Guy Wheatley

Jul 14
Photographer's Island in Texarkana

Photographer’s Island in Texarkana.

This is not exactly a blog about motorcycles.
I’m on the way home from the store on my bike and I see a car stalled on State Line. It is in the center turn lane heading north as I’m heading south. I know it is stalled because there is a young man pushing it. In a knee-jerk reaction, I pull into a parking lot to get turned around. In less than 60 seconds, I’m pulling up in the center lane behind the stalled vehicle. More people have arrived and they are pushing it, making a left into a parking lot. By the time I reach the car, less than a minute after I first spotted it, there is barely room for another set of hands on the trunk.
The person on my left is a white man in his 50s. To my right is an attractive, young African-American lady. There is a good mix of race, age and gender lending muscle to this endeavor. Other than our humanity, the only thing we have in common is our desire to help a stranded motorist.
I’ve come to expect this sort of thing in Texarkana. I’m sure there are other cities and towns where similar attitudes prevail, but sadly there are many where it’s unheard of. I happened to hear one of the people pushing comment that he’d been there and knew how it felt to be stranded. I think it’s that empathy, the recognition of others as similar to ourselves, that make this such a good place to live.
There was a question posted on one of the motorcycle boards I belong to about what scenery various cities have to offer. Some of the people spoke of great views of a lake, river or beach their cities could offer. Others mentioned mountains and hills. All of that is nice, but one of the most impressive scenes I’ve witnessed to commend a city was six people pushing a stranded car.

— Guy Wheatley

May 6
South State Line Ave.

What looks like a rural road is actually south State line Ave., inside the city
limits and just a couple of miles from my house

I love this time of year. Texarkana is a small enough city that most trips to the places I go take me to the outskirts of town. Even within the city limits there are roads that, at a casual glance, look like a rural area. I frequently run over to Liberty-Eylau from the downtown area. I can either hit South State Line to the loop, or Lake Drive. Either way, I go by areas with open fields and a lot of honeysuckle. The smell has an almost narcotic effect on me.
Riding around with temperatures in the mid-80s and the smell of honeysuckle has got to be one of the most pleasurable experiences a man can have … and tell about. I remember a quote, “those hours spent fishing are not detracted from a man’s appointed days.” Surely, the pleasant and peaceful roaming of scenic and fragrant byways on my two-wheeled steed will be held in at least the same esteem by deity as the slaughter of aquatic life forms.
Newly into short-sleeve shirts, the feel of the wind and sun on winter pinked flesh is almost a rebirth. It’s a yearly genesis experience, reviving me to summer riding. Spring revivals and flower festivals around the area call out and beckon me to come. I’ll start riding more and more in the days and weeks ahead. Sadly my longest trips are destined to be in the dog days of summer, when the heat will lessen the joy.
I will fill the lengthening and warming days with the rides and adventures being promised even now. I will find joy and happiness for the next five months until another enchanted time arrives and nature uses leaves instead of flowers to paint the land with riotous colors.
There is something almost magical about the too-brief rides down familiar roads made new by mild temperatures, azure skies and nature’s perfume. Why are such pleasures destined to be so fleeting?

— Guy Wheatley

Feb 12
Mounting up

The missus getting ready to mount up.

Anytime we go somewhere for a weekend visit, the question of whether we can go on the bike runs through my mind. As you might expect the threshold for caging it, or going in the car, is higher for me than for my wife. It’s not a macho thing. She’s as willing as to face the elements as I am. To quote one of the weasels in the movie Chicken Run, “It’s a lady thing.”
I’m just not as worried that the hair I have left will be messed up or matted when I get where we’re going. And for me, a weekend outing requires one pair of jeans, a couple of shirts, underwear, and socks. My biking boots are black, and I keep them pretty well polished. They’ll pass as dress shoes if you don’t look too close. My tooth brush and a disposable razor don’t take up much room. I keep a travel size bar of soap, tube of toothpaste, bottle of shampoo, and cologne in a travel bag. My toiletries can go in a fanny pack and my clothes in a gym bag.
Not so for the lady of the house. If we take the bike, it will probably have to be a trip to see the kids or a very close relative. Somebody she is willing to visit with helmet hair, or someplace where she can wash her hair once we get there. And there are way too many factors that influence clothing to go into detail here. It’s a combination of whom we’re visiting, whether we’re going someplace formal while we’re there and weather.
We did take a week’s vacation on the bike one year, so it can be done. (Ride report and photos here.) It just requires some planning.
Another factor is route. In the years before my mother died, I’d run up to Cabot for an overnight stay. That’s about a 170 mile, 2–1/2-hour trip up I-30 from Texarkana. But if I’m going to be on the interstate, I’d just as soon be in the car. The whole point of the bike is to enjoy a leisurely ride over a scenic route.
My wife and I did make the trip on the bike a couple of times, following U.S. Highway 67 up as far as Benton. That’s a beautiful ride we thoroughly enjoyed, but it took almost 5-1/2 hours one way. (Ride report and photos here.) The main point of that trip was the ride. We just happened to visit somebody while on the ride instead of riding the bike to visit somebody. It may sound like semantics, but it’s actually an important distinction.
I just need my friends and relatives to move to locations that are more convenient for motorcycling.

