2001 Arkansas 650 Tour

Written by Mark Sampson on 10-26-2001

    Four good friends: Mark Sampson (El Fartuoso), Jay Grafton (El Fasto), Kenny Gibbons (Iron Butt--El Snoro) and Rodney King (From here forth: referred to as "The Tic") embark on a 5 day adventure tour on 650cc BMW and Suzuki Dualsports. We will ride in the rain, freeze, laugh, belch, fart, eat to much, have 2 flat tires and drown in a river crossing---come join in on the fun as we attend the "Falling Leaf BMW Rally" in Missouri then ride off for the backroads of Northwest Arkansas and Southern Missouri !!!!!!!

Here is me, the instigator of this ride--Mark Sampson. Shown here above the White River near Calico Rock, Arkansas. This was to be probably the most beautiful place of all on our ride. I  never had a clue where I was going---I just followed the hap-hazard navigation on my GPS screen. It was programmed to avoid interstates, boring roads, flat tires, ugly waitresses and bad weather. Well 2 out of 5 wasn't bad !!!
Jay Grafton above the White River also. A good friend from my home town of Mt. Vernon, Illinois. Jay is a superb rider, MSF motorcycle instructor, pilot, pilot instructor, sailor (if he ever puts it in the water), and father of 2. He is the service manager at Dales Harley Davidson-----where is you Harley Jay???? He has an old air head Beemer---but when adventure calls his ride is a 1999 BMW F650. He is packed tight, as a semi ripped his Jesse Panniers off the bike. !!!!
Here is my good friend from Mexico Missouri, Kenny Gibbons. This picture was taken at his home as he was leaving to meet us in Potosi, Missouri at the BMW Rally. Kenny has modified this DR650 very nicely for touring and adventure. It has a 5 gallon tank and custom windshield to make long rides in inclement weather very comfortable. Kenny operates his own construction company---doing lots of projects for the city of Mexico. Although Kenny is trying to retire---he is a very busy guy. He started motorcycling kind of late in life, but is doing a lot of catching up. Believe me--it doesn't get to tough for this guy !!!!
Well here he is--------"The Tic". Keeping the world free from evil, crossing deep raging rivers with ease, ignoring freezing toes in frigid temperatures wearing tennis shoes, able to leap tall building in a single bound and just generally always having a good time---Rodney King, kept us in laughter the whole time. When things seemed a bit dreary---the "Tic" would always makes us smile :)  Riding his new 2001 BMW Dakar--with custom cigarette lighter----Rodney could light his cigarette, take a drink of water, eat a candy bar, fart and adjust the load on his bike, all while pulling a huge wheely down a gravel road. The only thing that really got under the "Tics" skin-----is when his cigarette lighter quit!!!! This really ticked off "The Tic".
     Well-------Here is "Super Dog". Super Dog was all ready to go with us but was having quite a bit of trouble passing his motorcycle driving test !!!! Seems he thought it was a race. Maybe next time "Super Dog".
We all made it to the "Falling Leaf BMW Rally" in Potosi, Missouri just fine--and were really starting to rally--with a great fire and fine beverages. Left to Right: Rodney King, Roger Hayes, Mark Sampson and Jay Grafton.
For some of us-----it was just too much !!!
     Saturday morning we were off (well some of us) to breakfast then back to the rally for the GS backroad ride. It started raining and 17 hearty souls were in for a great ride led by legendary Tom Huff of Potosi--who claimed all responsibility for injuries to bike and riders. Somehow Tom Huff and a friend went right across this greasy, icy, booger snot---the rest that tried it well-----look at Mr. Hudson. I told you this picture would end up on the net for all to see!!!! He looked so good coming in and then Whooaaaa baby!!!!!!! There were many that shared the same fate. And the do--gooders that tried to help pick up his bike--well down they went too!!!!
     This poor fellow ripped a hole in his windshield taking the turn signal with it. And had some terrible scratches on his gas tank. Look at the dirt embedded in his cylinders. Tom Huff cut him a check for $2,600 for damages right on the spot :)

       I'm kidding here--as Tom gave a huge disclaimer before allowing you to go on this ride. You know the "Cover Your Ass" way !!!!!

