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Jailbreak in the Clouds 2011
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Posted 9/20/2011 11:28 PM (#60543)
Subject: Jailbreak in the Clouds 2011

Posts: 1698
Location: Summer Grove, LA USA

On September 16-18, Jena & I attended the 13th Jailbreak in the Clouds , the annual rally of the Chain Gang club for enthusiasts of the BMW F650/G650 singles, held each September at Queen Wilhelmina State Park on top of Rich Mountain near Mena, Arkansas.  I/we have attended all or part of 8 or 9 of these rallies, but never on an F650, although I did have one for a few months back in 1999-2000, but crashed it about 15 miles west of the rally site back in March 2000 -- but that's another Cry story.

Rich Mountain may not sound like much to some folks, but at +/-2600 feet, it is the 2nd tallest mountain in Arkansas, and is big mountain to us folks in Louisiana, where the highest point is Mount Driskill at 535 feet. Tongue out

Like most places, it's been hot here in Northwest Louisiana, with 60+ days over 100*F.  The temperature reached 107*F on Tuesday as we were making our plans to leave Friday morning, and riding gear was selected accordingly.  We left shortly after daylight Friday to meet up with our 2-wheeling friend Bart at Elsie's truck stop 25 miles up the road. (FYI:  Louisiana has numerous "truck stop" video poker gambling facilities.)  I have 3 helmets, and I quickly realized I picked the warm-weather 3/4 helmet with face shield that just doesn't work well on the Sportster at speeds over 60mph, as the turbulence rattled the helmet around on my head and pushes the windstream up under the face shield. And it's loud too.  Oh well, to late to turn around now.

After gassing up, our first stop was about 10:00 at the dam for Millwood Lake in SW Arkansas.  Remember those 100*F days?  Well, it had turned colder, and was in the low 60's thusfar.  Yep, we were cold.  Let's see, I have chaps for cool weather riding -- oh yeah, didn't pack those. Undecided  Here we are trying to warm up at Millwood Lake:

Then it was off to Mineral Springs for gas & coffee break, then on to Dierks for a lunch stop.  Now the forecast was for 30% scattered light showers, and we hit one for about 5 minutes before our lunch stop; no need to stop, it's just a little shower.  Bart pulls up the radar and guess what:  It's raining just north of us - all the way to our destination.  Let's see, I have 2 pairs of really good wet-weather riding pants.  Did I bring 'em?  No, just an old pair of rain pants, good "in their day" but had seeped lots of water by the time we arrived at the fairly new Cossatot River State Park vistor's center.   Let's see, I have 2 pairs of waterproof riding boots.  Did I wear 'em? No, just my more comfortable low-top boots I prefer on the sidecar rig.  OK, my feet are wet along with my jeans. Surprised  Here's the view of the US278 bridge from the Cossatot River in the rain (By the way, Cossatot is derived from the French term for skull crusher -- see why here:


The rain continued at a steady pace as we passed thru Cove, Arkansas, where the Bank sign read 56*.  OK, now I'm officially wet and cold. Frown  Thankfully, Jena had worn her waterproof boots and brought along her waterproof riding pants.  But is there really such as thing as waterproof gloves?   Oh yeah, another lesson learned:   The rain/wind inner linings of the mesh jackets that have worked so well in light rain; well, the collars and main zipper seep water in extended down-pours. We stop by the airport in Mena so Bart can say hello to an old school-mate, Rick, who informed us that Mena had already received 3-1/2 inches of rain on Friday. So much for 30% chance of light showers, hunh?  And that 3/4 helmet? The windflow pushes the rain up from the bottom onto my face/glasses at speed.  Gotta do something about that.  Oh yeah, oldtimer has already told/showed me a way to manage it. Embarassed 

It's amazing how 65* seems cold after becoming accustomed to 102*.  Also, most of the photos were taken with our phone cameras, as we didn't bother to bring the "real" camera out into the rain.  More to come ... 

