September 27, 2003 GMT
Day 24

Day 24

Branson, Missouri, to Sikeston, Missouri

324 miles

6017 total miles

We approached Day 24 with a great sense of trepidation. After all, the last couple of days of any trip are days of new karma. Thoughts turn to arrival rather than the trip itself. Would Day 24 be that way? Would we no longer live in the moment as our thoughts turned to home?

No way! Not your totally self-absorbed road warriors.

Today, believe it or not, was one of the best days of the trip. Day 24 was, in many ways, a microcosm of the entire trip. Bill managed to find some fabulous roads. We met the most memorable person of the entire journey. We faced mechanical problems. We took a ferry trip. We reached 6,000 total miles. And we had a great lunch in a restaurant located on the court square in Mountain Home, Arkansas.

We left Branson (if you've ever been to Branson you know that's the best part) early in search of good roads. Bill, who enjoys a long visit with a detailed map, pointed us toward Missouri's Highway 125. We found it quickly and just as quickly found ourselves in heaven. If you ignore the scenery, the altitude and all the other sensory attributes of any given road, and focus solely on the road and the bike, Highway 125 was the best of the trip. It was replete with incredible twisties that throughly tested our skills as riders (which are admittedly intermediate, at best) to the fullest. We began in Sparta, Missouri, and followed the road into Protem, Missouri. It was a roller coaster on two wheels and we had a blast.

Riders in North Carolina like to brag about a section of Highway 129 known as the Tail of the Dragon. It is reputed to be probably the best motorcycle road in America. We've ridden both, and we disagree. We'll take Missouri's Highway 125 any day.

Views from Missouri's highway 125

In Protem, we took a ferry across Bull Shoals Lake. While riding on the ferry, we couldn't help but notice its name: Toad Suck. Now, if you're even a mildly curious person, you cannot let something like that slide by without an explanation. Bo talked with one of the two-person crew, William Grasis, in search of that explanation. According to William, the ferry was originally used to cross the Red River near Toad Suck, Arkansas.

Bull Shoals Lake Ferry

The Toad Suck

After our passage on the Toad Suck, we drove to Mountain Home, Arkansas, for lunch at Linda's Restaurant. Located on the court square, Diane's is a prototype of the small town meat and three diner. We feasted on BBQ, macaroni and cheese, slaw and cornbread.

After lunch, Bill found another unexpectedly fine road. We hit Highway 142 in Thayer, Missouri, and found it to be wonderful. It was a beautiful 60 mile run. Highway 142 had all the key ingredients; low traffic, smooth road surface, sweepers, twisties and hills. And it ended with another unexpected pleasure.

We stopped at a country store in Doniphan, Missouri, for a soft drink and a short break. While sitting on folding chairs on the porch of the store sipping on our classic Cokes, an elderly gentleman ambled up and asked if those were our bikes. We replied in the affirmative and he offered up, "I ran an Indian motorcycle into the ground in 1935." Our new friend, 90 year old Truman Robinson, owned an Indian motorcycle that he bought right after getting out of the U.S. Army. Warming up to his new friends, Mr. Robinson informed us that he was one of 11 children (7 girls, 4 boys), that his brother survived the Battle of the Bulge and fell in love with a German woman (neither ever married and they still correspond) and that Hall of Fame baseball player Enos Slaughter once hunted with him on his farm. He was charming and spry and only the lack of an extra helmet prevented us taking him with us. Of all the people we've met on this trip, Mr. Robinson is, without doubt, our favorite.

Mr. Robinson

From Doniphan we took Highway 160 on route to Poplar Springs, Missouri. It was another enjoyable Missouri road. While nearing poplar Springs Bill noticed that his rear tire was not behaving well. We stopped at yet another c-store to take a look. Normally inflated to 38 pounds of pressure, it was down to 12.5 pounds. The reason soon became clear: a puncture.

Bill's tire repair kit was not getting the job done and we soon generated a small crowd. Within minutes, we had Missourian Jim Fassell, one of the store employees, a Missouri Highway Patrolman, and an employee of BMW Motorcycles of Little Rock all standing by to offer advice. Dennis, a local Kawasaki rider, stopped his car to offer the name of a local mechanic who reputedly does good work. With that much help the tire was soon patched. Unfortunately though, the patch is only good for a 100 miles of so. Tires to fit a BMW are not readily available and a little concern was evident. We discovered that Cape Girardeau, Missouri, boasts a BMW Motorcycle dealer. A quick call to the dealer established that he has a tire that fits. We took off in that direction and ended the day in Sikeston, Missouri, only 30 or so miles from Cape Girardeau.

Tomorrow, we get a new tire and we drive back to Nashville.

When we planned this trip, we subtracted September 3 from September 28 and came up with 25 days. But, then we realized that September 3 and September 28 and the 24 days in between add up to 26 days and we felt foolish and barely literate. We also realized that a 25 day trip puts us back in Nashville on September 27.

And, as we mentioned yesterday, the closer we get to home, the more the magnet pulls us that way.

So, if all goes well tomorrow, we'll be back home.

The day finishes

Posted by Bill Thompson at September 27, 2003 04:29 AM GMT

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