I was the first one (not me pictured) to take this line, and it was the definitely the easy way. Right thru the river there was much more traction. We had a hoot here watching brave confident souls get in way over their heads.
If you were really smart---------well they weren't so smart as they fell in just after this shot was taken and got soaked. There was a roar from the crowd !!!!!!!
    Sunday we were prodded out of bed before the sun came up by yours truly. I new better than to prod on Roger Hayes tent and suffer the consequences---as he wasn't going on to Arkansas with us anyway. We took the scenic route as you see. I stalled just long enough before crossing this seemingly too deep river knowing all well it was impossible----when "The Tic" gave me this look and revved his motor and went right across this sucker. It was impressive to say the least. Jay and Kenny had way to much sense and weren't going. Hmmmm--this is making me look bad-----well I dove in (me in picture) and right off it's way too deep.
It gets deeper and I think Kenny's and Jay's mouths were probably gaping open as I gassed it. I was almost to the other side when the engine sucked full of water and died. Poop!!!!!  "The Tic" was already soaked from his dabbing and jumped right in to help the "ole man" push my bike to shore-----"Thanks Tic". This was no crossing for ordinary humans. This was "The Darien" of Southern, Missouri.

Luckily with a little airbox draining my bike started right up. Me and the "Tic" spent a few minutes dumping the water out of our boots. Gortex really holds water out very well----it also holds it in very well also :) Poooopppp!!

     We finally made it without much further toodoo to Mammoth Springs, Arkansas. The pond in the background is actually a large spring which flows into a beautiful lake, which was drained the day we were there. I'm smiling----but my toes are still squishy and stayed that way until the next day. This is a big spring, but not the biggest (most water flowing). I think Big Spring near Van Buren, Missouri is the largest and forms a small river. We had a great dinner here at a restaurant that offered a great view of the river. After eating--"The Tic" lurked outside for possible evil. We new we were safe as his face would pop up in the window occasionally.
   We rode some great backroads Southwest to Calico Rock, Arkansas. It was getting dark and were just about to unroll our tents at a campground when the owners came by and had a cabin for rent---it was getting cold. I think all of us were waiting for someone  to say "The heck with camping". So we were warm and toasty that night. Then after breakfast in the morning I let out my clutch--something in the clutch gave way--then I noticed I was sitting closer to the ground than usual. I swear-----my clutch broke and my tire went flat at the same instant---I have witnessess!!!!! Our leader is down.
     It was rumored that I pinched the new tube we had 8 times--this is unconfirmed however. Also as I am writing this webpage I can say what I want :)

     About--ohhh--hmmmm 4 hrs. later we were on the road and I had a 21 inch tube in the rear of my wide 17 inch rim!!! I would live to regret this temporary fix.

    Well in this picture me and Jay are off to find some air, some more screwdrivers and many patches.

     Everyone took this all very well--as they knew it could be them next and would be glad to have their friends there to help--------Where was the "Tic" while all this was going on ?????????????? Lurking about???


   After using one restaurants parking lot 1/2 the day we went across the street and ate dinner at another !! Then we took off down a gravel road and we found this bluff over the White River. Here is Kenny Gibbons admiring the view. It was probably a 100ft. drop to the river below. I don't know if we were suppose to be up there so keep it under your hat. We argued whether this was the most beautiful view we had seen on our trip.
     Here is Rodney on his 2001 BMW Dakar looking to the South. Rodney is sporting his new Belstaff adventure jacket he purchased at the BMW rally. He was nice and toasty.

     His Dakar performed flawlessly on our trip--as he blasted down the gravel and dirt roads with ease.

      When then took this nice gravel backroad towards the awesome "Push Mountain Road", which is a sport bikers haven we were told. It was a weekday and there was no traffic and no sign of the sport bikers--except one ole fart on a DR650---this guy was honkin' on I'm telling you. If he knew where he was going he would have blew me away for sure !!! We went North at Harriet and crossed the Buffalo River then turned West on a pretty rough dirt and gravel road.
     I had never road any of these roads and this one I had a bad feeling it was going to dead end at a river or something. Then it spit a few raindrops and looked like it was going to pour on us. I quickly prepared for rain and rode on. The dirt road got worse and we went down some deep hills, if it rained we wouldn't be able to get back up without knobby tires. I was kind of sweating it out as we had traveled maybe 12 miles on this road. Finally we ended up here at Tomahawk Creek--beautiful !!!! We were very nervous about riding over this concrete--as we knew what happened the last time!!! I walked across looking for slick spots but there weren't any and we made it across just fine. There were 2 old coots at the creek that told us the town of Gilbert was just ahead---great !! That is were I wanted to eat !!! Closed on Monday----crap !!!!
     Gilbert was the neatest little town in Arkansas--right on the Buffalo River--pictured at the right. It was such a small out of the way town--only accessed by one paved road. We dropped straight down a hill out of the mountains into town--it was so magnificent. We rode right out onto this gravel bank of the river and rested a while and told a few lies.
       The "Tic" was thirsty and lapped up a couple gallons of fish water !!!! He then jumped in and disappeared under water---and lurked under a rock as any water predator---waiting to devour only the largest trout !!!!

      The buffalo river is one of the most scenic rivers I have ever seen. Always a rock bottom and crystal clear water.

