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Published: June 21st 2010
As I was laying out the route from Russellville AR to the Winn-Creek RV Park and Retreat in Winslow AR, I found there was no uncomplicated way to make the journey without backtracking to Fort Smith. Obviously, revisiting those visual stimuli was not my itinerary of choice. Since I would be pulling the Pilgrim, I wanted the route to be a reasonably direct path over fairly well marked, (hopefully) scenic roads. My concern was that a short segment of the route I wanted to take was shown as unimproved where it crossed the White Rock Wildlife Management Area. Chatting with a local who grew up in northwest Arkansas and still made trips there quite regularly, I found that my desired route was indeed gravel but was well-graded and easy to negotiate - unlike many of the unimproved roads I have encountered in Gila National Forest NM. That was the confirmation I needed!
Tuesday, June 8, 2010 found mostly cloudy skies hiding the brilliant blue we have seen so often since we left New Mexico. Our itinerary took us northbound on AR 21 to Fallsville where we caught AR 16 westward to Crosses. In Pettigrew, an abandoned gas station provided an
Great Unpaved Road
On The Way To Winslow AR
almost perfect place to stop for lunch - almost perfect because somebody had stolen the picnic table I’m sure the former owner had left for us under the shade tree! We pulled out the lawn chairs and solved that glitch right quick like. In Crosses, we made a left turn onto what was shown in the road atlas as an unnamed roadway. The map shows the unnamed road (now identified as AR 295 by the roadsigns) as a direct route connecting AR 16 and US 71. As advertised, we came upon the gravel portion of the road, and I was delighted with the wide, smooth surface. I hoped our luck would continue until we returned to asphalt.
Such was not to be. Oh, the road was fine. It was the “T” intersection that caused me grief. Fortunately, Irene (my GPS) instructed me to turn left. I would have turned right but decided to follow her instructions. About a mile down the road, a farmer approached on his tractor. I stopped, as did he. He turned off the engine of his small putt-putter. After I asked him if this was the correct direction to Winslow; he leaned back, stroked his
chin and said in 1000 words or less, “Yes.” Indeed, we did go around the sharp left-hand curve and up the hill with the sharp drop-off. Yes, we did pass the recently cut and raked hay field the farmer referenced and saw the cemetery at the top of the hill before we hit the pavement. The road was great, the farmer was delightful and the sights were spectacular. Even with the Pilgrim in tow, I’m glad we chose this route.
Understandably, the direction set for every RV Park we have used has started at the nearest Interstate. Our arrival in Winslow found me stopping at the Village Hall for directions to I-540. Very long story made very short, we eventually made it to Winn-Creek. On the surface, this park is a jewel - shade, grass, and a creek nearby. Each spacious site is paved and has a concrete pad for the picnic table. Everything was moving along smoothly while we set up the Pilgrim. THEN we turned on the laptops. When I talked to the owner, he had said the free WiFi was for checking email and web browsing but not for downloading big files or watching web casts.
No problem. HOWEVER, he made no mention of an integrated timer that gave each user eight consecutive hours of use before timing out for sixteen hours. Since I went online at 8 PM… Then, as I was checking my email, I found the speed was S-L-O-W!!! So slow, in fact, that we decided to seek out an alternative to Winn-Creek.
On Wednesday, we visited two RV Parks in Fayetteville before setting up at Cow Patty RV & Campground. The sites were not nearly as nice as Winn-Creek but there was a hot tub, pool, free laundry and it was significantly closer to Fayetteville. By the way, the WiFi was fast, reliable and free. The park is rural and quiet, and the owners are resident and eager to answer questions and offer advice when asked. We are learning about RV Park selection - a) ask very specific, detailed questions before making the reservation and b) don’t be afraid to leave if you do not find what you expected.
After we had spent most of Wednesday finding a new place to stay, we set out on Thursday for Prairie Grove Battlefield State Park west of Fayetteville. Arkansas hosted several Civil
Rifled Cannon Round
Prairie Grove Battlefield State Park - Prairie Grove AR
War battles. Some were more momentous from a strategic perspective; whereas, others were more significant because of the fierceness of the encounter. The Battle of Prairie Grove waged on December 7, 1862 was one of the latter. The State Park is one of the most intact Civil War battlefields with the ridges and valleys looking much as they did during the battle; however, the focus of the park is the effect of the war on the lives of the Ozark people. Several historic buildings are located in the Visitor Center area of the park and, during an optional guided tour, a park ranger chronicled the lives of the area families before, during and after the one-day battle.
