Road Trip 99

The following is a brief description of my 3,200 mile trip on the Sprint ST in August 1999.
  
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Date: Wed, 01 Sep 1999 14:36:19 -0400

To: ST [a t] TriumphNet.com

From: Eric Sheley <eric [a t] elscom.com>

Subject: Rallye report (a little long I think)....


Well, now that I've had some rest, I figured I will recount some of the events of the Rallye.

My journey started out with a trip from Florida. I normally ride in a VPilot suit, but desiring something a little more ventilated, I added a Triumph Horizon jacket in place of the Vpilot jacket. I removed the Triumph zipper and added the spare from HG so that it would zip to my pants and then had a local leather worker cut down the collar. I must say that I am very happy with the jacket and even in rain it kept me reasonably dry. I hit rain on and off for about 120 miles, but only really heavy for around 20 miles. Once out, the southern heat did a good job of drying me out.

Just outside of Mobile AL I stopped for a fill up and found what looked like oil on the ground. Immediate panic.... It appeared after examination that it was leaking from the seal on the shifter. Needless to say I was not too happy. A quick call to the dealer in Fayetteville and I was assured that they would be able to take care of the problem. I cleaned the area thoroughly and checked it at the next stop. Turns out it was chain lube and other associated crap coming off the chain at the front sprocket and dripping down. I only wonder how many of the replaced seals that I have read about were caused by the same thing ....

Coming up I40 in Arkansas, I was afforded several options for going into Eureka Springs. I ended up taking 23 which is about an 80 mile run with some pretty severe (low speed - first gear) corners. After 1300 miles on the bike, it was probably not the safest choice, but I had a blast none the less. Did a few "Aaack - I am going way too fast for this corner" over the section called the Pigs Tail - but the bike handled admirably. At some points I felt as if the bike was on auto pilot... very nice.

So I arrived in Eureka Springs after running about 1400 miles in 22 hours. I pulled into Tall Pines around 8:00am only to find no one there. Seems the owners were on a three day vacation and had not returned yet. I was really hoping for an early check in and some rest. I cleaned the road grime off the bike (including hoards of the Arkansas moths....) and the owners arrived a short time later. As they had been off for three days, they wanted to check out the rooms, so they sent me off to breakfast at the Smokehouse down the road (this ended up being our morning breakfast stop). After devouring their huge biscuit (the size of a large grapefruit) I got a short ride suggestion from the local cook and headed off. Spent the next 40 minutes riding some of the local roads, just enjoying the rediscovery of curvy roads. I then headed back off to Tall Pines for some rest. I met Paul and his wife Dee as they were checking in and then headed to my cabin to crash. The cabin was nice and had a small kitchen with refrigerator and microwave, cable TV with the weather channel, a queen sized bed and a Jacuzzi tub - what more could one ask for? As I nodded off I noticed that the sky was getting dark and it looked like incoming riders might get a little wet.....

I awoke a couple of hours later to the sound of thunder from the lightning hitting the trees outside ..... nothing like a couple of close hits to get the adrenalin pumping ..... my sleep was over. After the rain, I made a run to the package store for some supplies - in case anyone is wondering the topbox will easily hold three cases of beer.... We then heard of the accident with Rick (that Lisa covered in her previous post - our thoughts for a speedy recovery go out to Rick). Plus no one had heard from the Dallas group coming in with Jack. The event was off to a rough start. The group headed off to the Cottage Inn for dinner. We pulled in and the door immediately opened with the hostess coming out. She greeted Dee with "What kind of motorcycles are those?" "Triumphs" said Dee. "Well at least they're not Harley's" responded the hostess ...... (mental note - I like this place already)

Dinner was very good and as we sat around I noticed some more riders. "I see a Triumph hat" I said ..... "Yeah - it's your reflection in the glass" came the response from Mark..... wise ass ;-) Turned out to be the Dallas group - they spent part of their trip hiding from lightning under metal awnings, so they had been slightly delayed....

That left only Robert (who was coming in late) and Richard and Lisa who were coming in the following day. After dinner we looked at David's bike that was blowing fuses. Checked the wiring harness - sure enough it was shorting on the frame. Let that serve as a lesson to all those that have not cut that wire tie yet.......

Friday

Robert and Jenna made it in around 12:30 am - the group was now almost complete.

As Lisa had the maps with her, we relied on those prepared individuals that actually brought the ride printouts with them. Spent a few minutes going over the route and then headed off to breakfast at the smokehouse. After a good breakfast and ride preparation (ie instructions not to ride over one's ability) we were ready to go. Dennis was out in front followed by Steve and myself. I instructed Dennis that while we were going to take 187, it came up first going in the wrong direction (west) . As we wanted to go east I told him to take the second 187. Well, as we came over the rise I realized that the second 187 was really the end of the first turn (as it also went to the west). I saw Denniss' signal go on and I flashed my lights and hit the horn, but to no avail. He wanted to go west..... Steve went after him to get him back on track ;-) So I now had the lead. I got comfortable and set a nice casual pace. The first road (187) was really fun - nice country back road with a few good twisties and some nice scenery. A one lane suspension bridge over a river was the scenic highlight of this section. We then continued up into Missouri and then back into Arkansas. We stopped for gas and a break and Dennis was able to take back over the lead spot. Mark, Mike and Steve set out ahead at a slightly hotter pace followed by the rest of the group.

