Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Living in the Ozarks without a Motorcycle is like living in Aspen without Skis!

By Matt Whitley of Bentonville, Arkansas

Ever since the day I rode my first street bike off the dealership parking lot and took the maiden voyage from Bentonville along the scenic twists of highway 12 to War Eagle, I have come to the conclusion that living in the Ozarks without a motorcycle is the equivalent to living in Aspen without skis! The miles, upon miles of winding back roads over rolling lush mountains of towering forest really has a way of reminding you that you are indeed in 'The Natural State' and that no matter what turn you take you are in for a great ride. But what makes Northwest Arkansas a biker's haven isn't just curves, fresh air, and scenery. One only has to take a short ride out to the charmingly unique town of Eureka Springs to see signs and flags waving along highway 62 welcoming all bikers, to know that the community warmly embraces riders and is happy for their patronage.

Never a time is this is more evident than during the Bikes, Blues, & BBQ rally. When I talk to bikers visiting from around the continent and ask what they think of Arkansas the reply I often get is "everyone is so friendly!", sometimes even with an astonished or surprised expression. A married couple that rode in from Michigan elaborated by telling me they had been to many of the other big rallies, including Sturgis & Daytona, and made the observation that you usually don't see as many non riding locals coming to greet and mingle among the visiting biker crowds as you do in Fayetteville. The woman told
me that she was especially surprised to see families taking casual walks down Dickson street, even pushing strollers, among the endless line of bikers and scoots. Her Husband added that he hadn't witnessed as much of the "chest thumping" from some bikers and/or police as other rallies this size and that the whole event had a very fun & friendly vibe to it. Our conversation ended with him stating, "You guys have a good thing going here!". As both a resident and rally goer I couldn't agree more.

Sometimes I come across locals with pre conceived
notions of bikers that have told me they had their perceptions tested by encounters with rally patrons as well. Just last year after taking in the Fayetteville sights I embarked on an afternoon escape to the picturesque views of Mount Magazine.  I stopped by the lodge that sits atop the 2,753-foot overview for a bite to eat at the Skycrest restaurant. The mature, conservatively dressed woman serving me was in an especially friendly mood despite being visibly exhausted nearing the end of what must have been a long lunch shift. When I asked if they were busy that day she didn't hesitate to fill me in that this was the first year she had worked during the rally and had felt a little un-easy and even intimidated at first when most of her tables were suddenly filled to capacity with "leather, long hair, and tattoos." She told me that it didn't take her long, however, to realize that they were actually quite gregarious, polite and patient.  "In fact", she stated, "they had been some of the most gracious tippers she has had all year!" She jokingly suggested that if they had the rally every week and she could convince her husband to sell his golf cart so they would have the money and the space to buy a Harley to take to next year's Bikes, Blues, & B.B.Q. rally. We laughed and I told her that I would see her there.

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