(EUREKA SPRINGS, AR) — All over the “lower 48”, men and woman who love their motorcycles are marking days off of their calendars as they count down to when they will pull on their leathers, fire up their bikes and start their adventurous ride to the Arkansas Ozarks and one of “America’s Distinctive Destinations”, Eureka Springs. The reasons are two-fold and it all centers on “pork” …The Pig Trail and Bikes Blues & BBQ.
The Pig Trail is a not-so-straight ribbon of asphalt; in fact, the ribbon that looks like someone has scraped it across the edge of a scissor blade. It stretches, for all practical and awesome purposes, from Interstate 40 near Ozark (AR) north along State Highway 23 to Eureka Springs, the gateway to northwest Arkansas. This 80-mile route is universally praised in motorcycle magazines, on biker websites, and even by The Discovery Channel for being one of the best in America. For example, MotorycleRoads.com has elevated the Pig Trail to the number eight position in their most recent “top 100” poll. BikerBudz.com gives it a “highly recommend” while Motorcycle-USA.com refers to it as “my new favorite ride”. The Discovery Channel has given the Pig Trail its highest mark yet: number two in the nation.
The official National Scenic Byways’ 19-mile portion of the Pig Trail starts as you enter the Ozark National Forest from the south and ends near Brashears (AR) as you exit the national forest to the north. This route, which crosses both the Mulberry and the White rivers, has so many S-curves that motorcyclists are forced to make dozens of ultra-quick right-to-left-to-right and back again leans; perfect first-gear switchbacks. But riders should not think the challenge of the ride is limited to “the forest”. It starts once you exit Interstate 40 heading north and doesn’t end until you put down your kickstand for the night in Eureka Springs.
“The Scenic Byways section of the Pig Trail may be like the most thrilling point in a roller coaster ride,” one biker explained, “but like a roller coaster, the runs on either side (11 miles to the south; 50 miles to the north) are pretty exciting too. For me, every year between late August and the Hunter’s Moon is when I enjoy the full 80-mile ride. ‘Cuz if you’re gonna ride the Pig Trail, ya gotta go whole hog.”
“The highway going up to Eureka Springs and all those around that town,” he continued, “are one exhilarating rush. I hub out of Eureka, a funky, biker-friendly mountain town with lots of places to stay, lots of places to play. I’ll spend four or five days searching out new Ozark roads with new crazy curves and new breathtaking sights. It’s like a rally every day. Plus Eureka’s only about 45 minutes from Fayetteville and the ‘triple-B’, Bikes Blues & BBQ.”
For Bikes Blues & BBQ the aforementioned “whole hog” is dressed, seasoned, grilled till tender, slathered with sauce, and then served up razorback-style when more than 400,000 bikers converge on Fayetteville (AR) for the four fabulous days of this event in September. This year this awesome fall festival goes from September 18th through the 21st.
“One of the best parts of Bikes Blues & BBQ,” a biker from Central Texas, who has not missed any one of the previous 13 annual events, proudly stated, “is that you don’t just get a festival, you get the Pig Trail and all of its Ozark side-roads. Me and my group like to arrive a couple days early or stay a couple days late to make sure we have plenty of time for day rides to and around Eureka on their fantastically freaky yellow-striped trails. We only wish we had routes like this back in Texas.”
To make it easy for those who attend Bikes Blues & BBQ to find new, thrilling nearby routes, both the event and Eureka Springs have online sites for maps and directions: http://www.bikesbluesandbbq.org/rally-info/maps-directions/ and http://www.eurekaspringsmotorcycleroutes.com/ .
If you are unable to attend the “triple-B event” do not despair, because “does Mother Nature have a deal for you” in October and often through early November! There is no more lovely autumn color than the reds, oranges, golds and violets of the Ozarks when fall falls. To help you with perfect timing, the State of Arkansas, beginning in September each year, has a “fall color updates” page on their very popular Arkansas.com website.
And speaking of the State of Arkansas, their Department of Parks & Tourism has developed a short movie that will whet your appetite and make you hungry for a motorcycle vacation to “The Natural State”. It just so happens that a local motorcycle enthusiast who is also the Mayor of Eureka Springs, Morris Pate, narrates the movie. His narration begins with him and his 2001 Harley-Davidson Electra Glide Classic parked in front of the “Little Golden Gate Bridge” just a few minutes west from downtown Eureka.
“The Beaver Bridge is a landmark that must not be missed,” bragged Mayor Pate. “This beautiful old wooden suspension bridge was built in 1949 and is 554 feet long, only 11 feet wide and has been painted a bright yellow. Because it is so narrow, traffic can only move one way at a time across the span. So hold your breath and grip tight, this is one bumpy and thrilling ride on two wheels.”
So whether you ride the Ozarks in late summer, late fall or anytime in between, you will be glad you did. “No matter how many other motorcycle routes you’ve been on,” concluded our Texas biker, “once you’ve conquered the Pig Trail and its web of side-roads, you’ll be happier than a hog in slop.”