Just strap up your leathers and get ready to ride. This just might be the best ride in the Ozarks. It’s the Twisted Lady Route, the newest of seven in the Motorcycle Riding Guide of the Ozarks. All of the routes begin and finish in Harrison, Arkansas where you can find a comfortable bed at night and a hot meal after your adventurous journey through the mountains!
The Twisted Lady Route has 517 curves and covers over 90 incredible and memorable miles. The route takes you south of Harrison through Newton County and traces the history of the infamous bank robbing and murdering seductress Belle Starr and her star-crossed lover Cole Younger.
Ms. Starr was born Myra Maybelle Shirley in 1848 near Carthage, Missouri, and was known as May by her family. Believe it or not, May Shirley received a classical education and learned to play piano. She graduated from Missouri’s Carthage Female Academy, a private institution her father helped to found. Belle used the old mountain trail that is now Highway 327 to visit her lover, Cole Younger and his friends Jesse and Frank James, all illustrious outlaws. Frank James had a home in Newton County (where the route travels). One of their favorite haunts was Alum Cove, near Deer along Highway 327, and it is believed Frank James’ grave is actually located in the Snow Cemetery just off Highway 327. The gravestone reads, “Frank James, Alias Joe Vaughn 1844-“. Many locals like to take midnight rides through the area to “go see Uncle James”.
Belle was shot and killed on February 3, 1889, two days before her 41st birthday. She was riding home from a neighbor’s house in Eufaula, OK, when she was ambushed (just to be sure, after falling off her horse, she was shot a second time to insure she was dead). Allegedly, Belle was briefly married for three weeks to Cole Younger in 1878, but it’s not substantiated by any evidence.
Famous Baldknobber, Wash Middleton, aka Wash Gibbs of “Shepherd of the Hills” fame, was shot a few yards behind the Parthenon Store (on your left as you enter the community) on July 4, 1888, by a U.S. Marshal for a killing in Missouri. It is rumored that Baldknobber Gold is buried in the hills surrounding Parthenon. Come explore this beautiful route through the Ozarks and find out why it is so famous. You might even be able to find some of the famed Baldknobber Gold.
There are so many stories to be discovered and learned along this route. Our newest route was named in Starr’s honor; Belle Starr was truly the “Twisted Lady”.
Here are the route directions:
Depart from Harrison on Scenic Highway 7 South towards Jasper. Just before you get to Jasper (just under 20 miles) take a right onto Highway 74 for a brief time. You will then make a left onto Highway 327 and travel through the communities of Parthenon and Wayton. You will come out on Highway 16 where you will take a right and ride through the communities of Deer, Swain and Nail. Take a right onto Highway 21 and travel North through Boxley Valley. You will take a right onto Highway 43, and it will take you through Ponca and back to Harrison.
Attractions on the Route: Mystic Caverns, Old Dogpatch USA Theme Park, Buffalo National River- Pruitt Landing, Hillary Jones Elk Education Center- Jasper, Parthenon Historic Country Store, Boxley Valley’s Elk Herd, Ponca Elk Education Center, Gaither Mountain Overlook.
There’s a lot to do on this ride. We hope you can take full advantage of it. Many restaurants serve alcohol now in Harrison, so after a hot ride, come hang with your friends over a cool beverage! For more information on this route and others throughout the Ozarks and to order you’re free copy of the Motorcycle Riding Guide of the Ozarks, please call the Harrison Convention & Visitors Bureau at 870-741-1789 or visit the website at www.HarrisonArkansas.org.