2019 Tour of Honor – Ride 16 (Arkansas)

I have been fighting Arkansas all year. Every time that I think the stars are aligned for me to take a trip to hit the sites, something happens. It may be rain, tornado, health, family, something comes up.

FINALLY! Everyone is healthy. Weather is supposed to be great for over a week. No other events on the docket. LET’S RIDE!

Day 1 – Saturday, September 28

My plan for today is to try to avoid interstate. BUT, looking over the locations, interstate may be about the only way to get from point A to B to C, etc. I am loaded up for a week on the road, couple of pairs of pants, sneakers, short and long sleeved shirts (just in case it get cool), plenty or underwear and socks, and even some The Macallan (yes, “The” is part of the name). I have the Harley GPS set to just show me the road ahead and the Garmin set with the locations to visit. I have the thumb-drive set with music. I am ready to go!

I have two gas stations that I use as starting points, today I chose the Circle K in Muscle Shoals. It isn’t going to take much gas, I just wanted to make sure I start with a full tank. Spot tracking is set and I am rolling at 7:50am!

I head out one of my preferred routes heading to Memphis (US72 from Tuscumbia to Memphis, then head to I-40). I should be able to get through town before people start getting out and about. University of Memphis hosted Navy in football on Thursday night, so no football traffic to worry about. I cruise through Memphis with little traffic about 10:00am. Do an obligatory wave as I pass near dad’s house. First gas stop is in Forrest City, AR about 11:00am. People are already lined up for lunch at the chicken place. Getting ready for the games today.

Back on I-40 until I see the exit for England. This road is about as straight and level as you could imagine. I can almost see the turn about 6 or 7 miles ahead. Farm land one either side that has recently been harvested, maybe even getting it ready for a fall crop. I pull into England as the morning Farmer’s Market is closing up. The memorial is a little bit from the road, but the parking lot is still blocked with other morning events. I park on the road and get my picture.

Next stop is the Gold Star Family Memorial in Beebe. I backtrack a short bit, then stay straight on US165 until I get to I440 around Little Rock. The pace of what little traffic is picking up as I make my way around town and north on US167. The GPS has a saved POI (Point of Interest) that indicates there is a helicopter close to the road. Knowing that I will be heading back this same route after Beebe, I try to see how close it really is to the road. Between visual inspection and the map on the GPS, too far to try to visit this trip. I have over 30 helicopter visits this year, and my focus this trip is Arkansas Tour of Honor sites and Gold Star Memorial sites. If another optional site pops up and is along the route, I may stop.

I pull into the parking lot at the Beebe, AR Gold Star Family Memorial. There is only five of six parking spots, two of which are marked for Handicap. There is a minivan parked at the spot closest to the memorial, so I work to get an angle to avoid it in my picture. As I am getting set, a gentleman and his wife come out from the gas station across the street. We chat about the my rides, the Tour of Honor, and the Gold Star Family Memorials. He tells me that a new Gold Star Family Memorial was dedicated this morning in Little Rock, on the west side of the state Capitol. He had been was part of the dedication team, hence his kilt (I told him I wasn’t going to judge whether it was a kilt or s skirt, his wife agreed that she never knows which it is since she has a skirt that looks jut like his kilt). He gives me directions and a copy of the presentation booklet. I get my pictures and make my way back to Little Rock.

Downtown Little Rock is a neat place. They are working to revitalize the area and park along the river. Put in music venues and eating places. Having a special event nearby, the parking is very limited. I can see the memorial, but can’t get there from here. I make another loop through town, trying t find a way into the parking lot, navigating one-way streets, streets closed for special events, and cobblestone streets (at least it is dry pavement!). I eventually find the entrance to the parking lot. $20 for parking! As I dig out my wallet, I ask her if she can point me to the specific memorial. She thinks it is at the far end, if I am only going to be here for a few minutes, she tells me to go back next to her truck. I graciously accept the offer and save my $20. I get my camera and rally flag then head to the memorial. I find it and get a picture. Now to get a picture, even from a distance with the bike. I find an area that should work and make my way back to the bike. I ride over to the spot I scoped out, get a picture and ready to head out. As I get ready to leave, the lady at the parking booth asks if I found everything. “Yes ma’am, oh do you know the quickest way to get to the new Gold Star Family Memorial?” She gives me great directions and I am off to my next site.

I enter the state Capitol from the east and work to find my way around. I don’t have a clue where on the west side to find the memorial, but I keep looking. I see a Capitol Police vehicle and head to ask questions, but it is empty. I start on around the building, then I see it. The memorial is right outside the building. No parking there, and the driveway is closed to traffic. I find a parking spot at the bottom of the hill. I work to get some pictures from below and at the memorial.

My goal is to get to Conway, AR for the night. As I approach Conway, it is only 3:30pm. Sun is still out and I still have plenty of energy. If I make it to Fort Smith tonight, that is two hours less on the back-end. After today, I will not spend much time on interstates. I decide to head on to Fort Smith which is only two hours down the road.

