Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Music, Music, Music!

After spending less than a week in Red Bay Alabama having the windshield replaced (after 4+ years, full-time on the road, I guess one has to expect a rock is going to get you, but...ugh!), a new side camera and our slide-out adjusted, we were "ready to roll" again!  Since it hadn't taken long, and the Memorial Day weekend was coming up quickly, we decided that a wonderful way to spend it would be listening to music!

Mountain View AR wasn't that far from where we were, and we hadn't had a chance to get there...and we had heard sooo much about it, so, we just had to turn ourselves right back around and give it a visit!  I was so delightfully surprised when I called to make a reservation that my first choice campground, right next door to the Ozark Folk Center, was available for the whole weekend!  It was a sign that our trip was meant to be!  Our next call was to the Tom Sawyer RV Park in West Memphis AR where we always like to stop en route, so we can run across the river to Memphis TN to get (the best) BBQ ribs at the Blues City Cafe!  They too had availability for the night, yea!  We were living right!  ;-)

The night we pulled into Tom Sawyer's we unhooked the truck and settled the rig and then took right off to Memphis.  The sky didn't look very good, and it was predicting to rain, but not until later.  Memphis had been celebrating their "Memphis May" all month and that night was their final night with a closing outdoor concert by their symphony that was suppose to be from 2-9 pm in the park.  I thought after we ate we would wonder over there for a little while and listen.  Rain drops started falling as we drove across the bridge, and by the time we made it to the restaurant, it was coming down pretty hard.  I thought "there goes the concert".  While we ate (YUM!) we watched the rain come down in sheets along with the wind just whipping it around.  I had brought our big umbrella, and when we left, I tried using it, but the wind quickly turned it inside out and we got drenched!  No matter, the food was so worth every drop of rain!  I did feel sorry for the (I'm sure) cancelled concert tho.

The sun followed us all the way into Mountain View the following day.  Yes, it kept trying to rain, and it would spit for 10 minutes or so, then stop, and then the sun would come out again!   Our first full day was like that, we went to the Ozark Folk Center like that, and it turned out to be the best decision because most people stayed away because of it, so the park was practically empty.  The Center is twenty-four buildings and outdoor areas housing craft demonstrations and music programs recalling the period 1820-1920 in the Ozark Mountains.  Because there were so few people that day, we could talk as long as we wanted to each of the craft persons about what they were doing & how, etc.  Those of you that know Jack, know that it didn't take him long to get over to the Blacksmith's shop!

I visited three or four shops while he and the smithy chatted!  Later, he also enjoyed chatting with the print maker in the Print Shop as well, talking about the "good old days of printing".  So much fun.

My favorite, as always was the music.  We listened to two different groups, first to the  Original Flathoof Stringband, then later to an incredible young man named Dom Flemons who played banjo, guitar, harmonica, fife and bones in addition to singing!  What a talent!

That night we had intended to go down the road to listen to a group we had seen advertised on a poster that was playing in a barn, but having an hour to kill, dashed into a fun looking country store nearby.  When we got inside, the shop keeper asked if we were there for the show?  I told her I didn't know there was a show there (then noticed a stage in the back with nice padded chairs lined up).  She explained that they had a GREAT show, "as good as any in Branson!, and only $13!"  Jack and I looked at each other (we didn't know one show from another, we were already there, the seats looked comfy, so, why not).  So, I told the lady "sold!"  We stayed, and she was right, what a great show!  The main singer turned out to be a lady by the name of Pam Setser.  She was accompanied by another woman and man playing base and guitar that were also great.  She also brought up a young gal a couple of times to clog that was fantastic.  Two plus hours of pure entertainment, plus free popcorn!  Can't beat that in Branson!

Mountain View is all about music.  Locals (and visitors) are "jamming" in campgrounds, on the porches of the B&Bs & motels, at the various "shows" (in barns, cafes, clubs, etc) for minimal fees from $5-$15, and especially at what they call "pickin' park" which is the Washington Street Park next to the Courthouse.  Three pavilions are set up along with benches and chairs for the players and listeners, but often more groups gather (I saw 5 one day).  Each seem to play differently, having their own style of music.  We went several times and sat a listened for hours, enjoying the various musicians.

One night we ventured back over to the Folk Center to hear their "featured performer" Tony Joe White.  He was known for "Polk Salad Annie" and "Rainy Night in Georgia".  Well, it turned out he was more electric guitar, than folk, and for me, not my style... When we returned to the campground, a couple of campers were playing softly on the auto harp and guitar...I told them they sounded better than Tony.  ;-)

Being a "military brat", Memorial Day is special to me.  I like spending it in small towns because they usually due it up right.  Mountain View was no exception.  Their mayor and local VFW folks held a wonderful service remembering our fallen heroes, complete with a great bagpiper. 

