Since we don't tow a car behind our motorhome, our bicycles serve as our main form of transportation when we are parked in a campground. It's so much easier to head out on bikes rather than unhook and prepare Pearl to hit the road, so we only take her out on longer journeys, when actually changing campgrounds. While staying at Charlton Campground in Arkansas's Ouachita National Forest for two weeks, we had plenty of time to explore the area on two wheels.
This map will help you locate the areas discussed below. Charlton Campgound is not shown but is slightly (3 miles) to the left (west) of Crystal Springs. (Sorry about the small font.)
As you can see from the map, Lake Ouachita limits the number of roads in the area. From Charlton, we had no choice but to ride on Highway 270 for at least part of the way to anywhere. In some places, this road had a nice, wide shoulder, but in other parts, the shoulder got narrower. And there was quite a bit of traffic, both recreational and not. So riding on this road was not ideal, but it was either that or not riding at all, so you can guess which option we chose!
Early in our stay, we were out of wine so took a short ride east to Outlaw Liquor in Crystal Springs. There are several competing liquor stores in this tiny outpost and not much else. I guess they get their name because the next county over, just a few miles west, is dry. Arkansas has a lot of dry counties, so make note of that if you travel in the area and enjoy adult libations. You can find a map and list of wet and dry counties in Arkansas here.
Another day, we took the road bikes on a longer journey east to the town of Royal, which you can see on the right side of the map above, to pick up our mail. We periodically have a packet of mail sent to us from a mail-forwarding service, and we also had a package to pick up. We had both sent to General Delivery at the Royal post office since we knew we'd be in the area for a relatively long time, so our mail wouldn't miss us.
Although the 9-mile ride to Royal was not very pleasant due to the amount of traffic, we made it there safely, and our mail was waiting for us. I am sure they don't get too many cyclists in this post office!
On the way back to Charlton CG, we decided to take a longer route on back roads south of Hwy 270 to avoid some of the traffic. These rural roads in farm country were hillier but very pretty. I even got to stop and help a turtle cross the road! I had just seen one smashed a bit further up the road, so I didn't want this beautiful creature to meet the same fate.
On Memorial Day weekend, wishing to avoid the busy highway, Barry checked Google maps and found some unpaved forest roads where we could ride our mountain bikes through the woods. This was a great choice as the highway would have been clogged with recreational boaters heading to and from the many lake access points in the area. We only got passed by a couple of vehicles on these peaceful unpaved roads. Bliss! This was by far our favorite ride in the area.
On our last (and longest) ride in the area, we headed west on Hwy 270 to the small town of Mount Ida. Traffic wasn't as bad as heading east with the Hot Springs traffic.
We first stopped at Marilyn's Old Country Store, where we were delighted to find a bevy of fresh, local produce as well as health foods. Surprising, given that we were in a rural area, but most welcome! Barry was able to pick up some Bob's Red Mill Oat Bran, and we also purchased some lovely veggies to take back with us.
Next, we continued west to Morning Joy Donuts. We thought we were going to be too late, as they are only open until 11 am, and it was farther than we thought so we didn't arrive until around 11:10. But they were still open and happy to see some customers to buy up the leftover donuts, I'm sure! We bought a variety of donuts, scones, and muffins, and they even gave us a bag of donut holes on the house. Yum!
Our last stop before turning around to head back to Charlton was the Mount Ida town center and the Montgomery County courthouse.
Although the cycling from Charlton Campground was not ideal since there were limited options, we managed to make the most of it and still had a lot of fun and put in some productive miles.
Emily & Barry
We're a long-married, early-retired couple who are currently traveling as nomads with no fixed home base. After years of living in North Carolina (Emily's home state), we spent 18 months living oceanfront on Ambergris Caye, Belize, a year road-tripping the US in a Honda CR-V, a year in Playa del Carmen, Mexico, and are now roaming North America in our 32' motorhome, Pearl, following warm weather whenever possible.
Favorite Travel Blogs