The past two weeks have been spent in our neighbor to the south, Arkansas, at two distinctly different Ozark Mountain RV parks. You don’t have to travel far to enjoy the rugged beauty of this region. Our first stay was in a “resort” park, with many amenities such as zip lining and a large pool, twice daily trash runs and set your propane tanks out and they will be refilled and delivered back to your sight convenience. While expensive, and not a usual stop for us, it afforded a glimpse into the type of park where million dollar rigs were rather common among the units of folks like us who travel comfortably but not opulently. As always, the people in the RV culture offer a glimpse into Americana.
We started at our own Echo Bluff, close to home, where we could shake down our RV after it had reposed in storage for over a year. There I met a funeral director/embalmer from St. Louis who is on Missouri’s mass death response team and saw service in Joplin after the tornado. He is from the St. Louis area and was charming as well as astute. His knowledge of the Highway Patrol in his area was eye opening. You don’t often have the chance to visit with a man who understands death in ways we don’t see. Pragmatic but sympathetic and entirely service oriented. Fascinating.
We then moved to Hot Springs, to the Catherine’s Landing resort, on Lake Catherine. It is corporate owned and the subject of my remarks above. We visited the University of Arkansas maintained Botanical Gardens, on the shores of Lake Hamilton, which were absolutely gorgeous. It was hot, hilly and taxing on Tazzy and me but well worth the modest admission charge. US 70 (not I-70) will shake the fillings from your teeth east of Hot Springs. Beware.
We then relocated to Eureka Springs, to a park said to be among the best in Arkansas, Wanderlust RV Park. It is, indeed, very nice. The hospitality is top notch, hook ups excellent and cleanliness and affordability first rate. The units are close to one another, too close in some spots, but not disqualifying. The Eureka Springs Trolley picks up in the park and transports you downtown to an eclectic environment. This is home to the Great Passion Play and, to the uninitiated, a very diversified population. The host is a former Washington State area police officer and who also worked for the New Orleans Police department for 7 years. Those in the know are aware that New Orleans is home to one of the most corrupt police forces in the nation, and he freely acknowledged their colorful history. (Officers killing their partners in an armed robbery and such). We are sharing space with a retired California trooper and other police types while here. You can spend several days here and not see all there is to see in this region.
Finally, the ultimate adventure. I have always wanted to ride the infamous Pig Trail through the Boston Mountains of Arkansas on my motorcycle. Having not accomplished this, I made the decision to pull our 34’ RV down the trail. It is a series of sharp switch backs and challenging hills and grades. When we entered we were greeted by a “road work ahead” sign, prompting some concern, but I am a “professional driver” so ahead we charged. There is no turning around when you are well into the trail. Some 15 miles in we encountered a sign that said no trailers over 16’ allowed. It was a sphincter tightening moment. The sign needed to be 15 miles back from where it was erected. We soon drove up on a line of stopped traffic, including a loaded log truck pulling a “pup” or trailer also loaded with giant oak timber. We could see a problem on the hairpin curve ahead and a group of highwaymen talking to the truck driver. They left him and came to talk to me. They explained that a one lane, inside section of the curve had fallen away in two places and that I could not make the curve. The boss noticed Sharon’s police pillow and asked if I was a LEO. Turns out he was a deputy before retiring and going into road construction. I asked if I could walk down and look at the problem and he invited me to do so.
It was a nasty scenario and exactly as he described. If I elected to stay where I was, we would be spending the day and likely night on a steep grade communing with nature in a place that lightning would have to double clutch to hit us. If I got to the turn and got cold feet, then I would be obstructing the arrival of equipment to the scene. If I dropped off the edge, we would be a new tourist attraction on the Pig Trail, a monument to fool hardy confidence. During our conversation, the foreman noted that I was a Captain on the Patrol in Missouri, which was met with great deference. The decision was then mine to make. I borrowed a 50 foot tape from a worker, measured the radius of the curve, and then measured my wheelbase from the back axle of the Ram to the trailer axles, made a hasty calculation and announced I was ready to go. I figured I had two feet more than I needed. The foreman declared, “The Captain says he can do it”. I climbed in the truck and watched Sharon bury her head in her hands. I told the foreman if this goes to hell, take plenty of pictures, but was confident I could negotiate the corner safely. The workers all got out of the way and we began the the turn. Turns out I had two feet to spare and to their cheers, we were on our way. Here is the take away, that my friend, Stan Oglesby, knows to be the truth. Math is absolute, if it is done correctly. The construction workers have a story to tell, Sharon has renewed confidence in my eroding skills and my butt cheeks have finally turned loose of the fine leather seat in our new Ram truck.
RV’ing is an adventure, We celebrated our success in a bikers bar (no guns allowed) in Eureka Springs with a couple of the best chicken tacos I have ever eaten and settled in to watch a lovely Arkansas sunset.
Life is a hoot! Enjoy it while you still can.
Have a great weekend!