I approach Fort Smith and see a sign for Sleep Inn. I take the exit and follow the signs. I find the hotel, but there are no places to eat within walking distance. Closest place is about a mile back toward the interstate where I just passed. I check in and get settled in. I pull out my maps and laptop to look over where I will be heading tomorrow. The Tour of Honor site for Fort Smith isn’t near the interstate and would require some back tracking. I check the on-line maps and decide that since I need to go out to get something to eat, I might as well go ahead and visit downtown Fort Smith.

I head out on the bike through the neighborhoods. I eventually find my way to the main street and the GPS tells me that the target site is straight ahead a few miles. I soon see the county fair has been set up on my left. I stop at the light and look around. There is a Doughboy on my right! I see that part of the parking lot is roped off, so I scan for an entrance. Just as the light changes, I see a way in!

I pull into the parking lot and work my way past a parked car next to the Doughboy. I come in at an angle that will have me taking a picture right into the setting sun. I maneuver the bike around. Suddenly, I realize I have leaned the bike too far to the right and it is going over. Before I can do anything, it is down, and it is on me! My foot is caught under the bike and the pain is excruciating! I can’t pull myself free.

There are a three people manning the parking lot and I call for help. They come running and pull the bike up. I get up, but my foot hurt, BAD! I get the helmet off and walk around for a few minutes. The bike still isn’t where I want it, but this will have to do. I get the picture and calm my nerves. I check that the bike is ok, not a scratch it.

I head back on track to the Fort Smith Tour of Honor site. Downtown Fort Smith, one way streets, I want to go the other way. With no traffic, I manage to get to a parking spot next to the memorial. This is dedicated to General Darby, a real “bad-ass biker.” I get few pictures and decide to call it a day.

I don’t want to go back on the street I came on, so I take a route that has me crossing the river into Oklahoma and riding back up to I-40. I ride back to the exit near the hotel and pull into a place to eat. First place is only open for drive through, no, they will not allow me to walk to the drive through, I must DRIVE to the window. No inside service since they are remodeling. I decide to try the Mexican place a few buildings down. I really wanted a margarita, but not if I still have to ride the bike to the hotel. Even if it is only a mile or two.

After supper, I make my way back to the hotel. Foot still hurts. It hurts to put any pressure on the foot, so I just brace myself with the heel and limp to the room. The lady at the front desk notices me limping and asks if I am ok. I tell her what happened and she offers to call an ambulance to get me to the hospital and have my foot checked out. It hurts, but I should be fine in the morning.

Back in the room I start planning my route for tomorrow. I call home to tell my bride about my adventure. She wants me to just come on home tomorrow. I tell her that if the foot bruises overnight or swells, I’ll make the decision in the morning. I get a bag of ice and pack my foot for the night. I hurt too bad to even open up the scotch!

Day 2 – Sunday, September 29

Oddly enough, I did manage to get some decent sleep. Yes, the foot still hurts. Trying to limp to the bathroom is a challenge barefoot. I look over the various options. I could finish the remaining two site in Arkansas and head home, about 700 miles and 12 hours, or more. Or I could head straight home, 500 miles and 7 hours.

I pack everything, get dressed, and carry everything out. My foot hurts! I carry everything in one trip so I don’t have to go back up to the room. I get a light breakfast in the hotel before heading out.

All loaded, about a half tank of gas, sore foot. Do I tackle the last two sites or head home? A quick calculation leads me that I will need two gas stops if I head straight home. I make the turn onto the interstate at 7:15am. I am headed straight home.

Two gas stops and 500 miles later, I will into the driveway at 1:30pm. I pull the bike straight into the garage and park it. I shed my gear and head in to take off my boot and get my foot back on ice.

Day 3 – Monday, September 30

I got up early and my bride had me at the doctor’s office when they opened. We had a pair of crutches left over from her knee surgeries and I quickly adjusted them to fit me.

A short wait, a couple of X-rays, and a quick review by the doctor gets me a referral to the orthopedic center for further evaluation. I look at the X-rays with the doctor and he says he thinks I broke a bone, but he wants the orthopedic center to review and they have the equipment and supplies to deal with my foot. Great, that will hamper my riding for a few weeks. (As for the pictures, the colors had not fully developed when these were taken. It REALLy got colorful a few days later, and the foot was even more swollen.)

At the orthopedic center that afternoon I have a few more X-rays taken. Doctor comes in and asks how I am feeling. Pain has subsided, mainly sore unless I try to stand or walk on the foot. I jokingly say “I guess I broke a bone, huh?” “Nope, you broke two!” I get a walking boot, instructions on dealing with crutches and the walking boot. Crutches for two weeks, walking boot for at least another week, go back in three weeks to evaluated how it is healing.

Post ride review:

  • 2 Tour of Honor sites;
  • 2 Gold Star Family Memorials;
  • 1 Doughboy; and
  • 2 broken bones in the foot.

[Post-script: The three week follow-up gave me some good news and not to good news. The three breaks are healing well (yes, THREE, in the follow-up X-rays they saw that one of the bones I had broken was actually broken in two places, one at each end). The extra break was the reason that I was having more pain that expected, especially when twisting the foot. Three more weeks with the walking boot, no bike for a while, that includes the Spyder! I will not be finishing Arkansas this year. Once again, Arkansas beat me this year. I WILL get Arkansas next year.]