Saturday, May 26, 2012

2012-15 Bentonville Arkansas to Bartlesville Oklahoma


Bentonville Arkansas

Bartlesville Oklahoma

Next Week:  Laverne Oklahoma

Campground:  Osage Hills State Park. 2131 Osage Hills State Park Rd, Pawhuska, OK 74056
Phone: 918-336-4141. $20 water/elect.  $2 senior discount.  2 pull-thru’s and easy back-ins.

You may wonder about my writing of this Blog and how I go about it.  For one thing, I begin the next Blog quite often hours after I’ve put the last one to bed.  This morning after sending off my Blog, I was already thinking about the next one.  As the week goes on, I keep adding to the Blog report whenever there is something to write about from that days events.  I use all those brochures for reference as well and try my best to give you the most accurate information.


I’m at Prairie Creek Campground, an Army Corp park, it gets the usual weekend campers.  This is a popular park for tenters and I’ve noticed an innovation that many of the tenters utilize.  Most, if not all of them install window unit air conditioners to their tents.  A bit odd looking at first glance but I’m sure quite effect. I have a large family on two adjoining campsites with 5 tents and the attached a/c units next to me.  Lots of small kids running around and occasionally one or more having a good cry over something insignificant though I‘m sure in their small world it is of the utmost important event for the moment.  And I’d forgotten how I used to have to go to a central water spigot to wash dishes and get drinking water.

Tires… again.

Yesterday while I was doing some errands I decided to stop in a tire shop and have them check out one of my tires that has developed a slow leak.  Come to find out two of the tires had tire separation on the inner sidewall making it difficult to see the sidewall tear until the tires were removed from the truck.  A third tire from the same set had a similar problem about 6 months ago as you may recall from my previous posts.  These were all Motomaster tires purchased in Canada at Canadian Tire Corp.  Needless to say, with three of the four original tires having the same sidewall damage, I had the remaining three replaced.  Expensive, but so glad that we discovered the sidewall tears before I had a blowout on the highway.  I now have all super heavy duty tires on the truck and hope no more problems are encountered down the road.  My moniker as the Poster Child for Bad Tires remains.  Personally, if anyone else would like the title they are more than welcome to it as I am more than willing to give it up.


From Arkansas my route brought me north into the south west corner of Missouri, not far from Joplin where the tornados were so devastating last year.  I didn’t get close enough to see the damage as my route brought me just south of the town and then on a westerly route (hwy 60) heading into northern Oklahoma.  Total driving distance was about 185 miles to the Osage Hills State Park.  That’s about the perfect distance I like to drive in one day.  Osage Hills St Pk is on the Osage Reservation.   39 tribes now call Oklahoma their home after having been relocated here in the mid to late 1800’s. The tourist bureau has a wonderful booklet available called Oklahoma Indian Country Guide, One state - Many Nations.  I would recommend it to anyone interested in learning more about the Indian tribes in Oklahoma. I picked up a couple extra copies if anyone would like one, just send my your address and it's yours.

Just a quick note on the Osage Hills St Pk.  Though it’s a small campground, only about 20 sites, the sites are nicely spaced and the whole area has a feeling of peacefulness that I don’t always feel at larger more congested parks.  The campground itself is not close to the river or small dam created lake and it sits off the main road so there’s no traffic or boat noise.  The grounds are covered with Black Tack and Post oaks.  Both are slow growing trees and a bit gnarly looking.  Never knew there were so many different oak trees.  But then again, Florida is home to 5 or 6 varieties, Florida’s are much larger than these and spread out considerably more than the ones out here.

Price Tower.

Frank Lloyd Wright's only skyscraper ever built
Well, I’ve hit my second big adventure of the summer.  I’d marked this place on my map a few years ago when I’d heard of it and here I am standing in front of the Price Tower.  It’s the only Frank Lloyd Wright skyscraper ever built.  It’s design was first intended as part of 3 skyscrapers to be built in New York City.  But the depression came and nothing was built.

