My good friend Bill Dragoo and I were recently riding our BMW motorcycles through north central Arkansas while on assignment for a motorcycle travel story. Our goal was to find the “twistiest” roads in Oklahoma, Missouri and Arkansas. Highway 123 near Mount Ida certainly qualifies. As we rolled out of the switchbacks and into Mount Ida for a quick break, I felt a strong sense of deja vu. I had been there before.
About 10 years ago I had been riding my BMW F650GS Dakar along dirt roads in the area and had pulled into the single store town of Mount Ida for a break from the heat and dust. My Dakar was loaded down with camping gear and was coated with a weeks worth of dust. The only sound as I rolled to a stop on that windless day was a crow cawing in a nearby tree, and the crunch of gravel as I pulled up to the local convenience store. I thought I could hear a spaghetti western music faintly in the background as I levered my kickstand down and leaned my well worn bike on its sidestand. It was kind of like an old time cowboy stepping out of the saddle into a quiet western town, with the music indicating impending doom to the weary traveler.
The screen door creaked as I walked inside the dimly lit yet cool interior. I grabbed a grape Nehi soda – the only kind appropriate fur a lonely rural Arkansas town. After paying the lonely cashier, I stepped outside and sat on the loading dock in front of the story, leaning my sweaty back against the ice cooler. In just a few minutes I could hear the distinctive sound of a two stroke motor “rinnnggg a dinngggg dinnng”. More than one motor. Up the street came a pack of grade school kids on four wheelers and dirt bikes – no helmets, no shirts, just jeans, flip flops and maybe a pair of shoes between them. Before long other kids on foot gathered around watching while the kids on bikes ran up and down the street pulling wheelies, sliding sideways, and making all kinds of racket.
“Whatcha doin?” a blond haired ragamuffin 8 year old asked?
“Just riding across the country, hitting dirt roads when I can” I explained.
I got into a conversation about motorcycles, grade school, Nehi pop, fishing, and a wide range of farm kid topics with this group of youngsters, while their buddies on the dirt bikes zipped around us. I had a great time just hanging out, talking about traveling to far away places (the next county for these kids) and enjoying the view of country kids enjoying their summer with a stranger on an odd motorcycle.