Day three in the Ozark mountains and the remoteness of this place is finally starting to sink in. We ride all day and are lucky to find a single gas station. When we finally do it is often closed.
Yesterday we pulled into a little station at the end of our trail and the beginning of the pavement. It was after five and we sat staring at the pumps, swishing our mostly empty tanks from side to side, considering what to do next. A girl appeared out of the store and said that yes they are closed but let me turn the pump on for you. I recognized the old style gas pump from my childhood. She tells us the store has been continuously open since the 1800’s, but not after five. I dump the 87 octane into my fuel injected bike, right next to the sticker that says, “minimum octane rating 91.” I’m not sure how bad this is for the bike but tomorrow I will buy injector cleaner. Samantha’s TW doesn’t care what kind of gas it gets. I suspect the little bike would run happily on Tennessee Whisky.
Today we pack up camp and ride through more and more mountains, more oaks and maples. The sandy earth and silver oaks remind me of summers on Martha’s Vineyard. We come across barricades, “road closed.” we ride around them and past front end loaders and dozers and a fresh section of dirt, looks like the road slid down the mountain but it’s fixed enough for us to get by. Onward, upward. The bikes hum. Sometimes the motors harmonize with each other. Samantha’s lower pitches and my higher come together in some kind of harmonic resonance, then someone changes pitch ever so slightly and it’s gone.
I spend time listening to the sound of the motor. It’s a bit disconcerting at first, the sound of the single cylinder banging away in there. I understand why they call these bikes thumpers. I find I can settle the motor down to a perfect hum at just the right rpm’s but it’s only temporary. There’s also a nice whistle, it does it in the lower rpm’s. The bike is developing a new sound. It’s a tinny, metallic sound, could be valves. I decide not to worry about it. It’s just the motor settling in, maturing like a good wine.
We discover swooping, banked turns. The kind you can come into hard and hold a line through. My balding knobbys don’t slip at all. The rear end hooks up and out we fly into the next one. We are whooping our way through. High elevation, forested valleys, sun soaked mountain meadows and this ribbon of earth leading us through. It’s all too perfect. Instead of shuffling around from office park to subdivision we’re rolling across this great green earth, exploring and surviving.
In our continuous search for gas we stop at a highway truck stop where the TAT finally pokes its nose out of the forest. It is abandoned and feels a bit apocalyptic. Next our “navigational aids” bring us to a propane company, technically gas yes but we are getting low and it’s not that cute anymore. The combination of the two gallon tanks on the bikes and the remote area means each day has to be planned out carefully and when we see gas we fill, regardless of how much we have.
We finally find a station. Inside cowboy hatted Arkansans pass the time. We fill our tanks and they make us turkey sandwiches. It’s relatively early in the day and our camp spot is close by. We decide to change the oil and clean our dusty air filters. We buy oil, injector cleaner, paper towels, dish soap, and a giant aluminum baking sheet for a dollar. I forget gloves.
The campsite sits above a large reservoir. It is newly made. It reminds us of a subdivision without the houses. In this new clearing the remaining oaks leaf out all the way up their trunks. They do it because they can, greedy for light, indifferent to their own aesthetic.
Each site is a perfectly manicured assemblage of white cement and neatly shorn grass. There is a perfectly square tent pad of pea gravel. There’s a water spigot, electric hookup a BBQ and a metal fire ring built into the cement. We want to hate this dewilded, landscaped, RV park but we don’t. It’s actually nice to have all the amenities. To spread out and throw our stuff down on the clean white cement. It’s perfect for working on the bikes. We change the oil and filters and clean our air filters. We pitch our tent on the clean pea gravel and leave the rain fly off so we can see the stars. It reminds me of camping in the backyard as a kid. Tomorrow we will reinstall the clean air filters and forge ahead, ever closer to the great western states. New Mexico, Colorado, Utah and Nevada are somewhere out there, waiting our arrival.