Monday, March 15, 2010

Arkansas Diamond Hunting - Day 4

Today was the trip home. Like all trips I always hate the last day because I know at the end of the day I'll be home sleeping in my own bed and the ride is over. At least that's the plan.

We got a late start to breakfast because they didn't open until 7am although the sign on the door said they opened at 6am. They finally opened and we had breakfast. I tried the chocolate gravy which turned out pretty good.

After breakfast we geared up and headed out on 27 S. In Nashville, we picked up 278 and followed that over to I-30. Then it was down to Texarkana via the super slab. They are doing some major construction at the 59 and I-30 intersection. After several u-turns following the detour signs we found ourselves on 59 south heading toward Marshall. We stopped for gas and then resumed our travels. After Marshall we hopped onto I-20 to get over to Hwy 43 down to Henderson. Then it was 259 down to Nacogdoches.

As we approached Nacogdoches, we said our farewells to John and Lydia and split off so we could go through town and see Reagan's old apartment from college. Then we had lunch at Butcher Boys BBQ shack, I can't believe they were out of brisket. Really???

Once lunch was had, we went down to Lufkin to visit my grandmother for a little bit and then get on home. We topped off the tanks before leaving Lufkin and then Reagan took the lead. Everything was going along just fine until we were coming into Dibol. That's when the belt came lose and Reagan had to coast into the gas station. I was happy to see she was OK, so I started checking out the belt situation. Everything was fine until I got to the front sprocket. What front sprocket? It was missing.

I decided to run back up to Lufkin where there was a Can Am dealership. They had a trailer and went down to pick up the Spyder. I picked up Reagan and we rode back to the dealership to swap some things around. Before we left we me "Hair Smith" from Two Wheel Texans and talked to him about BMWs, rallies and his vision of a GS style Spyder.

We geared up and headed home, leaving her Spyder in the care of Lufkin power sports. Hopefully it'll get fixed soon. The ride home was uneventful.

The total for the day was 409 miles over a 10 hour 20 minute period. The trip was great, it met my standing rules of "No one goes to jail and no one goes to the hospital". In light of the visits to dealerships in the past 2 years I may have to add another part to my saying, "No one goes to jail, no one goes to the hospital, and no bikes left behind".

Another trip is in blog.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Arkansas Diamond Hunting - Day 3

Last night was the time change so we lost an hour of sleep. As a result we decided to meet a little later for breakfast. At 9am we were walking across the street to Buddy's. I ordered the chocolate gravy but they were out of cocoa so I had to settle for plain gravy. It was OK but nothing special. The philly steak omelet was really good though.

After breakfast we all sort of broke up. Reagan had some office work to do, John and Lydia decided to hang out at the hotel and exercise the rocking chairs while I headed to Mt. Nebo. So I grabbed a few things from the room and headed out. The route to Mt. Nebo was simple, take Hwy 27 up to Nebo and then 155 up to the state park. Along the way I detoured down a gravel road to check out some acerage for sale. Never found the actual property for sale but enjoyed some great landscape down the 5 miles or so of gravel road that I travelled.

Once I completed my exercusion then it was back on Hwy 27 heading toward Mt. Nebo. As the road got more twisty my riding pace increased. When I got just outside of Nebo, the GPS took me down a backroad and I completely avoided the town on my way up to the park. The switchbacks going up to Mt. Nebo are some of the steepest I've ever seen anywhere. Make sure your bike is in a low gear and keep it under power or you just might find yourself falling over on the first right hander that's almost straight up.

When I got to the top, I followed the road until it ran out and then I got off the bike for a little bit to look around. It's a great scenic overlook and very peaceful. People don't seem to stay there very long. They just sort of pull up, look around and leave. It was almost as much fun to people watch as it was to view the scenery. Finally the chill of the wind started to bother me though and I decided it was time to leave.

