Illinois to Texas

It’s been a lot of miles since my last post. So, when I left off I had just crossed the Ohio River and gotten lost. I ended the night at a cheap motel in Harrisburg Illinios. Seems like ages ago. When I woke up that next morning, I wiped the bugs off my goggles, got some gas and was on my way. Before I turned to leave town I saw this old baby doing time on the side of the road.

Then it was back to my original path, South along the Ohio River. There is a place in Illinois called Garden of the Gods. What type amazing plants must grow there? I was curious. Many places I Google ahead of time. This place I had not researched. It’s one of those places you find marked on your map with a little red dot. And what plant did I find worthy of such a title. No plant at all. Buried within the forest is this magical range of rock formations. 

I road along steamy roads as I seemed to be just missing a passing storm. Along the Ohio River I went to a place called Cave-in-Rock. Appropriately named. It is just that. If you have ever seen ‘How the West Was Won’, then you know the cave. It’s just like that! In it’s history too. I read that Louis and Clark passed the cave without investigating because of it’s reputation as a hide out for robbers, thieves and gangs. Here is how is looks from the river.

And on this inside. Very Cool. Remember the East Coast heat wave? It was literally, very cool in there. Some needed relief.

And from the inside out. Imagine seeing Louis and Clark floating by.

I saw this guy sucking on the sand. He did not look like any of the butterfly brethren I have seen on the East Coast.

Before the railroad it was the waterways that transported commerce so rivers are lined with many old towns.

This beauty sat outside a general store in one of those old towns.

There were a few sites I was going to visit which I had traveled to before, then I decided against it. One of them was Portsmouth, Ohio. I went there last April with my brother. There are some great murals that line the river there. I wanted to see them again, but it was out of the way so I decided to move on. But much to my pleasant surprise, when I crossed into Paducah, Kentucky from Illinois the same muralist had created a similar wall of paintings depicting the history of the area.


Just beside the murals was this big locomotive.

I continued South on a road which goes through an area called Land Between the Lakes. I was hoping to ride through a preserve they have for elk and buffalo, but a sign at the entrance said “NO MOTORCYCLES”. I did see this old furnace. I see signs for furnaces throughout my travels, but this is the first one I’ve actually seen.

I rode through Paris, Kentucky where they have a mini Eifel Tower.

Then I rolled on down to Memphis. There was a huge storm headed toward Memphis coming from the West. It was remnants of the hurricane which hit the Gulf. I wasn’t sure if I would have time to see anything as I was determined to alter my course to avoid the impending storm. Fortunately the storm held off long enough for me to pass by a few sites.

My emotions got the best of me at the next place I stopped.

The Lorraine Motel was the place where Dr. Martin Luther King was killed. When I looked up at that balcony I got real choked up. I had seen it so many times in that iconic photograph of Dr. King laying there as his entourage points to the location of the shots fired. Seeing the location in person was powerful. The motel has since been converted to the Civil Rights Museum.

Then to Graceland. It was killing me that I did not have the time to go inside. I was told it would take at least 3 hours to complete the tour. That storm would have been all over me by then. So I just had my picture taken by a family of ‘little people’ (just stating a fact) and returned to my Bonnie.

Bonnie must have been upset about Graceland too as she would not start. UGH! I mean nothing. I turned the key and the console lit up, but when I push the starter…nothing. Not a sound. After about 10 or 15 tries she turned over, but this really stressed me out. When I stopped for gas the same thing happened. I figure it was a loose wire, but I just wasn’t sure. And being 102 degrees out I surely did not want to be stranded. Each time I stopped for gas was unsettling. But she would eventually start. I shot down into Mississippi to avoid the storm. The parts I rode through were poor and desolate. I saw many abandoned homes even a couple old churches decaying away.

I was surprised to see the piano still inside.

You know, I am not sure if I had ever been to Arkansas before. I know I’ve never seen Oklahoma and North Dakota. Maybe by the end of this trip I will have seen all the lower 48. So I crossed into Arkansas once I figured I was far enough South to stay dry.

Arkansas stated out looking much like Mississippi. Lonely towns with very few people.

As I moved West the flora became more lush and the population grew. When I passed this factory or mill it reminded me of a Sheeler painting.

