Day 2, August 6
A restful night. The rain is to the northwest and moving my way. If I get out of town and ride south, I should be able to avoid that large mass of green and yellow on the radar screen. I start packing the bike.
There are quite a few soldiers staying at the motel, maybe a dozen. U.S. Army. As I complete the packing of the bike. I wanted to put new batteries in my GPS. I dig into a bag, pull out a couple of batteries, remove the back of the GPS and install them as one of the soldiers walks over to me. He’s a captain.
“Where you headed?”
It’s always the same question when someone sees a motorcycle packed for travel. We engage in some conversation about motorcycle travels, and the bike, when I ask him what the group is doing.
“We’re from all over the country, and we’re here on a mission. We’re all medical technicians, dentists or doctors, and we’re serving some of the rural areas near here to give exams and dental care to kids.”
That’s pretty cool. Why don’t we hear more about military serving in this capacity here in the USA?
I also shared with him how I was working with Veterans with Project Healing Waters. It’s a recreational therapy for wounded warriors and soldiers with PTSD. He seemed very interested and wrote it down on the business card I handed him. I wished him well and thanked him for his service.
I pulled out of the motel and headed towards US 61 to take the two-laners for the day. Riding through town I spotted the neatest Art Deco building—the Greyhound Bus Station. What a wonderfully preserved building.
As I headed through town, I kept trying to turn on the GPS so that I could know where I would intersect US 61, but it would not turn on. I must have installed the batteries wrong, I thought, and looked for a place where I could pull over to check. Just up ahead, I saw the sign for US 61, approached the stop sign, turned left and then into an empty Pizza Hut parking lot to check the batteries.
Yup. I Installed one battery wrong. Fixed it, and put the GPS back together, and then into its holder. I start the bike back up when this big F-250 diesel Ford pickup truck with dually wheels pulls up next to me in the parking lot. It’s the kind of truck you see in any farming community. The driver shuts off his vehicle and says, “Are you traveling? Is that a V-Strom?”
We have a good short conversation about motorcycles and travel and the KLR 650 he used to own, and I notice glimmer of a dream in his eyes. It seems like a serendipitous moment.If I had installed the batteries correctly back at the hotel, this conversation would not have happened. Then he says, “Have a good day. I’m going to pray for your safe travels.”
“Thanks. I appreciate that.”
I ride south hoping I can stay off any and all interstates today. Two-lane travel allows you to see a lot more and experience more of small town America, like the blue lights behind me.
I rode down US 79 and planned to buy gas in Marianna, Arkansas. As I pulled into town, I came up to a stop light. I pull up to the red light and wait for it to change. There had not been much traffic. In fact there was very little cross traffic. Just 100 yards down the road was a gas station, the object of my desire.
I wait for the light. I wait some more, and then I realize that my motorcycle is not tripping the light. Everyone who rides knows this is sometimes a problem. Motorcycles often times are not heavy enough to trip the sensor that lets the electronic system of the traffic lights alter traffic.
Now what do I do. There is no traffic behind me to trip it. I make the decision to proceed cautiously and safely. No traffic from either direction, I pull out, and turn into the gas station. I stop next to a pump and get off the bike, and there is a law enforcement vehicle behind me with his blue lights on. Damn.
I remove my gloves and then my helmet, and walk back to him. “I bet I know why you’re here.” I’m putting on my best face and smiling. “I must have sat at that light for four or five minutes, and I could not trip that light. I thought about backing up, turning right and then going around it. But, I decided to wait for traffic to clear and then safely proceed through the light.”
He asked for my license, but didn’t want to see registration or insurance, and then he tells me several other motorcycles have not been able to trip that light. So, he decides to let me go. I thank him. Then he asks about my travels and the bike! We had a nice short conversation. He turns off the blue lights, and then pulls alongside my V-Strom to get a better look. “Nice looking bike. You ride safe.” And then he was gone.
Serendipity? Maybe. But …. just where did this guy come from to be behind me in the blink of an eye? I sure didn’t see him. Maybe there was something special in that farmer’s prayer back in Blytheville.
Arkansas is rural, and the land on the west side of the Mississippi River is flat. Fields are full of soy beans, corn and rice. The rice was a surprise to me, but then the bottom land is probably good for growing rice because it is nearly like wetlands.
The motorcycle rolls along, purrs actually, mile after mile until finally, those state line markers roll into sight. I pull over and grab a photo or two.
Louisiana … check.
About an hour later, I pull into the motel. It’s 96 degrees with a heat index of 105. The air conditioning feels great. After getting cleaned up, I walk down to the front desk recommendation for walking distance dining, Fat Mama’s Tamales. The margaritas are to die for.
See you on the highway.