Before departing I tried to reverse the route that John had sent me as the way up, which included going through hot Springs Village. Well somewhere in the conversion, the GPS got confusioned and tried to route me up to Alaska. Nope! That wouldn't work. So I browsed the map and figured I could take 155 down into Nebo, catch Hwy 7 south and then let the GPS route me back over to Murfreesboro when I got close to Hot Springs.

The ride down 7 was great when I didn't have cars, trucks and campers in front of me. Some quick passes usually took care of the slow moving traffic and I managed to straighten out a few of the twisties along that stretch of road. Definitely not a route I'd like to take with a group of riders as most passing situations were very quick with limited opportunities. Hwy 27 provided an equal number of twisties with far less traffic and law enforcement so that's the better route up to Nebo if you are coming from Murfreesboro.

I stopped in Hot Springs Village to fill up and then continued along my way. I was hoping to find a BBQ joint close to Hot Springs since I'd seen so many yesterday when riding into town. When I thought I was close to Hot Springs, I pulled up my Favorites and told the GPS to take me to the Queen of Diamonds hotel. Well it promptly told me to turn right on the next road which was another one of those rural neighborhood type roads. The farther down it I rode the rougher the road became. Finally the pavement disappeared all together and I was riding on a gravel road. Well I wasn't going to turn around so I pressed on hoping the road wouldn't get any worse. Luckily it finally turned back into pavement about 10 miles later and then I found myself pulling out onto Mountain Pine road and heading toward Hot Springs. So much for a shortcut I guess. In reviewing John's route I realized I would have needed to have to told the GPS to take me home, before I got to Hot Springs Village.

None the less, once on Mountain Pine Road I was again on his route and found myself on 270 and then exiting for Hwy 70 toward Glenwood. There was a BBQ joint right there at 270 and 70 but they were closed so I didn't get BBQ. I was less than an hour from the Hotel and it was after 3 so I just resigned myself to grabbing a snack when I got into town. The ride along US 70 was uneventful. In Glenwood it changed to Hwy 27 again and I knew I was only about 30 minutes away.

About 5 miles outside of town I saw the very distinctive head lights of a Spyder coming toward me and then I saw a pink jacket so I knew it was Reagan. I turned around and followed her back to the gravel road that I had explored earlier in the day. I figured she had gotten my text message and done some research. Nope, she just wanted to see for herself so we took off down the road. We explored all 3 possible routes and each time we were blocked by water crossings. The last of which wasn't too bad so I went ahead and checked the other side but found nothing. So we turned around and head toward town.

When we got to town we stopped at the Exxon so I could get a snack and Reagan decided to fill up. That's when I noticed her antenna had gotten damaged. Apparently she caught a tree or something while turning the Spyder around. Well, I headed back to the hotel with my coke and peanuts while Reagan went over to Sonic for a Cherry Limeade. I think Reagan will be investing in a cup holder soon, enough said.

Today's ride was great. I don't always get to venture out on my own when I'm traveling with a group so this was a change of pace. I was able to crank up the pace today and test out the Roadtec Z6 tires. Besides the front end still feeling "twitchy" I like the overall grip and think these tires may work out OK if the mileage improves. Otherwise, I'll go back to my tried and true Tourances that seem to do a little better on those gravel roads I kept finding myself on today.

I traveled 282 miles today over a 7 hour 14 minute period. Besides the stop at Mt. Nebo I really didn't stop anywhere along the way for any period of time. The treks down the gravel roads chewed up a lot of time, the first time down the property for sale road took 45 minutes by myself. The second time with Reagan we explored the various forks and that took an hour. Plus the 30 minutes I spent on a gravel road due to the GPS shortcut. That added up to quite a bit of time on gravel today and the tires performed well.

Tomorrow we are heading home, with plans to check out Reagan's old apartment building Nacogdoches and visit my grandmother in Lufkin along the way. So we will be getting an earleir start. Breakfast is at 6:30 and we'll be on the road by 7:30. We didn't find any diamonds this weekend but we did have fun and we have another place to come back to in our future travels.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Arkansas Diamond Hunting - Day 2

This morning we woke up to a beautiful, sunny day. I made some comment about the sun while trying to find my sun glasses, the result of which must have hurt the Sun's feelings because it left us a little later in the day. Breakfast was taken care of with Buddy's Ranch House cafe across the street. For Reagan and I it was only $10. I don't remember when we both ate breakfast for just $10.