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Posted 9/21/2011 12:32 AM (#60545 - in reply to #60543)
Subject: RE: Jailbreak in the Clouds 2011

Posts: 1698
Location: Summer Grove, LA USA

One of the highlights of a visit to Mena is a stop by the restored Esso gas station and the Studebaker showroom behind it, both filled with classic cars, street rods, motorcycles, pedal cars and moto-memorabilia. Cool Here is a pic from taken on our way home during a break in the rain:

Rich Mountain in part of the Ouachita Mountains, which I understand to be the only mountain range in North America that runs East/West, and is also located on the Talimena Scenic Drive (, one of our great driving/motorcycle roads.  The sign at the entrance says:  WARNING: TRAVEL AT OWN RISK...(photo again on our way home):

 The info at the airport indicated we would have to travel thru the clouds on the way to the Park, but the rally site should be above the clouds.  Hence the name Jailbreak in the Clouds derived from the club name Chain Gang for BMW's first motorcycle with chain final drive.  Sure enough, we drove up very slowly with visibility of maybe 40 feet for 10+ miles. On our return Sunday, we finally we able to see what was hidden on Friday:


Sure enough, the Park was above the clouds on our arrival, where we were sure happy to have a room reserved in the Lodge rather than pitching a tent.  The parking lot above the clouds at the Lodge:

 Upon arrival, we discover that the rally host cancelled the rally earlier in the day due to rain, plus that there were only 4 attendees as of 2pm.  By the time we arrived, there was maybe 16 folks, including a good contingent of Two Wheeled [East] Texans camping on the grounds.  After drying out and a dinner of chicken fajitas provided by rally-master Steve, we turned in early to await Saturday's weather.  

 More to come ...

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Posted 9/21/2011 3:26 PM (#60558 - in reply to #60543)
Subject: RE: Jailbreak in the Clouds 2011

Posts: 570
Location: SoCal
Really enjoyed the posts and the pictures. I can surely relate to the wet weather/inadequate gear experiences.
Thanks for sharing, and consequently triggering personal memories of a wet, yet great, '07 trip up the Oregon Coast.
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Posted 9/22/2011 12:21 AM (#60564 - in reply to #60545)
Subject: RE: Jailbreak in the Clouds 2011

Posts: 1698
Location: Summer Grove, LA USA

Although there was no rain at the Park Saturday morning, radar showed rain to the West in Oklahoma, so most of us decided to ride East to dodge the rain. Our first stop was by the Wal-Mart for me to purchase a pair of rain pants. Seems almost everyone from the rally ended up at Wal-Mart that morning for rain paints, sweatshirts, dry gloves, dry drawers, etc. Embarassed

After a ride thru down past Dallas (Arkansas) into the mountains/national forest the rain moved East, so we traveled back to town, me in my new rain pants Smile, to wait out the hardest of the rain. 1-1/2 hours later, we rode on in light rain to the Arkansas Native Plant and Wildlife Center (, with the primary function of rehabilitating mal-nourished and/or injured wildlife:

which is not to missed if you are in the area, especially when Sheena the mountain lion is home (pic from 2009):

Tommy really has a gift for working with animals and has developed a bond with Sheena, who has been with Tommy for over 15 years (pic from 2009):

I will try to post photo's of some of the other animals in a later post.

The clouds finally moved out after 2:30, so after a couple hours touring the Center and visiting with Tommy, we rode a portion of the Talimena Drive into Oklahoma.  A view from the Kiamichi River Valley Overlook -- an area where Tommy has released a couple of rehabilitated black bears -- but we didn't see 'em:

The nature of the Talimena Scenic Drive is reflected in this pic (from 2009 too):

All of us appreciated an opportunity to dry out. After a couple of hours of rest and/or story telling, we all met up at the lodge for supper and more story telling.  

Heading home tomorrow. Wonder what the weather will be?  More to come ...


