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Published: July 17th 2016
Twisting by the pool..........
Actually it was a Zydeco band, even better for toe tapping.
Even though it was not quite where we expected to be, our stay in the Coushatta Casino RV Park was very pleasant in several ways. Not only was it a 5* park but we got a “Good Sam” offer of 2 nights for one. This should have made it $20 a night but somehow the total bill was $77 for 6 nights, not a bad result, and yes I did query it but they insisted it was correct, so what can you do? Also we were given $10 each to spend in the casino, I ended up with $24, not a great profit but not a loss and it provided a couple of evening’s entertainment & free cocktails, which were not short in the alcohol content. There was a free concert at the pool side where they gave us free baseball caps. We also experienced our first age-concession deal. There was a $5.55 buffet lunch for the over 55s and then a free slot machine tournament with big prizes. Well, how seriously people took that, scary.
They say that things can “cost an arm & a leg”; well here it seemed it had. There
On the road..........
.... everyday chores. Getting the shopping in is so much easier when you take your home to the store. You only have to move the bags once.
was a noticeable lack of limbs on a disproportionate proportion of punters. I was fascinated. Another thing that took our attention, was that, since that our last jaunt over here there appears to have been an explosion in the use of beefed up golf carts. Now, the parks are not that big, usually nice enough to stroll around, not vast, but almost everyone appears to bring a golf cart with them..... but not for golf. They were decorated with fluorescent lights, had an Disco music system and a basket to carry the large bags of snacks and bottles of soda / beer.
They are used to go to the pool, take the dog to the doggy park which is about 2 minutes away, go up to the office/ site shop, but most often of all to go nowhere at all. They are driven up and down the lanes, music full blast, just cruising around. One guy (not so small) passed Graeme & I as we were on our post-supper stroll, just as I was yawning, due to the heat, you understand. He said to me “you need one of these and you wouldn’t
On restaurant wall. I just liked this.
be so tired”. I just smiled and nodded whilst thinking you need to walk a bit more before you have a heart attack .... I don’t think I have seen one yet fitted with a defibrillator although many do appear to carry oxygen.
We left Coushatta, drove past our original intended destination, crossed the Stateline waved goodbye to Louisiana and entered into Arkansas
When at home planning this trip, for no reason in particular other than it featured in my “most scenic drive” book and looked like a nice place to go, I decided that the Ozarks was a place I really wanted to see. The Ozarks, also known as Ozark Mountains or Ozark Plateau is a physiographic and geologic highland region primarily located in Arkansas and Missouri. It is a predominantly rural area with many lakes, hills, mountains and trees. In fact there are at least 2340 named lakes and reservoirs in the Arkansas Ozarks alone, and I don’t think anyone has counted the trees. Think of it like Hampshire on steroids, on the tree front. It is an outdoor sport, fishing, swimming, boating, hiking paradise. Our journey so
The Bill Clinton Presidential Library
The library is part of a complex, set in a park with a wetland nature walk, connected to an excellent cycle route along the river.
far has taken us through the flat scenery of Florida and Louisiana so we noticed the changing landscape almost immediately on crossing the border.
On the way we stopped @ Walmart to stock up and again attempted to buy some tequila. We looked around the store and couldn’t see any beer, wine or alcohol of any description. I asked the assistant where I could find it. She informed me that this was a “dry county”. “What does that mean?” I asked. Her reply was, “we don’t sell alcohol of any type here at all, any day, any time. Where are you going?” I told her “Hot Springs” and she said, “oh that is just down the road, so you can buy it there.” As we crossed over the county boundary line (all of 2 miles away) the first thing we saw either side of the road was three large liquor stores........excellent.
Nope it was Sunday.......all closed!
So currently we have the salt, the Margarita Mix, & the limes.....only the essential ingredient to go.
Arkansas is probably most famous for being
New occupant in the White House some months earlier than expected. Not sure on his policies though.
the birthplace, home and political base for Bill Clinton. We knew that he was associated with Little Rock and aimed to visit.
By chance, we stopped overnight in a place named Hope. It turned out this was Bill Clinton’s birthplace and where he spent his early years. We had booked to stay in Hot Springs where he went to school, and then we went to Little Rock where he based his political career, so we did a bit of a Bill Clinton progress.
