Adam writes on 2013-10-28:
Today is Tuesday, October 28th. I am writing from Mount Pleasant, Texas. We apologize for not having written sooner, but we are sure you will understand.
It has been an interesting last couple of days. A big part of travelling involves meeting people. Well out of Memphis, Tennessee we not only met “Motorcycle Mike”, who used to run a motorcycle shop up in Anchorage, Alaska and who was featured in Charley Boorman and Ewan McGregor’s Long Way Round motorcycle travel series, but at the same random, out of the way truck stop, we also met someone who mistook us for parachutists. An honest mistake really.
While we were originally planning on taking a more direct route towards Douglas, Arizona across Oklahoma as I did on my 2010 trip, we decided to veer south and keep going until the cold, rainy northerly weather subsided. Having arrived in Little Rock, Arkansas – technically North Little Rock – we took a room at a motel run by a Hindu Indian woman.
Being from Toronto, Canada, I have some understanding of the Indian diaspora but did politely inquire about the situation. I understand why Indians immigrate to the Toronto suburb of Brampton, for example, but I was intrigued as to how someone from India arrives in Little Rock, and North Little Rock at that. The nice lady explained her story, and it all made sense. She had originally arrived in San Francisco, moved around a bit and eventually found a place to put down some roots and call home. That is really the American dream, isn’t it?
I didn’t engage in this question all at once. We were actually in North Little Rock for a couple of days. Having beat the cold and rain – even getting some in Kentucky – we went to start up Jenn’s bike (Millie) the morning after arrival and heard engine noise that couldn’t be placed. I tooled around and looked at all of the obvious stuff – spark plugs, valve clearance, cam chain, etc.
Feeling that we really didn’t want to damage the engine (further?) if there was a problem, we opted to seek a professional opinion. We have too much invested in the bikes and this trip to take chances. The problem was that by the time I finished tooling around, and then finding a decent motorcycle mechanic in Little Rock, Saturday was beginning to come to a close. Being a motorcycle shop, I was not surprised to hear that they would be closed Sunday. I was, however, a little surprised to find out that they are closed Mondays as well. So be it.
At this point we are juggling boredom with running errands, performing minor maintenance to bikes, and resting up. The specific location of our motel was geared towards highway travellers. The direct vicinity boasted four gas stations with convenience marts, three fast food restaurants, various hotels and motels, and a liquor store where the South Asian staff exuberantly flaunt their bargain booze. Using one bike, we shuttled back and forth between a more built up area of North Little Rock in order to obtain provisions beyond meager gas station fair and boring burger chains.
With Tuesday having finally arrived, “Bear” – a burly biker dude who explained that he was instrumental in invoking Arkansas’ no helmet laws and passionately operating a “motorcycle assist” program – picked up Millie and took her down to the local Suzuki dealership for triage. Seth, the service manager, aware that we are travelers, graciously bumped us to the front of the queue. Having started up Millie’s cold engine, he and others spent some time trying to diagnose the perceived issue and came back with uncertain news. Or really no news. He wasn’t sure.
He took her out for a short spin, and upon return, we could no longer detect the sound. Hmmm. Although having ridden Millie in the parking lot briefly upon hearing the noise the first time, we hadn’t brought her up to proper operating temperature. Seth lent me an oil pan and I dumped the oil (i.e change the engine’s oil) mainly to look for evidence of damage – metal shards in the oil, etc. There was nothing to be found.
The consensus was that the the perceived condition was not apparent when the bike was warm and we are going to continue to ride the bike while monitoring it for anomalies. I am mostly confident that we are out of the woods, with just minor apprehension at this point. [Edit: ya, right!].
Having expected the worst (or at least something more than “we don’t think there is a problem”), Jenn and I set off west. Texas west.
We are both a little sad to leave Arkansas behind. Admittedly, I have never thought about Arkansas much. I have never had to. Surely some of the stereotypes and caricatures as presented on television are present: “Billy Bob” in the Walmart dressed to the nines in overalls, or the twenty-something “love birds” dressed head to toe in Mossy Oak camouflage. All things said and done, the people that we interacted with in Arkansas were mostly very polite, not without Southern charm, eager to help out, and interested in what we are doing. Not exactly what the reality TV shows present, right?
With Arkansas behind us, we are now in Mount Pleasant, Texas which is mid-way between the border with Arkansas and Dallas/Fort Worth. Riding all day long, or even a good part of the day, it is nice to walk to places once we hunker down for the night. I am sure that if we were to go “in town” we would find sidewalks but, in this case, we were actually trying to come up with our story when pulled over by an law enforcement office in the event that we were illegally walking across an overpass to the more “built up” centre of gas stations. If there had been other foot traffic here, it wasn’t obvious.
We are tenting tonight with a minor risk of thunderstorms. In fact, the forecast for the next couple of days are severe thunderstorms. Hmmm. This does, however, beat the tornado warnings that they are forecasting for the areas a little north of us.