Drew Goes Twistin' Through the Ozarks

By Drew T. Newcomer

I had not ridden in southern Missouri in quite sometime so when the opportunity arose to attend the Motorcycle Sport Touring Association’s Bull Shoals Rally, I knew I wanted to attend. On a clear Friday morning I was headed up LA 15 to Farmerville and eventually to El Dorado, AR before the sun came up.

The road to Arkansas is pretty uneventful and is one I have traveled a number of times. Heading up 167 into Sheridan, I turned northwest on AR 35 heading toward Benton. I like this road that eventually takes me to AR 9 while circumventing Little Rock. I had a milestone on this trip as this was the first time I successfully found AR 5 in Benton without getting all turned around and having to backtrack to find where I was supposed to be. I headed west on AR 5 (though the signs will tell you that you are heading south to Hot Springs) until I intersected AR 9 where I turned north. 9 is a pretty ride through some rolling hills and it is a road I have enjoyed several times before. 9 intersects US 65 at Choctaw and I turned north on this major thoroughfare to Marshall where a very motorcycle highway 27 takes one to Harriet, AR where an even more motorcycle highway 14 awaits. I headed up 14 to Yellville, and continued north until I turned toward Missouri and Bull Shoals Reservoir on US 125. While this may not have been the shortest route to my final destination of Isabella, MO it was the route where one crosses the reservoir via a free ferry. I was the only passenger going north but there were several cars and a couple of motorcycles waiting to come south as the ferry approached the northern landing.

The rolling hills of the Ozarks do not stop as you cross into Missouri. 125 continues north but on this day I turned east on US 160 to find the rally site at the Theodosia Marina Resort and my cabin which was a mile further down the road.

Bull Shoals Reservoir was completed in 1952, the same year as the cabin I stayed in and I think the mattress in my cabin was the original as well. While not the fanciest of accommodations it certainly wasn’t the worst I had ever stayed in and after Friday night’s weenie roast, sleep was not a long time coming after a very enjoyable 400 mile trip.

The Bull Shoals Rally organizers, Ed and Linda Young of the MSTA provided very nice packets to the 100 attendees. Routes were highlighted with suggestions for various rides. Not wanting to spend the entire Saturday in the saddle (I figured I was due a nap at some point!) I chose a route that would provide me with about 200 miles worth of Missouri countryside. I started west on 160 until I met MO 76 at Kissee Mills. I turned north to Ava, MO where I turned west on MO 14 to Sparta. At Sparta, I turned south on 125 (yes, the same 125 that I crossed the ferry on) and let me tell you this is a ride any motorcyclist would enjoy. It has plenty of ups and downs lefts and rights and very little traffic. There are no problems with road conditions except where some new asphalting is being done. 125 crosses 76 on the way back to 160 where I turned east heading back to my home base of Isabella.

On Sunday morning, there were still plenty of good roads to be ridden, so I headed east on 160 until I turned south on US 5 heading toward Mountain Home. In Mountain Home, I had a very enjoyable large breakfast (this would benefit me later) then headed south out of town on 201 to AR 341 – known to many local riders as the “Arkansas Gap.” 341 is 25 miles of twisties and many motorcyclists have been bitten here by either the road (on the day before a rider was air lifted out via helicopter) or the local authorities that lay in wait for unsuspecting sport bike fanatics. I didn’t have to worry about either. Two miles into 341 I had to stop and put the rain gear on. As I headed south I dealt with the curves and the rain but couldn’t complain. I had the road to myself at 7:30 on Sunday morning. 341 comes to an end intersecting our old friend 14 where I turned west until intersecting AR 263 near Big Flat. Now, as soon as you turn on 263 you are met by a “Steep and Dangerous Curves” sign. I had never been on 263 before and road the 30 or so miles in the rain until I turned south on 9 which took me to highway 16 at Shirley, AR. From Shirley to Clinton was nine miles where I hooked back up with US 65 on into Conway and eventually I-40 and Little Rock.

I had originally planned to ride a different route home but because of the weather I thought it best to ride the route I was most familiar with. I eventually pulled into my drive about 2:15 that afternoon after riding in rain for all but about 45 miles of the 390 mile ride. Still, there were no complaints about the trip (well, maybe – I seem to have some flea bites on my ankles that I can’t help but wonder if I picked up in my 57 year old cabin!) I rode some roads I had been on before and some that were new, and all that I hope I will ride again in the not-too-distant future. Arkansas/Missouri are not that far away and lend themselves easily to a great three-day weekend trip.

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