I have always felt that when you clean your bike it is also a good time to do any routine maintenance that it might need. After spending a couple hours getting my bike clean with a plethora of quality products from Star brite, I had several minor issues that I had to take care of. First I had noticed that my front brake wasn’t working the way it should; sure enough, it was in need of some brake fluid. I also needed to add some air in both tires, tighten up some screws on the coil cover AND just when I was about finished I noticed that my rear exhaust pipe was loose. Upon further inspection, the stud that had been welded to the pipe that connects to my frame had broken in two. As much as these old machines vibrate, often times a lot of things end up loose or lost.
After Gabe fixed my exhaust and looked over the bike once more, we decided to take a long ride and visit several counties with small towns. Although I was on my trusty ole Panhead named “Panacea”, this time Gabe was riding his 1967 FLH generator Shovelhead with a pogo seat that he had just put together. With his bike having larger fuel capacity, it was now just my bike that would always need to stop for gas.
The roads were clean as it had just rained a few days prior, the air was warm and the sun was shining with a temperature of around 76. PERFECT! We first ventured into Marion County before we got to Searcy County via the backroads of highways 206 and 235, only having to trek a very small distance on the very popular and VERY congested highway 65. We stopped at a place called Dry Creek Mercantile in a small town called Pindall. For under $20 we both ate a superb breakfast, gulped down two sodas in glass bottles, purchased the local weekly newspaper AND we both indulged in their homemade strawberry pie! The country store had all kinds of snacks, drinks, along with groceries, camping supplies and lots of antiques and knickknacks.
Since this was the first time Gabe had been on the Shovelhead, we decided to run the famous “Jasper Disaster” route to test the bike out. This route is considered one of the most challenging rides in the state with over 316 curves! Since we were in Searcy County, we made our way north first travelling on highway 206 and then riding on highway 43. Both bikes seemed to be running great as we ventured onto the 800-foot climb up Gaither Mountain. This road has such wide sweeping curves I just love the way my bike feels. By the time we got to Compton, I needed gas so we stopped and took a break. While there a few more people rode in on bikes and before taking off I went back into the store, grabbed some mints and spotted a blue and black bandanna that I just HAD to have that matches my ’39 Knucklehead that I am almost done with. SCORE! As we rolled on through Boxley Valley, the elk were nowhere to be seen so we headed on up Highway 74 where there are plenty of tight turns; almost two miles of switchbacks all while rising in elevation and virtually nowhere to pull over to take a photo or stop if you needed help.
Right off of highway 74, we rolled into the small scenic town of Jasper. Jasper is a town in Newton County where the nation’s first national river, the Buffalo begins. Jasper has a very popular downtown square that bikers like to stop at when riding through. The town is home to the Ozark Café, established in 1909 and still maintains a soda fountain. Not only is the Ozark Café on the National Register of Historic Places, it serves great food AND is the second oldest restaurant in the state of Arkansas! While we were there getting some cold drinks, almost all of the customers who came through the door were on motorcycles. Jasper is a very friendly town for bikers and it has several other cafes. After talking to a guy who owns a motorcycle shop on the Jasper square, we ran scenic byway 7 (the state’s first national scenic byway) to get back to highway 206. Since the bikes were running flawlessly we decided to keep riding and go back to Marion County and take highway 235 into Yellville to go eat at a Mexican buffet.
Just as soon as I saw the sign for the town of Bruno, my bike started acting up and I KNEW I was running out of gas so at the bottom of the hill I flipped my Pingel petcock to reserve and it was able to pick up the gas without stalling out. After riding nine miles on reserve we pulled into the first station we saw. Gabe reached over and grabbed something off my bike. Apparently, I had lost my motor mount bolt and the chrome acorn nut was still riding on the motor mount! We continued to fuel both bikes up and when he went to start his Shovel, it backfired and blew the carburetor off! I then had to pull my bike up as he continued to try and fix his. A cool guy named Bones came over and was commenting that he had seen my bike in several magazines but that it looked much better in person! As Gabe continued to work, I pulled a couple of Allen wrenches out of my leg bag so that he was able to get the work done quicker. Another guy came over during this and he told Gabe that he had a Flathead motor sitting on his bench. That, of course, got Gabe’s interest so he gave him a card. You know you can never have too many bikes!
After Gabe got his bike fixed, we decided that we needed to make our way back home and not take the chance of any more problems as darkness would be setting in shortly. Riding an old bike may not always be as convenient or even as reliable as a newer one, but it is the unexpected things that happen that always make the trip memorable. With the great roads and the awesome scenery, even with the minor breakdowns, I was still able to come back home renewed and refreshed. My motto is “Old Iron Never Dies”, but I have to say sometimes it does break down!