When the oil boom came to Bartlesville in the 1950‘s, Mr. Price had become a wealthy oil pipe fitter and wanted to build a high-rise for his booming business.  I was able to take a tour of the tower that included seeing one of the 8 apartments and then taking a ride up a very small elevator all the way to the top to see the 19th floor office of Mr. Price.  The top office has a two story ceiling and wood burning fireplace.  The 8 apartments never rented as the price (about $350) would have been too high for the people living in this oil town back in 1956.  Frank Lloyd Wright was meticulous about designing everything for the building including drainage grates, office furniture and even waste baskets that would match his overall design.  Though he left out closets for the 8 apartments by only providing a single small closet approx. 3ft x 3ft in size for those two bedroom loft apartments.  The small kitchens were quite efficient including a dish washer and a combination range and refrigerator.  Those apartments are now a part of a boutique hotel so you can experience what it would have been like to live in a Wright designed apartment/home.

The exterior design was so Frank Lloyd Wright in design that I was able to pick it out the first time I drove through the downtown city center surrounded by Conoco/Phillips office towers.  The Wright design includes lots of green copper on the outside horizontal and vertical louvered shades.  Supposedly representing a forest tree.  On the interior the tall window curtains in the main reception area are made of copper as well as much of the trim work.

Wish I could find a web site that would address architectural marvels throughout the country besides just the wonderful Frank Lloyd Wright buildings I’ve been able to see throughout the years.  If you know of a web site, please let me know as I do enjoy visiting great architecturally designed buildings and homes.


Woolaroc is the country estate of oil baron Frank Phillips and now is a museum, nature preserve and wildlife center with all kinds of animals like the Wapiti, Emu’s, Llama, buffalo, deer and well you get it, lots of big animals are in a 3,600 acre natural preserve type setting.  I expected to see all that and the original stone and log lodge which was filled with just a ton of western furniture, blankets and animal trophies on the walls, but I was blown away by the scale of the huge museum that was built on the premises.  It was built around the same time as the lodge to house the vast western and Indian collection of Frank Phillips.  If your into guns, there were separate rooms for the Remington and Smith and Wesson collections, oddly juxtaposed with a doll collection.  The Native American pottery and artifacts were well displayed as was as an extensive collection of Western Art.  There sure was a lot to see and I’m glad I set aside a full day to explore it.  Though afterwards I did stop in the Osage Casino for lunch and of course I got my free $5 worth of play money for the slots.  I’ve extended my stay in the area an extra day or so because there’s just so much to see and do around here.

The Frank Phillips Mansion. (Phillips Petroleum) 

There are just a ton of things in the area to explore.  Within an easy drive there’s the Tom Mix Museum, Will Rogers Museum, The Coleman Theatre, and Tulsa Oklahoma’s many attractions less than an hour away.  I opted for one last tour of an historic home, the Frank Phillips Home.  A 26 room mansion right here in Bartlesville.  A beautifully appointed home with a sunken library, created because the Missus wanted higher ceilings and they couldn’t take the height away from the second floor,  so during renovations they lowered the floor.  Everything looked so comfortable, I could have moved in right then and there.  I loved all the stories about the close knit family life including Frank Phillips butler/man servant.  A Japanese man with many talents who listened to everything Frank said and eventually acquired over a million dollars by investing quietly on the side.  When WWII came about and they started to gather up all the Japanese in the U.S. Frank merely told everyone his servant was Philippine.  Oh and the mansion had the smallest kitchen I’ve ever seen in one of these grand homes.  How the cooks were able to create large feasts in that small kitchen is a wonder.  The stove and sink in one small room, the next room had lots of cupboards and a refrigerator,  and the butlers panty was the largest of all three rooms.  Exploring the two hidden safe rooms, as there were threats of robbery and attempts at kidnapping back then.  Fun to see other peoples homes and hear all the stories associated with them.  They had one son and two foster girls.  All sharing equally in the estate after the parents death.  If walls could talk, they’d have a tour guide like ours.