— Guy Wheatley

May 29

Mayor John Rhodes of Myrtle Beach effectively kicked the Myrtle Beach Bike week out of town this year. The two best known rallies, the Harley-Davidson Dealers Association Spring Rally and the Atlantic Beach Memorial Day Bikefest, were never sponsored by the city and as such the Mayor couldn’t “cancel” them. But the city of Myrtle Beach has passed a list of ordinances that effectively prevent the rallies from taking place in City of Myrtle Beach.
Click here for new rules and ordinances for Myrtle Beach
The Mayor is certainly bucking a trend. Cities and towns around the country are actively appealing to bikers. In fact, at least five cities close to Myrtle Beach and Horry County are taking pains to make it quite clear they don’t share Myrtle Beach’s aversion to motorcycles.
On the other coast, Bikernewsonline reports the city of Temecula California last year began seriously backpedaling to get back the bikers an overzealous police force had run away. The owner of an antique store complained about the noise from some bikes. A word from the police chief and things eventually escalated to the point of fishnet style busts where bikers were pulled over in groups and ticketed for non-DOT helmets and aftermarket pipes. One officer was reported to have told a biker that, “their kind,” wasn’t welcome there.
Several biker forums began calling for a boycott of the Old town area. The chamber of commerce began hearing from business and took action. Police chief Jerry Williams, himself a bike owner, acknowledges some problems and says there will be some changes. The city is now going out of it’s way to make bikers feel welcome.
It isn’t 1960, and bikers of the early 21st century are an economic force to be reckoned with. The cash weekend motorcyclists bring to town is not something to be lightly ignored.

Motorcycles line up along the street at the BOO rally in Jefferson Texas

Motorcycles line up along the street at the BOO rally in Jefferson Texas

— Guy Wheatley

Apr 23

I took the Motorcycle Safety Foundation Basic Rider Course (MSFBRC) course here in Texas about 3 years ago. It was only $180 in Texas at that time. As a new bike owner with a couple of hundred miles under the tires, it was a big help. Part of the positive experience for me was that my instructor belabored the fact the this was rudimentary instruction, and that we were not experienced bikers based on our attendance of an MSFBRC course. At the end of the course he said, “You are now qualified to ride a 125cc motorcycle around a closed parking lot!”
The single most important thing I took took away from this class was how much I still didn’t know. Looking back, I think I thought of the little 250 Nighthawk as a bicycle with a motor when I bought it. That instructor took pains to make me understand that the MSFBRC class was just a beginning of my motorcycle education. He insisted that we, his class, continue our education, ride with experienced riders, and ease ourselves into more complex riding. He also pointed out that the painted lines would still be on the parking lot after he left and encouraged us to came back and practice the skills he taught us. This is referred to as PLP (Parking Lot Practice) on some forums.
Knocking around several bike forums I see a lot of diverse opinions on the MSF program. One of the biggest complaints is that taking the MSFBRC allows riders in many states to forego the riding test for receiving a license. There is the feeling that the State is abdicating it’s responsibility of ensuring a license holder is truly skilled enough to operate the vehicle safely, and is not a danger to himself and others.
I must say that was the case with me. Fortunately I had an instructor who convinced me to look for more training. I haunted Internet sites dedicated to motorcycle safety, faithfully engaged in PLP, and sought out experienced riders for advice and instruction.
I was sitting next to a grizzled old biker in downtown Hot Springs a couple of years ago. We watched a guy drop a big shiny Harley trying to park it. That was the first time I head the famous, “$30,000 and 30 miles don’t make you a biker!”
There is nothing wrong with the MSFBRC course in itself. Taking it as a magic pill to alleviate inexperience and lack of skill can be deadly.

— Guy Wheatley

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