A friend of mine once described me as the girl who would jump on her Harley and ride 500 miles for breakfast. I’m always looking to take the scenic route over the interstate. It’s on those roads where you’ll find the best views, the best foods and the best memories.
In this case, I flew a thousand miles and rented a motorcycle to explore the Ozarks for five days. Good food, great roads and swimming holes were all I was hoping to find on my extended weekend getaway. But of course, the Ozarks offered so much more. Northwest Arkansas is home to some of the best kept secrets in the South. From the curvaceous roadways that offer scenic overlooks to the Ozarks’ forested mountain tops, to the turquoise blue waters of the Buffalo National River as it carves its way below, you’ll never tire of the views here. Sometimes you’ll even notice a waterfall or two on the side of the road as you ride along the legendary Pig Trail Scenic Byway and other backroads.
Day 1: Eating My Way Through the Ozarks
Crisp, mountain air breezed into my helmet as I swiftly carved back and forth across the perfectly paved asphalt that wound through the hollows. Steam was rolling off the river below as I rode my Harley-Davidson across the Little Golden Gate Bridge, which creaked with every wooden board I crossed. I could hear the splash of a fish as a nearby angler reeled his catch towards his blue-green kayak that matched the color of the water. The pungent smell of sage brush rolled off the limestone-edged cliffs. Slowly, the sun began to light up the rolling green hills of Northwest Arkansas as it rose into the summer sky. I was about to experience the most glorious moment of my morning: eating a pancake the size of my face, slathered in butter and maple syrup, accompanied by a slice of peanut butter pie, in downtown Eureka Springs.
Day 2: Afternoon Delight
The last place I thought I’d find great Cajun food was 400 miles from the Louisiana swamps. If you want exceptional creole-inspired dishes while you enjoy stunning views of the Arkansas Grand Canyon, you’ll find it at the Cliff House Inn along Scenic Highway 7, Arkansas’s first scenic byway. Their fried green tomatoes, pecan pie and redfish smothered in a homemade crawfish sauce were a highlight of my trip. Afterwards, I wound my way down the backroads to Ponca to enjoy the Buffalo National River. I had hoped to spot the famous herd of elk that makes their home in Boxley Valley, but they seemed to have had the same idea as me in regards to beating the summer heat and had made their way to cooler areas away from the open fields. I parked my Street Glide, kicked off my boots and cannonballed into the cool waters of the Buffalo River for an afternoon swim before making my way back to Eureka Springs for dinner.
Day 3: The Road Less Traveled
On one early morning as I made my way around the s-curves of the Pig Trail, I decided to take the scenic route out to Oark. The tales of the historic Oark General Store reminded me of a Prohibition-era operation, buried deep in the mountains. Little advertising of this restaurant exists, but if you know about the General Store, then you know it’s a must stop. Motorcyclists ride from miles around to enjoy a meal on their front porch and converse about their adventures and the next stop on their ride route. I ordered up a slice of apple pie à la mode and engaged with a few other riders about the hidden gems of the area. After talking with a few locals, I was convinced to ride the hairpin switchbacks of AR 103 towards Mount Magazine and reward myself with a plate of award-winning brisket at Rivertowne BBQ. A late afternoon ride along the Pig Trail gave way to a beautiful, neon-orange sunset over the pastures in the rolling green hills.
Day 4: Off the Beaten Path
No matter where you look in Arkansas, you’re bound to notice agriculture operations. In fact, it’s the top industry in the state. A ride through the low lands surrounding the Ozarks offered me a different view and vibe of Arkansas. Riding through rural America on a Harley? Doesn’t get much better than that! Farming commodities are more plentiful in these parts, as the switchbacks turn into long sweepers and calmer curves through open fields. Poultry farms and pastures lined the roadways, while a herd of cows cooled off in a nearby pond as I made my way to the historic War Eagle Mill. Established in 1832, this active gristmill produces its own organic products and serves up some of the best blackberry cobbler, beans and freshly baked cornbread you can find in the region.
Day 5: From the Farm to the Table
My final day took me to Bentonville, where some take their farm-to-table operations to the next level, like local favorite The Preacher’s Son. Dozens of local farms, some of which I likely rode by as I wound my way one last time through this region's fertile, verdant landscape, provided the ingredients used to make their one-of-a-kind dishes. Who would’ve thought a motorcycle trip to Arkansas could turn into a foodie tour? Well, I guess I always manage to do so. Sometimes it’s hard to say if the ride or the restaurant is the reward for the day, especially out here. The diverse community and offerings of Northwest Arkansas truly provide a unique experience I’ve yet to find anywhere else. Welcome to Arkansas, y’all. Even if you came here just for the ride, you’re sure to enjoy the meals and memories that await you. Enjoy the ride, and don’t forget to enjoy a slice of pie. No trip to Arkansas is complete without pie.