Next stop the panhandle of Oklahoma on my way to the 4 corners area out west.

Additional Photos at my Picasa Web Site.

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.

Friday, May 11, 2012

2012-13 Russellville Arkansas

Hot Springs to Russellville Arkansas

Russellville Arkansas


Campground: OLD POST ROAD 1063 Lock and Dam Rd Russellville, AR 72802(479)968-7962.  An Army Corp. campground along the Arkansas River.  Large grassy and shaded sites.  Elect & Water. $10 Senior Rate, $20 regular.  Just a short trip into the town of Russellville.

views from the back of each campsite

Well, I might have mentioned a couple of weeks ago that I went to the Dermatologist here in Hot Springs Arkansas.  The biopsy on a spot on my face was cancerous and a week later I went in and had it removed.  I was pretty sure the biopsy had taken care of the issue, but the Dr. said, “no, it’s still there and we’ll remove it”.   So after a very quick surgery, I waited out in the waiting room for the results to insure that all the bad cells had been removed.  Quite some time later which amounted to about an hour, it was a success, so then it was downstairs to another surgery room where of course I waited again for at least 30 minutes for the Dr. to stitch me up (10 stitches). Except for a huge “pressure” bandage on my face (it is almost the same color as my skin so it’s hardly noticeable) and of course I wore my baseball cap and Foster Grant sunglasses as well when I left the place, no one could tell who I was.  I’m feeling fine and glad that’s over with.

While I was up there in the waiting room, I started chatting with a gal who was very smartly dressed in accents of red, including her lipstick, nails and toes.  Of course we started talking about age and she said she was not happy that all her friends kept telling her how old she was:  83.  Really she said, I know how old I am and I don’t feel that old so why do my friends have to keep bringing it up?  After all she only felt her age when  she  looked in the mirror.  I must admit she did have quite a few wrinkles on her face.  Well ok, it looked like a map of the New Jersey turnpike.  But she had the most expressive face behind those wing tipped eyeglasses.  She confessed that she had some plastic surgery done on her face.  Actually around one eye.  When she came out of the surgery, she noticed the Dr. had only done one eye, not both of them.  Upon a subsequent follow-up visit she obviously brought up the subject to the Dr. and he said, “darn it your absolutely right, I did only do one eye“.  She told me she intended on going back to have the other eye done, but not to that Dr.  Oh and said she had the procedure done the day after her husbands funeral.  Now that’s a big Hmmmmm.  She was quite a character and I wished her well as I headed on downstairs to have my stitches put in.

This is my second time having a cancerous spot on my face.  I guess all those years enjoying the beaches in Florida are now coming back to remind me that the sun is not our friend.  As much as it feels good to have the sun on our bodies, one does need to use sun protection.  And I obviously need to be more diligent about using a sunscreen when outside.

As a full timer, I have been fortunate to have BC/BS (Gov) health insurance so I can basically go to any Dr. across the U.S.  And although I know most full-time Rv-ers do all their medical exams etc. when they get back home or to their winter residence, I often times use a Dr. along the way.  I’ve found that Internet searches can be very helpful in finding a clinic that can take care of my needs.  Calling ahead a couple of weeks in advance for something like a Dermatology visit usually insures that I can get in and have whatever taken care of.  Unfortunately during my stay this past winter in Florida, the small community I was in had a very poor selection of Dr’s to choose from.  A note to fellow full-time Rv-ers:  If you need a specific specialist in a particular field, do an internet search and find one that’s part of a large clinic with say at least 5 or 6 Dr’s.  That way theirs a good chance they will be able to get you in quickly.  If the facility has only one or two Dr’s.  the chance of even getting a appointment goes down considerably.

Well enough of that,  I’m healing nicely and I even had them use stitches that dissolve so I don’t need to go back to the Dr’s office to have them removed.  I may end up with a scar over my right eye, so I might have to start saying “Rahr there matee”… Yup, I’ll be back on the road in the next day or so.

