The Twisted Lady is a magnificent ride for exploring the fascinating folklore of North Arkansas on some of the best roads in the nation.
When learning the history of an area, there are often two considerations – facts and folklore. It’s often as much fun to delve into the stuff of legends as it is true events. Let’s start with the name itself, The Twisted Lady, a nod to notorious Oklahoma Territory outlaw Belle Starr.
You’ve heard of Jesse and Frank James. It’s likely the brothers frequented parts of Northwest Arkansas, and, in 1870, accompanied by a man named Cole Younger, they robbed a mail carrier, 12 miles north of Harrison.
Belle Starr, Queen of the Outlaws, is said to have also frequented Northwest Arkansas and was acquainted with Cole Younger. Rumor has it, they were lovers, and that’s why she traveled to the area.
Historical facts state that a man named Joe Vaughn is buried in the Snow Cemetery, a mile west of Wayton on Newton County 96. The legend is that Frank James lived a quiet life in Wayton under the alias Joe Vaughn, hiring a double to stand trial and go to jail for him. These are just some of the twists and turns in the plotline. As fascinating as the folklore, the roads are equally exciting.
Begin the ride by leaving Harrison on AR 43, which climbs over Gaither Mountain and slowly winds down into Ponca, a popular floating, hiking and elk-watching location on the upper Buffalo National River. The roads cut through the heart of the Ozark National Forest for some of the finest motorcycling in the country. True adventure awaits on AR 43 into AR 21, which continues south through the gorgeous Boxley Valley. It eventually climbs up to the highlands of AR 16. Turn onto Newton County 28, a mile east of Deer. NC 28 turns into AR 327 at Wayton, runs through Parthenon to Jasper at AR 74 and Scenic 7 Byway. From Jasper, the highly regarded AR 7 winds north back to Harrison.
The Twisted Lady is as good as it gets – so good it should be outlawed like Jesse James and his boys. We’re glad it’s not. She’s ready and waiting to be claimed.