What to know
ROUTE #18: The monikers of these rides are the “Bear Creek Growl” and the “Leslie Lasso,” both of which are short and characterized by beautiful scenery and sweeping curves through the heart of the Ozarks. “Bear Creek Growl” is a wonderful loop through rural Arkansas with lovely farms and thick stands of timber. It’s all about an engaging ride through the Ozarks, plus it takes you through a community named Snowball. The ride is serpentine and begins its 57-mile route in downtown Marshall. AR 27 is one of Arkansas’s under-appreciated roads. The opening stretch of this highway runs south out of Marshall into the Bear Creek valley. The curves along the way are often tight and always sweeping and fun. It climbs up to a spot on the map called Tilly; the major feature here is the scenic “Y” intersection of AR 27/16. AR 16 runs from Tilly to a little bit larger spot on the map, Witts Springs, where AR 377 leads to the aforementioned Snowball. AR 377 ends, and AR 74 snakes east through farmland back to US 65, then south back to Marshall. On the map, “Leslie Lasso” looks just like a cowboy’s twirling lasso. The ride is through areas of timberland and scenic farms beginning and ending in Leslie in a bucolic valley surrounded by the rugged terrain of the Boston Mountains. The “coil” of the lasso – AR 66 – winds up out of Leslie, cresting at 1,550 feet about halfway to Timbo, the birthplace of folk legend Jimmy Driftwood. It sits in the middle of a great motorcycling area – the first road sign encountered on AR 263 north reads, “Crooked and Steep Next 12 Miles. Drive With Care.” That pretty much sets the tone for the rest of the ride, which includes a fantastic stretch of the beloved AR 14. It loops south, just kissing the outskirts of Marshall before winding back to AR 66 for the return ride to Leslie.