Friday, September 15, 2006

DeGray Lake Resort State Park, Arkansas



What's the story? I was minding my business, illegally passing slow-moving vehicles along Arkansas' "Scenic 7 Byway", when I came around a bend and saw this patrol car stopped in the middle of the road, lights flashing, the officer standing between his car and me, pointing to the ground where he wanted me to stop.

"How did they catch me?" I wondered. "Radar guns hidden in the forests?"

"What's up?" I asked innocently.

"There's a wreck up ahead. The road's closed."

I tried to conceal my relief.

Unfortunately, all the cars I had worked so hard to put well behind me, were now all lined up there. As the officer walked the line, advising each of the situation, I wondered if any would turn me in. I guess no one complained.


THIS EVENING

Camped at this park south of Hot Springs, Arkansas. Two dogs barking out in the night somewhere are driving me nuts. "Fucking dog owners bring their dogs out here, then leave them unattended! Fuck them!" (Can you tell I'm a bit on edge?) It's muggy, but it should cool off, I think.

At the moment, I’m feeling that it’s hopeless for me and for humanity. Today I stumbled into yet another Harley rally. The park ranger here said they’re expecting about 10,000 motorcycles in Hot Springs this weekend.

"You know, there’s a fucking war they could go fight with all that testosterone." (Mostly) men with their expensive toys. Strutting about, “full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.”

Highway 7 took me directly into Hot Springs and through the myriad of “hogs”. Just like Daytona Beach, only there I was passing through before the demons had awakened. Hot Spring's downtown streets were lined with bikes and bikers checking each other out.

I must admit, Harley has created a marketing phenomena, selling an image so successfully the whole world believes it. Just like Coca-Cola's, “it’s the real thing.”

And passing through a Christian country where I’ve never seen so many churches per square mile; "thank you very much, but I get all the dogma I need just trying to make sense of what our government is up to."

It really makes me think things here are indeed hopeless. This country is going to “hell in a hand basket.”





As nightfall approached, just outside Hot Springs, another vision I find quite disturbing: Weyerhauser has turned vast tracts of forest into a monoculture crop. Of course, it's all about jobs and profits, so the locals are unlikely to protest.

Stopped at the Wal-Mart on the north side of town to use a pay phone. (The phone in the entry was as close as I want to get to this behemoth, so well-represented in the towns of Middle America.)


THIS MORNING

Back in Kansas...

Wind throughout the night, growing stronger with the sunrise. Weird dreams: I was back in the "Fellowship of Friends" ("the cult"). Robert ("the Teacher") wanted me to teach him something on the guitar. Then Susan B. approached, needing my help. Rather than assist either, I took off for a hike. (Apparently, my solution to conflict.) And then mom appeared with a young boyfriend, and, strangely, he made her look younger!

Up at 6:00 this morning. Still dark, so I went back to sleep. The sun woke me at 8:00. Sunny, breezy, cool. Perfect!

Out on the road again, I note that cell phone towers are becoming a major feature of the plains and other flatlands.

Another roadside marker tells of the small town of Dexter where, in 1903, a celebrated natural gas well yielded gas that wouldn't burn. It was subsequently discovered that the gas contained nearly 2% helium, an element thought quite rare on Earth. (More on the story here.)

Near the Missouri border, hill country breaks up the wind a bit. My neck’s getting stiff from the buffeting!

Crossing into Missouri, the land seemed to turn greener, less prairie-like, and with more agriculture versus cattle ranching. Near Baxter Springs, I saw pecan groves, full of towering grand old trees. Stopped at a little shop selling pecans. $5.50 a pound, but they didn’t sell smaller quantities. A pound was simply too much to carry.

I was intending to head into Joplin for lunch, but getting onto Interstate 44, I saw a Cracker Barrel billboard. I couldn’t resist. The place was jammed, but only a five minute wait. A turkey sandwich and some of that good raspberry lemonade. Couldn’t help counting the number of overweight or obese people. Easily 50% (myself included.) "This is a problem America!"

Took 37 south to U.S. 52, turning eastward. This is a great motorcycling road, the curves a huge contrast to the riding of recent days. But judging by the hundreds of motorcycles I passed along the way, this route is hardly a secret.

Eureka City is a bizarre, Disneyesque mountain hamlet. A popular vacation spot, it seems. A couple of hotels are exclusively for bikers!

Heavy traffic discouraged me from stopping to take photos. I didn’t want to lose ground after working so hard to pass buses, trucks and motorhomes. These roads offer few opportunities to pass, consequently much of the passing I did would likely be regarded as illegal.

Going south on Arkansas’ Scenic Byway 7, a beautiful winding path through the Ozarks, I was passing at every opportunity. I was trying to "make time", but probably only managing about a 35-mph average.

Emerging from one winding stretch where I had worked to pass many vehicles, I came around a curve and saw a police car stopped in the middle of the highway, lights flashing, the officer motioning for me to stop in front of him. How had they caught me? When I (innocently) asked what’s up, he said there was a wreck ahead, and it would be a 20- to 30-minute wait.

All the cars I had passed, some at high speed, rolled to a stop right behind me. As the officer went up to each one to advise them of the situation, I wondered if anyone would “bust me”. I guess no one did.


***

On the south side of Hot Springs, at the fringes of "the mob", I stopped at Starbucks to drown my sorrows. A coffee cake and double dry cappuccino. Sat with my snacks, admiring the young ladies who were out enjoying the festive evening.

About 425 miles today. It’s farther than I thought to Alexandria, Louisiana!

2 comments:

Dicky Neely said...

Hey Tim,
I think that sign is a paraphrase of a quote that actaully came from Ben Franklin.
Keep traveling, I enjoy the trips too!
See ya

timtraveler said...

Dicky,

You're corect. My brother Jeff looked it up:

"Those who would give up Essential Liberty to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty or Safety"

Benjamin Franklin