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  • robertfarago1

Rain, Rain, Rain (Fayetteville, Arkansas)



Some days you chase the bear. Some days the bear chases you. Two very different motorcycling styles resulting.


If you're chasing the bear, you relax into the zone. You twist the throttle, massage the brakes and position your body in accordance with the philosophy beloved by the military, law enforcement and shooting sports: slow is smooth, smooth is fast.


You go with the flow, riding within the limits of adhesion, safety and skill. Corners and straights follow one another in harmonious rhythm and, on the right road, symphonic splendor. On the right bike, chasing the bear becomes positively operatic.


Like a dog chasing a car, you don't want to actually catch the bear. You just want to keep pace with it.


If you're motorcycling through the Ozarks, you might even say the bear becomes your spirit animal.


You might. I didn't. The bear was chasing me.


The Longest Journey Sometimes Shouldn't Start



As I was about to leave Paris for Fayetteville, a severe thunderstorm alert popped-up on my phone. Weather radar put me in the picture. A hellacious splotch of red and orange was amoeba-ing its way across Oklahoma to my 10-40. It was set to roll over my ass by 4pm.


I considered staying put. I hadn't seen Paris' mini-me Eiffel Tower! But the cigar bar that had given me such good vibes was closed for the day and wanderlust's initial rush had me in its grips.


Wiping down Fritz from the previous nights thunderstorm, the leaden sky above our heads made me wonder if it was time to instruct Siri not to avoid major highways. But the skies weren't that leaden. More like thallium (a step down on the periodic table). Soft. Malleable. Manageable.


Plowing through the dirty air behind semis tearing down a featureless Interstate when there were mountain roads to be had seemed ridiculous, and not in a good way. Besides, I had six hours to make the five-hour journey before the storm steamrollered Arkansas.



Every pit stop – to feed Fritz and relieve my back, bladder and bum – necessitated an increase in pace. I must have glanced heavenwards a hundred times, wondering if I was heading into or away from dark clouds hanging over the horizon.


The Road Less Traveled


Leaving Fort Smith's less than salubrious surrounds, Route 71 suddenly turned into the exact sort of road BMW had in mind when they fettled Fritz: a perfectly-paved two-lane twisty with long, sweeping curves scything through a lush, gently undulating landscape. No traffic. No crossroads.


I cranked the throttle and gave Fritz his head.


Now that was something. Leaning 839+ pounds of German motorcycle 30-degrees at 80+mph was easy! Bearly an inconvenience!


A good forty miles passed in a blur of BMW bad-assery. But it wasn't as much fun as it could have been.


The storm-shaped bear was chasing me. The temperature was dropping. The gloom was gathering. The air smelled like lightning. Fritz was on my side, bless his heart. Time wasn't. Paranoia rode pillion.


Ozark Ontology



About 30 miles out of Fayetteville, 71 rose into the Ozark mountains. The road stopped sweeping and started doing the fandango.


There are supermodels with less delicious curves. Snakes who can't coil with as much aplomb. The roadside signs told the tale: "Pass with care," "No Passing Zone" and "Go Directly to Hospital." Or something like that.


None of Fritz's 160 horses were spared, none of its calipers contained. Meanwhile, my mind was once again appreciating the distinct difference between good adrenalin (yee-haw!) and bad adrenalin (oh shit!).


The latter was released into my bloodstream by a simple thought: if it starts raining, this road will be slow-crawling Rain Mode hell. Dangerous AF.


I was miles away from civilization. If I lost it, emergency services would be a while – assuming anyone even knew the bear had mauled me and my motorcycle, having flung both of us into the woods.


I wanted to stop to take a picture but time was of the essence.


So Much for My Comfort Zone


Fourteen miles from Fayetteville, with the road just straightening out, the storm hit.


Visibility decreased dramatically (motorcycle helmets don't have a windshield wiper). Discomfort increased dramatically (my warm jacket isn't waterproof?). Hilton couldn't offer me a room (emphatically!).


I was wet, tired, sore, hungry, cold and miserable. As far from safe and warm and well-fed in my Austin condo as I could get. I mean I hope that's as bad as it's going to get. I highly suspect it isn't.


The [perverse] desire to leave my comfort zone was one of the main reasons I skipped town in the first place. To force myself to adapt, improvise and survive. To re-learn how to do what my friend Jon Wayne Taylor and his warrior buddies do: embrace the suck.


Grin and Bear It?


Obviously, there's more to it than that.


There's the bit where the bear suddenly stops chasing you, leaving you in a proverbial clearing with the symbolic sun shining. When you truly appreciate the fact that the only sure thing about luck is that it will change.


As it did, in relatively short order.


The rain stopped. I found a Hilton that hadn't rented its very last room to the legions of Walmart workers assembling in Arkansas to figure out how to completely eliminate locally-owned businesses.


I bought a decent cigar from a smart ass Jew in a Vape shop, got an excellent mani-pedi, bravely consumed "rock and roll" sushi to the sound of The Beastie Boys and hair bands, and met a cool couple at the hotel bar. They directed me to – but didn't shout – Eureka.


So be it. Only... Eureka's an hour away and more thunderstorms are taking a bead on my Bimmer-borne bod. I think I'll find a less expensive hideaway, buy a waterproof motorcycle jacket, find that cigar bar the last cigar bar recommended and hunker down for a bit.


Once mauled, twice shy? Like you read about. Literally.


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3 Comments


Chrisopher Bove
Chrisopher Bove
Jun 04

Onward and upward, my friend!

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DrMikeinPDX
Jun 04

Fun writing! It's amazing how much online radar maps have affected my life. I never go out for a ride or hike without checking.


On the topic of waterproof jackets... After years of experimentation, I've settled on wearing an armored mesh jacket with a waterproof rain jacket added on top as needed. Same with my mesh riding pants and rain pants. An electric jacket liner is handy for really chilly rides.


Adding the impervious layer on top of the mesh also gives you a big boost in warmth. My theory is that the many voids in the mesh now become a form of thermal insulation.


It's a very versatile system that doesn't take up much space in your panniers.

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Dave Holzman
Dave Holzman
Jun 13
Replying to

I wouldn't be riding a motorcycle across the country. Caution genes run in my family. My parents had front and rear seatbelts installed in the '57 Chevy wagon in 1960, 8 years before they were required. In 1965, we acquired what was probably the first Peugeot station wagon in France with rear 3 point shoulder belts. My father, an academic economist had solved for the guys at the factory the simple topological problem that was preventing them from installing the belts in the back. Just before I rode my bicycle from Seattle to Boston, I bought Bell hard-shelled bicycle helmet serial #7022.

It was summer, and it didn't rain much, until I got poured on on my way into Montreal,…

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