By the time we finished with Breakfast, got the bikes ready and got our gear on it was almost 10am. The first stop of the day was just two miles down the road at the Crater of Diamonds State Park. We went into the gift shop, read some displays and then tried our had at prospecting for a bit. Well let's just say I'm not going to have to worry about selling a huge diamond when I get back home. We didn't find any diamonds but we did find some neat rocks and had a good time doing it. Just before noon, we decided to head toward Hot Springs for lunch and maybe check out the National Park while we were there.

We took 27N out of Murfreesboro which runs into US 70 and that took us into Hot Springs. Once in town we found our way to Bath House road and found a parking lot to park the bikes. You can forget about parking your motorcycle where you can keep an eye on it. This is more a city environment with limited parking and plenty of walking. We ate lunch at a cute little place called the Colonial Pancake House were John and I tried their Colonial Sausage Cheeseburger. This was a lose patty of pan sauage, topped with a fried egg and pepper jack cheese. And it was really good, if I eat there again that's what I'll order. It was tasty and unique.

After lunch we walked down Bath House row and toured the visitor center/bath house museum. It was interesting and got me to wondering what museums 100 years from now will be saying about us today. I imagine they'll be talking about how slow and laid back our lives were....

When we finished the tour we realized it was getting late and we had an hour's ride back to Murfreesboro so we started heading back. By the time we got out of town it was 5:30 and the sun was setting. We hustled back the way we came on US 70 and then Hwy 27 into town. Once back at the motel we unloaded the bikes and then had an after-riding drink before dinner.

We walked across the street to Buddy's Ranch House cafe and ordered Hamburger Steak for dinner. All 4 of us basically ordered the same thing. It was our tribute meal to Fred. Afterwards we ordered various deserts including Bread Pudding, Ice Cream, Apple Cobler ala mode and brownie delight. Then it was back across the street for a night cap before calling it a day.

All in all, it was a great day. We only covered 121 miles today, but it took us 8 hours and 21 minutes to do it. Much of the day was actually spent off the bikes, digging, searching, walking, reading or watching a movie. But it was a fun day with a different twist. I do need to find a better boot for trips like this though. My current riding boots aren't good for lots of walking.

Tomorrow doesn't have anything planned. Reagan needs to get some work done that she couldn't do on Friday and John and Lydia are content to stay around the hotel and test out the rocking chairs. I think there are some twisties that need straightening so I may take off for Mt. Nebo or I may not. It just depends on the weather and my mood. Another option would be to go back to the diamond field in search of that big monster diamond. Tonight is the time change and we are eating breakfast a little later so I'll just have to see what time it is when I finish breakfast, then I'll figure out what I'm doing.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Arkansas Diamond Hunting - Day1

Since last summer, John and I haven't been able to take a trip with girls so that's what we are doing. The trip has been in planning for a few months, making sure the dates were OK, that we could find a place to stay, and so forth. A lot of planning for a 4 day trip.

Last weekend I started getting the bikes ready. Now that Reagan has her own scooter I have the privilege of prepping 2 bikes before a trip. And it was determined that she probably needed a rear tire. Wild West didn't sound too confident with the tire change since they didn't have the tire in stock and didn't know how much the work would cost since they hadn't changed a tire on a Spyder before. So I decided to do it myself.  OK, the tire change itself was reasonably easy, balancing it was only marginally harder as I had to get a longer steel rod from Lowes. The challenge was in getting the belt tension set and aligned. I bought a tension gauge from Napa and later discovered they had sold me the wrong one but I had damaged the gauge so I couldn't return it. I ended up using the "twist the belt 90 degrees" method of measurement. Then when I went to torque the rear axle nut I discovered my torque wrench didn't go to the desired 96ft/lb setting. I tried it without the torque wrench and just couldn't seem to get the belt to reliabily line up. After purchasing a torque wrench that went to 150ft/lbs I was able to quickly and easily align the belt in a matter of minutes. During the tire change fiasco I broke her CB antenna so had to replace that. And there was also a new windshield to install which was quick and easy, once we got the right size for her.