On the second optional guided tour, a ranger outlined the movement of both armies and analyzed the effect of those movements on the outcome of the battle. The Visitor Center has several displays, including a very interesting display of the various types of cannon shot and a lesson on the differences between smooth bore and rifled cannon. There is a self-guided walking tour of the bloodiest area of the battlefield and a self-guided driving tour that offered a perspective of the Union
Prairie Grove Battlefield
Prairie Grove Battlefield State Park - Prairie Grove AR
cannoneers and infantry troops as they attacked the ridge. Prairie Grove Battlefield State Park is well worth the half day needed to do justice to what the park has to offer - an understanding of how the Civil War impacted the lives of the soldiers and the non-combatants caught up in the skirmish. For those more interested in visualizing the battlefield and the logistics of the December 7 battle, visit during the months when the trees are barren of leaves.
Our next stop was the Clinton house that Bill bought for Hillary in an effort to persuade her to marry him when they were fresh out of law school. They were married in the living room of the house and lived there until he was elected Arkansas Attorney General and they moved to Little Rock. Save the not-open-to-the-public, privately owned home in Hot Springs where Clinton lived for most of his youth, we have seen all of the pre-Presidential domiciles of the 42nd President. I must say this is the least impressive.
We had seen the static displays of three aircraft outside the Arkansas Air Museum as we drove into town and had decided to stop on the
See The Wooden Trusses?
Arkansas Air Museum - Fayetteville AR
way back to the RV Park one day when we had some extra time. This was the day. We learned that the Ozark Military Museum was next door and one price covered the admission to both museums. The artifacts are well restored, but the quantity is somewhat limited. For me, one of the most interesting elements of the visit was the construction of the wooden trusses used in the hanger housing the air museum. Although the attraction could not be described as economical given the quantity of artifacts, it really is not excessive when one considers the quality of the displays. Allow a couple of hours - more for the military- or aviation-minded.
After dinner that evening, even though the skies had been threatening all day and a brief shower had caused us to walk quickly from the Air Museum to the truck, we set out for Gulley Park and the free Summer Concert Series to hear an artist from Austin TX we did not know by the name of Seth James. His original music was good but not exactly our favorite genre, so some dark clouds and a couple of nearby lightning strikes were enough to send us
Ozark Military Museum - Fayetteville AR
to the safety of Wal-Mart to restock the pantry.
Scattered showers were in the forecast for Friday, June 11 so we placed some indoor activities on the agenda. Our first stop was the Rogers Historical Museum which, for some reason I have yet to understand, was focused on automobile transportation in Rogers. The genesis of the various dealerships and transition of the ownership of those businesses was truly an “of local interest only” phenomenon. The museum’s “First Street” is home to a turn-of-the-century bank, barbershop and general store; however, all one can do is look through the window at the interior of the displays. For an additional $2.00 each, we toured the special events wing where a traveling exhibition of prints titled “The Civil War: A Nation Divided” was on display. The prints depicted various aspects of life during the Civil War. The Rogers Historical Museum was of little interest to the tourist when compared to other local museums we have seen.
After leaving the museum, we walked about two blocks to the middle of downtown Rogers and the Daisy Airgun Museum. The beauty of the historic buildings made the walk worthwhile. The type of self-guided tour offered
at the Daisy Airgun Museum was a first for me. Each visitor was issued a “cordless phone-styled” handset. A number posted next to each display was keyed into the handset and the narrative for that display began. Numerous visitors could initiate the narrative about any given display as each arrived without missing the first portion and without having the din of two dozen broadcast narratives competing with each other. Each visitor could walk away early, could skip a display or could “Press 2” for more information about the display. Very effective! I must admit that I had had my fill of air guns by the time we finished the one hour (give or take) tour, but the museum is a must see if you ever owned an air gun, enjoy toys, antiques or history or are fascinated by how stuff works. If you are an air gun collector or aficionado, you’ll find yourself in hog heaven.
After lunch, we headed for Bentonville AR and the stompin’ grounds of Sam Walton. The travel literature had advised me that the original five and dime was a museum piece, but that same literature also spoke of a Visitor Center. I was hoping
the Visitor Center would enlighten me about the oiling of such a complex mega-machine as Wal-Mart. It turned out that the museum and the Visitor Center are one and the same. A drive through Bentonville to reach the downtown area where the museum is located is a story of its own. Wal-Mart is EVERYWHERE!!! As we passed the building housing Wal-Mart Transportation (which was about the same size as a Super Wal-Mart), there was not a truck in sight. These hundreds of employees merely keep the trucks pointed in the right direction. Wal-Mart Logistics (whatever that is) was in a building of equal size. The personnel building (I can’t remember what they used for political correctness this week) was even larger. I’m sure there are other buildings scattered about town that house other Wal-Mart divisions.
