Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Taking Time With a Friend

No, I have not abandoned my blog! ;)

I spent last Thursday - Saturday with my good friend, Fred (hey, ain't we handsome in that picture up there?) on our motorcycles as we hit some of the "high points" in Arkansas. I want to encourage each of you to try to find time to just "get away" - even if it's just for a few hours.
We began by leaving around 9 a.m. on Thursday and riding our bikes down to Petit Jean Mountain (near Morrilton, AR.). This is where the picture above was taken. As you can see, there were very beautiful views all around and we enjoyed taking in the views as well as having lunch at the Mathers Lodge restaurant. We really enjoyed laughing and teasing with the young lady (and I do mean young - these kids in the restaurants were usually young enough to be our own kids!) who took us to our seat as well as our waitress. Her name was Hope! (How appropriate since I always try to include my quote, "As long as there is breath, there is hope!" in my podcast each day. Hey, isn't it fun to bring a smile and a laugh to people? Try it - you'll like it!
We had lunch around noon and didn't leave until around 2 p.m. and then headed further south toward Mena, AR. Just outside of Mena is the second highest point in Arkansas - Rich Mountain - home of Queen Wilhelmina State Park. We enjoyed taking in the beautiful views once again, talking to other people that were doing the same and sharing this experience with each other.
By the time this was done, it was around 5 p.m. and we were tired and ready to find a hotel, a restaurant with a good steak and then a nice, relaxing pool! And, hey, we accomplished all three! Again, we had such a great time laughing with people that we met along the way. We had to make a stop at the Wal-Mart store in Mena and enjoyed laughing and joking with some of the clerks while there. (Interestingly, it just seemed people were drawn to us during this trip. I DO believe that when you set out with a positive mindset that people WILL be drawn to you!).
One of the clerks suggested a steak house in town and Fred and I were pleased to see that the parking lot was full - hopefully a sign of a good restaurant! Immediately we "hit it off" with the young lady (again, young enough to be our daughter - so we were "harmless" old dudes) that took us to our seats and enjoyed laughing with her as she sat us down and visited with us briefly. The young man (Michael - what a great name!) that was our waiter came to our table and, in a very monotone voice, greeted us. Of course Fred and I greeted him very enthusiastically and asked him how he was doing. I don't remember his exact answer, but it was something along the lines of, "It's been an absolutely great day." But, his voice didn't indicate so. I asked him, "Are you sure? Do you mean that or are you just saying that as a "canned greeting" that you give to everyone?" He looked at me with a grin on his face and said something like, "Well, with you guys, it's really a great day now!"
We found out from the hostess that he went back to her and thanked her for giving him "two awesome dudes" at his table. Again, it is such fun to interact with people and bring a smile to their face - and it brought a smile to ours as well!
Now, Fred and I are a lot alike in many ways. One of which is that we drink a lot of liquid when we eat which means that the waiter or waitress can spend a lot of time just refilling our glasses. While the waiter was refilling our glasses for the 2nd time in about 6 or 7 minutes Fred asked him if there was anyway that he could bring us a pitcher if it would not get him in trouble. The young man smiled and said he would check as he took our glasses from the table. In a few moments he returned but he didn't bring any glasses. Instead, he had a pitcher of drink for each of us with a straw in each pitcher! This was one of the funniest things I have ever seen and he had a huge grin on his face as he brought it to us. Of course, all others around us were noticing this and getting quite a kick out of it as well!
Well, long story short - the interaction with the crew was wonderful and the steak was as well. What a great time we had at The Chopping Block in Mena, Arkansas.
Once we finished supper, it was back to the hotel and time to hit the pool. Ahhhhhhhhhhh...how relaxing after a long day on the bikes and time to just kick back, relax and visit. One thing I really like about Fred is that I can truly be "myself" when I'm around him. I don't have to "pretend" or wonder about what I can or cannot say - I can simply be "me". We sat in the pool and talked for about 2 hours about all kinds of things. It was a very good experience for the both of us as we added even more value to the friendship that we shared.
Wow, all of that just in day 1!
Day 2 (Friday) started out again with us leaving Mena, AR. at around 9 a.m. Right away we could tell that the temperature was a bit warmer than the day before and we began to feel the sun right away. Our plans for this leg of the journey was to travel to Mount Magazine - the highest point in Arkansas - and then on up to Rogers, Arkansas for a knife show that was taking place there.
Now, anyone that likes to ride motorcycles knows that most of us like to take the back roads and stay off of the four-lane/interstate types of roads. You see a lot of beautiful scenery and get to travel thorough some neat little towns as well. The downside of that is the fact that you also travel with a lot less accessibility to things such as gas stations. No, I didn't run out of gas - but I still, to this day, don't know how I didn't! I do remember driving past one station and thinking, "I wonder if I should stop for gas?" However, I knew there were several more towns within the range of my gas gauge and moved on ahead. We passed through two little towns with no gas stations and I was beginning to sweat as we approached the third. About 7 miles out from this third town my gas gauge begin to "blink" at me which meant that I had less than a gallon of gas in the tank. As we neared the next little town I was sure hoping - and yeah, even praying - that there was a gas station located there. As we rounded the curve that would take us through the main part of town my heart sank as I saw that the town consisted of about 3 buildings - none of which offered gasoline. Uh-oh!
Fred had no idea of my situation so I pulled over and told him I was in serious trouble as far as gas. There was a young lady (she looked to be around 12) sitting on a porch of a house within speaking distance of us and we asked her how far it was to the next gas station. My heart sank as she replied, "Oh, about 30 minutes." I looked at Fred and said, "There is no way in the world I'm squeezing 30 more minutes out of this tank!" Although she didn't laugh out loud, the young girl did have a big grin on her face as she watched us try to figure out what we were going to do. So, we did the only thing we could do - we got on our bikes and rode.
Within about 2 miles of leaving this last little town was a sign that told us that we still had 17 miles to go before we reached the gas station. Again, my heart sank as I thought, "There is no way I'll make it." You know, when your mind is already expecting something negative to happen then you begin to think it IS happening. Several times I thought, "Yeah, I feel the engine starting to sputter - this is it!" only to realize it was my imagination and I was able to continue on a few more miles. About 6 miles out (which was closer than I thought I'd get) we came upon some road work taking place that required us to stop due to the work. This was NOT what I needed at this time! We were the only 2 vehicles on our side and we pulled right up to the flagger and I said, "Oh man, this ain't good! I'm riding on fumes!" He smiled and said, "Well, if it were up to me, I'd let you on through, but you have to wait for the 'pilot car' to take you through." He then got on his radio and asked them to hurry up because we were about out of gas.
Alas we made it past the construction and continued on to the little town of Parks, AR. Sweating it out mile after mile wondering which one would be my last before I had to pull over somewhere. Unbelievably, I DID make it to the little town of Parks and nearly collapsed as I pulled into the little country store lot with two tanks out front. Whew! After filling my tank I discovered that I had 1/10 of a gallon left - I wasn't going much further! Thank you , Lord!
We traveled on until we begin to ascend Mount Magazine. This is around Paris, AR (yes, Paris - we also passed through a little community called "Egypt" and also noticed that "London" was not too far away! Wow, we traveled further than I thought! ;p ) in case you ever have the chance to visit this beautiful area. I realize that I am getting long-winded in this story - but there was so much to share.
So, here's what I will do - I need to stop for my lunch break and then I will continue on with the story in a second part when I return.
Hey, until that time - if you've read all of this - ENJOY TODAY! Laugh and share your laughter with others - what a great way to spend time with other people.
And, until I get back - "Make it an AWESOME Day! (Who else is going to do it for you?)"

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