There is a bayou country in these parts of Arkansas. I got a delicious catfish po-boy before seeking a place to camp. I decided to go to Lake Ouachita State Park. It occurred to me however that it was a Friday night. A campsite on a lake may be full. I pressed on just the same. When I arrived, sure enough it looked packed. I approached the area for tents and a nice guy named Sam came up and told me the people across from him bailed out fearing more rain. So I lucked out big time! A good site with good neighbors. Sam and his family even gave me pancakes and bacon in the morning before I left. They were good company and it was great to have some breakfast to start the day. Thanks again y’all!

When I went to the park office to pay for the site, I asked the girl if they ever see live armadillos because the only ones I see are dead on the side of the road. The man behind me in line interjected, “Why did the chicken cross the road?” “To show the armadillo how it’s done!” Nice!

It’s good when people appreciate the beauty of the past and preserve it for the future as someone did with this fine old Esso station in Mena, Arkansas.

At the end of main street in Mena begins a beautiful road through the mountains. I would compare it to Skyline Drive but more swooping hills and turns. In the photo below you can see how the road continues in the background.

And suddenly this road turned from Route 88 in Arkansas to Route 1 in Oklahoma. Really beautiful. I stopped at a vista where a bunch of members from the local Harley club were taking a rest.

I rode through small spurts of rain but the only thing that really got wet was my legs from drenched roads.

That beautiful mountain road ended so I stopped to check my maps. I don’t know what is says about me that I am so attracted to decaying old structures. But I sure do like em.

Look at this old bank from the early 1900’s in Roff, OK. 

Last year I covered a lot of miles in Texas and was surprised that I didn’t see any Longhorns. But here in Oklahoma I did! Aren’t they impressive?

I was feeling tired and thought of finding a motel in Lawton, OK. Lawton however didn’t have much going on and I noticed a place called the Witchita Mountains Wildlife Refuge. They had a campsite there so I headed there. I needed gas a food before stopping for the night. I found this treasure on the way.

A 90 year old woman greeted me at the door. I  asked if there was somewhere nearby where I could get food. She said I could get food right there. I knew there was a sign for a restaurant, but it sure looked like an abandoned establishment. But nope. The lady told me they could could me dinner or breakfast anytime of the day and the had home made pies they baked daily. I ordered a chicken fried steak with three sides for $4.99. On the other side of the restaurant was the Indian Store. It smelled funny and had a dog in there that looked as old as the woman. There was also a sign outside for camping, but that was definitely a thing of the past.

From there it was on to the wildlife preserve. I pitched tent just before dark. I sat down and ate my meal. The only thing I had not eaten was the bread. Then I started a fire. While trying to get the fire started, I thought I heard someone sneaking up on me. I turned around but didn’t see anything. I figured I was just being paranoid. Then I heard it again. It was dark now so I flipped on the flashlight to see a huge raccoon opening the styrofoam container and making of with that slice of bread. I went to throw the rest of scraps away. When I returned the big raccoon came back. He jumped up on the picnic table saw the food was gone and left. I cozied up near the fire and began checking out some of the photos I had taken. Then I heard that damn coon again. This time he was in front of me but because of the computer screen I was blinded to the dark. So again I grabbed the flashlight to shine it on him, but it was no raccoon. Before me stood a huge bull. 15 feet away he just stared at me completely unfazed. This freaked me out! This thing was enormous! That night I didn’t sleep all that well. Besides being hot a sticky the sounds were incredible. The bugs were screaming, the coyotes were howling and the buffalo and cattle were moaning and grunting. But it was exciting!

The next morning I was talking to Donnie at another campsite. He told me some interesting facts. Facts about how the Wichita Mountains were formed, where the buffalo like to roam, and how to kill a man with I knife. He says he practices the move on his heavy bag at home.

The campsite was just across from this pond.

And here is some of the wildlife.

I kept creeping up closer on this guy. Eventually he let out a grunt to let me know that the next step I take could be my last.

And here is a longhorn hefer crossing the road.

I saw some cute prarie dogs too.

Their faces look like bunnies without ears.

I thought only humans were this creative.

I went to the top of one of the mountains and saw many vultures.

And more buffalo.

Now I’ve heard about those mushrooms that grow from the cow dung. Or buffalo dung for that matter.

My last stop in Oklahoma was this old house. 

From there it was a straight shot to Texas.

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