July 7, 2021
At 7:00 a.m., each class of riders began their departure from Branson, Missouri, on a 255-mile route to yet another unknown destination. Shortly after crossing over the Table Rock Dam, riders tackled a series of twisty, hilly roads slicing through picturesque farmlands and forests. Some 50 miles later, riders queued for the Peel Ferry, the last Arkansas public ferry still in operation. Crossing a section of Bull Shoals Lake, a body of water covering more than 6,000 square miles, provided a brief but welcome respite in the heat of the day.
Although today’s route wasn’t quite as long as the day before, the degree of difficulty was much greater. By late morning, the mercury was already hovering in the 90s, proving brutal to both rider and machine. And the big climb up the Ouachita Mountains posed various challenges, such as gearing and clutches, for late model bikes as well as early models. At least seven motorcycles ended up on the sweep trailer, two of which experienced catastrophic failures: the camshaft on #96 Richard Campbell’s 1955 Zundapp was deemed unrepairable, and #5 Tim Burns’ 1935 Harley-Davidson VLD had a hole in the piston. On the bright side, #41 Berry Wardlaw could be back in the game. Through the help of many friends, he was able to obtain a valve spring for his 1939 Indian Chief which is expected to be in running condition in time for the July 8 start.
The first checkpoint didn’t appear until well into the day’s route, at the Highway 7 Trailhead at Ouachita Trail. With quizzes complete, riders proceeded to the Arlington Hotel where newspeople from the Hot Springs Sentinel Record were present to film and interview riders. Hot Springs has a fascinating history, ranging from healing spring waters to major league baseball training camps to illegal gambling and speakeasies. And this is yet another town where many of us would have liked to spend more time.
Our accommodations in Hot Springs were at the historic Arlington Resort Hotel & Spa, first opened in 1875. This glorious hotel, the largest in Arkansas, has since been rebuilt and then refurbished in a striking Art Deco style. The vintage motorcycles were parked in the hotel’s indoor parking garage, which proved to be a blessing. Just before sunset, the skies opens and released a deluge of rain, but riders and their machines stayed dry. Because Stage 2 was so challenging for the antiques, there was a lot of wrenching taking place for minor as well as major issues, with riders exemplifying the camaraderie of the Chase, sharing knowledge, parts, and tools.
Stage 2 scores have been posted, and defending champion #1 Todd Cameron’s lead is widening. He and his 1930 Velocette are currently five points ahead of the second-highest point holder, #64 Dave Currier and his 1930 Harley-Davidson. Will Todd maintain, or increase, his lead? Tune in tomorrow to find out!