NOVEMBER 1, 2010
It seems like we just arrived and now it’s time to leave. Our visit with Steve’s nephew and his family was great. We’d planned it so that we could overlap with Steve’s sister and her husband who were visiting for Halloween. Since we’d been at Lake Ray Roberts State Park, I was hearing a bird close by that didn’t sound like a wild bird. It sounded tropical. We hadn’t seen it. This morning Steve came in and said, “I’ve solved the mystery.” The trailer next to us is traveling with 6 caged birds, 2 dogs and 2 kids!
Today we proceed further east and on to Arkansas. This will be the last National Park on our trip. Today will be a 6-7 hours drive between Dallas and Lake Ouachita (pronounced Wah-chee-ta) State Park located 15 miles northwest of Hot Springs, Arkansas. So far on the trip we’ve stayed off Interstates preferring scenic back roads. Now time and distance make the Interstate a necessity. So for most of today we followed I 30 east. We wanted to be on the road by 9AM but that didn’t happen. There were absentee ballots to mail, propane tanks to fill and gas for the car. Once again we found ourselves racing to get to the park before dark. We’d been carrying the ladder, an extra table and beach chairs tied to the propane tank cover. So that we could refill the tanks, we put these in the trailer. Without being tied down, the propane tank cover flew off a few miles down I 30. So we now have to add a replacement cover to the replacement propane alarm and the front level that have stopped working or were broken. Camping World here we come.
We arrived about 5PM and were set up well before dark. Our site backs to the lake and has a large sitting area with fire ring, grill and picnic table overlooking the lake. I took a walk and see they also have beautiful duplex cabins that are very modern. If you ever find yourself in this area, do consider staying here. There is only one other RV in our camping unit of 10 spaces. Steve was fighting off a cold so he took a nap and we had a quiet evening.
NOVEMBER 2, 2010
In the middle of the night we had a thunderstorm which means dog on bed. The day is the first rainy and cool day we’ve had since the Grand Canyon. Four days out of nine weeks isn’t a bad average. Steve was feeling a bit better but still not very peppy. So we are taking our first true Chill Out day of the trip. There’s always an errand or two to do. So we headed off to Hot Springs Village for gas, groceries and a haircut for Steve. He came back saying that the barber was also a kayaker and had told him about a place on the Ouachita River where you can paddle a gooseneck for 3-4 hours and come back to within 100 yards of where you put in. Since we don’t have a second vehicle for a shuttle that sounds perfect. Yep, we’ll have to come back! The barber also told Steve that for the last few years Lake Ouachita and Lake Tahoe had been battling it out for the title Cleanest Lake Water. Now with Tahoe being built up, Ouachita has been winning. There is a water bottling plant here that has won first place for the best tasting water in the Water Tasting Contest in Paris for the past several years. I wonder who has taste buds keen enough to be a water taster?
I’m hoping to work on our pictures and have them ready to upload when I get to my sister-in-laws home in Mississippi.
Hopefully, Steve will feel better tomorrow and we’ll see Hot Springs National Park.
NOVEMBER 3, 2010
Still a bit overcast and cool but no rain today. Steve is feeling fine. We headed into Hot Springs for the day and since it was cool, Opal came along. After two days in either the car or trailer she was getting antsy. So was I!
Hot Springs National Park is the only national park located in an urban setting. It was designated as a national preserve in 1832. Then it was a national monument and finally reached park status in 1917. There are 47 hot springs that bubble to the surface around Hot Springs Mountain. The town grew around the springs with early inns. In the 1880s development of the town from “wild west” status to a spa resort to rival those of Europe began. Several elegant bath houses were built. One bathhouse run by the NPS and one private bath house remain open. The main building houses the museum which has 23 restored rooms open for touring, a theatre (with a 1950s movie) and a gift shop. There were other treatments done there as well such as chiropathy, early versions of physical therapy complete with Hubbard Tank and the one we liked the best, mercury rubs for syphilis victims. Makes you wonder what killed them first. What about the folks giving the rubs? We didn’t try any of the baths. The prices were what I’d expect for any spa. While interesting neither Steve or I thought that this was suitable for national park status. A national historical site definitely or maybe even a national monument but not park status.
Then we took the scenic drive up the mountain. Since it was overcast, we didn’t go up the tower as there wouldn’t be any view. This is a private concession under lease to the park and costs extra. The scenic drives goes through what would be a pretty city park but is not remarkable. We could find many roads on the east coast that would be as pretty or prettier. I can see a group of women going here for a girlfriend getaway but it was a disappointment as a national park. One out of 11 parks isn’t bad.
On the way home we pulled off onto a road in the Ouachita National Forest to give Opal a run. After walking only a few hundred feet we found the area had been used as a dump and headed back to the car. We had just put Opal back in the car when four loose dogs appeared barking and running toward us. It seemed like Monument Valley revisited! Then we stopped at a local convenience store for gas, ice and some snacks. As we were waiting to pay there was a conversation between the two female clerks and two men who had just bought a bait business and were wanting to supply bait to the store. Amazing what you can learn. Did you know they will UPS crickets? On the other hand, worms cost too much to UPS because they’re heavier from the soil that has to be included. I’m sure you’ve been wondering about that for years!
