Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Good times, good friends, great riding!

It was that time of year again...time to load up the BigYellowBike and head off to the gathering in Harrison, Arkansas. This is my favorite bike event of the entire year. Harrison is where I get to see most of my chat-room friends and enjoy some great mountain riding in beautiful country. Last year when we came home from Arkansas, we put the bike away and I never got another chance to ride until winter was over and April here.

Day One, Wednesday, October 1st, Michigan to Indiana:
We'd packed our bags the night before, and loaded up the bike and trailer as soon as I came home from work. I put on layers and layers of clothes (we really need to get some heated riding gear!) and we headed out for our friend Ross's house to spend the night. Ross was our first friend from the Wing forum. He has become a dear friend and treasured riding companion. After supper with Ross (5Ross) and his wife, Joyce, we went to bed early to rest up for the following day's ride. This was what I wore to keep warm: wool socks, long underwear pants and shirt, jeans, riding pants, turtleneck dickey, long-sleeved T-shirt, light sweater, riding jacket, rain suit to keep out the wind, leather gloves, boots and helmet (of course).
Day Two, Thursday, October 2nd, Indiana to Missouri:
Up early, coffee, and pile on the layers again to head on down the road. Ross told me I should have started MUCH earlier getting dressed, but we made it on the road just ten minutes behind schedule! It was a brisk 39-41 degrees when we started our morning ride, and warmed steadily as we headed south. We stopped a bit down the road for a hot breakfast, then continued toward Kentucky, peeling off layers as we rode. Early in the afternoon, we hit Owensboro, Kentucky to meet Steve (Polecat) for lunch at Moonlight BBQ. Another dear friend from the forum, Steve spent two weeks with us last spring, helping with the building of our new house.

From Kentucky, we twisted and twined about, riding the back roads, crossing and recrossing the Ohio River by bridge and ferry. Steve planned our route, and he did a great job. We saw some glorious country and spent a wonderful afternoon with good friends. We rode in Indiana, Illinois, Kentucky, and ended up for the night in Charleston, Missouri.

Day Three, Friday, October 3, Missouri to Harrison, AR:
We loaded up and all the bikes got their tires checked and air pressure adjusted, and we were off again. More great roads, another ferry ride at Bull Shoals. We met up with a group of Texans from the forum at the ferry, but the boat was full and they waited for the next trip. We arrived in Harrison to find that the GPS coordinates for our motel led us to a semi parking lot, but after a bit of scouting found the Days Inn and checked into our rooms. As the afternoon passed, more of the group arrived and the hugs, laughter and fun began.

Day Four, Saturday, October 4th, Riding in the Mountains:

We awoke to leaden skies and rain, and passed the morning catching up and trading stories. When the rain stopped, fourteen bikes headed out, led by Rickey and Denise, to ride the twisties. Rickey knows the roads in these parts like the back of his hand, and made sure we had enough hills and curves to keep things interesting all day. We took on Push Mountain Road, passed the FrigNditch (no one fell in on this ride, John!), stopped for lunch at JoJo's, rode some more, then headed back to the motel to kick tires and eat pizza. We had visitors from the main gathering at the Holiday Inn Express and some of the group rode over there for a bit, but most of us never left the Days Inn except to ride.

Day Five, Sunday, October 5th, Fond Farewells and Northward-Bound:

It's always hard to part with friends, but all good things must end, and so did the Harrison Gathering for 2008. Snoopy and Boyd were the first to leave before the sun was up, followed by JP, William, and Michael. Before long it was our turn to go. With hugs all around and more than a couple of tears (on my part), we headed toward home.

Some years back, my family spent some time in Branson, MO, working a quilt show for a shop where I worked. We had a wonderful time there, and Rich and I decided to take a cruise up Hwy. 76, Branson's main street, to see how the place had changed. We were relieved to see a lot of familiar sights amongst all the changes. We travelled along the Mississippi River to Hannibal, where we'd spent a lovely couple of days with our son in his younger years. A short walk through the shops, a quick visit to the Mark Twain Book Store to pick up a gift, and back on the road again.

We made it to St. Charles, MO, before stopping for the day.

Day Six, Monday, October 6th, Missouri to Illinois:
I called a friend of mine from the forum who lives in St. Charles. Sheila and her grandson, Jude, met us for breakfast, then led us to her house for a quick tour. Sheila brightens the dreariest day with her smile and wit, and it's always a pleasure to spend time with her.

From there, it was an uneventful day of riding...until we lost a front brake pad on the BigYellowBike. Rich was able to guide us safely into a gas-station parking lot, where he inspected the damage. Two men, Harley riders, stopped to offer help. They drove Rich to a Honda dealership, waited for him to buy the needed parts, then brought him back to the gas station where I was waiting with the bike and trailer. A quick fix, and then back on the road again, but we had lost too much time to make it all the way home to Michigan, so checked into a motel for the night in Gilman, Illinois.
Day Seven, Tuesday, October 7th, Home, Home Again:
We arrived back home in Michigan on Tuesday afternoon, tired but happy that we got to spend time with good friends in beautiful surroundings. Here's to our next Gathering...all of you, ride safe! and keep the shiny side up. I hope the winter will pass quickly and we will see you again in the spring.
Pictures from our ride: