On riding motorcycles


In my mind, there are two kinds of people in this world:  those who ride motorcycles and those who don’t understand those who ride motorcycles. After all, why would someone choose to participate in such a risky endeavor?

My first “car” was actually a motorcycle — a 1971 Honda Scrambler, part dirt bike, part street. It had a kick-starter, which saved weight but also created an incentive to get the thing started in as few kicks as possible. I quickly learned just the right touch on the choke and throttle to spring the motor to life. I remember the first time I successfully let out the clutch (without killing the engine) and felt the bike surge forward. In that first moment of motion, a motorcycle transforms into a magical flying carpet, accelerating through an arc of curvature with your heart one beat behind. My current ride is superior to that original Honda. It has cruise control, heated grips and a GPS, but the thrill I get when the clutch is engaged is still the same.                                                                        

Riding in Arkansas is great because we have some of the best motorcycle roads in the nation. By “motorcycle road” I mean a narrow, twisty, hilly road that rewards the rider with a roller coaster-like experience. Those horrible roads that car drivers curse and avoid are exactly where a motorcyclist wants to be.

Some of the best roads lie in Northwest Arkansas and include Highways 16, 21, 23 and 123, to name a few. Those twisty roads are a tourism treasure, as riders from surrounding states arrive to ride the best. Our state has produced a great guide just for riders, and it can be ordered or viewed online (arkansas.com/travel-tools/vacation-kit) or at any Arkansas Welcome Center. If you choose to take the tour, make sure to keep your gas tank and tummy full, because services in the more remote areas can be limited. That said, some of the very best restaurants are hidden in those hills and valleys, and are well worth searching out.

As you are exploring all that remote territory, remember that most of the homes, farms and businesses you pass are served by electric cooperatives. It takes lots of line to hook up houses along the often sparsely populated motorcycle roads. Until the nonprofit cooperatives arrived decades ago, electricity just wasn’t available. Today, you don’t have to worry. Even the most off-the-beaten-path fuel stop is fully electrified. Co-op employees keep the lines clear and the power flowing, no matter how rough the territory.

With longer days and warmer weather, riders will be returning to the streets. It is easy to miss a motorcycle when you aren’t used to watching for them. A bike can disappear behind a car, tree or curve. The saying “look twice, save a life” is most certainly true. Attuned as I am to riders, I have often been surprised at what pops out in the second look. Stay alert, and keep everyone safe.

And look for me, appearing soon on a hilly curve near you. I’ll be the one with a big smile on his face.