NOVEMBER 5-8, 2010
November 5th was a traveling day through Arkansas and Mississippi to JP Coleman State Park in Iuka, MS. If you recall, we had tried to stay here last summer and our assigned spot wasn’t suitable for the trailer. We’d been given a voucher for the four days we had prepaid. We decided to use it now and visit with my relatives in Corinth, MS.
My niece is on the cross country team for her high school and was competing in the state tournament 4K race on Saturday, November 6th. I’m proud to say she placed 7th in the state with her personal best time. She’s a freshman so who knows what she can accomplish in future years.
The first weekend in November in Corinth is called the Grand Illumination. The event is co-sponsored by the Civil War Interpretive Center and the City of Corinth. There are reenactments and special events during the day. In the evening the grounds of the Center, the Contraband Camp and sidewalks throughout town are lined with 12,000 luminaries. This is the estimated number of casualties at the battle of Shiloh and the two Battles of Corinth. Twelve thousand is just a number when you say it. When you see 12,000 luminaries it gives significance to what that cost in human life really meant. It is estimated that 620,000 casualties occurred in the Civil War.
November 8th was our move to the final stop on this trip to Chattanooga, TN. At one of the rest stops we pulled up behind a trailer from Saskatchewan, Canada. We began talking to them and found out they’d be staying in the same RV park. When we arrived our assigned sites were only one space apart. We invited them over for a glass of wine in the evening. They had retired in May, turned their property over to their son and took off for a year of travel. They can be in the USA for 6 months. They’d come down the east coast from the maritime provinces and will stay south for the winter then head back up the west coast. He is a retired veterinarian and she was his assistant. We did exchange contact information and hope to continue hearing about their travels.
After setting up we had taken off to find the Medal of Honor museum in Chattanooga. We had an address from the GPS and another from a website. We followed the directions but couldn’t find anything about a museum. We did see a lot of Chattanooga though! The next day we found out that the museum had closed when they lost their lease. So why is the website still up and looking like it’s active? GRRRRRRR…!!
NOVEMBER 9, 2010
Oh what a beautiful Fall day! Originally, we’d planned to go downtown to the Chattanooga Aquarium. The weather was so beautiful, a perfect Fall day. We wanted to be outside. Opal and I took a walk around the RV park. I noticed a sign for a monument from the Civil War battle at Chickamauga about 1/4 mile from the park. We walked over to see it. This gave me the idea of visiting the National Battlefield for Chickamauga and Chattanooga. There were two battles for control of the railroads through Chattanooga 1863. Whoever won would dominate the supply lines for the Confederates and ultimately emerge victorious. Initially the Confederate Army pushed the Union troops back inside the city limits and held them in check without reinforcements or supplies. Eventually, U.S. Grant became commander and broke free. The ensuing battle was the bloodiest battle of the war with over 35,000 casualties. Gettysburg holds the record for the greatest loss in a single day. The path to Atlanta was open and Sherman’s march began. In the 1880s and 90’s with Civil War veterans dwindling in numbers, a National Battlefield was established. Many of the regiments involved in the fight raised money to erect monuments. There are no photos from this battle. Several of the monuments have beautifully engraved brass sculptures and plaques. The detail is superb and based on verbal accounts from survivors.
At the Visitors Center bookstore Steve mentioned he’d always wanted to read Shelby Foote’s three volume History of the Civil War. Easy Christmas shopping… Merry Christmas early. There was a huge display of guns from the 1600s to present that had been donated by a wealthy businessman. We estimated about 300 were on display. The ranger told us this was just part of his 2000+ collection. Steve estimated this part only in “the millions”.
There is a lot to see and do in Chattanooga. We will definitely be back. In fact, we could do this whole trip over again and see entirely different things. Ten weeks, 11,350 miles, memories for a lifetime.
NOVEMBER 10, 2010
Packing up and hitching up for the last segment back to Charlotte. It would be a 5-6 hour drive today. There was a sense of wanting to get home after 2.5 months on the road and at the same time a sense of not wanting to have this wonderful time end. I know there will be other trips and many more fabulous destinations. Our first long RV trip will always hold a special place in our hearts.
As we drove East, Opal was more anxious than usual. We wondered if she knew we were heading toward home. As we drove up the drive she squealed with joy. Once out of the car she just ran in circles, yipping and jumping. In the house, out of the house, around the yard and then repeated for 10 minutes. I’m sure she thought she’d never see home again. The house looked good. Our house sitter had everything clean and ready for us. How great to sleep in your own bed and dream of all that’s happened.
I hope you’ve enjoyed traveling with us. Check back as we add new adventures in 2011!