The Razorback Tour

Introduction: The Razorback Tour

Typical NW Arkansas/E Oklahoma Roads (photo courtesy Allan Gold) - Nice Duc!

Planned Return Route (Weather Dependent)
Mon April 25th - Sat April 30th
Fayetteville, AR - Seattle WA
2309 miles

By Whizmo

December in Seattle. Wet and cold. I found myself daydreaming about a spring motorcycle trip. As if by magic, my fingers started typing email to Arkansas-based W&G reader Tom Overbey. I'm sure I was more diplomatic, but it went something like:  "Hey Tom, you keep crowing about the great riding in northwestern Arkansas. How about giving Peter Wylie [a Seattle-based mutual riding buddy] and me a long-weekend tour this spring? We'll let you plan it, supply us bikes (with fresh tires of course), feed us, house us, keep the booze stocked, and so on.  We'll return the favor by showing up. So how 'bout it Tom?"

I hit the Enter key and out went the mail. In what seemed like a few seconds, a reply from Tom appeared in my inbox: "Love to have you guys out. Let's set a date." Good guy, Mr. Overbey.

There were a couple minor concerns, such as timing; Tom and his wife Sallie were in the midst of building a fantastically-cool new house and it seemed a little rude, even for us, to show up on their doorstep at the same time as the sheetrock. We selected a date that was a solid month after the scheduled completion date. We assumed there would be no problem.

What did they say about assumptions? Something about them being the "mother of all screw-ups"? (This line, with more colorful language, is from a 'guy movie'—if you think you know the one, cruise on over to the Discuss tab above and scribble a brief movie review in your own words—who knows, you might win something.)

Back to the new house. When was the last time one was completed on time? So we may be helping Tom and Sallie do a little furniture moving while we're there. Sawdust just makes the floor a little softer, right?

The second concern was bikes. Like most of my friends afflicted with this motorcycling disease, Tom has a few, but in his current stable, only his BMW R1200GS is really touring-worthy. His other two bikes are both KTM singles: a Duke and a dual-sported 625SXC. Obviously Tom likes Germanic bikes.

Now I happen to own a very similar LC4-engined KTM so I know the touring downsides of the breed all too well:  seats that are measured on the Rockwell hardness scale and engines that have two levels of vibration depending on how hard you're pressing—pretty-bad and blurred-vision. If you ride a KTM single for any distance, you want your proctologist on the speed dial.

Peter immediately laid claim to the relatively commodious Duke, so it was looking like I might be riding the 625, basically a hard-core dirt bike with a license plate zip-tied to the rear fender. A great dirt bike, but darn it, we weren't doing any dirt.

The 625 would have worked out fine I'm sure, but it just so happened I was in the market for a new bike. Could I kill two birds with one stone? For some time, my stable had been missing a big GT bike like Gizmo now has with his Honda ST1300; something big, powerful, and comfortable to complement my trusty BMW R1100S. Yamaha's superb FJR1300 kept bubbling to the top of my list. Could I locate an FJR in Arkansas, use it for this spring trip, and then ride it home?  Making this plan seem even more attractive was my experience doing the same type of fly-out/drive-back trip when I bought a new Mini Cooper S a little over a year ago; the drive home from Texas was one of the nicest road trips I'd ever enjoyed. There is something about a one-way trip this is uniquely satisfying; it's like skiing without having to use the lifts.

Yamaha makes buying the FJR surprisingly difficult. The story goes that Yamaha got burned a few years back building way too many sport-touring bikes that languished in dealers' showrooms for years before finally being unloaded at huge discounts. The first FJR's were introduced to Europe in 2001, but Yamaha withheld them from the U.S. market for a year. Yamaha then decided to stick a cautious toe into the water by only building bikes that were already pre-sold.  Under their euphemistically-named "Priority Delivery Program," once a year they'd take orders, build only that number of bikes, and deliver the bikes to waiting customers six to nine months later. To make the PDP even more customer-unfriendly, the order period was in the spring and delivery was in the fall, so buyers had the privilege of not riding their new FJR during the best riding weather. Brilliant marketing.

Obviously a September FJR wouldn't work for a spring trip to Arkansas. But I must have been living right, for just as this trip came together, Yamaha announced they were doing a second spring-delivery PDP for the 2005 FJR; I could order a bike in December for March or April delivery. A little clicking around on the internet, a phone call to a friendly Texarkana-based dealer (Yamaha Sportscenter), and my new bike was in the pipeline.

So here's the plan: I'll fly out on a Wednesday, pick up the FJR on Thursday, and give it a proper break-in with a weekend's worth of chasing Tom and Peter all over the Ozarks. Peter will ride the Duke and we'll occasionally trade bikes to spread the KTM's seat time over more than one seat. I'll start my solo trip home to Seattle early the next week when I'll start my daily reports from The Road. I may do a report over the weekend—it depends on the level of drinking and the availability of a broadband connection.

Some of our long-term readers are surely asking the question "How does Gizmo fit into all this?" Well, he doesn't. Since this is an oddball one-way trip to fetch a new bike, this is going to be a solo gig. Plans for other W&G trips are up in the air, but I can telegraph that Gizmo's interest in these trips is waning a bit after our grueling trip last fall. So all you Gizmo fans need to mount a letter writing campaign to convince the poor bastard that your life will become essentially meaningless without a yearly dose of Gizmo dribbling on about technology, Maslow, poor boat-driving techniques, and strategies for not falling off a motorcycle. I even give you permission to tell Gizmo that these musings are a bit sucky without his contributions, but please don't go overboard; my ego is not completely bulletproof. So this trip is a bit of an experiment to see if you really can hold the chicken in a chicken salad sandwich.

I spent a bunch of last winter working on the software engine (which I'm now calling PhotoJournal) that builds these reports. The browser compatibility issues are pretty well solved (for you pocket-protector types, it was goodbye to client-Javascript and hello to server-based-PHP) and I took another run at reducing the daily authoring burden from The Road. During the Trinity Tour, despite a lot of new tools that were supposed to make things easier, our daily preparation time to produce these more polished reports ballooned to five hours or more and frankly, this level of work, day-after-freaking-day, fried both of your intrepid road warriors to the proverbial crisp. So this trip, with more sophisticated tools and some judicious content cuts here and there, I'm going to limit the authoring time to two or three hours maximum per day. Horror, I may even skip a report if I've had a rough day. I'm not getting paid for this so I guess that makes me the boss.

Finally, one cool new feature is the "Discuss" tab you see at the upper right of your screen. In the past, Gizmo and I have always welcomed your participation and often manually copied your prose over to these pages so all could enjoy your eloquence. What I'd like to do now is get the heck out of your way, and let you make direct comments into these pages that all can see. Each daily report gets a separate little discussion thread and I'd particularly like to hear if you have any thoughts or background on the places I'm traveling through.  Fire away, but please keep it civil. I don't want to get into moderating flame-fests from The Road.

Welcome aboard!

© 2005 By Whizmo and Gizmo, All Rights Reserved

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