Talimena Scenic Byway Ride 2014

Took my first trip from Denton, Texas to Talimena, Arkansas in June of 2014, to camp and ride the legendary Talimena National Scenic Byway with a small group of motorcyclists and scooter riders. Many of those in our small group made the trip to the campsite we had reserved separately. I rode up from Denton with James and Eben. Though Eben couldn’t make camp with us and had to return to Denton, he made the ride up to Oklahoma even more awesome.

Talimena had been hammered in the days before we arrived by some brutal thunderstorms. Luckily, the weather treated us well our first night at camp. The rain had left a lot of topsoil washout on the road, making for some treacherous riding conditions. A local EMT we encountered when gassing up informed our group that a number of motorcyclists even had to be air-lifted out by helicopter the previous day.

Fortunately, the roads weren’t nearly as bad as expected (looking back, I wonder if the person we met was even a legit EMT, or just some local taking us out-of-towners for a ride), and the weather held out during our ride from the campground to Mena, Arkansas, which yielded spectacular views. While the weather held out, the same cannot be said for the rear tire on one of the scooter’s, requiring a roadside repair.

Once back up and running, we completed the ride to Mena, got lunch, made an uneventful (albeit beautiful) ride back, and settled in for the night.

That’s when the weather turned south, and our campsite damn near floated away. These rains were biblical. Nothing anyone could do could keep the downpour from flooding their tent. It didn’t let up the following day, forcing us to get ready for the ride back to Texas in pouring rain.

The torrent continued for at least the first 60 miles of the return trip, with such ferocity that visibility was limited to mere feet. The shield on my Biltwell Gringo was hopelessly fogged, inside and out, requiring me to remove it entirely, and ride with my eyes half shut, while the rain fiercely pelted my face.

My rain pants were somehow shredded while riding through the sheer rage of the storm, eventually flapping so much, that the shredded tails of material melted to my exhaust pipes. I soon stripped them off and left them in the trash can at a gas station. My buddy James did the same, as his rain pants had saturated to the point of being useless both in the moment, and in any future rain. I loathe everything about rain pants to this very day. I’d rather get wet and just pack a dry change of clothes.

At the point that we ditched our “rain gear” the storm finally let up and gave way to clear skies. We got our bearings, made up some lost time, and after a few miles of riding, took refuge in a Whataburger to dry off and for some much needed food.

The remainder of the ride back to Denton was clear, sunny, easy, and most importantly, dry.

As a whole, the ride home was plagued with discomfort and challenge, and wasn’t fun or enjoyable in the moment, but there’s something special, especially after the fact, about those things that make you good at being uncomfortable. It’s something worth embracing. Though I have the pictures of the sunshine and good weather, the impression those moments left in my mind was fleeting. Not so for the moments of the thunderstorms that ravaged our camp at night, or the grueling rain-soaked ride back to Texas. Embrace the hardship and discomfort a life on two wheels may bring you, as those often turn out to be among your fondest memories and tales you share with those around you.

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