By Bob Chappius, Louisana
(reprinted from STAReview 3407)
Another STAR is history. Stacie and I had a great time, as always. The volunteers did a great job and everything went smoothly. No great adventure this time as I have ridden most of the many great Arkansas roads often over the last 30+ years. But two things made this STAR special for me. One, it was a return to within just a few miles from where the first HSTA/MSTA Sport Touring Association Rendezvous was held. An event that launched me down this fantastic, life changing road. I will never forget riding my 1982 Honda V45 Sabre up to STAR 83 headquarters in the Beaver Lake campground. Following the signs pointing to the registration table and being the smartass that I was back in those days I figured Id make a grand entrance and ride up and over the hill on the sidewalk right up to the table where Dana Sawyer was working registration. What I didn’t see was that the sidewalk on the other side of the hill included several rather steep concrete steps! That embarrassing show got me quite a few hoots and hollers from my audience! Both I and the MSTA have come such a long way from that camping event in 1983 with about 40 members in attendance!
Whats the other thing that made STAR 2015 special? Getting to spend five days with so many good, longtime friends from all over the USA. I just don’t know a better bunch of people!
The Louisiana chapter once again had a strong contingent of members attending STAR. . The proximity of this years event in Springdale, Arkansas meant a one day ride was feasible. As do the majority of STAR participants most of us chose to arrive on Saturday, a day before the official opening and departed on Friday to get a head start either to incorporate some good twisty roads along the way or to cut down on the long 500 + mile day for us old timers. Tony Crowell and Kevin Yeats left early Friday and stopped for the night in Hope, AR. Tonys girlfriend Lanelle would drive in Sunday night. My wife Stacie worked until Friday evening and we then made a 60 mile hop up the Blues Highway to Vidalia, LA. Tim Smith and Alan Brown had a short distance to ride from north Louisiana. Rod Fors’ son Cevin and GF Tony flew down from Washington State and the trio rode up from New Orleans. Iron Butt Paul Lefort rode up from Thibodaux on Sunday. STAR regular Eric Babcock had to cancel due to a family health emergency at the last minute. We missed you Eric and hope all is well. Another regular, Dennis Hedrick has hung up the helmet, hopefully only temporarily. We missed you too Dennis!
Being retired I had the luxury of spending most of Friday fine tuning my bike prep and packing. Stacie and I got on the road in the early evening and made a quick run to the Comfort Suites on the Vidalia riverfront. Our room had a nice view of the Mississippi. We relaxed with a drink and then walked a few blocks to Johnnie Maes, formally the Sandbar Restaurant. We had an outstanding meal and then returned to the motel where we sat outside on the terrace overlooking the river for a good while. A great way to start our STAR vacation.
Saturdays route to Springdale was our longest of the trip, 450 miles, including about 10 extra due to the Pig Trail closure. At our age we have reached the point where we prefer to avoid more than 400 miles per day in the saddle. We would like to have covered more than 60 miles on Friday evening to make for a shorter Saturday but there just wasn’t any suitable stopping points within another 40 to 60 miles from Vidalia. No doubt a lot of my ironbutt friends are smirking 😉
We got on the road Saturday at 8:20 and headed west and north on US 425 to Star City, AR where we got fuel. Then AR 530 to Pine Bluff where we got on Interstate 530 to Hot Springs and I-40 to Clarksville. I avoid Interstates whenever I can but they are the only way to go when a large city is between you and your destination.
My plan was to get fuel and a gas station lunch in Clarksville and take AR 21 through the Ozark National Forest to AR 16. I unfortunately failed to notice that my Garmin Nuvi had recalculated my route sending me up 103 toward the closed Pig Trail. I went 6 miles out of my way before I realized it. It seems the Nuvi recalculated because I exited the gas station on a side road due to heavy traffic on the main drag. Since that incident I have made a strict habit of reloading my route whenever I get even a few yards off course! I miss the option that previous Garmin units had of a prompt for permission before recalculating a route.
After 467 miles and 8 hours and 50 minutes we arrived at the Holiday Inn to be greeted by more happy friends than I can count. We got checked in and then spent about 30 minutes just saying hello to friends we mostly see just once a year, from Kansas, Arkansas, Ohio, Indiana, Tennessee, Oklahoma, Oregon, California, Washington, [a bunch from] Texas, Missouri and Florida; Alabama, Colorado, Arizona, North Carolina and South Carolina.
Several of us had a drink at the bar and then headed out to Foghorns, a sports bar and wing joint for supper where we had a good meal and made some new friends. Gary Kozlowski of Nevada, Martin Cobb from Texas as well as Alan Brown, new Louisiana member. Gary would end up riding with us every day and joining us for meals. Marty is a Concours 14 rider like me and a member of the Concours Owners Group and had attended the COG national event in Colorado the previous week.