Two days after the surgery and 150 miles down the road I’ve landed in Russellville Arkansas at another Army Corp campground.  It’s along the Arkansas River and Lake Dardanelle.  The campsites are large and most have a two car width parking apron.  Sites are well spaced with the grass being left to grow naturally.  Not sure if it’s by design or if they have limited resources to cut the grass but I’ve got to tell you, seeing the grass growing to it’s natural height of 6 to 12 inches just looks so natural.  Behind each campsite, the trees look to have been thinned out over the years leaving space for the grasses to grow under the trees and it just looks so inviting to walk through.
Robert and Barb

The river has numerous dams and locks all along the river and I saw 4 barges traveling up and down the river today while visiting friend Robert Henderlong and his wife Barb.  they're staying at the State park right on the lake.  It was a bit windy and we all huddled under the front of their 5th wheel camper for our afternoon chat.  I was able to catch up on all the latest news from Desert Trails.  A campground I’ve stayed at during the winter months a few years in a row.  The people who are not coming back, new folks filling their space, the many changes the owner has made this past year.  The numerous shows going on weekly at the rec hall were all discussed. It’s nice being able to catch up with friends along the way.

Now I’d never thought about stopping in this area to explore, but here I am in Russellville Arkansas.  So of course I went online and used some of the resources listed on my Blog for finding unique or unusual things to see and do in the area.  One of the first things I found was a reference to a Rune Stone.  I’ve heard about these stones over the years and knew there were a number of them found in the Mid-West like around Wisconsin, but had never heard of any being found in Arkansas.  The word Rune comes from the Gothic word meaning “secret”.  Considered secret mainly because only a few people like heathen priests would have learned it.  The letters possibly originating from Greek and Roman letters and go back as far at 1,000 BC.   This secret writing was used throughout much of Europe but mostly Denmark, Sweden and Norway.   Christians brought in the Latin Alphabet and the Runic Alphabet gradually was discontinued.

just outside of Paris Arkansas

So here I am driving along country road 22 heading towards Paris in search of a Rune Stone.  The countryside is dotted with old chicken farms, their long low building in disrepair gradually sinking back into the earth.  The areas thick green forests of hardwoods and low mountain range to the south,  Dardanelle Lake on my right created by damming up the Arkansas River.  I pass well maintained homesteads, a Jesuit Priest monastery looking like a castle on top of a hill and finally arrive in the small town of Paris.

the old jail, now the county museum

I’ve arrived at the small county museum inside of an old jail on a back street not far from the Court House in the center of town.  Inside the old jail in the second room I enter, sitting on a small end table against a wall is the stone.  Other displays nearly crowd out the stone.  Old Xerox copies of newspaper articles describe the stone and where it was found.

Now the jump to finding these stones with writings on them and their mysterious messages in the U.S.  Some believe the Norsemen who of course discovered the Americas first, may have inscribed these stones during their exploration throughout America.  This particular Rune stone was discovered near Paris Arkansas fairly close to an old Spanish trail.  Leading some to believe that a Spanish explorer searching for gold, wrote the message on this stone.  It’s message has been translated to “Nov 11, 1012“.  Or could it be Viking explorers.  This is the first Rune Stone I have encountered but I understand there are others across the country including ones in Oklahoma, Wisconsin and Minnesota.  If the date is correct on the stone and why wouldn’t it be, it could possibly show that the Vikings had indeed explored the Americas much earlier than Christopher Columbus.  I love a good mystery and really had fun discovering this one in of all places Paris Arkansas, population 3,100.  Of course others believe these Rune stones are a big hoax and that one day someone will come forward and fess up to the joke.  We’re quick to make judgments and I suspect that many archeologists are keeping a fair distance from these stones in case they are a fraud.  After all, researching something that could possibly be a fraud could ruin/rune ones career.  On the other hand, comparing them with others found across the country could provide clues to their origin.

