More Pics from the Circle Arkansas by Motorcycle Trip

I finally got around to pulling the Arkansas Circle Ride pics off of my camera and posting them. (Did I really have that much gear on my bike?) Anyway, as you can see, the trip was a blast. It will be a little cold the next few months for such a long trip, but I’m looking forward to another on-road/off-road ride soon.

See all of the pics from the rid here

Clinton Back to Memphis

The rest of the Circle Arkansas trip was relatively uneventful, as we raced the sun back to Memphis. The sun won, setting about 45 minutes before we rolled back into town, but even passing through some of the flattest country, around Des Arc, the setting sun set the trees turning colors afire, with beautiful explosions of yellows and reds, only rivaling some of the colors we had seen along the ridgelines of the Ozarks earlier in the day.

Big thanks go out to Scottie (I hope you get  your bike running again soon), Chris, and Wisch (who kept my front tire aired up long enough for me to limp home).

The route can be seen in some detail here, if you are interested. More photos are pending.

Oark to Haw Creek Falls to Clinton

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The trip from Oark to Haw Creek Falls was the most exciting of the trip, with a few trips down washed out gullies and across big puddles.

Unfortunately, Scottie had put his bike down in a creek heading to meet us in Oark, so it was out of commission. Chris, Wisch, and I roared up Parker Ridge in time to see the sunset.

This morning, we explored the eastern part of the Ozark National Forest, riding ridgelines until our throttle hands ached.

4th Annual Memphis Walk

Robert Bell, Richie Trenthem, and I completed our 4th annual Memphis Walk yesterday. As in previous years, the plan was to start at the cobblestones next to the Mississippi River in downtown Memphis at sunrise and walk until sunset. Previous walks (2007, 2008, 2009) focused on primarily moving one direction for the entire day (first east, then south, then northwest), but this time around we spent some time rambling around beside the Mississippi River, eventually crossing over to Arkansas via the I-55 bridge, before finally turning east.

The purpose of these walks to is to get out, stretch our legs for the day, and, hopefully, see areas of Memphis from a new perspective. Walking affords plenty of time to recognize something interesting and take it in from different angles. Of course, it helps to have good weather, and we couldn’t have asked for a better day, with dry conditions and temperatures in the 70s, much more comfortable than the sub-freezing start we got last year.

Originally, I had the idea that we should try to walk west the year, crossing the I-55 bridge into Arkansas, with the goal of making it into West Memphis and beyond. However, after some preliminary scouting around the Arkansas-side of the I-55 bridge, it became clear that pedestrians could not, legally, walk beside the interstate highway the 5 or so miles before reaching a side road into West Memphis. There simply wasn’t a way to legally (and safely) walk west.

So, instead, we headed south along the river bluffs, ending up at Rivermont Park, where we headed behind the First Unitarian Church (and saw a fox in the woods – this is the second year in a row that we’ve seen a fox on the walk!). Getting down the bluff to cross under the railroad bridges was a bit tricky and hazardous, and moving along the large rocks as we made our way along the bank took some time, but the perspective from below the three bridges was worth it.

We climbed back up the bluff and made it to the entrance of the I-55 bridge over the Mississippi River. Crossing to Arkansas on the northern side of the bridge, you can see the Memphis skyline all along the way. Upon reaching the other side, we checked out the abandoned exit ramp from the original vehicle bridge (1917-1949) across the Mississippi River at Memphis, the Harahan Bridge. I recommend Steve Cox’s interesting site for some background info on the Harahan Bridge.

We crossed back over to Memphis on the south side of the bridge, which gave us a different sights for the return trip. All along the way, the bridge vibrated and the guardrails clanked as giant tractor trailers rumbled by. This is unnerving at first, as they are passing only a few feet away from where we are walking, but the metal framework that holds up the bridge is between the vehicle lanes and us, and after a while, you just get used to it. There wasn’t much wind, so other than the noise, the stroll felt, well, pleasant.

On each side of the I-55 bridge, on the south side, is a concrete sign than tells you the bridge’s true name: the Memphis & Arkansas Bridge. The Tennessee side also includes a poem by Walter Chandler, the thoughful 2-term mayor of Memphis.

Back on solid ground, we ambled east, staying on Crump Boulevard and making our ways through neighborhoods before entering Elmwood Cemetery, perhaps the most historic cemetery in Memphis. I’ve been to Elmwood several times over the years, but this was my first visit after reading Molly Caldwell Crosby’s very good The American Plague, a book about Memphis during the 1878 yellow fever epidemic. Many of the victims during that chaotic time were buried in a mass grave near the entrance to Elmwood, and we were able to find the location with the help of the Elmwood staff.

From Elmwood, we continued east down Walker Avenue and then McLemore Avenue, before moving into the Cooper-Young neighborhood and lunch at Young Avenue Deli.

The next stop was the new Tiger Lane, in the location of the old fairgrounds location, near the Liberty Bowl. The Memphis Tigers weren’t playing this weekend, but there did appear to be a band competition, including marching, in progress.

We moved further east down Central, past the University of Memphis, then down Poplar before turning north near Perkins and weaving through the upper crust neighborhoods of East Memphis before hitting Mendenhall and heading north to intersect with the new Shelby Farms Greenline.

