Blitz to Branson 2006

(lots of broken photo links. Gotta fix those.) Note: Clicking on a thumbnail will open the larger version of the photo.

Executive Summary: to Branson, MO for the 12th annual “Blitz” to Branson, a BMW rally held at a hotel! About 1700 miles, about 675-700 one way without sight-seeing with the extra miles being a Saturday ride in the area and some diversions on the way home.

Having not been to the “Blitz” for several years, it’s time and the itch is definitely there.  I have actually planned ahead for this trip and the call of the road was answered also by Robert Voglino, Mike Atkinson and his son-in-law Dale. After a hearty breakfast at the famous Blue Bonnet Cafe in Marble Falls (is there any other kind of breakfast there?), Robert, Mike and I set off for Waco to rendezvous with Dale.  I’m on the trusty 1999 R1100RT, Mike on his newer R1100RT and Robert on his Kawasaki which he rides like it’s a sport bike.  As we drive up, Dale is re-attaching the “not so new” rear tire with the hopes that the bike shop got one in which we’ll pick up on the way.

Posing for a departure shot blitz2006002.jpg we look to be ready.

Dale’s tire did come in and after a quick mounting of the tire and replacement on the bike Dale is quick with the tools we’re finally off.

We’re doing the usual “how fast can we get out of Texas and start having fun” trek up Texas 31 past Tyler, up 155 to Avinger and eventually U.S. 59 to Texarkana. It’s plenty hot so we pull into a shady spot somewhere in East Texas Somewhere near Texarkanato decide how much longer to push. Hardy souls that we are, we press on to Arkadelphia, AR.

I don’t know Arkadelphia so I turn into the first opportunity which announces not one, but two motels. The first is horrible looking from the outside but the second is decent.  After a good (but very late) meal at Cracker Barrel we turn in for the night. Finding the Cracker Barrel was interesting as my usually very fine guide skills failed (albeit temporarily)  and we ride all over Arkadelphia, but the meal is worth it.

The next morning The coffee was decent the sky is clear, the coffee is hot, and it’s time to hit the “Arkansas Scenic Byway” which is Arkansas 7. The best part of it starts right there at Arkadelphia so we are ready.

I love the Waffle House chain. There is just something kinda neat about watching a good short-order cook do his thing, and most of them at the Waffle Houses are pretty good. Sliding up to the counter blitz2006008.jpg we order up pancakes, eggs and all sorts of stuff. For someone who doesn’t like breakfast, Mike also orders up.

On Scenic 7 one of the first scenic stops we make is at the “Rotary Ann” scenic lookout point.  blitz2006010.jpg Being good Rotarians all, we perk on the name.  Turns out, it does indeed refer to the (now somewhat archaic) term for the wives of Rotary. blitz2006012.jpg The rest stop is a project of the Rotary Anns of an area Rotary club. blitz2006013.jpg It’s very nicely done and at an interesting point where an ecological reforestation project was underway.

Some of the reforestation results can be seen here blitz2006011.jpg where the far hills show the signs of having had the underbrush burned off, trees thinned, and replanting where needed.  Prior to reaching this rest stop we are riding alongside a substantial area of burn that looks as if it was controlled, sort of.  Some of it makes us wonder if indeed it was controlled but upon arriving at the rest stop we see forest service and fire personnel who are taking care of business. The beauty of a forest of mixed hardwoods is outstanding so I’m glad to see this kind of effort. I like a pine forest also, but the mixed hardwoods with their variety of textures, varying shades of green and the colorful displays in the fall are hard to beat.

Coming out of the mountains we are now in Jasper (that would be AR, not TX). Now biking is not too different from “real” life in that everything is planned around meals.  It’s about lunch time — well, close enough — and, luckily, I’ve been here before. Not just in Jasper, but HERE: blitz2006015.jpg.  This small deli has hand-made sandwiches made by a funny old guy in a Tam O’Shanter who is all business. He seems out of place here in Northern Arkansas but he makes a good sandwich.  Suddenly, while checking out, my eye is drawn to the side. There, sitting lonely and defenseless in the case, is a chocolate chip cookie sandwich filled with a white cake icing. Robert quickly agrees to help me scarf it down.  The monster cookies is quickly put out of its misery. After lunch we continue up Scenic 7 through Harrison, AR and on to Branson. Then there it is. The dreaded route 65 traffic headed into Branson. It was either 2003 or 2004 when we last did the Blitz and the roads are identical today as then. A summer 2007 expansion is promised by huge signs along the way. It’s now about 3PM and hot. Glancing down at the RT’s temp gauge reveals a constant 6 bars pushing to 7 every time we slow down.

But we finally make it to the rally site — the Branson Towers.  Many are already gathered and the hotel front is all ours blitz2006017.jpg.  The “ours” would be the Internet BMW Riders club — a club that exists only in an internet email list and the imagination of the Presidents.  Yes, it’s plural, because each is a President.  Avoids the necessity of committees, you see. Here are a few more of the gathering Presidential carriages: blitz2006018.jpg Total mileage to Branson (by GPS) is 686 miles.

