August 20, 2014 – Houston, TX to Arkadelphia, AR – 458 miles
Late August would not typically be anyones first choice for a motorcycle roadtrip in the South, but when an avid sport tourer hasn’t been on a multi-day ride for over three years and grandma volunteers to take the 2.5 year old and 14 month old for a few days, one makes do!
After a lot of thought, I decided that Arkansas would be the best “bang for the buck”. I’d certainly prefer Colorado or north Georgia/Smokies, but I can get to Arkansas in one day without having to iron butt across west Texas or LA/MS/AL/GA.
This morning I gave the girls one final hug, wished my mother luck, and rolled out of the driveway.
A few miles later I was out of the cozy NASA bedroom community of Clear Lake and into the adjacent industrial area. Refineries and stinky chemical plants everywhere. Every time I go through this area on my way to east Texas, I hold my breath and wonder what horrors all these chemicals are doing to the children growing up nearby.
Finally out of Houston, I took I-10 east just far enough to get away from my usual day ride roads. I set off north west just in time to avoid Beaumont and beelined toward one of the more sport-riding friendly north/south roads in east Texas – TX-87.
As soon as I left the interstate, I got a harsh reminder that conditions on rural state roads can be unpredictable. The construction zone on TX-326 was signed as “loose gravel” and “one-lane road ahead”, but I think they forgot the “pavement ends” sign. Ugh. At least I was riding on nice stable dirt and not deep gravel.
The highway department responsible for TX-421 between TX-326 and US-96 is Very Proud of the curves along the road. Every little bend seemed to be signed “40 mph” both in paint on the roadway and in large warning signs. I slowed down for the first few, but then, disappointed, ignored the warnings and kept to the speed limit (around 60 mph).
On US-96 I enjoyed the antics of a crop-dusting plane.
I had only eaten a small muffin for breakfast, so I was very hungry when I arrived in Newton, TX around noon. I didn’t see many options around, so I whipped out my phone to take a look at Yelp. The only place that looked promising along my route was a tiny BBQ place on the courthouse square. Cash only, but at least it was fast and listening to the other diners was entertaining.
In my head, TX-1414 between Newton and Burkeville is supposed to be a fantastic road (for Texas). My memories didn’t hold up to the reality. There were a few decent curves, but nothing to get excited about. I’ll try to remember not to make a point of doing that road in the future.
On the other hand, TX-87 between Burkeville and Toledo Bend Reservoir is actually pretty nice. Plenty of good sweepers to enjoy between overtaking logging trucks.
Toledo Bend Reservoir
My fun for the day was over around 3pm when I caught up with US-59 in Tenaha, TX. I settled in for the 3 hour interstate and interstate-equivalent grind up to Arkadelphia. After checking into my hotel, I showered and walked to a nearby restaurant. It was BBQ again for dinner, followed by an Arkansas specialty – fried peach pie with vanilla ice cream!