If you haven’t been on this wonderful urban walk and bike trail, you are really missing out. Running from Tillman to deep inside Shelby Farms, you can travel through the heart of Memphis as a pedestrian and barely come into contact with vehicle traffic by using a former railroad line. And the real treat comes at the end, where you pass over the Wolf River and a thickly wooded area on a series of bridges, where you can often see or hear animals or just hop off to follow another trail.

We continued through Shelby Farms and then cut northeast through Cordova, eventually coming out on the Cordova Club golf course, which we followed, ever eastward, before we hit Cordova Road, which led us to Germantown Parkway and our reward, a few pints at the Flying Saucer. Total mileage: 23.5 miles.

Thanks go out to Stephen for meeting us at Elmwood, Frank for urging us on at the Greenline, John Christenson for meeting us at the Saucer, and Mary Bell for driving us back home again.

You can see all of the photos I took from this trip here, or check out the images complete with associated Google maps for reference on my Panoramio site.

Labor Day Weekend

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Saturday – What a great day! Fall has finally arrived in Memphis, at least for the weekend.

I took a solo motorcycle trip through the St. Francis National Forest, just south of Marianna, Arkansas. There is a national byway called the Crowley’s Ridge Parkway that runs along the tops of hills though the forest. I saw no other people for more than an hour, but butterflies of all colors skimmed through the cool morning air. At one point, a couple of deer ran alongside me while I was riding before bolting into the forest.

Saturday evening, Kath and I got to catch up with Carrie and Patrick Lenahan, some friends that live in Kansas City. Dinner was a tasty and fun affair, hosted by Scott and Paige Walkup.

Damn, That’s a Big Dam!

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On our way out of town, we made time to swing by the Hoover Dam, so we could check it out from the ground. I found the tour a bit ho-hum (we only did the standard tour, not the $30 one that features the modern art and takes you through large parts of the dam), and the one hour of stop-and-go traffic to travel the last four miles get near the dam really sucked. However, standing up on the observation deck of the dam offers an amazing view of the structure and explains why it is one of the modern architectural wonders of the world.

The standard tour takes you into one of the thru-way tunnels and one of the generator rooms, which are impressive and worth seeing. Even though the more expensive tour has more of the modernist art on display, you can still see a bit of Oskar J.W. Hansen’s and Allen Tupper True’s work, particularly the tile and statues, on the standard tour.

Upon leaving, we drove along Highway 93, over the dam, which will supposedly (and hopefully) be closed to traffic some time later this year. The number of cars looking to cross the dam really far exceeds the capacity (and occasionally the width) of the road, but I hope they leave the dam open for pedestrian traffic, as it really helps to walk beside it in order to grasp the sheer size of the thing.

After that, we headed for I-40 and the 1550 mile trip home, which we drove straight through, except for a 7 hour nap last that night. The bright lights of Memphis appeared over a shimmering Mississippi River at a little after 1 AM Saturday morning, and we reunited with our dogs, exhausted but happy.

Into the Canyon

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Thursday was a long, fun day. It started at 4 AM, waking up way, way too early to meet our transportation to the Boulder City airport, just outside of Las Vegas, to take a helicopter trip into the Grand Canyon.

We signed up with Papillon Grand Canyon Helicopters to take a ride into the Canyon, including a flight over Lake Mead, Hoover Dam, and a stop down into the canyon for a light meal and champagne. If it sounds decadent, well, that’s because it is. I think we could have skipped the quick meal and booze before 8:30 AM, but it was part of the package, so who what I to complain? (Thank you, Elaine and Larry, for the gift of one of the tickets!)

To me, a helicopter turned out to be a great introduction to the wonder and sheer size of the Grand Canyon. The flight takes about 20 minutes to get into the Canyon, and then you are flying into the western part of the Canyon (as the central region, in the national park, is off-limits to helicopters flying below the rim), looking up at the rim and getting a good view of the ancient layers of rock as they zoom by.

We landed in a prepared area on Native American land, and even though it was early in the morning, the heat and sun already felt brutal. We walked around, took some pictures, and tried to take it all in. Way too soon, it was time to leave, so we took off and looked about a bit more of the Canyon before zoom across desert, back to our hotel in Vegas, with just enough time to check out.

All in all, a stunning trip, one that rivals our helicopter trip over Kauai from a few years ago. If you want to experience the Grand Canyon from all angles, a helicopter tour is the best way to go.

105 in the Shade

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We mostly took it easy today, as we know all too well that directed, purposeful action in Las Vegas turns the city into a vacuum cleaner for your money.

Since we were last here in early-2006, malls (well, shopping in general) has exploded on the Strip, so we checked out the newer places (like M), while also taking the time to revisit some old favorites (the Venetian is a lot less impressive, once you’ve been to Italy).

This was our first trip on the Vegas Monorail, which I expected to hate but actually liked, though $5 per ride is a bit much.

We also got to feel the full effect of the afternoon heat by walking back the last mile to our hotel under the full sun. I didn’t really sweat until we stopped to cool off in casino, where they had the humidity over 5%.