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Journal Entry # 07
Rainy Day Rides

Published June 14, 2004 - (yeah, just a little behind!)

Highway 70 from Memphis to Little Rock, Arkansas is a funny little road. It runs narrow and fairly straight from the Mississippi River all the way into Little Rock, paralleling the larger Interstate 40 almost the entire way. What makes Hwy 70 funny is how the quality of the road is directly proportional to how close you are to I-40. If you can see the bustling traffic on I-40, the roads were well kept. If, however, I-40 slipped from view because of a stand of trees, or for any reason really, the road would immediately turn to potholes and disrepair. As soon as the interstate came back into view, the road improved. I can't explain why. I'm just passing along another piece of strange, but true, trivia from our travels.

I'd like to say that southern Arkansas was beautiful, but I can't. The towns were sparse and somewhat like the roads: well maintained where closer to main street, but left to more disrepair with each road you traveled farther away from there. It was an interesting dichotomy of standards that we couldn't help but notice. Then, as though Mother Nature thought we might be complaining about the view, she took it away completely by pelting us with heavy showers the rest of the way into Little Rock. Of course, I had just washed and polished the bikes the day before.

Our route had brought us to Little Rock for a special 'Cruise In' event being planned by the Little Rock Convention and Visitors Bureau. Max & Bailey were to be the distinguished guests for this monthly event held near the beautiful Little Rock waterfront. The morning after our wet arrival, we shuttled ourselves to a local radio station, KKPT 94.1, for an on-air interview to promote the event. And yes, of course, it was raining again.

Hours before the event was to begin, the rain was still falling. For those of you that aren't familiar with 'cruise in' events, they are events where the owners of antique, classic and interesting vehicles all come to share their beautiful vehicles with the public. Max & Bailey fit into the 'interesting' category of that description and are used to riding in the rain. The other vehicles, however, don't normally leave the garage if there is even the slightest chance of rain. So with the rain falling, we were all very nervous about the event.

Unfortunately, the sun never fully came out that day. The rains did stop, but it was late in the day and the roads were left damp. Max & Bailey stayed dry and our sidecar rigs won the 'Best Motorcycle' award, but the event was not as well attended as the Convention and Visitors Bureau would have liked.

In between all that rain, however, we were well cared for by Barry and Kathy Travis. Barry is the CEO of the Little Rock Convention and Visitors Bureau, and he made sure we saw the highlights of the city and enjoyed two dinners in local restaurants while we stayed at their home. Our events may have been a little soggy, but don't let that stop you from visiting this great city. I'm sure the sun shines there occasionally and the city has much to offer you as a visitor.

We said our goodbyes after a few days in Arkansas and pointed the bikes north towards the Ozark Mountains. Max & Bailey had been invited to ride in the Pioneer Days Parade held in Norfork, Arkansas. The date was Thursday, May 13th. And while it wasn't a Friday the 13th, our luck was just as bad.

They say (who are 'they' anyway?) that the roads we traveled between Little Rock and the Norfork area are very scenic. We'll never know. It rained so hard that day that we were often challenged with simply keeping the bikes on the narrow, twisting roads. Why didn't you pull over and wait for it to pass, you ask? We would have loved that opportunity, but there were really no shoulders, overpasses or towns to stop in during the heaviest of rains. We finally pulled into a Sonic fast-food restaurant to take refuge under their canopy and enjoy a hot meal in Mountain View - about 30 minutes from our final destination.

To make things more interesting, we were racing to Janet's brother and sister-in-law's home in Jordan, Arkansas to meet with the local newspaper. Well, when we arrived, Janet and I looked like drowned rats. Our rain gear had taken all it could take and had finally begun to leak. The bikes were covered with road grime and our luggage rain covers were barely keeping our clothes dry. The dogs, however, were dry and warm when we opened up their cozy sidecar covers. I actually think Max smirked at me, as if he were saying, "This charity road trip was your idea, buddy!"

And he's right; this was my idea. And as I've said before, the millions of people we're riding for deal with more than a little rain every day. If riding in the rain is required to help them gain more independence through the help of a service dog, we're willing to get soaked every day.

