While sitting around a table at the side of an Ozark motel swimming pool, nurturing a bottle of Jamison Irish Whiskey and puffing gingerly on cigars, an extended weekend sojourn officially was declared a motorcycle trip for guys only.
“There’s no having to put down the toilet seat this weekend!” said Tom Chenowith. It was a pretty bold statement, one that immediately was celebrated with a toast of our glasses. It also set the tone for the next two days of riding for these four “Metric Amigos.”
Tom, who works for Sara Lee in Kansas City, Mo., is from Olathe, Kan. He and fellow Olatheans, Dan Moxley, an FAA controller, Pete Opperman, an architect, and yours truly, who tries to work as little as possible, were in Eureka Springs, Ark., the middle of September. Tom and Dan had ridden to Eureka Sept. 16. Pete and I met them the next day.
Dan, not long ago, took a motorcycle safety course, passed, and purchased an 1100 Yamaha Road Star. Tom and Pete each ride an 1100 Honda Shadow. They have known each other several years, and the original plan was for a ride to Roaring River to do some trout fishing and then ride through the winding Ozark Mountain roads. That plan evolved into simply riding as much as possible.
Pete and I have known each other for several years, and he invited me to ride along on my 750 Honda Magna. And, since I ride at the drop of a hat, he didn’t have to ask me twice. We met up with Tom and Dan at the Pea Ridge Civil War Battlefield and Museum, a site of a bloody battle for control of the area, which the Yankees won. After riding through the park and walking through the museum, we headed into Eureka where we stopped at Bubba’s BBQ for lunch. Bubba’s is notorious with bikers, and it serves some of the best barbecue you’ll ever taste.
Eureka Springs literally has plenty of places to eat, and we enjoyed the food at Shawbee’s, Sparky’s, the War Eagle Mill, and the Cafe Santa Fe. It also is nice to spend one afternoon walking through the old historic town, doing some window shopping, spending some time in the stores. Dan wanted to make sure he bought something for his wife so she would know that at some point on the trip he was “thinking” about her.
“I used to buy my wife things, but she never liked what I bought, so I stopped,” said Pete. He did, however, buy a T-shirt that read: “If a man is alone fishing in the woods and talks to himself, is he still wrong?”
“Tell her you were thinking of her when you bought the shirt,” I said. “I don’t buy my wife anything, either. I used to, but she never likes what I buy. Besides, she knows I’m thinking of her when I call.”
(WRITER’S NOTE: When I told my wife about Dan and why he bought something for his wife, she asked me, “Where’s my present?” Damn you, Dan!)
It’s fun to find a spot (the balcony of the Basin Park Hotel is a great place) to sit with a drink, talk, relax, and watch people.
Our one night on the town was spent at the Basin Park Hotel Ball Room where a Hurricane Blues Festival was raising money to help with relief efforts for victims of Hurricane Katrina. We heard two bands. The first had a Janis Joplin’ish singer, whose band members included her son, brother, cousins, and, well, you get the picture. They did all their own music. A couple wasn’t bad, but the others needed some more practice — a lot more practice.
The second band, called SoundHound, was pretty good. The guitarist had the feel of Stevie Ray Vaughn. The harmonica player and singer were outstanding. This band was jammin’. And so were the Janis Joplin’ish singer from the first band and the wife of the drummer of the second band. For whatever reason, the two suddenly were in a “cat” fight in the middle of the dance floor, pulling hair and falling down to the floor before people with cooler heads brought an end to the squabble. It was the highlight of the night.
But the point of the trip was to ride. And ride we did. Eureka Springs is a four-hour-plus ride from Olathe, which is 25 miles south of Kansas City, Mo., on I-35. After getting checked into the motel, I led the Metric Amigos north out of Eureka Springs to the Beaver Lake Recreation Area, crossing the area’s famous one-lane wooden suspension bridge that is a replica of the Golden Gate.
Near the bridge is a small grocery with a bed and breakfast on the second floor. It’s constructed in rock, and sits adjacent to the bank of Beaver River. Gus, who used to cowboy throughout the Midwest, runs the store. He invited us to sit on the balcony and rest a spell. We bought some beer, lit up a cigar, and then just listened to the quiet and enjoyed the view and our own company.
We headed out early Saturday morning for what was to become a 200-mile ride through the scenic Ozarks. Dan and Pete took turns leading. I brought up the rear.
