Saturday, May 19, 2012

2012-14 Bentonville Arkansas


Misty morning boating  
Roberts Arkansas

Bentonville & the Crystal Springs Museum of Modern Art

Eureka Springs

Campground:  Prairie Creek Park.  Army Corp Campground on Bear Lake.  One of multiple Army Corp. campgrounds around the lake.  Electric, $9 Senior, $18 regular. This is an older park.  Most of the sites are at 90 degree angles to the road and trees, hills and tight turns can be a problem for larger Rv’s.  Only about 9 sites have water/elect w/50 amp service with proper angled sites.  I would recommend leaving your large camper at the entrance and driving around to look at the sites to determine which one you’ll fit into best. Except for location, I would give this park a low rating.

Another week on the road as I leave the Russellville area as I head towards Bentonville.  Traveling across hwy 40 (not the best of interstate roads) and north on hwy 540, it’s a 135 mile drive that takes a full three hours.  Why, I have no idea but it does and I‘m driving all major highways.  As I drive north on hwy 540, I gradually rise in elevation with glimpses of those low ancient mountain ranges the Ozarks.  The road is quite dramatic as there are many pairs of concrete bridges spanning the deep chasms and ravines thick with hardwood forests.  Pillars of concrete anchoring those ribbons of concrete bridges above.   There’s even a tunnel to drive through one of the mountain tops making this ride a very pleasurable one.

I did see a bit of road rage on the way up to Roberts AR, which I rarely see on the highways especially as I head westward.  A smaller car was in the left lane ready to pass the world by but was held up by a full size pickup truck cruising in the left hand lane.  The car was literally on the guys bumper.  The car was finally able to zip around the truck and proceeded to land right in front of the truck and slowing down considerably.  The truck of course moved over to the right lane to get out of the way and the car followed once again, slamming on his brakes just in front of the truck once again.  Now of course I’m cruising along in that right hand lane and not moving as quickly as the rest of the traffic, I quickly put on my flashing lights to warn other motorists as it’s now getting quite hairy and congested as this idiot is playing his tag game.  Finally the traffic moves on out and the idiot car driver zooms on down the highway ahead of everyone else.  I’m sure he made it to his destination oh probably 2 or 3 minutes ahead of schedule.

Sam Walton's truck that he used throughout his life.

Sam Walton's office, which he was seldom in

I’ve arrived at Rogers Arkansas, just outside of Bentonville (home of Sam Walton and Wal-Mart’s) and will be staying at one of the many Army Corp. campgrounds that surround Beaver Lake.  Permit me to get on my soapbox for a minute and kvetch over the useless inquires one makes (me) at the Ranger Station/ Camp check in office regarding campsites.  I have repeatedly asked each camp-host if they have any easy sites for backing in too, especially if they have no pull-thru’s.  Apparently they think I jest and proceed to give me a site that is the most difficult site to get into.  It being either on a hill, on the inside of a tight turn or has trees that seem to want to jump out at me.  I believe trees are supposed to be well rooted to the ground and am always aggrieved to find that they can appear where they weren’t a moment earlier.  Fortunately I have not had the occasion of late to come in contact with one, so will knock on wood for my good fortune.   I believe this is the last time I will ask such questions as they seem to lead nowhere except for me driving back to the camp office and requesting another site.  I’ll step down from my soapbox and tell you that after going through the above routine, I did land in a campsite with no obstructions except for a power outlet too close to the camper and a Ramada that one could easily back into when parking the camper.  The power outlet being the only obstacle  I had to contend with and decided it would be easier to just pull one of the slide outs only partially out and leave it that way for the week.  It doesn’t disturb the functionality of the slide out room and has saved the grievance of having to hook up the camper, close all the slides, raise the jacks and then move the camper 4-6 inches over.

This evening, 4 deer came wandering through my end of the park and bringing with them a sense of the wonders of nature and why I try to stay in park settings as much as possible.

Eureka Springs 

I’m only about 50 minutes away from Eureka Springs an historic town in northern Arkansas.  It’s a wonderful mix of old Victorian houses and a mix of smaller cottages all perched precariously on the sides of the very steep hillsides making up the town.  There are numerous small natural springs coming out of the limestone rocks that make up those steep hills around town.  I visited a few of them as the locals spend much time enhancing each one with flowers, vines and small statues.  The local merchants are great to talk to and get a perspective of the area.  I had been in the area over 12 years ago but it seemed like yesterday.  I remembered all of the streets and back alleys.  Enjoying a second time around.  Had lunch and went shopping for a couple of Indiana Jones type hats to help protect my face from that darn ole sun and found a perfect place in town that had just what I was looking for.

Now I could have revisited the large statue of Christ of the Ozarks, with his almost square body, large outstretched arms and head minus a neck.  Minus a neck you say, what’s up with that?  Well, when they were building the statue which sits atop one of the highest hills overlooking Eureka Springs, the FAA said it would have been just a few feet too tall and would require a red beacon be placed on Christ’s head to warn airplanes of it‘s height.  Not wanting to have a flashing red light on the top of their statue, they shortened the statue by pretty much eliminating Christ’s neck.  It’s still a great statue, just a bit shortened to avoid having that offensive blinking red light on top.

