I was determined to a little better on my route planning today, so I got up early and reviewed the maps for about 5 minutes and figured my chicken scratch route would be close enough and would be a little more scenic! Since the escapade to a hotel last night took me a little off my course I had to do a little back tracking. I had planned to stay on 9 from Clinton to Hot Springs, but Conway was down 65 from Clinton so I was at the juncture of I-40 and 65. I decided to jump on the interstate to get back to 9 which was about 20 miles west.
9 continued to be beautiful, and I was riding through Ouachita National Forest. It was a nice twisty ride and the morning was nice and cool. There was hardly anyone on the road, but occasionally I would see a few bikes and a few cars. You always know you are on a good road when you see bikers. When I got to the road that leads to Hot Springs, I got a little confused and followed a sign to Hot Springs Village. It was about 10 miles to this area that looked like a little town, I followed traffic and found that in fact it was some business that surrounded a giant gated community! Oops, so I had to back track 10 miles to get back to the correct road to get to Hot Springs.
The road lead right into downtown, which was right next to the park, I guess you don’t call it Hot Springs if you are not near the actual springs. I saw the sign for the National Park and turned down the side road that ran parallel to it to find a parking spot. Of course, it is a holiday weekend and the place was packed. I got to the end of the road and saw a sign that said “scenic drive” for the park. I turned up the road and was very pleased to find 3.2 miles of switchback turns and some awesome views! The park is on a little “mountain” and you can hike all over it, or in my case drive a cool road to the top so you can get the cool pictures without hiking 🙂 I parked at a picnic area, and was not too impressed with the view so I kept heading up the mountain. Then I go to the actual lookout so I parked my bike on the side of the road and ran over to get a photo. There was also an Observation Tower that you could go climb up in and see 360* but it was pretty crowded so I stuck with the natural view. While I was up there I kept looking for where the springs were but didn’t see any signs or steam so I kept following the road up and then back down. I cam back out at the dead end and headed back towards the main drive, and I saw that the area in the front of the park had the spring in it and a good sign so I could get a photo of where I was.
The water was really hot and it was a small spring, but from what I gathered there are 47 springs total and they feed thermally heated water to “bath house row” locations. While doing a little research I found out that Hot Springs is the oldest National Park, established 40 years before Yellowstone! It was a cool town, and I would definitely go back some day when I can stay a little longer.
I had gotten such and early start and had plenty of time, so I decided to take a longer more scenic route to Tyler, TX. I got onto 7 and headed south. This was all forested land and again there was hardly anyone else on the road. When I drove through one of the towns, I saw about 4 police vehicles in a gas station parking lot with about 50 bikes. I had two thoughts…charity ride or motorcycle club shoot out. Fortunately it was the first thought. As I was approaching a traffic signal, I heard then saw a cop coming up from behind me. I drove toward the sidewalk and got out of the way, but he went around the other lane into the oncoming lane and then whipped around and blocked all the traffic in the intersection. So I got a front row seat to all the bikers who were on this ride getting a police escort! I didn’t have my phone to grab some video or a picture, but it was pretty cool. There were some Combat Vets and it looked like some other type of veteran organization, so likely a ride for them. Always fun and cool to see stuff like that.
I made it to Louisiana without much excitement except almost having a bird hit me in the head…luckily I ducked and he got enough lift that we missed each other. I came into Louisiana at Junction City, which despite its name is not a city. I was near the Kisatachee National Forest, and saw some deer. The road was pretty straight and pretty unexciting. I intersected with I-20 and hopped on to haul ass over to TX. At this point the sun was baking my face, so back on went the bandana and I just headed to Tyler. My back has been pretty kinked up the last two days, I guess that is what I get for taking a day off in Indiana! So, I am staying in Tyler an extra day to hang out with my friend Chelsey. She and I met in college and we became fast friends. She eventually bought a bike and went out for the Ms. HD AK contest. She and her finance moved to Texas 3 years ago. I am thankful I get to spend some time with her. Then off to visit my sister Bonita in Oklahoma.