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Posted 9/22/2011 11:04 PM (#60572 - in reply to #60564)
Subject: RE: Jailbreak in the Clouds 2011

Posts: 1698
Location: Summer Grove, LA USA

About 2am Sunday morning the wind began blowing at steady 35+mph and there was a big storm with lightning just off in the distance - scary enough that some of the camper sought refuge under the cinder block cover/bathhouse.  By daylight tho, the wind had subsided and it was not raining. At least not when we left the Park shortly after 7am.  But I was better prepared with my sock feet stuck in plastic Wal-Mart bags in my almost dry boots.  Laughing

As long as the weather held out, we had a couple of side-trips planned on the way home.  The first was to venture to find a couple of one-lane bridges on the county roads South of Mena.  Now how about this: A few miles out of town we ran across Love Lee Lane private drive and Jena said it was a "Kodak" moment:


Then we found Polk County Road 38 that turned to gravel just past [Boy Scout] Camp Pioneer before  reaching our target, the one-lane bridge over the Mountain Fork River erected in 1905:


A broader view of the 405 foot long bridge:

And the view looking downstreamCool:


We traveled +/-5 miles of gravel road to visit this bridge:


A short distance later the River and the gravel road run along side each other for a mile or so, making for a very nice drive, albeit a slow one on our street oriented rigs.  Jena commented that she would have turned back if the steering had not been modified to reduce the trail on her Burgman.  One of the benefits of proper steering geometry is the handlebars no longer buck every time the sidecar wheel hits a bump, so the rig is less of a fight to operate on bumpy roads - it kinda bounces "straight."

After reaching the highway again, it was definitely time for breakfast at GrandPop's Cafe near Cove, Arkansas:

The 2nd sidetrip was to visit the dam at Gillham Lake, a flood control reservoir on the Cossatot River:


Below the dam is the very nice CoE Cassatot Reefs campground on the River:


We encountered only a couple of rain showers on the way home, and by the time we reached Foreman, Arkansas, it was mostly sunny and warming up, so it was time to re-arrange our riding gear at the parking lot of the gym for the Foreman High School Gators:


The rest of the trip home was un-eventful except for the violent thunderstorm about 20 miles from home, complete with lots of thunder, lightning, rain and more lightning.  We were fortunate to be able to duck for cover under the tin shed of a small boat repair facility at a marina on Cross Lake:


After picking up Corkie at the dogsitter's (Jena's sidecar companion is not allowed in the Lodge), we finally made it home.  Mileage total for the 3-day trip was 560, with about 200 of 'em in the rain.  I trust we will be a little better prepared for the rain next time.  Smile

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Posted 9/22/2011 11:20 PM (#60573 - in reply to #60564)
Subject: RE: Jailbreak in the Clouds 2011

Posts: 1698
Location: Summer Grove, LA USA

Tommy of the  Arkansas Native Plant and Wildlife Center ( ) has a gift for working with animals, as demonstrated by this photo from the Center's website:


Attached are a few pics of the some other critters we have seen a the the Arkansas Native Plant and Wildlife Center, some from a prior visit in 2009 and others from this 2011 trip:

Cocoa the mountain lion (10 months in 9/2011);

Red Fox;

River Otter;

Black Bear;

Peregrine Falcon;

Ring Tailed Cat;  and 




(Chain Gang 9.2011 035.jpg)

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Attachments Chain Gang 9.2011 035.jpg (834KB - 2 downloads)
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Attachments Chain Gang 9.2011 032.jpg (607KB - 1 downloads)
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Posted 9/24/2011 3:28 PM (#60597 - in reply to #60572)
Subject: RE: Jailbreak in the Clouds 2011

Posts: 570
Location: SoCal
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Posted 9/24/2011 11:52 PM (#60599 - in reply to #60597)
Subject: RE: Jailbreak in the Clouds 2011

Posts: 162
Location: Columbiaville, MI.
Thanks Lee, really enjoyed it. I'll send you am email soon, hope to see you in October.
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