Thorncrown Chapel

Instead of revisiting the Christ of the Ozarks, I instead went back to the Thorncrown Chapel just west of Eureka.  It’s a most inspiring chapel built in the woods.  The chapel is made up of all wood and glass, so one can view the outdoors from all sides including a good portion of the roof.  Now it has a wonderful history of it’s being built and has won just about every architectural award that can be given, but I won’t tell that story here.  After enjoying a time meditating in this beautiful setting and after the other visitors had left I struck up a conversation with Patricia Taylor who was welcoming visitors and answering any questions they may have had.  I told Patricia that I had visited the chapel about 12 years ago with friends and that a singer asked if anyone had a favorite hymn they’d like her to sing.  Come to find out Patricia was this same gal, less about 75 lbs or more today.  I told her I requested the song, “ In the Garden”  as that was always one of my favorite hymns when I was active in the Spiritualist Church in Orlando.  I always had such fond memories visualizing Jesus as He walked with me and He talked with me and He told me I was His own.  Well, I had no idea it would bring about so many folks crying and shedding of tears all those dozen years ago.  My friend Jimmy, who I still think is one of the kindest persons I’ve ever met in my life,  afterwards said under his breath to me, “how could you request that song?  That was the song they sang at my Mothers funeral”.   All of a sudden I had a whole new dimension to the song that I always associated with such joy and happiness.  And ended up shedding a tear or two myself.  Patricia told me that that hymn and another were her Mothers favorite as well and that she’d sing them often throughout the day.  As I was getting ready to leave, Ms Taylor handed me a CD of her music called Promises which she normally sold during tours.  She said, “I want you to have this as a gift from me to you”.  Well I tell you, I was so touched, I told her I just had to give her a hug and her parting words were said with such love in her heart, I had chills up and down my spine.

Not a bad day touring the back country of Northern Arkansas and meeting those wonderful Arkansas folks.

Bentonville.  My plans were to go into Bentonville and visit the Crystal Bridge Museum of American Art, but after arriving there around 11:00 in the morning, the place was packed.  The parking lot was full and two busses waited outside the museum.  A line of at least 75-100 stood outside waiting to go in.  I did not.

Main downtown square, Bentonville Arkansas
Instead in headed into the center of town and visited the Walton Museum or Wal-Mart Visitor Center as it is called.  It’s housed in the building of the very first Walton's originally a Ben-Franklin store.  The town now houses the main Wal-Mart corporate offices and one of the first distribution centers.  Lots of family pictures, a time-line history of the building of the Wal-Mart stores and a bit about Sam Walton.  Including the old Ford truck he loved to drive around and go pheasant hunting in.  The corporate produced film is too loaded  with Wal-Mart type pep talks and speeches and one comes away with a feeling of wanting to know more about the family and Sam himself.

3 kids enjoying the fountain in the park, Bentonville AR

The city square, with it’s park in the center, including statue and fountain create an idyllic setting as the town is thriving.  All the well maintained storefronts are filled with shops and offices and restaurants.  The park in the center is extremely well maintained with trees, grass and seasonal flower displays including dwarf variegated banana trees.  

The Main Event:

The Crystal Bridge Museum of American Art
Folks have been asking me since before I headed out this spring, where are you going, what’s your destination?  Well I've arrived at my first major destination of the season.  The Crystal Bridge Museum of American Art.  I had heard about it on a TV show this past winter/spring that was discussing the top 5 or 10 destinations for this coming spring.  Bentonville’s Crystal Bridge Museum being one of those top destinations.  The museum was founded by Alice Walton in 2005 and designed by Moshe Safdie.

Throughout my years, I have had the opportunity to go to many great museums of art around the county and have enjoyed each one.  The Crystal Bridge being so new, I wondered what kind of a collection could there be.  Any fears as to the size of the collection were dispelled immediately upon entering this superb architecturally designed building.  First off the museum is free to enjoy except for special touring exhibits which cost only $5 to enjoy.  The permanent American Collection is so large, I would almost tell the first timer not to even waste their time with any special exhibits, though the one I attended was “The Hudson River School Museum” exhibit and it fit in perfectly with the permanent exhibits I’d see later.

As I had mentioned earlier, the crowds were extensive throughout the day as the museum has been open only 6 months and they tell me is has been packed every day since opening.  I decided to go after 5 o’clock and was surprised to see the parking lots almost full even in the evening.  Though many of those patrons were their for special dinners and receptions being held in private event locations throughout the center, leaving the main art museum to a much smaller crowd thank you very much.

I’ll provide a link to the museums web page and you can enjoy their art collection online as well as view my many photos that I took while there on my Picasa Site.  The Hudson River School exhibit did not permit photos so I’ll just say that, that’s why one really has to go see these exhibits in person.  One exhibit was of 5 paintings showing a landscape from the dawn of man, through the height of civilization and then it’s downfall.  Huge museum size paintings that filled an entire wall, bring the viewer right into each scene.  Throughout the museum, there were so many Wow moments, I can’t begin to describe them all.  What a great collection of American Art from paintings of George Washington to Andy Warhol and wouldn’t you just expect that from the Walton foundation.  Celebrating the best of America in the heart of America.

I won’t try to describe all of the exhibits as you can check them out yourself by going to the link for their web pages.  But I can tell you that this is truly one of the top art museums I’ve seen across the country.  One gentleman I spoke to in the art galley said he’s from New York and he would easily put it on par with any in the city there.

So I’ve had my first big WOW moments of the season by my going to this most wonderful museum and enjoying such high quality art.  And the visual excitement of the best architecturally designed buildings as a backdrop for all of it only added to the enjoyment.

My next destination, Oklahoma and Missouri.

My Picasa photos.

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