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Leonard's First Tour - Part 3

Motorcycling articles by Leonard R.

Leonard - Motorcycle Touring contributor

Continued from Part 1 - Part 2

Day 4 Tuesday.

We had forgotten to pack an alarm clock. Why should we? So, we missed the 7:00AM wake up call and it was near 8 when we awoke. Suddenly the Policeman's request rang in our minds and we quickly dressed and removed the tarp and the rope tied between the trees. Since there was a café across the street, we decided to treat ourselves to a hot breakfast. This would save time, since we wouldn't have bowls to wash. We walked over, ordered our breakfast and returned to the park. We packed the bikes, keeping our tooth brushes out and returned to the café. Our bacon, eggs, milk and cinnamon rolls were waiting. We brushed our teeth and washed up a bit before eating. Neither of us had real whiskers yet, so shaving wasn't necessary.

While sitting there and eating, a Police car pulled up next to the bikes and an old skinny Policeman got out. It looked like he was writing down our license plate numbers. As soon as we got finished eating and paid the bill, we flew out of town.

We rode for perhaps 10 miles before Marv signaled he was pulling off the road at a highway intersection. We checked our map. This was actually the highway we need to take to go east. We wanted to go east at this point so we could cross the very north part of the State of Arkansas. We decided this would add to our bragging rights as to far south we had gone.

Leonards first motorcycle tour in 1965
Bull Shoal lake on Leonards first motorcycle tour Just past Theodosia, Missouri, we crossed the largest lake we had ever seen up to that time. It turned out to be the head water of Bull Shoal Lake. We rode down into a few of the small settlements to look at the lake as we went by. The homes or cabins and shops seemed so rustic. Much like it may have been around the turn of the century. Visually, it is a stunning place that I want to get back to someday.

We continued South into Arkansas. When we reached Mountain Home Arkansas, it started to rain. It was a cold rain and we knew we were going to be miserable for the rest of the day. Although the jackets when reversed, shed the rain fairly well, we had forgotten how soaking wet our jeans and boots would get. Despite the rain, the Ozark Mountain scenery was breath taking. After fueling up at Mountain Home, we headed east to Mammoth Springs, Arkansas. Mammoth Springs is a small town with the highway being the main street. We didn't see any mammoth springs.

This would be one of our shortest days of travel at about 125 miles. We hadn't planned on staying a Mammoth Springs, but due to being so wet and cold, we decided we had had enough. (No baths needed this night.) While toping our tanks, we were told there was a rest area on the south edge of town. We found the rest area and selected a spot back off the road and parking area, well behind the trees and bushes. We doubled checked to see if we were well hidden, in case there was, no overnight camping allowed. It was still raining, but under the trees, it was only half as bad. We strung up a rope between trees and hung our rain soaked jeans and socks over the rope after changing into dry clothing. I cooked while Marv strung up the tent. We ate inside the tent to escape the rain. Two hours later the rain stopped and around midnight we were looking at clear skies. And a little breeze kicked up. A few cars pulled in to the rest area, to use the little wooden houses, but nobody bothered us and we slept better then ever.

motorcycle touring in 1965 Leonards first tour

Day 5 Wednesday.

Shortly after leaving Mammoth Spring, Arkansas, I incurred a minor situation. We would pack our luggage racks so we could lean back against our clothing bags, making them a back rest of sorts. As we were riding I realized that my "back rest" was no longer in contact with my back. I looked into my mirror and to my horror, saw my stuff laying on the highway. One of my ropes had loosened enough, that my gear was falling off the rack. I rode up along side Marv and pointed over my back to the seat and stopped, to secure the remaining things. We then turned around and headed back down the highway picking up my stuff. I had only lost a couple of bags and the tool box of canned goods, so the added delay wasn't much. Once things were back on the rack and properly secured, we were on our way.