The Clinton Presidential Library is in Little Rock, so in tourist mode we paid it a visit. It is a fascinating place, where many documents, pictures, films, speeches, political and personal communications (yes Monica is mentioned, well, indirectly) are chronologically displayed. You can flick through copies of the Presidential diaries, where it appears most days are packed with meetings and briefings that are 15 minutes max and continue all through the day. Then there are the lunches, foreign visits, charitable events, travelling, etc. God knows how he had time for any extracurricular activities! We reviewed the considerable achievements of Clintons two terms in office, including the longest economic expansion in American
Soldiers at Little Rock School
Standing there today, it was strange to imagine all this happening.
history, creation of more than 22 million new jobs and the lowest unemployment. He enacted the most sweeping gun safety legislation in a generation resulting in gun crime declining 40 percent since 1992. He introduced many educational reforms, was a key player in the Northern Ireland Good Friday agreement and was active in many other political negotiations, converted the largest budget deficit in American history to the largest surplus, which is ironic really as, if Hilary gets in she will have to tackle the estimated deficit which currently for 2016 is $616 billion. Really interesting in the current political climate is that he achieved a lot of this because he was able to work across parties.
We also got to potter around a replica of the Oval Office and try out the chair for size. I thought Graeme looked very at home in it. We could have spent hours here, but we were a little short of time, as we had unexpectedly become more involved on our previous stop at Little Rock High School than anticipated.
Some while ago I had seen a documentary about “The Little Rock Nine” and
Of Elizabeth Eckford.
Having arrived separately from the others she had to walk through the hostile crowd alone. Both B&W pictures taken from picture library
as we were in the area was keen to visit.
A brief synopsis of their story follows.
In May 1954 The U.S. Supreme Court issued its historic Brown v Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas ruling, which declared all laws establishing segregated schools to be unconstitutional, and called for the desegregation of all schools throughout the nation.
In 1957, selected on the criteria of excellent grades and attendance the NAACP registered nine black students to attend the previously all-white Little Rock Central High. They became known as the “Little Rock Nine”
That ruling enabled the nine students to attend and be educated at the Little Rock high school. As you may imagine not everyone, well almost not anyone was happy with this. When the students tried to attend school they were met with huge crowd resistance, all jeering and spitting and intimidating them. In fact the Governor, Orval Faubus deployed the Arkansas National Guard to support the segregationists. It was the sight of a line of soldiers blocking out the students that made national headlines and polarized the nation. Note these students were only
Little Rock Central High School
Built in 1927 in a Gothic Revival style for $1.5 million It was said to be the largest, most beautiful and the most expensive school in the USA. The architect added his own touch to the building by placing four statues over the entrance to represent the four things he felt students required to succeed . They are ambition, personality, opportunity and preparation.
teenagers. They did not retaliate or respond in any way other than dignified silence.
Woodrow Wilson Mann, the Mayor of Little Rock, asked President Eisenhower to send federal troops to enforce integration and protect the nine students. On September 24, the President ordered the 101st Airborne Division—without its black soldiers, to Little Rock, and federalised the entire 10,000-member Arkansas National Guard, taking it out of the hands of Faubus & under the control of the Government.
Guards were allocated to each of the nine to protect them within the school. Unfortunately the guards were restricted to where they could accompany them and the nine continued to suffer from continuing and ongoing abuse, physical & mental, from fellow pupils, teachers and parents. Despite this the nine persevered.
Having not been able to prevent these young dignified people attending school, the board then shut down not only this school but all four of the local public schools completely. This came to be known as the “Lost year” The result of this action was that over 45% of the white population relocated to an area where their children could be
Park Ranger Guide
He was an excellent guide and has met many of the "Nine" so was able to personalise the narrative.
educated in white only schools, and the African Americans were left behind.
The visitors centre is situated just opposite the school. I had read that you can look around the outside, but as it is still a functioning school you could only see inside in a pre-arranged tour.