Once again, I've gotten off-track. So, we showed up soaking wet with dry dogs. We were quickly hustled into the house for some dry clothes, ran a brush through our hair and ten minutes later were speaking with the local newspaper and having our pictures taken. Everything worked out just fine. The next day, we visited with students from the Arrie Goforth Elementary School. Max & Bailey, as usual, were a big hit with the kids and we left them with a lasting message about people with disabilities and the service dog community.

Before I entertain you with the next day's events - Pioneer Days - you should know that the Pioneer Days Parade was billed to us as quite possibly the smallest parade we'd ever seen. So, we didn't know what to expect. It turned out to be an amazing event with fire departments from all the neighboring communities, boy and girl scout troops riding in the fire trucks, clowns in their miniature Shriner cars and the streets lined with smiling faces. To be sure both sides of the street could see Max or Bailey in their sidecar, I turned the bike around, put it in reverse and rode the entire parade route in reverse; Janet rode beside me, facing forward, with Bailey smiling at the other side of the road. And it was sheer pandemonium for the entire 10-minute parade.

Laugh if you will about the size of the parade, but the size of this little town's heart is no laughing matter. Our fundraising event in Little Rock - a city of nearly 200,000 - was beaten by the efforts of a town with a population equaling only 1% of the big city. The Mayor, members of the Town Council and representatives from many of the businesses stopped by the Hogs For Dogs booth to buy shirts and express their support for Max & Bailey's ride. We even had our picture taken with the 2004 Pioneer Days Parade Queen, Amanda Whitehead. Max and Bailey were true celebrities and treated extremely well.

With an early start the following morning, Den and Debbie, escorted the Hogs For Dogs crew from Jordan to Fayetteville, Arkansas just on the border of Oklahoma. I'm not sure of the names of all the roads they took us on, but the views across the Ozark Mountains were spectacular. One of our stops was at an overlook for the Grand Canyon of Arkansas, a deep tree-filled depression that went on for as far as the eyes could see. By the end of the day, our butts were sore and our arms tired from all the twists and turns. Riding with a sidecar is much like riding an off-balance ATV four-wheeler, making the turns very difficult but worth all the effort.

Then, with little fanfare, we crossed into the fourth state on our cross-country ride: Oklahoma. The terrain was much different than I expected. I was imagining flat, straight roads lined by wheat and other farmlands. The farmlands image held true, but the terrain rose and fell with great interest, giving the ride a much more enjoyable feel. It also helped that the sun had decided to join us for this leg of the ride, giving us two straight days without rain. That alone was worthy of fanfare and celebration.

What I wasn't prepared for was all the Native American history and culture in Oklahoma. My ignorance was quickly replaced by information gathered at the Tahlequah Visitors Center. In the 1800s, much of the land in Oklahoma was known as the Indian Territory, set aside for Native American settlement. In 1832, federal soldiers forced the Cherokee Nation to walk nearly 800 miles from Georgia to Oklahoma. Some call this relocation of the Cherokee the Trail of Tears. To others, it's just a disgrace from the past.

Staying on the education theme, Max & Bailey visited schools in both Oklahoma City and Broken Arrow, sharing their message about people with disabilities, the need for charitable programs to provide service dogs and a new message about discriminating against people with disabilities. Maybe that message grew out of my learning more about the Native Americans' plight and how they were unfairly discriminated against long ago. Either way, it is a message that is now included in our presentations.

After a stop to honor the Americans lost at the Oklahoma City Federal building on Friday, May 21st we turned our bikes north on Route 66 and headed towards Kansas. We stopped at some more interesting places, like the site of the world's largest totem poles in Foyil, Oklahoma, along the way. And around noon that day, we said good-bye to Oklahoma and hello to Kansas. Max and Bailey were now in the Land of Oz, which is where our next journal will pick up.

Until then, please continue to join us on the Internet each day as we bring you updates and photos from the road. At the moment, it still rains more than the sun shines on our daily rides, but that helps us hide the tears that seem to fall more freely as we meet people in this country who are willing to get involved or those that are benefiting from a service dog of their own.

I'll tell you that the title of that next journal is "The Tornado Run" and let your imagination begin to work. Look for it soon!

Max, Bailey and the entire Hogs For Dogs team thank you for your support. You can help us make a difference for millions of people with disabilities by making a donation today.