“A guy told us we had to be careful on the curves around here,” Dan had said the day before. “The 18-wheel trucks that drive through here are bad about crossing the center line to make the turns.” It was an omen.
An hour or so into the ride, we were entering a curve. As Tom went through, I began heading into the turn, heading towards the center line at about 35 mph the same time as an 18-wheeler came into the curve from the other direction. The front of the truck nudged its way across the center line.
“Oh-oh,” I said, and immediately did something I wasn’t supposed to do: look where I didn’t want to go instead of where I wanted to go.
The next thing I knew I was off the side of the road, the bike wobbling. Twice I felt as though the bike was going down. Twice I put my left leg down and it flipped back. Thinking back, that was stupid. I know I was lucky I didn’t break my leg, but I think it helped me keep my bike upright.
“I’m going to lose it,” rushed through my mind and I began searching for the best place to land. Luckily, there were no poles or signs. There was a ditch, but there was plenty of grass and looked fairly “soft.”
At that point, I looked down in front of me. The bike was wobbling along this narrow dirt path at the edge of the pavement. But at least it was going straight and I had some semblance of control. I looked ahead and watched Tom disappear around the next curve, looked back down to watch for a good spot to try and get back onto the pavement. I knew I probably had once chance, and that if I didn’t hit the pavement just right with my front tire, my next adventure would be my bike and me sliding down the highway on our sides.
Just ahead, for a short distance, the dirt path came up even with the highway. This time I looked exactly where I wanted to go and turned my front wheel back towards the pavement. I felt solid ground beneath my tires. The bike stopped wobbling. I pushed down on the throttle and caught up with Dan, Pete, and Tom.
Only then did I finally breathe a sigh of relief. The entire incident lasted less than 10 seconds, but it had felt like an eternity. It was over so quickly, but every detail seemed as though it was in slow motion.
“You guys almost lost me back there,” I told them when we stopped. “It’s true about those trucks.”
There was some discussion about how to go into the curves. As for me, I’ll take the middle of the lane and go in slow and come out fast. I’m not itching to get into another face-off with an 18-wheeler.
The rest of the trip went without incident. We stopped at War Eagle Mill for lunch and dessert. If for nothing else, when in Eureka Springs, make the trip to War Eagle to at least eat some cobbler. They have three kinds: blueberry, apple, and pecan. They are to die for, even without ice cream.
We had great weather for our rides. Sunday morning, we were on the road by 8, stopping in Cassville for breakfast after riding for about an hour. It was raining in Kansas City down through Springfield, Mo. We decided our best bet was to ride west into Oklahoma, connect with Highway 7 and then come up north. With any luck, that would put us behind the rain. And that’s exactly what happened. Clear skies all the way home.
But then something unexpected happened. As we drove through Girard, Kan., just north of Pittsburg, Dan noticed a corner bar and grill called Mom’s. It was one of the best stops of the trip. On Sunday afternoons during football season, Mom’s offers beer for 75 cents a can and free food, which included chili, wings, salad, and other finger food.
“Seventy-five cents for a can of beer? And free food?” Pete asked Bill Evans, who tends the bar.
“Yep,” he said. “You guys help yourselves.”
Bill has lived in the area the past 16 years. He moved to Girard from Gladstone, Missouri. “This is a great place to live,” Bill said. “Lot of nice people here, and nobody’s in a hurry.”
Mom’s is owned by Helga Cantrell. It opens at 9 a.m. on Sundays, but the food, which she cooks, isn’t ready until abut 12:30 p.m. We sat there and talked for more than an hour. “This would be a great place to ride on a Sunday,” Pete said.
Tom said he would rather ride Highway 7 to Girard, which is just more than an hour south of Kansas City, than ride to Cassoday, which is just north of Wichita.
“It would be a lot nicer ride,” he said.
It was there, we also talked about how great it would be to get together with other people who ride metric motorcycle.
“We could be called the Metric Boys,” said Tom.
“Or Metric Guys,” said Dan.
“I think we should call it the Metric Men,” said Pete.
Me? I’m thinking Metric Amigos works well, because there are women who enjoy riding metric machines, too. Any metric riders interested in getting together with the original four Metric Amigos, e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org
It was a good ride. We had a great time and can’t wait to head back to ride the Ozark roads. But we’ll definitely beware of 18-wheelers and curves.
Story & Photos by Chuck Kurtz