On the way back from the Grand Canyon of Arkansas and a 300-mile tour of some of the best roads in the Ozarks, we ended our day’s route careening down a mountain, crouched tightly behind windscreens in one of the most nail-biting rides in motorcycling. Miles of switchbacks and sweepers painted the Mona Lisa of Motorcycle roads on Route 123.
About 40 miles out from the nearest gas station, and with no cell service, we used gravity to battle our gas lights in a downhill race against empty. At near 1,000 feet of elevation, we found neutral, shut the bikes down and coasted for miles through one of the most technically diverse mountain roads we’ve ever ridden.
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There are back-to-back 10-mph switchback turns with few straightaways that transformed us into motorcycle metronomes. There are corners that make it feel like you are riding a giant coil spring. There is one part of 123 that has no shoulders, but in their place a 200-foot cliff and the mountain side bordering the opposing lane. At one point we came into a 30-mph sweeper, tire to tire, hanging off our bikes and smack talking with British accents in our Scala Riders to the tune of the Rossi vs Lorenzo battle from Catalunya, 2009.
We rode the bikes in neutral until we had no choice but to stop. Last one to put their foot down lost. As a slight uphill approached we turned the bikes on, hustled into 6th gear and putted up the next mountain. We were able to do this three times for nearly 10 of the 40 miles squeezing every last drop from our relatively small fuel tanks. When we made it to the gas station I was able to fit 4.2 gallons in the ZX-10, 4.0 in the Speed Triple, and 3.9 in the CBR600. Gas planning learned the fun way.
We had a good idea of what to expect during our first three episodes/locations. The Ozarks was a landmark ride for our trip as it was the beginning of states, campgrounds and routes we had never experienced. The towns in the mountains of Arkansas are further apart than the East Coast and the never-ending curves make it easy to forget how far you’ve actually traveled.
The familiar mountain forest landscape distracted us from the fact that we’ve already traveled halfway across the country. Marking our midpoint was the Army Reserve Campground in Ozark Arkansas, which is the gateway to a 300-plus-mile collection of must-ride pavement. Our campsite overlooked the white river, and the well-lit Ozark Bridge connected us with the infamous Pig Trail bypass. With access to most of the killer roads in Arkansas, incredible local food, and a gas station at the entrance, this is the perfect hub for road trippers and passing motorcyclists.
The campground prior to arriving in Ozark was on the Greers Ferry Lake in Sugar Loaf, which is about two hours north of Little Rock. Also an Army Reserve campground, it caters to the all-around RV population, boasting a marina for boat rentals, cliff diving, and even a party cove, which is a remote water destination accessible only by boat. Sugar Loaf is reminiscent of a vacation resort, whereas Ozark has more of a small town feel that focuses on riders.
Do yourself a favor and make the trip to ride here. Arkansas has a unique small town feel that infuses the Southern hospitality with hints of the American Southwest. Pair those with a heartwarming biker culture, and you are in for the trip of a lifetime!