We had been planning to ride the Talimena Scenic Byway for months and finally found a good time to do it. Memorial Day weekend provided us with a three day weekend that was perfect for the ride. Margaret reserved a room for us a couple weeks in advance so we wouldn’t have any issues trying to find a place for the night. As Saturday approached though we began seeing an increase for the chance of rain. We became disheartened late Friday evening when the chance for rain in Mena, AR was showing 50%. Since the reservation was already paid for we reluctantly made the decision that we would just drive instead. We stopped packing our bikes and bags and went to bed. Were early risers because of my long work commute everyday so at about 5:30 am I pulled up the weather report and now it was only showing a 30% chance of rain for the day and only for a short time in the afternoon. It took some persuasion but Margaret finally agreed to make the ride instead of driving under threat that I would be in serious trouble if we got caught in a thunderstorm.
The ride to get to the byway was uneventful for the most part. No rain, it was cool and sunny, no heavy wind, just nice comfortable riding. I took some video of the ride to the destination but didn’t use it, other than some beautiful long straight lonely roads there really wasn’t any video taken that I could use. We did stop and take some still shots that are included in the slideshow. On one long expanse of road I hit a sizable rock which I didn’t see it since it blended in with the pavement. I sure felt it though, especially when my handlebars jerked and I got some front end wobbles from it for a few seconds. All was good though, no tire damage and the rock shot out to the side and didn’t hit any other part of the bike or Margaret behind me.
When we arrived at the head of the byway we met a couple of riders that just happened to be from Fort Worth as well! Not only that, but it turns out they even live within a few miles of where we do. We headed up the winding byway stopping at pull over vistas occasionally to enjoy the magnificent views. The landscape stretched before us for miles and mountain tops faded behind mountain tops in varying colors of purple, blue, and white. It was overcast at this point and we were in the area that fell into that 30% chance of rain so the vistas had sinister appearance with some of the darker cloud formations that hovered over the mountain tops in the distance. There was also some fog sitting lower in the valleys that stood out prominently as we looked down from above. Although the weather gave a darker view instead of a nice crisp clean sunny outlook it was still awesome. We didn’t spend a lot of time at the various vista stops for a couple reasons.
First, we were going to ride it again Sunday when it was going to be sunny.
Second: We were closing in on our check in time for our room.
Third: The Talimena was at the end of our ride and we were getting tired. On Sunday it would be the beginning of the ride when we were refreshed and could take more time to enjoy it.
Before leaving one of the vistas we happened to look over to the road and saw some people on downhill skateboards roll by. I happened to have the GoPro in my hand and managed to get a quick clip of a couple of them laying on their backs on their skateboards as they flew down the road. I didn’t expect to see more or I would have gotten off the bike and captured more footage from a stationary position. We headed up the road and saw more of them coming down the mountain. I managed to video them as we passed. Further up the road they had a staging point and a U-Haul truck that they were using to drive down the road to pick them up and bring them back to do it again. It was totally unexpected and exciting to see.
Upon arrival in Mena, AR we headed to the Carriage House Inn where our reservations were held. This is a beautiful home and the inn keepers Scott and Ashley greeted us as we rode up. They were a wonderful couple and had a beautiful family which we were honored to meet. The house we stayed in was originally a barn that had been restored into a small cottage. It had a living area, dining area, kitchen, bath, and an upstairs loft bedroom that had at one time in its history been used to store hay. They had done a remarkable restoration and made us feel completely at home. They also provided us with a bottle of Pinot Noir which we drank as we spent the evening exploring their garden and taking pictures of the flowers. I honestly believe this was one of the best nights of rest I have ever experienced on the road.
Before leaving Mena, AR we had breakfast and spent some time taking pictures of some of the local architecture and sights. We weren’t in any hurry knowing we could roll in to home at anytime during the evening. We headed back on the Talimena to ride it in the opposite direction this time. By now the chance of rain was almost gone and the sun was attempting to peak out through the clouds. This made for a few very beautiful pictures where we managed to capture the sun rays shooting down from the clouds with some beautiful vista back drops. Something interesting we saw this time were turtles in the road. Turtles? Up in the mountains? They were walking across the street taking an early morning walk. I wouldn’t have expected to see turtles at the top of the mountains. Glad we didn’t run over any of them.
This time I began to take notice of the road condition. I saw the sides of the road were left to grow naturally. Normally on roads the state keeps the grass mowed and sprays the edge to keep anything from growing into the pavement. Not here though. They let nature grow right up and even over the road. There were often long stretches where these tall grass like shoots would hang out into the street. Whatever pine needles fell from trees were left and often provided an interesting shoulder of color and texture. The guard rails were even painted a deep reddish brown to blend in with the landscape. All of this gave the road an natural aspect that allowed it to “Fit” into the landscape instead of dominate the scenery. The return ride was more enjoyable for us since we were rested and had the time available to stop more and enjoy the sights. We met a lot of other riders this time as well and it was nice to share riding stories and find out where they came from.
We stopped in Talihina, OK at the end of the Talimena ride for lunch at a local diner called the Hateful Hussy. Even though the food was good something weird happened to me about an hour down the road. I began getting blurry visioned and lethargic to the point I wasn’t riding safely. I knew something was wrong because I began having difficulties maintaining a constant speed and I kept drifting back and forth within the lane. When we came to a stop sign Margaret mentioned she noticed I wasn’t riding normal. We pulled over to get fuel and rested for awhile until the effects subsided. I never got cramps, sick, or nauseated though, just a drugged feeling. It was almost like someone stuck a psychedelic mushroom on my burger to give me a “trip” for the ride home.
When we got close to the Texas state line we began to notice the landscape ahead was dark with storm clouds. These weren’t the pretty puffy ones we saw on our first day, this monster was a storm front and solid as far as you could see into the horizon. I decided to take a different route using FM 51 from Gainesville, TX which would take us south west into Decatur and keep us from riding directly into the storm. This worked pretty good for most of the ride home! We could feel the moisture, smell the rain, and the winds were pushing towards us from the storm front the whole time. We managed to get to Decatur and skirted that part of the storm the entire time. We decided to stop in Decatur for dinner where we ate at Sweetie Pies Ribeyes. It’s a bit pricy but well worth it and the service was great. While we were eating a small amount of rain came through and thoroughly drenched the roads. We could look to the south west where we were headed and see more storm ahead. We wouldn’t get away from it this time. The storm caught us in Springtown, TX and we finished the last hour riding home in a torrential downpour.