Our last day there, we took a lovely drive through the Ozark Mountains one last time.  So beautiful, all the trees... We came to a huge dam and a big lake, the Norfolk that was really quite something to see, and checking our map, realized as big as it was, it was the smaller of two in that area!

Well, once again, it was time to leave this beautiful state, it's lovely trees, wonderful song birds, and pretty wildflowers.  This time we're heading to Missouri.  I've always wanted to go up into the St Louis Arch!  So, we're off to spend a couple of days in that exciting city "just because we've never been there!"

...on the road in Missouri, Marie

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Arkansas Adventures! (part 2)

Water.  That's what attracts people to Hot Springs.  Old documents show that American Indians knew about and bathed in the hot springs during the late 1700s and early 1800s.  Their ancestors may have also known about the hot springs.  People are still coming to the springs today...and so did we!  Some believe that the traces of minerals and an average temperature of 143 degrees give the waters whatever therapeutic properties they may have.  People also drink the waters from the cold springs, which have different chemical components and properties.

It's not everyday that you can visit "the smallest National Park" in the system!  It consists of the restored 23 room Fordyce Bathhouse in the middle of Bathhouse Row.  ;-You can tour the rooms furnished as they appeared during the heyday of the spa; tours are self-guided, but the signage is done well.  It was a great way to start our visit to the area and learn about the history.  The park maintains the cold springs fountains out front for the public to fill their own containers, and you see people coming to them all day long (us too)!

In the early 20th century eight European-style spas called Bathhouse Row home, with such grand amenities as stained glass windows and billiards rooms.  With magnificent magnolias lined up in front of the bathhouses and a sweeping, brick-lined Grand Promenade behind, the elegant spas evoke a leisurely time when people flocked here to take a 3-week 21-bath cure.  Now, there are only two open to the public, the rest are ether hotels, shops, museum (the Fordyce) or gone.  Also gone is the train that used to bring these folks here...to bad, what fun that would have been!

The two that are still operating are still very glamorous and though they no longer have the "billiards, beauty shops or gymnasiums" like they used to, I'll take the more modern style soaking and massage, thank you...and it was truly wonderful!

If you continue on past Bathhouse Row, and head out of the small town itself, you head up the Hot Springs Mountain.  It's not very far, and quite lovely.  They've built a 106' tower up there that you can take to the top, for a fee, that we opted not to do (I've seen the tops of trees & buildings before) and have a nice gift shop.  It was quite a nice drive.

I had read about an unusual church that was in a large garden, Anthony Chapel, at Garvan Woodland Gardens.  I really wanted to go see it.  The weather had turned on us, with a lot of rain, so we only had a small window, not enough to truly enjoy the gardens, but enough to go see the chapel.  So, we took a chance...wow, was I glad we did!  What a place!  Made you want to stay...want to get married there (again)!  Sure wish we would have had the time and better weather to enjoy the gardens...something to come back for, that's for sure!  Beautiful...

Hamilton House B&B (used to be a CEO's of Coke's Speak Easy), Toby Keith's, and the Hall's (Menthol) Family home

We also did something here we've never done before...we took a Duck Tour!  ;-We've said, more than once, that "someday, we'll do that"...well, the time was right, and the place was right...so, we hopped on!  The guide talked a bit fast, and garbled a bit here and there, but it was still fun...especially when we went into Lake Hamilton!  He pointed out a few "star's" homes and told some fun stories, which always adds to the tour...

We had planned on going to dig for diamonds the following day, as the Crater of Diamonds was only a little over an hour away, but the rain came...and we're wimps... The campground couldn't extend our stay, so off we went to Little Rock instead!

We ended up staying at a campground that's right downtown, on the river.  Not much to look at, but boy is it convenient!  It even has a pedestrian gate so that you can walk across the Arkansas River on the Clinton Presidential Park Bridge.  It puts you right next to his Library, the trolley, the River Walk, and lots of restaurants, and shops.  Pretty cool.  At night that bridge does a light show that's pretty too and we don't even have to go far to see it!

The first day we walked over the bridge, then took the trolley to tour around and see a little of the city.  They have over 100 art pieces spread throughout, it's really fun to see.  The drivers give a fun tour too.  On the way back we stopped at the Old State House, which was the 1st Capitol Building of Arkansas, from 1833-1911 when they started moving into the new Capitol Building even though it wasn't complete yet (& wouldn't be until 1915).

It had really fallen into disrepair until funds were raised to bring it back to it's glory and turn it into a museum.  It showcased it's history and also that of the Clinton's 92 Election Night which he held there.  They also had a couple of special exhibits, one of Governor's wives' dresses and another of bicycles through the years.

