Monday, October 1, 2001

Talimena Scenic Byway

This past weekend I had the pleasure of riding down to Austin with some folks from the Sabre Group. While stopped at Hut's in Austin to have a good burger someone mentioned the Talimena Scenic Drive and said it was a wonderful, winding road that ran through the Ouachita National Forest of eastern Oklahoma and western Arkansas. At the time, I made a mental note because I knew I would be hard up for a ride the following week.

It didn't take long to find some good information on the Talimena on the net. Here are a few links I found:

Ouchita National Forest Website
Mena, Arkansas Website
Dallas Morning News Article

The Talimena is a good one-day trip from the Dallas area. Expect to travel around 600 miles and be gone for at least 12 hours. I left around 6a and arrived back home around 9p. The drive up is ordinary until a little north of Antlers, OK where you begin a gradual ascent into the Kiamichi Mountains. I saw quite a few deer and even had a small group of deer cross the road about a quarter-mile in front of me. Keep your head on a swivel and the brakes covered. The roads are relatively narrow leaving little for reaction if something were to pop out in front of you.

I took 75-N out of Dallas to 70-E in Durant. Then 271-N all the way to Talihina. Stay on 271 out of Talihina to get to highway 1 and the beginning of the Talimena. I had originally intended to ride some roads in Arkansas, but, much to my dismay, the shortcuts I mapped out involved some dirt roads that I didn't have the time to navigate. Plus, I'm not a big fan of dirt roads. Perhaps next trip I will have enough time to go the long way around.

click to enlarge

The Talimena is a wonderful road that runs from Talihina, OK to Mena, AR along the crest of the Kiamichi Mountains in the Ouachita National Forest. It's a road that is made for a motorcycle. Unfortunately, in the fall it's also made for slow-moving vehicles packed full of people who want to look at all of the colors. I can't blame them. The scenery is spectacular. I purposefully went up on a weekday to avoid crowded highways. That strategy worked for the most part. The few cages I saw were easily passed and I was able to enjoy the ride without any issues.

The speed limit is 55 MPH and is marked as a no passing zone. However, I found plenty of places to pass comfortably and without mishap. I don't think I could stand going through the Talimena at 25 MPH like most of the cages and tour busses. The condition of the road was superb. I did find a large amount of leaves and pine needles in various places on the road. Imagine that this time of year! :) As always, use your head and leave yourself a way out.

I stopped in Mena for lunch at the SkyLine Cafe. You can't miss it. It's on the Talimena just on the edge of downtown Mena. I had the chicken fried steak as it came highly recommended. It was worth it. There's a lot of other good ol' down home cookin' to choose from on the menu too. Take your pick. I'm sure it's all good.

On the way back through the Talimena, I stopped at most of the Vistas and took some pictures. There are some pretty good shots of the road and some of the fall foliage. Check 'em out.

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