Rune Stone, Paris Arkansas

The rest of my week here will be spent reading and just enjoying a different part of the country.  Where gas station attendants have but 3 or 4 teeth, where everyone seems to be a good ole boy wearing heavy construction boots.  Conversations in restaurants revolve around prayer groups and did you know Bobby over at the Tyson Foods worked with Jimmy who we’ve been praying for. And isn’t it a small world that Bobby’s been praying for Jimmy and he didn’t even know who he was until I started to question him on who he has worked with in the past.

Tyson, ConAgra, Lumber companies, International paper, and numerous metal and parts manufacturing companies are in the area.   So although each of the communities is relatively small many having populations in the 3 to 4,000 range, there does seem to be enough industry to keep the folks well employed.

So along with surgery the first part of the week, meeting up with friends during the middle of the week, I’ve had just enough time to do a bit of exploring as well.

Until the next report, have a super great day.

and of course more photos on Picasa

Sunday, May 6, 2012

2012-12 Hot Springs Arkansas, Week 2

Hot Springs Arkansas
Week 2

Hot Springs Arkansas from NP Tower

Discovering the history of a place is most rewarding at least in my mind anyway.  One’s first thoughts are of the Hot Springs area are of the Hot Springs spa that line one side of the street along with manicured lawns and the row of magnolia trees in bloom.  Hot Springs National Parks is one of the very earliest parks created in the U.S. and I believe is the smallest of the all the National Parks.  The boundary is actually the center line down the middle of the main street in town. But along with the baths designed to heal what ever ails you on the opposite side of the street were all the shops, bars and casinos. The casinos are no longer in existence but The Ohio Club and Southern Club (now the Gambling Museum and The Josephine Tusaud Wax museum) and other buildings remain.  The Ohio Club is considered the oldest remaining saloon in Arkansas.  Well worth a stop in for a refreshing drink and a chance to soak up some of it’s history and local music especially on weekends.  Illegal gambling and the selling of booze during prohibition went on for quite some time.  Many of these casinos and bars were frequented by the likes of May West, Al Jolson, Sammy Davis Jr. Tony Bennett and Babe Ruth and even Bill Clinton since this is his home town.

And where there’s gambling, there were gangsters.  Al Capone, Frank Costello, Bugsy Segal who they say came here to learn about the casino business before moving out to Las Vegas.  The casinos were all illegal but continued to run until around 1967.  Today the Oaklawn Racetrack which has horseracing a few months out of each year is now also a full fledged casino.  Though they are not allowed to call it that.  They call it a Gaming Establishment.  I guess with the past history of all the illegal casinos in town they didn’t want to encourage the use of the name casino.  I of course had to go check out the casino especially since they give new members $10 in hard cash and a discount in their restaurant.  The place was packed by 12:30 in the afternoon.  I essentially had my meal paid for and won a few extra bucks to boot.

The other thing I did was to visit the Josephine Tussaud Wax Museum & Southern Club Gambling Museum.  Now I’m sure your aware that wax museums can be found all around the country in high tourist areas.  I’ve never been in one and thought it was about time to go see what it’s all about.  The wax museum is in the original building that the Southern Club was established, so it’s a mix of area history and kind of creepy wax figures.  Although there were a few good vignette settings, most appeared to be thrown together with used boards and old material.  From Jimmy Carter, to Elizabeth Taylor riding the escalator to the Last Supper and the Pope at the top of the stairs.  Around the corner to a series of torture victims in dungeon settings. And then onto Presidents and Kings. Many of the figures really looked like wax, though their faces were just as riveting, looking into the Popes eyes or Prince Charles who had way too much hair on his head. Seeing the vault through a back window where it still remains after it was buried under a ton of rocks as the mountain behind the building collapsed and destroyed about 20% of the building back in the early 60‘s.   Of course the owners dug it up and blasted a hole through the side of it to retrieve a reported $5 million dollars worth of silver and cash.  Needless to say, the illegal gaming business was profitable before they were put out of business.