A surprising thing we found, when we visited the new Arkansas State Capitol, was that other than a bride-to-be being photographed, there was no one else in the building!  It was a Saturday afternoon...and we had the place to ourselves!  Sure made it nice, I must say!

One of the things Little Rock is "known for" is their old cemeteries...after all, they have been here since before the Civil War.  Mount Holly is famous...so that's where I wanted to go  I love seeing all the old headstones, seeing history per Se.  Among their various Governors, Court Justices, Senators, Confederate Generals, etc, there were a couple of headstones I was actually interested in finding... David O Dodd (boy Martyr of the Confederacy, executed at age 17 as a spy), Elizabeth Ross Quatie (from the Trail of Tears), and Chester Cunningham (1st white child born in Little Rock).  Thank goodness they had a directory listing where people were!  The cemetery isn't large, but still...rows and rows of beautiful, old headstones, monuments and crypts.

As I've shared before, Jack is a WW II history buff, so whenever we are near a museum that covers that era, he's there!  Well, General Douglas MacArthur was from Little Rock, so...they turned an old 1837 arsenal building into a museum to him!  MacArthur Museum of Arkansas Military History, did a nice job of covering the General's history as well as other of their favored sons. 

I'd read an article years ago about an "Old Mill" that was completely made out of concrete.  It had been constructed six years before the movie "Gone with the Wind" and used in their opening credits back in 1939.  I tore out the article and swore that if I ever made it to Little Rock, I had to go see this place!  ;-) 

Looking at it, you'd never know the hand railings, bridge, waterwheel, benches, tables, windowsills and downspouts were all created out of dyed concrete to emulate weather beaten wood.  Details of peeling bark, broken tree branches and bird-pecked holes shape the park's character.  All done by a Mexican artist, Dionicio Rodriquez.  77 years later and people are still coming and enjoying it...the park was full of people the day we visited.  Wedding pictures, children playing, families picnicking, etc.  Wonderful!

As we ended our stay in Little Rock, and in Arkansas in general, we drove the old neighborhoods and viewed the beautiful homes still in use.  Victorians, Queen Anne's, Neoclassical, Georgian Colonial, etc.  So nice to see so many being taken care of...some made into B & B's, some being used, like the Governor's Mansion, again, and others are still just private homes (nice to be rich!).

L-R: Arkansas Governor's Colonial Mansion (1950), The Villa Marre (c1881) used in the tv show "Designing Women", Rozelle-Murphy House (c1887), A private Historic Victorian home, The Hornsbrook House (c1888) Queen Anne style now a B&B, A private Historic home with an unusual domed cupola, Frederick Hanger House (c1889) Queen Anne style, The Trapnall Hall (c1843) one of the only remaining antebellum homes in the city

Arkansas was a surprise to me.  I'm not sure what I expected, but I know I liked it a lot more than I thought I would and that I would like to come back again and see more.  It has a lot more trees and a lot more lakes than I thought too.  We didn't get to the music in Mountain View and I'd like to do that...and those diamonds are still calling to me...

...Until then, we are on the road to Alabama, Marie

If you wish to view the rest of the photos from this trip, you can at my Flickr account at:  http://www.flickr.com/photos/74905158@N04/

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Arkansas Adventures! (Part 1)

We've been "full-timing" it for over four years now...on the road the whole time...and how we missed Arkansas, zig-zagging the way we do all across the country, back and forth as many times as we have, I'll never know, but we did!  So, I made it our mission to see Arkansas this year, so off we went.  And I'm so glad we did.  What a lovely state it is too!

Our first stop was to stay at the Lake Fort Smith State Park.  What a beautiful campground that is.  It's been such a long time since we'd been to such a lovely park, we'd almost forgotten how nice it is to be at a place that had large open sites that were set far apart from each other, tucked into "nature" and with fire rings!  So great to be able to just sit back and listen to the birds, build a lovely fire, look at the trees all around...now if only the lake was within view as well (oh well, guess I just want "everything", huh?).

Although the town of Fort Smith was small, it had a few interesting "historic" figures they were proud to share with folks...As you enter into the town, the grand statue of General William D Darby (c1911-1945) on his wonderful motorcycle greets you. The plaque shares that the General was the original commander of the US Army Rangers, an elite force patterned after, and trained by, the legendary British Commandos.  Darby's Rangers were the first American soldiers to actively engage the German Army in combat at a desperate time when America had few resources to counter Nazi aggression in Europe.
Another proud statue fronts a small park, for a whole other kind of "leader".  The first black man to be a US Deputy Marshall.  Bass Reeves served from 1907 to 1910 in the western frontier.  He arrested thousands of felons, including his son and a minister.  He died at the age of 71. 
Probably the most "notable" was  Judge Isaac Parker (c1893), also known as "The Hanging Judge".  Judge Parker had the largest criminal jurisdiction of any federal court at that time, the Western District of Arkansas, and so handled an extraordinary number of murder and rape cases.  When a jury found defendants guilty in these capital cases, federal law mandated the death penalty.  In Fort Smith, that meant an execution by hanging on a crude and unsightly gallows. Judge Parked sentenced 160 people (4 women) to hang.  Of these, 79 men were hanged.

