Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Week 3--Rogers and Bentonville, Arkansas

We left around noon on Tuesday and made our way west via Hwy 62 through Eureka Springs to Rogers, Arkansas.  Now we understand what people mean when they talk about those “narrow, winding Arkansas roads!"  The first half of the trip was hilly (After all, these are the Ozarks!), but the roads were not too curvy.  

The second half, however, lived up to its reputation.  There were beautiful vistas and interesting old buildings, but we had to admire them as we whizzed past, as there were no places to pull over to enjoy the view.

Several hours later we pulled into Rogers, Arkansas, drove through town and found a nice campsite in Horseshoe Bend COE Park.  

Site #21 is beautiful.  It’s long enough to accommodate our rig, and has a great “yard” with a stunning view of Beaver Lake, including great sunsets.

The dogs enjoyed chewing their bones and playing in the water.  

The lake is crystal-clear, with a nice gravel bottom, so we didn't even have to deal with muddy paws.  Colt and Kota had their daily swims, and Rue charged through the shallow water along shore biting at the splashes she made.

We had only planned to spend four nights, so we didn’t get to see all there is to see in the Rogers/Bentonville area.  We did, however, enjoy the specialty at Catfish Joe’s.  And, of course, we visited their very nice dog park.  It has lots of shade and grass.  And we bought some lovely duck eggs from a neighborhood vegetable stand.

We did find time to tour the Walmart Visitor Center, located in Walton’s 5-10, the birthplace of Walmart.  It’s amazing to follow the path of Sam Walton and his brother, Bud, as they and their families built the company into what has become the largest private employer in the United States.

We especially enjoyed an exhibit of their "Famous Returns" accepted in accordance with the "Walmart Guarantee."  (Double-click to enlarge the image if you can't read the captions.)

Another treat was our visit to the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art.  The museum was founded by Alice Walton, youngest daughter of Sam and Helen Walton, and was designed by world-renowned architect Moshe Safdie.  It officially opened on November 11, 2011, and offers free public admission underwritten by Walmart.

We were overwhelmed by the structure itself, the permanent and traveling art collections, and the breathtaking grounds.  In fact, we couldn't take it all in the first day so we came back and spent a second.

We couldn't photograph any of the art works inside, but were allowed to take pictures of the grounds and those outside, like this "tree" at the front entrance.  Don't miss the museum if you are in the area.

Our all-too-short visit ended on Friday, and on Saturday morning we packed up and headed north through Missouri to Des Moines, Iowa.  (I shared the driving with John, and Rue helped.)

We'll be back, though.  There's more to see and do, and this part of Arkansas is a feast for all the senses!

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Week 2 -- Mountain Home, Arkansas

We left Hot Springs on Sunday, August 10, and camped near Mountain Home in Quarry COE Park, just below Norfork Dam on the Norfork River in Far North Arkansas.

The weather was rainy, hot and muggy for the first couple of days, with lots of fog and mist.  They have had flooding north of here in Missouri, and much more rain than the locals are accustomed to.  On Wednesday it cleared and the weather turned cooler.  It was glorious! 

Our campsite was only 30 yards from the river, so we had a great view.  And that view changed depending on the time of day.  When we arrived, they were releasing water from Norfork Dam, so the river was high, about 75 yards wide and had a very swift current.

The next morning we were surprised to find a gently flowing stream with gravel bars and small islands of vegetation like are shown in the first photo above.  Rue thought this bench overlooking the river was put there just for her.

The water is cold, and well-stocked with trout from the fish hatchery across the street.  We took a tour of the hatchery, including this kids' “catch and release” area just below, 

where we saw these beauties!

There are trout everywhere!  Not only the familiar rainbows, but brown trout and a couple of other varieties.  At almost any time we can see from two to a dozen or so fishermen in the river below our campsite.  Thankfully, there seem to be plenty of fish to go around.  Here’s John catching one for our dinner.  

I’ve had a wonderful time, not only fishing and taking walks with the dogs, but taking lots of photos.  In addition to beautiful scenery, the Great Blue Herons that compete for trout made great subjects.  Not only did they pose on the opposite shore and in trees, they flew up and down the river.  Since our campsite sits on a bluff overlooking the river, occasionally I got a view from the top of one flying by.  

They are magnificent, and photos of them are likely to grace our walls before long.

We were having so much fun that we spent several more days than planned at Quarry Park.  Mountain Home was just 15 minutes away, and we took full advantage of their lovely dog park and easy access to shopping.  

Before leaving the area, we took a day trip to Mammoth Spring on the Arkansas-Missouri border.  Just outside Mountain Home, John noticed a pasture holding several mules.  They appeared to be having some kind of a disagreement.  We stopped look, and two of the mules came over to say hello.  

The small, dark brown one, however, was not a happy camper and did not come up to visit.  He approached the roan mule with head low and ears laid back.  The situation quickly deteriorated, and kicks were exchanged. 

Fortunately no blows landed and they soon went back to grazing.

Our next stop was the Southfork Cafe in Salem, Arkansas.  We can only rave about the lunch special, their Country Fried Steak.  It's no wonder there were more cars in their parking lot than in any other restaurant!  Sstop there if you're in the neighborhood.