We toured the small self guided museum & watched the film, both of which were which were excellent if not a little distressing. I went to the loo, came out, couldn’t find Graeme, looked around to find he had infiltrated a private tour party. They were being shown around by the Park Ranger we had spoken to on arrival. He was narrating the events in a very powerful way. “Follow me” he said, so we did. This resulted in being led across the road to the school building and being told we would be taken inside. Nothing had been changed in this building since that time. We sat on the same benches in the same auditorium hall as the Little Rock nine, listening to the Ranger tell their tale.
It was one of those unexpected, very special moments travelling
A sculpture by John & Kathy Deering to commemorate the "Nine". It is significantly placed outside the Governors' Office.
The nine, despite or perhaps because of their trauma, all went on to be very successful people. Eventually in 1999 they were recognised by the nation and commemorated by President Clinton when he presented them each with a Congressional Gold Medal. In 2007, the United States Mint made available a commemorative silver dollar to "recognize and pay tribute to the strength, the determination and the courage displayed” by the Nine, and in 2008, they were invited to attend the inauguration of President-elect Barack Obama
At this very difficult time in the USA, I find this tale even more disturbing really, for as much as these nine suffered for their rights all those years ago it seems as the fight continues. ...................
There is a documentary film made by Morgan Freeman called “Prom night in Mississippi”, it follows a group of students as they prepare for their senior prom. It was the first racially integrated prom in Charleston history. The date of this?........ 2008. I then found that Georgia can better that, theirs being 2013. The school was integrated but the prom was
New friend Al Capone
Visit to Gangster Museum.
For some light relief the next day we visited Hot Springs
Native American tribes called this location the “Valley of the Vapours” and believed that the naturally occurring hot springs had healing powers. .
Between 1892 and 1923, eight bathhouses were built on what’s known today as Bathhouse Row attracting many people to bathe in the healing waters. Later on it also became a national gambling Mecca.
In 1926 Leo McLaughlin was elected Mayor of Hot Springs, and fulfilled a campaign promise to legalise gambling. Illegal gambling had long been a staple of life in Hot Springs, but McLaughlin took it to a new level using voter fraud and other unlawful tactics to drive his political machine. During his 22-year reign, (obviously the vote rigging worked), Hot Springs became a haven for notorious criminals and mobsters, including Owen “Owney” Madden, Charles “Lucky” Luciano, and Al Capone. It is said that Hot Springs never had any crime, as the Gangsters came here for their holidays and respected Leo McLaughlin & each other
Quapaw Bath House
One of the two remaining working bath houses. The Quapaw were one of the Native American Tribes of this area.
on this “neutral ground”. In fact the mayor used off duty police to be the casino & gangsters bodyguards, and if there were not enough police the fire brigade would stand in.
History like this means a visit to the Gangster Museum was a must (great fun) as was a wallow in the Hot Spring Baths (very relaxing)
We also visited the most beautiful chapel. Saint Anthony Chapel is nestled under a thick canopy of sky-reaching southern pines and age-old oak trees. It is nearly six stories tall & the structure complements the surrounding wooded landscape. It is constructed of stone & wooden beams, and has floor to ceiling glass walls which offer views of the changing seasons. The glass skylights encourage sunbeams to dance across the flagstone floors. As you sit there you can watch the colour of the wooden beams change as the sunrays pass over them and the light changes. It is a peaceful, reflective, beautiful and positive space.
Euine Fay Jones, designer & Maurice Jennings, draftsman, partnered to create this aesthetically beautiful building. Jones was a student of Frank
Lloyd Wright, whom you may remember Paul Simon wrote a song about which features on “Bridge over Troubled Water” (useless trivia fact). They also designed several other structures including the Mildred B Cooper chapel in Eureka Springs which we also saw. It was nice but for us Hot Springs was the better.
Our journey then took us onwards to the more mountainous area of North West Ozarks, to the town of Eureka Springs.
As normal we stopped along the way to do some everyday chores.
