This fun route through the Ouachita Mountains also offers a wild ride through history as it introduces you to some
with Arkansas connections. These include mobsters such as Owen Madden, Al Capone, baseball stars like Babe Ruth, old-time radio and television celebs Lum and Abner, and James Black, maker of the original knife used by Alamo hero Jim Bowie.
The best place to begin this winding ride through the Ouachitas and Timberlands is
. The Spa City, as it’s called, is famous for its naturally thermal waters and a perfect stop for those enjoying motorcycle vacations. In 1886, Cap Anson brought his Chicago White Stockings (now Cubs) to Hot Springs for spring training. Dozens of baseball legends, including Babe Ruth, Mickey Mantle and Jackie Robinson, followed.
Learn about their role in the town’s history by following the Hot Springs Baseball Trail. Nestled in the Ouachitas, the resort community also made a great hideaway for some of the nation’s most notorious mobsters. Al Capone was a frequent guest at the Arlington Hotel, as well as area bathhouses and nightclubs. Located downtown, The Gangster Museum of America preserves the history of this era. Today, Hot Springs hosts several Arkansas motorcycle events
, including the Hot Springs Motorcycle Rally.
West from Hot Springs US 270 and AR 88 snake their way to Mena through the Ouachitas. The first half of the route is through the thick forests of the Ouachita National Forest. The road is mostly broad sweepers surrounded by lush stands of trees. At Pencil Bluff, the landscape becomes pastures and farmland as it approaches Mena.
The historical stop on this stretch is at Pine Ridge, the hometown of the fictional characters of Lum and Abner, portrayed by Arkansas natives Chet Lauck and Tuffy Goff. Any fan of old-time radio and television programs should drop by the Lum and Abner Jot ’Em Down Store and Museum, a real-life model for their make-believe world.
From Mena to Dierks on US 71 and US 278, enjoy a circuitous ride through the southern foothills of the Ouachitas, winding through rolling timberland in various stages of growth.
Just south of Dierks, you leave the mountains and arrive in Arkansas’s Nashville.
Of interest to Alamo history buffs will be Historic Washington State Park
, south of Nashville on US 278. It was here in Washington, Arkansas, that Jim Bowie had his famous knife made by blacksmith James Black.
The only working diamond mine in the US open to the public is Crater of Diamonds State Park
in Murfreesboro along AR 27. At Kirby, consider a side trip on AR 70 along Lake Greeson. Back in Hot Springs, you can get a massage, enjoy an excellent meal or check out one of the Arkansas motorcycle events
held in town if your timing is right. This route is perfect for riders seeking comfortable and convenient motorcycle vacations.