Arriving in Mammoth Spring, we had no trouble finding Mammoth Spring State Park, home of the spring. The second-largest spring in the Ozark region, with an average daily flow of 216 million gallons, it is the source of the Spring River.

We spent a couple of hours in the park admiring the spring and the historic hydroelectric plant and dam.  Then it was back to camp to get ready for the next adventure.

On Sunday, we joined the small congregation of Thee Salesville Bible Church for worship services. 

We feel blessed that in addition to the worship service, we were privileged to join the congregation in the Baptism of a new member of their congregation.  We felt very much at home in their church, and look forward to joining them for services the next time we are in the area.

Monday, August 19, 2013

On the Road Week One

After a hectic couple of weeks prepping and stocking the Falcon and Royals, trips to the farm to sell cows, and visits to John’s mother in Lake Jackson and to Johnson City to see our friends Jimmy and Nine we left Austin on at noon on Thursday, August 1.  

The first leg of our trip was uneventful (always a good thing!) and around 4:00 we rolled into the Texan RV Park outside of Athens.  The park is open, with large pull-through sites.  There is little shade, and with the thermometer reading 105 degrees, we didn’t spend much time outside.  There is, however, a good open area for walking dogs, weather permitting.  There are also two small ponds with a number of ducks that certainly attracted their attention.  

Our second stop was at one of our favorite parks, Brushy Creek Corps of Engineers Park outside Jefferson.  We were lucky to get a lakeside spot, #130, which gave us a nice view of the lake and a big yard for the dogs.  In fact, they were so good about staying close to the RV that they only spent a short time on their tethers.  

In spite of the heat, we took some nice, long walks, and let the dogs play in the lake a couple of times each day. 

Rue is also learning about life on the road.

While at Brushy Creek, we experienced some electrical power fluctuations that initially concerned us and caused us to run only one A/C unit most of the time.  It seems that space #130 is at the end of the electrical line for that section of the park, so when the park was crowded it caused some minor problems for us.

On Monday, August 5, we finally got out of Texas.  We arrived in Hot Springs, Arkansas, and camped at Catherine’s Landing RV Park.  It is a lovely park right on Catherine's Lake, with a couple of short walking trails through the woods and a nice dog run.

Catherine's Landing is built on property that until 1993 was a working dairy farm.  Humphreys’ Dairy was known throughout the area for its excellent milk product.  The National Register of Historic Places said, “It started small with two cows and a small number of acres in 1911.  As the farm and family grew, so did the importance of the dairy farm to Hot Springs and the surrounding towns.”  In the 1990s, competition from larger operations finally forced the family operation to close.   We had hoped to explore the old barns and the lovely old home, but were told they were not safe to enter and that access was prohibited. They are considered historic, and have been sold and are expected to be renovated.  

We found that there is plenty of “hot” in Hot Springs.  Although the temperatures were no higher than when we left home, they came with higher humidity than we are accustomed to.  The countryside is lovely, but I haven’t sweated (not perspired, not glowed, but really sweated!) like this in a long time.  

We had only planned to stay in Hot Springs a couple of days, but actually spent a week.  Sweet little Rue celebrated her first birthday on Monday, and on Tuesday began vomiting and refused to eat.  By Wednesday she was very uncomfortable, clearly in pain, and we were quite concerned.  Since she is still a puppy and chews a lot, I had visions of half a tennis ball, a plastic toy or some other foreign object lodged in her stomach or intestines.  

We called our vet, Dr. Robert Rhyne of Northwest Veterinary Hospital in Austin, and asked if he could make a house call.  Failing that option, we asked for the name of a vet in the area.  We were directed to Countryside Animal Hospital, where they told us to come in immediately.  Rue was treated by Dr. Jarod Williams, an internal medicine specialist who knows his stuff and has a great doggie-bedside manner.  After numerous tests and a barium series, he determined, thank goodness, that there was no tennis ball.  She did have a severe case of gastroenteritis, so was on antibiotics and a special diet for several days.  Fortunately, she seems to have gotten past it all and is her lively self again.  John said that it was a very expensive "gas bill" but we were very relieved that she didn't need surgery.

In fact, in a couple of days she was up for a game of ball at the Hot Springs Bark Park, which we highly recommend.

The park is located adjacent to a city park with a lovely steam running through it...a good place for dogs to cool off after chasing balls.

We took some day trips in the area, including a visit to the historic Bathhouse Row in the Hot Springs National Park where we had mineral baths and massage at the Buckstaff.  

Since they wouldn't let me take a picture of myself wrapped in my "bath sheet," I have substituted a photo of the lovely restored interior.  Sorry if you're disappointed.

Another day we visited several COE parks on beautiful Lake Ouachita.  We had originally planned to spend one or two nights in Hot Springs, then move to an RV park on the lake.  Unfortunately, the parks we visited were crowded, and there were only a few sites that would accommodate us.  So, we took a few photos and stayed in town.  In addition to the fantastic views like this one....

...there were interesting roadside attractions (note the  sign).

Another beautiful spot we visited, and where we may stay the next time we are in the area, is Lake Catherine State Park.  A few miles outside of town, it has nice big sites, good lake access and offers full hook-ups (always important if we want to say more than a week).