My bike also needed some work as my back tire had worn the tread smooth in the center. So I didn't want to risk getting up to Arkansas and then needing to find a rear tire. This time I'm trying a set of Metzler Roadtec Z6 sport touring tires to see if I can get better than my 9 ~ 11K miles with the tourances. The tire changes went pretty smooth with the exception of breaking the tire pressure monitor strap for the rear wheel. Since I didn't have a 17" hose clamp available, I just put the tire on without the monitor. When I get the new clamp, I'll break the tire down and reinstall it.

This morning finally arrived and we were scrambling to pack as that chore had been ignored all week due to work and bike prep. To top things off my stomach was very upset from last night's trip to BJ's Brewhouse where I had embibed in a few of their in-house stouts. Honestly, it wasn't a hang over, their beer just messes me up. Everytime I drink even one I feel horrible the next day. Hopefully this time I'll remember not to drink their in-house brews from now on. So we get things packed and get out the door by 7am. Great, we were supposed to be at Avalon by 7am to meet John and Lydia. Well I eventually get there and we have a nice leisurely breakfast.

By 8:30 we are on the bikes and leaving the Exxon at Dairy Ashford. The plan was to ride the 59 HOV lane into town, then follow 59 on up to Nacogdoches. That's what we did with a gas stop along the way in Dibol at the new Chevron on the south side of town.  Once we got to the north side of Nacogdoches we took 259 north to Henderson where we took Hwy 43 toward Marshall. We ate lunch in downtown Marshall at Central Perks. It was probably the best grilled chicken salad I've had in a long time although I was nervous most of the time due to the abundant amount of antique stuff they had for sale. Luckily Reagan refrained from expanding her collection of antique  items and we left only $20 lighter than when we had arrived.

Upon leaving Marshall we headed north on Hwy 59. We stopped in Jefferson to get gas for Reagan and then took 49 out of town to find some twisties. We took FM 248 to Bivins, and then 43 into Atlanta, TX where we met back up with Hwy 59 which took us into Texarkana. Now, for those readers who aren't familiar with John's navigation, he does not like the interstate highway system. It's a route of last resort as in, all other paved roads have been blown up or flooded and the only possible way to get somewhere is via the interstate. So when got to Texarkana we rode through town instead of taking the interstate loop around town. It probably only added 5 or 10 minutes to the ride though and it put us on Hwy 67 which parrallels I-30 for a spell.

When we got to Fulton we turned north onto Hwy 355 which is a nice 2 lane road with plenty of sweepers and the occasional 30mph sharp curve thrown in for a change. This led us into Mineral Springs where we picked up Hwy 27 and went through Nashville, AR toward Murfreesboro and the Queen of Diamonds Inn which would be our hotel for the weekend.

Overall we travelled 371 miles over 8 hours 51 minutes. The pace was anything but rapid, most of the time we were doing 5 under the speed limit. Even with the strong head wind I managed to get 40+ mpg at today's speed. Normal driving seems to yields numbers closer to 35mpg for me. This was a fun switch.

Reagan likes her new windshield and is happy with her handle bar risers (Good since I cut off the original bars). But like any motorcycle enthusiast, she's got a few more things that need tweaking. A top case for additional luggage capacity and definitely a Russell Day Long seat with a back rest. Maybe if we get the order in on Tuesday, she'll get her seat before we leave for Milwaukee in May. Definitely before we leave for the BMW rally in July.

Tomorrow I think we are going to hunt for diamonds in the field. Maybe we'll find a really big one that someone will pay us lots for. Then I could get everything Reagan wants for her bike plus a few other perks for it like the new Garmin Zumo 665 GPS.  That better be one big rock!