Back at the campground from my view on a rise overlooking the small creek, I’m able to see the dry campers down below.  An interesting mix of  tenters.  The biker and his gal with a nice large rectangular tent, the kayakers who pull up in their car with the kayak on top.  They came in late and just threw their tent on the ground, didn’t open it up and just  bundled themselves up and laid on top of the flattened tent.  A couple camp sites down, another car pulls in, the guy sets up a hammock between two trees overlooking the creek.  Wraps himself in a towel and goes to sleep in the hammock next to the gurgling stream for sound effects.

Duck Tour

Doug w/ wooden Indian
The next adventure I took was to take a ride on the Duck Tour.  It’s a boat/vehicle that was developed and built during WWII.  It has wheels and can be driven on roads, then one drives it right into a lake and it becomes a boat.  But at only 3 mpg I wouldn’t be eager to go out and buy one tomorrow.  Of course they haven’t been made since the 1940’s so any that you may take a tour on are truly a part of history.  Now the tour I took was done by a young guy that one could say was truly a country boy, wise cracking with jokes and stories and we were told not to believe hardly anything he told us.  I was able to learn a little more about the history of the area and the fact that the Dixie Mob actually ran much of the town during it’s casino heydays.  Gov. Rockefeller ended all that around 1967 when he had the gambling establishments closed down, destroying all the gambling paraphernalia, arresting the owners and putting three police officers and a sheriff in jail.  It’s interesting to note that during the period of time before Anglo-Americans arrived, the Native Indians considered this a neutral zone where all tribes in the area could come and use the healing hot springs.  Later during the gambling era, the mobs and gangsters also considered it a neutral zone and would come here to gamble along with their rivals.  Each paying off the local authorities along the way so as not to be arrested while enjoying the area.  Al Capone was so secretive that he had a private staircase from his 4th floor hotel suite that went to a tunnel under the street and over to the Southern Club.  Never having to come out into the public to enjoy the local attractions.

And yes I do my little chores around the camper.  Vacuuming and cleaning house.  Course with a camper the cleaning doesn’t take near as much time as cleaning a big ole house.  I even did some spring cleaning and packed up some stuff for the Good Will Store.  I even straightened out one of my cabinets over the desk.  Figured it was time when things kept falling out every time I opened the doors.  Feels good to get organized.

On one of my last days in the Hot Springs Area I took advantage of the hot springs themselves at the Quapaw Baths.  One can use the pools for $18 a day.  It’s a beautiful setting right in the heart of the Bath House Row.  4 pools having spring water cooled down to between 95 and 105 degrees.  I met quite a few Russians enjoying the pools.  One gentleman said he would be in the area for 14 days and he had already come to the hot springs everyday for the past 10 days.  He didn’t look any younger than when he first started using the hot springs, so I gather I won’t either with my one day dip.  I’ll just have to keep searching for that fountain of youth.  Still, the hot mineral rich hot springs sure felt good.

Quapaw Bath House

The last time I was in the area I had taken the ride to the top of the viewing tower but since I hardly remembered having done it, it was time to take the ride to the top once again.  It’s a winding switch back road that leads to the top of the mountain overlooking Hot Springs.  So much so that one can see the front and back of their vehicle at the same time as one makes those wicked hair pin turns.  The outside elevator ride isn’t all that scary as there are huge X shaped steel girders surrounding the tower and elevator.  And of course the views from the top are pretty spectacular with the heavily wooded low mountain ranges surrounding the entire town.  I could see the high school Bill Clinton went to school in, the large Army/Navy Hospital that was the first in the country designed for rehab.  It is now run as both a local rehab facility and a Trade School.  And crystal clear views of the main street as it winds through the valley between the low mountain ranges going off in different directions on the north end of town.  Mist and fog hanging low in the early morning light between those mountain ranges stretching all the way to the horizon.

I’ll leave in another day or so heading towards my next destination, Bentonville Arkansas with a stop along the way to visit with more friends from my Desert Trail days.

Lots of extra photos on Picasa.