Remember I mentioned those meals?  After checking in, kicking tires with some old IBMWR friends and checking to see who has goodies that I don’t have on my RT, we walk across the street to the All American Cafe for a meal. Finding a sign on the front door indicating a/c outage leads me to ask if we can eat outside on the deck. Recovering from initial indecision and frustration, Alana decides that’s doable and away we go. She’s even a decent photographer. blitz2006019.jpg. The food is quite decent and satisfying. Later that evening we will enjoy another Blitz tradition — the ice cream social.  $2 gets you cobbler with a huge scoop of ice cream.  blitz2006021.jpg

Saturday brings rain early, but by 9:30 it’s looking better. Storm clouds still linger to the East so it’s easy to take Robert up on his suggestion to  head West and South to Table Rock Lake.  blitz2006024.jpg He had learned that the Hudsons have a time-share there so we are curious to see that the lake looks like. Turns out it’s huge. It’s like a hand with 15 fingers splayed out in every conceivable direction.  We continue a meandering route around some of the lake and its many peninsulas, finally heading more West and South, ultimately finding ourselves in that wonderland “town in a canyon” Eureka Springs.

Once again it’s mealtime so what do we have to do? Eat of course. I again have been here. Not just in Eureka Springs, but HERE: blitz2006027.jpg where we dine on the deck. blitz2006026.jpg.

Someone just this morning told Robert of a wooden-planked bridge and also a federal trout farm with gargantuan trout. The “Golden Gate” bridge at Beaver, AR is pretty easy to find. blitz2006028.jpgblitz2006029.jpgblitz2006031.jpg

And sure enough, it’s wooden-planked: blitz2006030.jpg I have my three companions do a little ride across the bridge to get some perspective of its size and here we have the fearless three, braving yet again the “funny” feeling wooden planked road surface. blitz2006033.jpg.  Using my dandy new Nikon L4 almost miniature digital camera with movie mode, I even capture them in action  — see attachment below. Caution, it’s a 1. something gb file (.mov format).

We then wind our way back North into Missouri once again and work our way up to Hwy 248 and back into Branson. The total excursion is not all that long, but we found some wonderful new roads. I have never before been West of Branson except across hwy 86 just out of Eureka Springs straight East to join 65 and into Branson, and while this area is more populated, it’s still quite rural and the roads are excellent. In fact, Robert remarks the wonder of roads being built by engineers and nicely banked. Dinner this night finds us at Charlie’s Steak, Ribs & Ale where the common-drive fan system is fascinating blitz2006035.jpg along with the other rustic decor.blitz2006036.jpg

Saturday at the Blitz is always fun-filled with the ring-leader, Voni Glaves, pictured here in the red. But then she’s always in red. blitz2006037.jpg Voni is a redhead, rides a red bike, and wears red leathers. And she does ride. In 1999 she established a new women’s record in the BMWMOA mileage contest at 73,660 miles in six months.  Her husband Paul is a pretty serious rider as well and here is the only bike in the world — his — that has more gadgets on it than mine does. blitz2006038.jpg.

This sticker pretty well says all you need to know about BMW riders. blitz2006039.jpg

And here some of them are gathered for the Saturday night fun. blitz2006040.jpg Voni and Paul are about to “preside” over the silliness. Awards are given for the rider coming the longest distance, the youngest, the oldest, the one with the least miles or the most miles on the bike they rode here.

One of the more colorful of the group is Helen 2 Wheels (Hell on 2 wheels, get it?). blitz2006041.jpg.   She and Voni make a pretty good stand-up comedy pair before the night is over. Their “Voni’s now a bad girl” routine blitz2006045.jpg was pretty cute. She’s retired from teaching now and can let her hair down. And Helen’s now the good girl? I don’t think so!

And speaking of colorful, I did not get his name but this fella is 82 years old and still riding. blitz2006043.jpg

Alas, it comes time to go and we leave Sunday morning about 8:30. Now the night before, I had posed the proposition that we could get home in one day if we just got up a little early and didn’t waste time.  That idea was shot down pretty quickly as everyone had planned for Monday off and we might as well take it. So we head off pretty leisurely back across the bottom of Missouri and down into Eureka Springs, Arkansas and down the “pig trail” as it’s called, AR 23. The weather is almost clear and the air is cool, just right for riding. Down below Ozarka after crossing the Mulberry, White and Buffalo rivers, I make a snap decision at AR 22 to go East to Paris (Arkansas, that is). Hey, if we are taking two days, let’s see some scenery. I’m planning from Paris to take them over Mount Magazine, the highest point in Arkansas. We eat on the square right across from this fabulous courthouse. blitz2006046.jpg From there we do the mountain, more wonderful roads and vistas, then even further East on AR 10 to 27 and down to 28 where we start back to the Southwest, arriving at Mena around 2 or 3.  After traversing most of the Talimena Skyway we’re on U.S. 259 (one of the better U.S. highways) and on to Broken Bow where now it’s hot and we’re sweaty. blitz2006047.jpg Suddenly, the talk shifts to getting home that night. It’s 5:30 now and we’re a mere 400 miles from home. While talking about keeping options open we press on. Interstate 30 appears and we jump on that for speed and after dining at Furr’s in Sulphur Springs we realize we’re only about 300 miles from home and it’s only 8PM. For Dale and Mike, Waco looms near.

We push and get to Waco where they drop off about 11. Robert and I discuss it and after fueling we decide to go a little further and see how we feel. It’s now 11:30 but the air is cool and the traffic is not too bad. “A little further” turns out to be home, some 800 miles after we began this morning to make a 2-day trip out of it. Tired, but happy to be home and sleeping in my own bed, I quickly drop off to sleep and am unconscious until morning.