Now I was back behind Dennis. After entering our first set of corners I thought "Oh, great - his tail light is out". After several more corners I realized that this was not the case - he just never uses the brakes ...... Dennis set a nice pace - not too fast as to leave people far behind, but fast enough that you had to catch your breath from time to time. It was on this section of road that we got to experience the "never ending corner". There were a couple that I would swear where were close to 360 degrees - you know that it has to end but you keep going and can't ever seem to see the exit coming....

We stopped part way down 21 after seeing a sign for our next stop. The route number was different than what we had but after a quick check of the maps we decided that it was the right road. We also assumed (rightly so) that the lead group had missed this turn. We then turned onto a beautiful road (lots of elevation and twisties) but found that it had been re-paved this year with oil and stone chips. This made picking a good line all the more important as you didn't really want to get yourself in a line that ran you through the loose stone. We got off that road a few miles later and headed up to the Cliff House where Richard and Lisa were waiting. The Cliff House was a great choice for lunch as it looked out over the "Grand Canyon of the Ozarks" - the view from the dining room was incredible.

Mark and Steve caught up with us about 10 minutes later (they had figured out that they missed the turn). Mike had gotten stuck behind a slow moving truck and had been held back. After a quick lunch, Mark decided that he should go back to look for Mike, so I went with him while the rest of the group continued on with the scheduled run. We picked a meeting spot further down the run and headed off. We retraced the route but found no sign of him. At the next stop, Dennis caught up with us and informed us that they had found Mike just as they started the run. While he was really banged up (road rash, bruises and a concussion) he had no broken bones. Thanks again to Steve for the Honda transport and to Robert, Jenna and Richard for hoofing it back to Eureka for the car.

After deciding that it made no sense to have everyone standing around, a small group headed off for Eureka and Paul and I headed off on a short run while waiting for the car to return. Lisa, Dee and Mark stayed behind to monitor Mike's condition. Dennis headed off for Fayetteville to get an oil leak taken care of.

Paul and I took a nice casual run through the valley and took 374, 123 and 74 until they became nothing more than a dirt road. Turning around, we took 123 to 74 in Jasper running down along a river. Stopping in Jasper (population - not many) we both filled up and I headed off to use the restroom. I inquired at the front counter and was told - its over there - through the kitchen...... mental note - don't eat anything from this kitchen.....

We headed back up the hill and waited with the rest for the car to return from Eureka. They showed up a short time later and after packing Mike in the front seat we headed back off to the south on 7 to pick up 16 and 21. Paul and I had filled up, but the rest of the bikes would need fuel. No problem - Mark and I had run that section earlier and had spotted a small station just outside of Deer, Ar. As soon as we headed west, we realized that this was going to be interesting. The sun had gotten really low by now and was doing a great job of blinding us as we entered corners. We hit the gas station (two old pumps out in the middle of nowhere) and those that needed it filled up. It was now around 6:40pm - as they were paying they found out that the station closed at 6:00, but they were running behind. Lucky for us as there wasn't anything else for the next 60 miles .....

We continued up 21 (by now it was becoming clear that this was going to be one of our favorite roads) at a reasonably good pace and got into Eureka around 8:00 without further incident. Mark headed off to the hospital to check on Mike and the rest of us headed to the pool to relax. Jack ordered the Pizza and I headed off to the package store. Jack told me to bring back a styrofoam cooler - this is not as easy as it sounds. I finally found one that had a little plastic handle which I attached to my tank pad and I was off. Got quite a head shake from the local sheriff as I passed him on the way back to Tall Pines......

The pizza was great but the company even better. Many stories were swapped and from what I understand, a few were actually true....

Saturday

The decision was made to modify Saturday's route by not headed up into Branson - this was mainly to reduce our contact with tourist traffic. We ran a route fairly similar to the first day, but this time we ran on to Deer Cove where according to Robert, the largest natural land bridge in Arkansas could be found. We parked in the lot and Robert told us it was "just right over there a little ways.... of course the last time he was there it was considerably cooler and he was dressed for hiking .... not in full leathers like some of us...... yeah, sure leather pants are great to hike in during August....

Anyway, all complaints aside, the land bridge was truly spectacular. Coming down the path, you ended up on top, but a few of us at Robert's urging proceeded down the path to the base. From here the view was incredible as the sheer size of the bridge came into view. Thanks again Robert for the suggestion - although I must admit he was not high on my list of friends as I walked back up to the parking area..... ;-)

Then it was back off to the Cliff House for lunch again (good view - good food - why not?). We stopped along the way at a scenic overlook for a group shot and as we were clicking away, a couple of Honda riders passed by. They later stopped at the Cliff House as well and commented that they had never seen that many Triumphs in one place before.... After lunch I happened to take a casual glance at my back tire and found a rock shard imbedded in the tread (similar to a piece of broken glass). I had a plug kit, but we decided that since it did not appear to be leaking, it was better to leave it where it was and head off to the dealer to pull it in case it needed to be repaired. So I split off from the rest of the group and headed off towards Fayetteville 70 miles away (after calling and confirming that they had a tire for me).