Finally, Irene (my GPS) said we had arrived. We parked and walked two blocks to find the Visitor Center closed for three weeks for renovation. Indeed, we were disappointed; but not as much so as a man who arrived as we were voicing our displeasure. He had driven over two hundred miles out of his way just to see where it all began. With
a couple of bonus hours registered on our tourism meter, we continued north to Bella Vista AR and the Veterans Wall of Honor. Even though the village publishes a captivating, widely distributed brochure, the path to the memorial is not marked. It turns out the location is in a park on THE major four-lane highway passing through town. There is no parking near the memorial, and it is not visible from the highway. I wonder how many residents of Bella Vista are unaware of its very existence. The memorial is unique and honors veterans of all wars. There is a timeline of war in U.S. history and very brief account of each of those wars as well as a display depicting the various heroism awards granted by the armed services. Tiles mounted to the exterior walls recognize the service of various local individuals. In my opinion, the wall is worth visiting if you are in the area, but it is too busy to inspire the solemn honor, respect and gratitude usually fostered by such monuments.
Saturday morning found us heading to the farmers market in downtown Fayetteville followed by a short stop at the Botanical Garden of the Ozarks
Farmers Market - Fayetteville AR
and a walk-through visit to the Shiloh Museum of Ozark History. The farmers market was very nice and worth a visit if you’re in need or flowers, herbs or vegetables with more pizzazz than those found in the supermarket. The garden and the museum were nice and worthwhile but don’t deserve a place on my must-see list. Our last destination was the Arkansas Country Doctor Museum in Lincoln AR. This museum was established in 1994 as a tribute to the doctors of rural Arkansas and to the people they served and is one of only four museums of its type in the United States. We were lucky in that now-retired Doctor Joe, one of those country doctors, arrived just as we did and gave us a 15-20 minute first-hand account of rural medicine when it truly was an art - typical demeanor for the Marcus Welby, M.D. style of medicine I would have expected from a country doctor.
It was interesting to see how the clinic/residence was laid out so the doctor could keep an ear on the newborn nursery and how the master bedroom was adjacent to the front porch so the doctor could be summoned for nighttime
Arkansas Country Doctor Museum - Lincoln AR
emergencies with a tap on the window. One of the more interesting stories was about a girl/woman who had contracted polio in her youth and had spent most of her life in an iron lung; but, in spite of her limitations, had become an accomplished artist by holding the brush in her lips and manipulating the tip with her tongue. The tour guide told us that the intense doctor/patient relationship between her and Dr. Joe allowed her to know when there was a problematic issue in his life and that he would go visit her whenever he needed to put his problems in perspective. Her iron lung and much of the equipment in the museum was used by the doctors who practiced here and by the patients who depended on those doctors. Well worth the time.
We set aside all day Sunday to visit the Pea Ridge National Military Park. The Battle at Pea Ridge was described as the battle that saved Missouri for the Union. I think it is fair to say that Pea Ridge is a more pristine battle site than Prairie Grove Battlefield State Park and that Pea Ridge is more suited to the Civil War
Pea Ridge National Military Park - Pea Ridge AR
scholar or enthusiast than Prairie Grove; however, the artifacts in the Visitor Center, the structures near the Visitor Center and the guided tours make Prairie Grove more suited to Tommy Tourist than Pea Ridge. Pea Ridge is quite impressive when one sees the placement of twenty-five or so (replica?) cannon as they were placed for battle in March 1862 and when one can see the size of the field where over 26,000 men placed their life on the line for a cause in which they believed. Visit both - if you have time to do both of them justice. If not, visit Prairie Grove and take the time to do it justice.
Since the only tour at Pea Ridge was a self-guided driving tour, we had some extra time and added War Eagle Mill to our itinerary. The first gristmill at the site was erected in 1832 but was destroyed by flood and two replacements were destroyed by fire. This reproduction mill was built to the specs of the first mill. A miller works on the first floor where freshly ground flour is sold, a gift shop is located on the second floor and a café is housed on
Dustin Knight McGaugh
Fayetteville National Cemetery - Fayetteville AR
the third. We had a reasonably priced, tasty lunch, broused the gifts and artifacts, watched the miller and took a few pictures. Of course, we had to make sure our scenic route back to the RV Park would take us across the adjacent 1908 steel frame bridge. Well worth the trip, especially if you’ve never seen a working gristmill.
On the way back to the Cow Patty RV Park, we stopped at the Fayetteville National Cemetery. The cemetery is relatively new and is the smallest I have seen. The headstone of 20-year-old Dustin Knight McGaugh, US Army, KIA, Sep 30 2003, Operation Iraqi Freedom reminded me of the horrible cost of war. RIP On Monday and Tuesday, June 14 and 15, the forecast was for 50% thunderstorms and the skies were threatening all day so we stayed home, did the laundry and relaxed. Our stay in Fayetteville has been delightful. Although we were able to complete our “A list,” there are other attractions which make the area worthy of a return visit.
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