One of the things about travelling is
achieving the everyday chores. Having had my last haircut just before we left, I was in desperate need of a trim. I am now, for the first time in ages, actually years the proud owner of not only a hair brush but a hair slide, can you imagine that? A hair slide........ We did one of our overnight stops in the as ever always reliable Walmart. This one was particularly pleasant as we parked opposite a small lake with birds and wildlife to watch, and a sushi bar nearby. Opposite was
a hairdressers. This was not an opportunity to miss. The next morning I went in. A very slim, trendy looking (although a teeny bit orange) young lady was free to trim my hair ......... Graeme says my pageboy style is very nice! Actually it’s not that bad, the cut is really good, it was just the bouffant blow drying that was a little aging.
Other everyday tasks get saved up until we are staying in one place for a few days. One thing Graeme likes to do is to completely drain, disinfect, rinse and refill the water tanks. I will often clean the inside, but as house work now takes all of about 30 minutes it can always wait. Anyway I was thinking the floor really did require a wash but was sitting reading whilst Graeme was doing his tank hygiene. We were then chatting about where to go next etc when I said “ it smells like a swimming pool in here the tanks must be really clean” . A few moments later we looked at the floor and noticed a large amount of water lapping gently across the floor. Graeme had
been filling the tanks, got distracted and now it was coming in through the shower and into the lounge. Well we learnt a few things from this:
1) keep an eye on the fill,
2) it must be hard to flood an RV as the water drains out through the slideout floors but,
3) it may helps drain the lounge but it drains into the storage area below and lastly but not least
4) it really makes cleaning the floor easy. End result, Rig clean inside and out
How our environment changes. We are now in the northwest Ozarks in a small park on a plateau just outside Eureka Springs. The tourist slogan for Eureka Springs is “where the misfits fit” I am not sure when we may be leaving.
As I write this I am sitting outside watching the fireflies. The weather is cooler tonight, for the first time our clothes are not sticking to us and the air refreshing. No bugs, no humidity & clear mountain air.
What’s not to like? ..........No tequila,
The Stairstep town
Funky stairway in Eureka Springs
that’s what’s not to like.
My quest has still not been achieved. Now, despite your possibly incorrect and preconceived opinion of us, we really do not need alcohol all the time, but it’s just so nice with a meal, and you really can only drink so much beer.
On our last shopping stop I found myself thinking “please don’t let this be a dry county”.
I hunted around the aisles & spotted beer & wine, excellent, so I checked, it was not Sunday, two out of three, question? Where are the spirits please.... answer, not here, we can only sell beer & wine, you need a liquor store. Oh how I hated her.
And another question? Why are the liquor stores always on the opposite side of the either busy highway, or on a tiny can’t-turn-around-road . Current score Arkansas 3, Us 0
Eureka Springs is a great place. It is built into, and on limestone rocks, giving the town a vertically staggered effect. Hence it is known as the “Stairstep Town”. The city’s steep winding streets
are lined with Victorian-style cottages and houses. As well as its many healing mineral springs (cold ones this time) it apparently has very strong ley lines and magnetic fields. It attracts arty and individual people, therefore it does not have a typical Ozark population. So far most of the people we have spoken to have moved here for a quality of life upgrade.
We had some interesting and informative discussions with the local people re art, healing, crystals, history, The Springs, and in one case the Governments conspiracy to kill the old, ill, poor or simple folk by dropping chemical agents via airplane vapour trails know as “chemtrails” .
Unfortunately the women had to answer the phone before I could ask her how it managed this level of precision targeting.
However, previously when she said “you know what I mean, it’s probably like that in your country” I was able to inform her it was not quite how elderly or health care in the UK currently works.
As suggested by the Tram driver we decided to
Mildred B Cooper Chapel
This is the Eureka Springs version. Actually it was the first of the two to be built.
visit the famous Crescent Hotel. It is situated on the mountain top overlooking the surrounding countryside, and is known for its ghostly past and wonderful views. By the time we walked up we were hot and thirsty and looking forward to a cooling beverage to enjoy whilst taking in the vista (more trees).
We approached the bartender “two beers please” and (we always ask this over here) “may we have two cold glasses”. Reply, “glasses I don’t think I have any of those”. A quick rummage under the counter and eventually a glass was produced. This is the only one I have, she said. This resulted in a bit of a standoff, we cracked first, took the single glass and went to stare at trees.
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