The ride out was pretty uneventful other than passing a sheriff at a high rate of speed coming over a hill. But as luck would have it, he was late for a date with a doughnut and I escaped un ticketed.....

The dealer in Fayetteville was top notch. They pulled the stone, measured the depth of the cut and then checked for leaks. After letting it sit for a few minutes and checking it again, they determined there was no leaks and it hadn't penetrated the carcass, so I was good to go. It was around 4:00 now and the dealer had been officially closed since 3. But as Steve had hit his wear bars on the southern part of the run, he was on his way in for a new tire. I thanked the owner for staying late, but he shrugged it off as no big deal. He just wanted to make sure that everyone was taken care of ...... Can't beat that kind of service.

They sent me off on some local roads (412 - 303 - 127) so even though I missed the afternoon portion of the ride, I did not miss out on getting my fill of curves. 303 was a lot of fun - it had a new surface - very smooth, but it had no lines and no turn markings. Now when I say no turn marking, I mean NO turn markings (not even a little yellow sign with an arrow to indicate there might be a need to turn.....) Part way down the road I hooked up with a local driver in a truck pulling out of a driveway and let him lead. He was moving right along (obviously familiar with the roads) so I used him as a moving target to judge the curves and corners. We then came upon another one lane suspension bridge and I got to witness an Arkansas standoff. He pulled onto the bridge at the same time as a car on the opposite side. They then both proceeded to the middle and began a battle of finger gestures and out the window shouting. I pulled up behind the truck to lend the 2 to 1 thing.... but the car didn't see me. After what seemed like 5 minutes of this (but was probably only 1) the truck driver wussed out and put his truck in reverse. I remember thinking, you have got to be kidding me..... So I got to back the bike down half the length of the bridge so the truck could get off. Once he pulled past me the car could see me and he had that very sheepish, "I'm a moron" look on his face. He offered his apologies to me as he passed me and then flipped off the truck driver one more time for good measure......

Back on the road again .... I finished off 303 and headed out 127. Freshly paved - nice lines - no traffic - I ran the route at around 80 which seemed really fast until I remembered the parts guy at Fayetteville stating they routinely run that stretch at over 120 ..... wow - amazing what living with that kind of road year round can do for ones speed.

I pulled into Tall Pines at about the same time as the rest of the group. Then it was off to dinner at the bavarian restaurant.

After dinner it was back off to the pool, where we talked of the days events and started thinking about what we want to do next year. Many interesting ideas were brought up and more will follow as the plans start to take shape. Thanks again to all for the gift - you really shouldn't have, but since you bought it, I guess I will have to "force" myself to keep it ;-)

We all have a gift for Lisa for all her hard work, but it has been delayed - so the official presentation will have to wait.

Sunday

Most of us met for breakfast (Paul, Dee and Greg took off early) and said our goodbye's. The event really seemed to come to an end way too quick. It was then off for the run home. I opted to go west to catch a major road out of the Eureka area, but in the process ended up adding about 80 miles to my trip - so much for saving time. The trip home was interesting to say the least. Once I hit the Little Rock area the temperature seemed to skyrocket. By the time I hit Memphis, the temp was at 99 degrees and the road felt like it was 150 - went through a lot of gatorade. Then onto 55 south. A car passed at a high rate of speed followed by a police car. Coming around the bend about a mile later, the traffic came to a stand still. Around the corner was the car, upside down in a field .... I think he misjudged the corner.... Then not 10 miles down the road traffic stops again. Both sides of the road and the median are on fire and the police are stopping traffic as the fire fighters attempt to get it under control.

So after a 20 minute delay in the full sun, I was moving again. The rest of the ride was pretty uneventful until hitting Gulfport, where I ran into some rain. Ran fast for a few miles and got out of it - phew - I had no desire to be riding wet at night. Crossing into Alabama, I interrupted the annual deer convention. On a 10 mile stretch of road I counted 22 deer on the side of the road - I have no idea what drew them all, but all I could see in my mind was Kyle Rocke's mangled ST after he tangled with a deer - I wanted no part of it. Luckily for me they decided that they were better off not jumping in front of me.

From there on the rest of the ride was fairly normal - just the normal "Man Vs Fatigue" - I pulled in at 7:30 before my wife and daughter had left. I had told them I was spending the night in Jackson (they worry when I ride straight through) so the sound of the bike revving up the little hill brought them both running to the garage. A barrage of hugs ensued (followed by some slobber from the Great Dane) ..... as I have said before "My life is great...."

Thanks again to everyone that participated - I can't begin to express how much fun I had, not to mention the joy of getting to meet everyone in person.

I look forward to the next one and getting to meet everyone again. Until then - ride safe and keep the rubber side down....

- Eric

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