When traveling by back road there are things you notice. Since most of the roads we are on are dirt we see the earth. From the red roads of Georgia to the limestone of Tennessee, we feel the road under our wheels. We are introduced to all kinds of surface types. Misread these at your own peril. Coming off a deep gravel farm road onto what appeared to be hard pavement I suddenly slid towards the ground recovering with a hard foot stomp to save the bike from going down. As I felt my stinging foot I thought about all the types of roads we now understand. Deep gravel we are now very familiar with but in Arkansas it’s not the rounded rocks of Tennessee. They are sharp and angular and even deeper in some spots. These are improvements that road crews have dropped to fight the mud and on a rainy day i’m sure they are crucial. We’re also introduced to a new road type. It’s hard packed earth with gravel and tar. It’s sticky and smooth and great riding. But by far the greatest roads so far are in the Ozark National forest. They are winding and smooth with just enough loose material on top to break the rear wheel free. They are perfect for Controlled slides. We rise up banking inclines before plunging down over rickety bridges with quick views of the streams below.
Late in the day we find ourselves deep in the forest humming along the sweetest roads we’ve ridden so far. Deer leap across our path and that is the only thing keeping us below 40. As the light fades we realize our campground was a cartographic myth. We ride through a clearcut, the forest stripped to a few naked stumps and end up by a mud hole of a lake, raked by atv trails. It’s just about dark. We decide to bag the camping and grab a room in Jerusalem. It’s the first time we’ve ridden at night. But on dirt roads with a thick moon we can take our time and enjoy it. We aren’t stressed or in a hurry. It’s a warm summer night and we are on an adventure. We roll into Jerusalem. It’s nothing but an intersection. There isn’t even a street lamp. We pull into a church parking lot and reassess. I’m on the GpS and Samantha works her phone which has a better map. We decide to push on to Morrilton. It’s an abandoned stretch of blacktop, greasy with dew. The moons high now. I am warm and moist. the condensation from the forest forms ethereal wisps in our headlights. We discover a highway liquor store which is a very rare thing in a state that hasn’t quite given up on prohibition. The owner shuts off the sign as we pull up. I ask if we can get a quick six pack. He fingers his holstered gun and then begrudgingly let’s us in. We grab beer and a pint of Whisky. He leaves us in the gravel lot in the dark. I feel the heavy judgment of sin upon us. Like addicts we try to pack the moonshine into our full bags. Finally, tired, our butts aching, we arrive at “Americas Best Value Inn” and collapse on the bed. Visions of those perfect roads through the Ozark mountains replay on the backs of my eyelids.