The most fun one was Miss Laura!  Miss Laura ran one of (the best) brothels in town!  It's now the Visitor Information Center (don't you just love it?).  They give tours and the ladies get a health certificate & the gentlemen get a sheriff's badge at the end!  ;-)  In 1903 Laura Zeigler opened a new brothel with money she borrowed from a respectable local banker.  Business was good from the start, and she paid off the loan in 17 months!  Originally named the River Front Hotel, Miss Laura's soon became one of the most celebrated bordellos in the Southwest.  Her ladies were known to be the most refined and the healthiest of Fort Smith's "daughters of joy".

In 1973 the building was selected for inclusion in the National Register of Historic Places.  Restoration began in 1983 and Miss Laura's Restaurant and Social Club opened one year later.  Miss Laura's had finally become respectable!

The architecture of the house is unique.  The clapboard structure is a simple, yet elegant, example of baroque Victorian architecture.  The furnishings are Victorian and much the same as was used when Miss Laura owned it.

In the fall of 1992, Miss Laura's reopened as the Fort Smith Visitor Center. 

On our last day in Fort Smith, we decided to see the countryside by train!  It's our favorite way to travel when we can.  The Arkansas & Missouri Railroad offers a two and a half hour ride through the Ozark Boston Mountains on their 1950's California Zephyr.  It was a lovely spring day and full of sunshine, just perfect for a train ride!  The train wove it's way through lots of tall green trees, crisscrossed back and forth over the Clear Creek dozens of times (or as locals call it "Frog Bayou"), over three tall trestles and one very long tunnel, past sunny meadows, farms, and small towns.  We sat back and enjoyed a light lunch and listened to the conductor share tidbits of information and funny stories in his Arkansas accent, and I snapped as many pictures as I could...  Such a wonderful way to spend the day.

From there we moved camp, and traveled north to stay a few days in Fayetteville.  We chose this town because it seemed "central" to several small towns in the area.  I had pulled my back out a few days earlier, and was having some difficulty walking much, so this turned out to be an okay place for a couple of days, as there really wasn't much to see in Fayetteville itself.

Our real interest was going to see where Sam Walton opened his 5 & 10 in Bentonville back in 1950, which is now a museum.  I had read his biography and thought it would be fun to see "The birthplace of Walmart".  Why not, right?  ;-)   As timing would have it, that weekend (we came on Friday afternoon) was the "2nd Annual Bentonville Film Festival hosted by Genna Davis.  Luckily, most of the festivities were not really going on until Sat & Sun, so it wasn't to crowded yet.  They still had some things happening, film crews walking around, booths set up, a farmer's market happening, and other fun stuff going on, but not to bad, just kind of fun, not crazy...yet.

The Walmart Museum was cute, pretty much what I expected.  You first enter through a very small 5 & 10 cent store, with some of the "old time" merchandise for sale (fun!), then you go on through to exhibits showing his history, his office, his truck, a model of his plane, etc.  Then you exit through the Soda Fountain where you can order 50's style sodas, ice cream, etc.  We had a soda and took it outside and wandered around the quaint town square and watched the various activities of the day.  It is a darling town, you almost felt like it was 1950 again...

We left Bentonville and drove on to Eureka Springs to spend the rest of the day.  What a great town!  I wished my back had been in better shape, and we had had more time, because this little town sure could take a whole weekend to enjoy!  So many cute shops and pretty buildings to explore and take pictures of, but lots of walking up and down brick walks & hills.  At one time this area was known for it's "healing waters" and had natural springs flowing just about everywhere, now they are gone.  What's left is a tourist mecca of B&B's in beautiful old Victorian homes, gorgeous scenery, lots of quaint shops and eateries and probably some nice hikes in those lovely woods too.  A place worth visiting again someday...

From here, we're heading on to more "healing waters", Hot Springs AR!  Those are still happening tho.  We'll spend a few days there, then on to the Capitol, maybe even stop and dig for diamonds along the way...we'll see, you never know about us!  I'll save all that for "part two", as this seems to be getting pretty long and we have days and days yet of our "Arkansas Adventures" left to enjoy!

...kicking back in Arkansas, Marie

If you wish to view the rest of the photos from this trip, you can at my Flickr account at:  http://www.flickr.com/photos/74905158@N04/