On Sunday most of the gang headed out on one of the rides around 8:00 am but Stacie and I needed to register at of the early days of MSTA. After meeting Harry at the first STAR I had ridden with him to STAR 84 in Aspen as for lunch and sightseeing. It was the last day of Eureka Springs Blues Week and there was a good crowd with lots of bikes in town, mostly Harley Davidsons. We had a good meal at the Mud Street Cafe, an eclectic, artsy joint with a healthy but tasty menu. On the way back to Springdale I tried to locate the Beaver Lake Dam. I wanted to take a picture on the dam as I and Harry Trafford, first Florida HSTA State Director had taken a picture there, which I still have. Sadly, Garmins City Navigator 2015 Point Of Interest database did not contain any reference to the dam or the park surrounding it. Had I been thinking I could have switched to the (FREE) Open Source Map I had loaded in my Nuvi. It turned out our track brought us within 4 miles of the dam. I am disappointed I did not get to see the dam again but it brought back fond memories well as roomed with him a few times at Daytona Bike Week. Harry was quite a character. I lost touch with him in 1992 when he was relocated by Hurricane Andrew and by the time we got back in touch he had lost interest in motorcycling and was into sport cars and restoring a Lotus Esprit.
Back at headquarters we hooked up with the gang and walked to the Mexican restaurant just up the road from the motel and had another fine meal.
Monday Stacie stayed in town while I rode the Oark loop provided by the organizers with the Gang. The Gang included me and Jim Girton on Concours 14s, Gary on his BMW R1200RT, Kevin on his Triumph, Don and Chris Laderer on their Honda ST1300s, Tony on his BMW R1200GS, Tim on his VFR 800 and Alan on his ST. We started out on 16 and 21 which Stacie and I had rode on the way up but stopped at the old store in Oark for lunch. Then west on AR 215, south on the Pig Trail to I-40, west to US 71. We rode the nice sweepers of 71 to Winslow then home on I-49. It was an enjoyable loop, with the US 71 sweepers really topping it off.
After much debate, dinner was at the Marketplace Grill with the usual crowd. Our first restaurant choice turned out to be out of business, having given way to a new Chevron station. Marketplace is an Arkansas chain with a nice family atmosphere, a decent menu but no alcohol. It won out however because it was just past the parking lot of the Holiday Inn. The food was only OK but the company was great.
Tuesday is traditionally Lunch Ride day at STAR. The organizers had provided 4 different routes to The Hub motorcycle resort just south of Marble Falls. The Gang was opting for the longest loop. Stacie and I and Jim chose a shorter loop, 85 miles out and 102 miles back. We rode east on pleasantly rolling US 412 then south on AR 392 and 206 to AR 7 just north of Marble Falls. We were the first ones there and sat on a picnic table in the shade and watched riders trickle in before sitting down to a nice buffet. Our return route was down 7 to Jasper then west on 74. It was a very enjoyable ride.
Tuesday night we returned to Fog-horns for some more good fun, drinks and chow. Afterward a few of us hung out at the Holiday Inn bar having a good chat with dual sport guru and GPS wizard Doug Pippen of North Carolina and others.
For Wednesday Stacie would take a break from riding and hang out in town. I rode with the same group as Monday minus Tony who was visiting Eureka Springs and the Casino in OK with Lanelle. Also along on this ride were Rod Fors on his Triumph Bonneville and his son Cevin on an ST 1300. With Paul in the lead we rode 62 and 187 to Beaver. We stopped there at the wooden suspension bridge and park beside the white river for pictures and a break. Then up into Oklahoma through the Mark Twain National Forest before hitting the fantastic curves of OK 90 where the pace picked up.
Wednesday night was the event banquet and raffle bike drawing. After massing for a group picture we filed into the ballroom and sat down to a sumptuous meal and various prize drawings. Missing from the agenda was a guest speaker but there were several desirable prizes in addition to the Yamaha FJR. No one in our group won anything but our Texan friend Dave Moss won the FJR! Then it was a lot of goodbyes to friends and up to the room to pack. I am always a little sad when STAR comes to an end.
Thursday morning all of the gang were gone by the time I came down for breakfast. Our route home would be down I-49 to Chester then US 71 and back roads to Ozark, AR 27 south to Murphreesboro then various secondary roads to Magnolia, AR.
We stopped for the night after 320 miles at a Quality Inn. We had a dip in the pool before walking down the street to a Chinese Buffet and Sushi place. Later we sat outside by the pool reminiscing about another fine STAR and planning our next road trips.
The final leg home was just 260 miles which was good because we were both very tired. We were soon back on familiar Louisiana roads though Homer, Ruston, Chatham, Columbia and winding LA 126 to Jonesville, across the Mississippi and down the Blues Highway to home.