Ever since my return from Sturgis on August 13, 2011, I’ve been frustrated that I didn’t get to put more than a couple hundred miles on the R3 in South Dakota’s Black Hills. All due to my own poor planning and not scheduling a couple of extra days, but frustrating nonetheless. I had been looking forward to leaning into some curves in nice cool weather and moving the world beneath the torqey fat tire under my Triumph, and when that didn’t happen I just had a build-up of frustration and anxiety that sent me into constant “grumpy old fart” mode.
I finally cured the issue by spending half the weekend cruising the nearby Ozarks and the Talimena Scenic Drive between Talihena, Oklahoma and Mena, Arkansas on Saturday. The air up there was cool, around 80 degrees Saturday morning, and my ride from Mena to Talihena was perfect. Sunny, dry, clean pavement, and large portions of early onset fall foliage to look at. There was even a happy deer encounter I managed to capture on the Contour HD video camera as a doe leapt gracefully across the road a hundred yards ahead, plenty of space to avoid any pucker-factor what-so-ever.
Prior to that, my journey to Mena friday night and breakfast Saturday morning was serendipitous, as the annual Queen Wilhelmina Rod Run just happenned to be in progress. I saw hundreds of professionally restored and fabricated custom antiques and modern hot rods in the parking lots, parked in the slots as neighbors at my camp site, and cruising the road between Mena and the Queen Wilhelmina State Park where I camped out Friday night.
After breakfast I followed an orange 33 customized Ford street rod and a stock beautifully restored mid 30s? Packard up to the state park from Mena at an average speed of 30 mph. They turned off at the State Park where all the other rally attendees were gathering for the day. I wasn’t disappointed. I’d enjoyed watching them, but it was high time I got the 2300 cc triple into fifth gear and started narrowing the chicken strips on the sides of my fat 240.
The ride home was almost as pleasant for the first couple of hours. Oklahoma State Highway 43 is a gently curving masterpiece cutting through low “old” mountains (folks in the Rockies call them “hills”) and on this weekend it was virtually unoccupied by other vehicles or law enforcement. I was free to blow the carbon out of the cylinders and zip around the 50mph curves at twice that speed. My frustration had long since evaporated, and all was right with the world.
Then I reached highway 75/69 and things started getting toasty.
When I crossed the Red River it was as if someone had changed the channel for the whole world. Things went from green to hay bale yellow instantly on the south side of the river, and the wind turned into a blighted wave of heat as if I was riding into the barrel of a giant hair dryer.
I didn’t mind much…the intoxicating high of riding the Talimena Scenic Drive is something that lasts for weeks, and whatever you have to bear in the journey to and from it is always worthwhile.
I pulled into a little country store for a cool drink of water and shed my Vanson Jacket because I felt like heat exhaustion was right around the corner.
By the time I reached McKinney I thought the heat was really making me woozy because I was actually having to put effort into getting the bike to lean slightly just for lane changes and the back end was feeling squashy. I pulled into a Wendy’s burger joint for a break and some lunch.
When I walked out to the parking lot after polishing off a large lemonade and small cup of chili I was horrified to see the rear tire on my Rocket III was totally flat.
I took a miserable walk about a quarter mile over to a gas station, bought a can of fix-a-flat, then hoofed it back to the bike where I spread a towel over the griddle hot black-top and tried to get the nozzel connected to the valve stem that Triumph engineers had gratiously designed to reside in the most innaccessible side of the rear wheel by the double pipes and with only a two inch gap between the rim and massive rear brake disk.
Everything was skillet hot and I burned my fingers and melted holes in the polyester Triumph Raptor gloves I was wearing, but I finally got enough of the aerosol mix into the tire to inflate it enough to ride back to the gas station, where I pumped more air into it for good measure.
I mounted up, sans helmet, and hauled ass the remaining 60 miles to Grapevine. I left my bike in the driveway and headed into the house where I collapsed into a bath tub full of cool water and day-dreamed about riding the Talimena Drive.
When I finally went out to unload the camping gear the tire was flat again. But I didn’t care. I had just spent a day riding the crest of the Ozarks and blazing a trail across south-eastern Oklahoma’s pre-fall wilderness. I was still high and happy.
On Sunday I began my plans for remedying the back tire situation: stay tuned, because I am headed over to the dark side and may never return.
Here’s a couple more pics of the rods along the way.