     After leaving Gilbert we went West, then North on Rt.65--when the wind really started blowing hard--the temperature dropped and it looked like rain. We made it to Yellville, Arkansas and got a very nice warm room, which was nice, as it froze that night---my bike cover was frozen to my bike in the morning.


     We all slept good that night and were awakened at 5AM by a phone call-------"The Tic" was ready to ride!!  We rode to a restaurant in the dark in freezing temperatures and strolled into this place. Of course everyone stare at us----with all that garb we had on--and as everyone was looking I loudly ask for a quart of ice cream and a glass of ice. Everyone in there kind of cackled, and we had a good time shootin' the breeze with the locals.

     We road North towards Bull Shoals Lake-----when Jay got a serious pain. Luckily for him we passed an old country church with an outhouse. This was all anticipated by "The Tour Guide".

       Rodney---formally known as "The Tic" is here on the ferry, crossing Bull Shoals lake and is not a happy camper. Look closely-----he is froze to the bone---especially his big toe. Me and Jay just turned up the thermostats on our heated suits and Kenny---he was just smiling, nothing bothered him !!!


        I don't know where I am here-----my wife Debi just said I looked so cute in this picture------well yes--I guess I do !!!

       Check out Kenny's Dr650---he is packed down.

      After crossing Bull Shoals Lake, we rode a 17 mile gravel road across the mountain peaks----this was officially called the "Glade Top Trail" and turned out to be one of the most scenic roads I have seen in Missouri. I found out about it on the net----we met only one car on this road. It was so peaceful--traveling during the week has it's advantages.

      Me and Kenny are posing here at an overlook and picnic area.

     Here is Jay with the beautiful glades and mountains in the background. I love the red colors. It was another beautiful cool day.
      Here on top of "The Glades" me and Jay plot our next move. Looks like "Pancho and Villa" to me.

      The sky was such a beautiful blue as you can see in this picture.   Temperature---about 54. Keeps out the riffraft I say.

      We decided to find a few old grist mills out in the country after the Glade Top.

       Rodney---sadly left us shortly after the Glade Top Trail---I think thoughts of the little woman were calling him. We missed him, as he was a lot of fun.

        This is the Zaoni Mill Northeast of Gainesville Missouri. There was an old original store behind it and a huge mansion which is used as a very ritsy looking bed and breakfast. I never have stayed at a bed and breakfast--got to someday.
      The mill was spring fed right out of the rocky hill behind it. Her you can see the wooden water plume that fed the wheel of the grist mill.
     Beside the Mill was this old gas pump. Hey------I just couldn't pass up .17 cents per gallon----"Fill-er--up".
      Here is Kenny at the "Dawt Mill". The river was damned up here and at the bottom of the picture you can barely see where the water was diverted to run to the mill. A hand crank was used to raise and lower the water gate.
      The Dawt Mill-----all these mills were within 40 miles of each other. I think there were a couple more in the area that we just didn't have time to find. If was well worth what time we took to find these marvelous mills of the past.
        And finally the last mill we visited-----the "Sycamore Mill" which was spring fed also. This one was privately owned, but could be seen from the road very well. It seemed to be under construction. After this shot we pretty well boogied on home, as we all had to be back at work the next day.

    There was to be one more huge big bit of excitement on the way home. A little bit too much for me as once again I used up another one of my lives----208 and still counting. Remember that 21 inch used dirt bike tube in the rear of my bike??? I had gotten confident it would hold till I got home and put a new tire and tube on. I was running about 65mph and had just straightened up after a sweeping curve when the tube ripped apart instantly.  It immediately went flat--breaking the bead on both sides of the tire. The rear end of the bike stepped to the left about 2 ft.----then did the same thing to the right. I was afraid of a high side which had happened to me about a year ago to the day. Luckily it straightened up and I got off the road into a ditch. I think Kenny was behind me and it scared him to death!!!!

    Well my friends came to my rescue again as Kenny went off in search of a new tube at 4:30PM on a Monday. Jay went shopping and came back with all kinds of goodies and drinks and a nice bicycle tire pump that worked great!!! After about 2 hours total I was back on the road and it was now dark and the temperature was going down fast.

    We stopped for one last coffee at Cuba, Missouri and we then said goodbye to our friend Kenny as he headed for his home in Mexico, Missouri. Me and Jay hit the interstate at speed-----but I was holding back some, just a little afraid of my back tire.

    We stopped for a minute to put a new taillight bulb in Jay's bike and then motored on with the electric vests on high !!!

    What a great trip it was, even tho we didn't get as far as we wanted because of my tire problems. It didn't matter tho---as when you are with good friends, you will always have a good time and ride.

    What's next guys ????????