Saturday, May 22nd – Columbus, MS to Fort Smith, AR
I started the Day 2 ride heading west from Columbus, Mississippi. The Mississippi countryside was beautiful -- green, rolling hills. My 10 a.m., the temperature had already climbed to 87 degrees. I knew that today's ride would be a scorcher.
As I began approaching within 30 miles of the Mississippi River, the terrain turned flat and open. The bridge across the river was a fairly old one and passes by a casino -- Harlows. A new, modern looking bridge is under construction and the new route passes by the Harlows Casino on the other side. I am sure there was no political influence involved in establishing the new road/bridge immediately beside this casino...
After crossing the Mississippi (at 10:45 a.m. CDT), I took US65 northwestward toward Pine Bluff, AR. Initially, US65 went past a massive lake along the west bank of the Mississippi River. The lake had many fine homes along the lake front. Later, the terrain turned into flat, open farm land. On several occasions, I spotted crop-dusting planes making their runs over the fields. By this time, the temperatures had reached 93 to 95 degrees -- hot.
I stopped in Pine Bluff for gas and lunch, before proceeding on to Hot Springs to visit the National Park. After lunch, I resumed the ride by following Highway 270. Almost immediately after leaving Pine Bluff, the terrain turned into heavily forested hills, and the road climbed up and down with with many turns. It was a delight to ride.
As I approached Hot Springs, I spotted a large observation tower on top of the mountain -- I knew that I had reached Hot Springs. I entered town and followed the signs, which eventually took directly into downtown. The main street was lined with a number of the old, restored bath houses that were fed by the natural springs. I decided to ride up the 3-1/2 mile road to the observation tower. This road snaked back-and-forth up the mountainside with many hairpin turns, finally ending at a parking lot at the observation tower.
After parking, I went inside the lobby and quickly discovered that the observation tower is not operated by the National Park Service, but rather by a private company. Nevertheless, I decided to part with the $7.00 entrance fee and take the elevator ride to the top.
The view from the top was spectacular, offering a great view of downtown Hot Springs below us.
After taking pictures and admiring the view for a few minutes, I decide to head back down into town to find the National Park Service Visitor's Center, which I was told is located in one of the restored bath houses along Main Street. I eventually found a small parking lot on Main Street, parked, and walked by a few of the old bathhouses.
I purchased my park pin, for my motorcycling pin collection, and resumed my ride. The remainder of the ride continued on Highway 270, with even more mountain twisties through the heavily wooded Ozark Mountains. Absolutely incredible riding. After 12 hours and 484 miles of riding, I pulled into my motel in Fort Smith, Arkansas around 7:00 p.m. CDT.
Tomorrow, the ride across the Oklahoma and Kansas prairie.