Saturday July 9th was the regular meeting date of the Chrome Divas of the Ozarks, our ladies’ riding group.  Our chapter is an affiliate of a national organization which is described on the national website as, being “formed to provide a means of camaraderie, community participation, and a national link to all women who ride motorcycles and strive to be known as outstanding citizens in their communities with a preference to ride, have fun and share their talents and compassion in group effort.”  Our chapter has about 22 members. The group is very diverse age-wise as well as occupation and bike type. It’s a great group of women and I’ve learned a lot about riding from them, especially how to be safe.  I’m kinda the nerd of the group.  It seems that when we’re together I also do something oddball, but it’s ok, because they’re all so warm and accepting. Our meeting was cancelled, but we were having a group ride. We met in the parking lot of Jose’s in Springdale (which by the way, has a bike night on Tuesdays, but I’ve never attended.)

Stacie York, Chelle Grant Custer, Me, Georgia Brooks, Stephanee Danielson, Trisha Davis-Labit

Our Ride Captain is Stacie York, and she plans the routes and leads our rides.  That day, though, Diva Georgia Brooks was taking the lead.  There were 7 of us riding that day and we rolled out about 9:00 a.m.  All I knew about our destination was that we were heading north into Missouri, but since I was with the Divas, that was good enough for me.  We took got onto I-540 headed north, but didn’t make it to the Pleasant Grove exit before we had a bit of trouble.  Georgia’s bike had mysteriously decided not to run. This is a bit of a problem, especially when one is on a busy interstate.  So, we all pulled over, and the more experienced Divas tried to figure out the problem.  I will say it made for an interesting sight for the drivers on the road, seeing all these women and their bikes on the side of the road.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Before long, fortunately, Bessie, Georgia’s bike started again and we were underway.  540 is the craziest, in my opinion, between Bella Vista and Fayetteville, after that, in either direction it’s a nice drive. Interstate 540 connects to Hwy 71  and we had an easy ride once out of the RogersBentonvilleBella Vista traffic, and it was a good feeling to be cruising up the interstate with my Diva sisters. The day was going to be a warm one, but the heat hadn’t yet taken hold.

We exited 71 at the Gateway Drive exit in Missouri.  From there we took a right, then make a quick, sharp left (north) onto Hwy Vv which turns into Old Hwy 71. Our destination, the Undercliff Grill and Bar, was on the right, after crossing the railroad tracks. Though I’d never been, the Undercliff, located in Tipton Ford Missouri, is apparently a popular spot for bikers and bicyclists.  There were a number of both there that day. Now, here’s where that wackiness I mentioned comes in.  On the ride up, I felt like my helmet was sitting high on my head and I kept having to mash it down.  When we stopped, I pulled off my helmet, and out fell my summer gloves I’d been looking for.  Everyone just shook their heads and laughed, but I was relieved to find them because my leather ones were hot.

The Undercliff is so named, because it is built right into a huge rock cliff.  The wall next to our table was rock.  It’s neat inside and the waitstaff was clearly used to waiting on tables of rowdies, which of course, we were.  When the Divas get together there’s always a lot of spirited conversation, teasing and laughter.  That day was no exception.  The food came out pretty quickly given how busy it was.  And as seems to be the case everywhere we stop, the portions were very large.  One thing that tickled me was that my breakfast burrito came with wheat toast. No problem, I was able to find a taker.  I suppose I should say who all was on the ride that day.  Besides Stacie York (Ride Captain) there was Stephanee Danielson, Tail-Gunner who rides in the rear, Trish Davis–Labit, Laura Stanulis Wilkins, Michelle Grant Custer, Georgia and of course, me. During the course of the breakfast several other groups of rider rolled in, giving the place a rollicking, festive feeling.  

                         

 After a very enjoyable breakfast and visit, we pondered the remainder of the ride. Georgia and Stephanee were heading back to Northwest Arkansas.  Stacie and Trish were going to ride on to Joplin to check in on their friend who lived there, and to see how the storm clean-up was progressing. Chelle, Laura and I decided to go with them. 

 

 You most likely recall the devastation to Joplin from the May 22, 2011, EF5 tornado. The storm killed 159, injured countless more people, and major portions of the city were demolished, leaving many homeless in its wake.  Going there, helped me realize that it is one thing to see reports on television, but nothing is the equivalent of actually seeing the damage to begin to comprehend the enormity of the disaster.  Stacie pulled us aside and reminded us to keep eyes out, not only on traffic, but for debris on the road.  We road through town carefully and stopped at the high school. 

                         

 

It is hard for me to convey to you the utter destruction we saw.  The weird thing was, there would be entire blocks wiped out and one house standing across the street.  Stacie visited with the Americorps volunteers who were directing groups of volunteers in the cleanup efforts.  By this time it was hot, and I was thinking about how that added to the misery of the situation.  It had been 6 weeks since the tornado struck, but yet (and I should have known this, but hadn’t processed it) there was debris everywhere.  I can only imagine how it looked and felt in the days immediately after the storm.

 

We rode into downtown Joplin to meet Stacie and Trish’s friend Rich.  He was in good spirits and gave us an update about how the city was pulling together to recover.  Downtown, at least the part we saw had survived unscathed, reminding us of the randomness of nature’s force.  From there we headed over to the hospital.  It was very sad to see.  Not very far from the destroyed building was a vibrant tent city set up to serve as a makeshift hospital.  We took lots of pictures of the area around the hospital, which was flattened.  When we got back home, Stacie sent us a Google Earth link of what is used to look like.  As you can see, the difference is dramatic. She encouraged us to remind our networks and friends not to forget the people of Joplin, and to solicit folks to volunteer to help with the recovery efforts.

         

 

After that stop, we headed back home, stopping for gas and water.  It was really hot by now, and we had a bit of a ride to get home.  To my great delight, the gas station we stopped at had the most glorious cupcakes, so that became my ride back sustainance, along with a refill of ice water.  Once we got back into Northwest Arkansas, it was scorching.  In fact, we learned that the temperature exceeded 100 degrees.  Stacy pulled us into Shakes’ for a cool down ice cream break, and lemme tell you it hit the spot. We each drank lots of water and enjoyed our treats, before getting back on our bikes for the last bit of the journey. We said our goodbyes, because we would each peel away in various directions once we got going again.  From Shake’s, it was only a few minutes ride home for each of us, and after pulling into the garage and opening the door to the house, I was truly thankful to return to a nice cool home, and for a safe ride in the fellowship of the Divas.

That evening my fellow deans threw a dinner party to welcome the two new incoming University of Arkansas deans, my own Dean of the Law School, Stacy Leeds, and the Robin Roberts, Dean of the Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences, and to say goodbye to Dean Bill Schwab, the former dean of the Fulbright College and to me.  It was a lovely event, which we all enjoyed, and in a perfect touch, my colleagues gave me a fall version of my pink riding jacket.  I am grateful for the friendship and thoughtfulness of all the University of Arkansas Deans, Bob McMath (Honors College), Pauline Rankin (Global Campus) Ashok Saxena (Engineering), Jeff Shannon (Architecture), Todd Shields (Graduate Schools), Tom Smith (Education), Mike Vayda (Agriculture) and Dan Worrell (Business). Special thanks to Dean Carolyn Allen the hostess with the mostess.

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