We went past a sign on the highway pointing out Mark Twain National Forest. So we turned around and went north on a local hard surfaced road to the small town of Grandin, Missouri. At Grandin a group of three teenage boys and two girls walked over and asked us a lot of questions. The boys offered to get us some “moon shine” if we wanted it, but we declined that offer. We spent an hour talking with the kids, after topping off the tanks and getting directions to the forest. The kids gave us good directions and we did find the entrance. But, the only entrance road we found had a chain across the highway. The chain was fastened to large eye bolts, which in turn were bolted through large wood posts. Marv, the fearless leader said fine, we just unbolt the eye bolt, drop the chain, ride in a bit, put the chain back up and we got free camping. I just knew this was going to land us in a Federal prison. And we did just that. Drop the chain that is. While Marv put the chain back in place, I rode both bikes around to the other side of a large tree. We used tree branches to wipe out our motorcycle tracks in the dirt road and rode back into the forest, far enough to not be seen from the road.

Leonards first motorcycle tour in 1965
We set up camp as usual, cooked our supper and pondered the possibility of bears attacking us in our sleep. We decided to move the motorcycles, one on each side of the tent, parallel to the tent. That way the bear would have to come in from the ends to get us. Thus giving us the other end from which to escape. (Years later, we learned that bears do not use tent doors to get to you.) Of course we had no visiting bears that night.

Day 6 Thursday.

We awoke earlier then usual to clear skies and warm air. Our soaking wet clothing had dried to a point of just being damp. Our boots had dried enough inside the tent, that they were not uncomfortable. With a quick breakfast and a fast dismantling of the camp, we were on our way. We were to cross the Mississippi river at Cape Girardeau, Missouri. Before crossing the river, we rode down to the river front and watched the tug boats and other large fishing boats. We toured some of the old stores and really enjoyed the quaint simplicity of the stores. The food and wares were still stocked in the manner of the stores in the 1800's. After spending a couple of hours doing the tourist thing and having lunch we headed across the bridge into Illinois. We continued North to Giant City State Park and camped there. We made about 200 miles this day.

tug boats and other river traffic are part of the scenery on a motorcycle tour
We had pulled in to the park and selected the camp site as far down this stretch of road that we could. We rode far back up onto the grass and set up the tent. I think we had already eaten and was loafing about, waiting for sleepy time to over take us. Although the sky was clear, there seemed to be thunder approaching. After listening a bit, the sound kept getting louder and we realized it was a group of motorcycles.

The group turned into the park and rode towards us. A lot of the bikers had beards and all had leather jackets with some name emblazoned across the back. We figured them for Hells Angels, since to us, all gangs on motorcycles were Hells Angels. Later we found out they weren't. The group rode down to about eight camp sites before our site. We watched them and they seemed to be very mean and tough looking. As far as we could tell, there was not one Japanese bike among them.

We had heard horror stories about what biker gangs did to Japanese motorcycles. Marv and I discussed whether we should pack up and leave or just pray a lot. We choose to stay and walked our motorcycles deeper into the woods, hoping nobody would see them.

About two hours later it was obvious that the group were cooking food and drinking. We watched them arm wrestle and leg wrestle. We watched them throwing knives into trees and rocks at a sign down and across the road. None of this made us comfortable.

Suddenly a big bearded guy gets up from the picnic table and walks our way. The fear started to mount. As he got closer we could see that he was not smiling. Was he going to ask us to leave or just kill us? When he reached us, he asked us if we wanted to eat with them. Now Marv and I both knew that to refuse might seem we were being disrespectful and would be signing our death warrant, but to go with him might prove the same fate too. Marv and I thanked him for his offer, but Marv told him we had already eaten. The guy said OK and turned and left. We couldn't tell if we had made him mad. Needless to say. We didn't sleep very well that night. Every rustle of a leaf or a movement of a shadow had our hearts pounding. Surprising to us, the group got quiet about 10 PM and must have went to bed.

Leonard's First Tour Continues: Part 4

Back to Leonard's Two Wheels by the Campfire page

Leonard's First Motorcycle Tour in 1965 - Part 1 - Part 2 - Part 3 - Part 4 - Part 5

Leonard's One Pot Camping Recipes - Part 1 - Part 2 - Part 3 - Part 4

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