It is no exaggeration for me to say that I grew up in a car. My father showed a dog in obedience when I was a youngster, and we traveled all over the southern and midwestern US. One green Oldsmobile station wagon, two adults, two kids, and one Wire-haired Fox terrier in a crate. Even as children we were responsible for packing our own bags, and providing materials for our own entertainment. And although I suspected, I wasn’t fully aware of how little we actually possessed financially, so we often dined in the car on prepacked meals. Hence, it should go without saying that I am comfortable in a car, on a road trip.
This past week I enjoyed a day trip to Hot Springs National Park in Arkansas. Arkansas is in the south central US, and Hot Springs is just about in the center of that state. It takes its name from the spring waters which originate in the mountains on the edge of town, and flow at a constant temperature of 143 degrees F. It was the first National Park set aside for preservation, in 1832 by Andrew Jackson. “Taking the waters” was a popular past time and attracted movie stars, gangsters and Presidents during its hey day. The art deco styling of the bathhouses have been preserved along “Bathhouse Row,” and you can conduct your own self guided tour through the Fordyce Bathhouse. At the end of Bathhouse Row is the Arlington Hotel, with its art deco theme continuing along its marble floors indented by years of foot traffic.Opposite Bathhouse row is the retail side of the street, all manner of touristy dives, joints and junk. For some reason, pirates seem to have been highlighted in many of the shops, and I am not sure why that is. I can explain the gangster museum, the store that sells bath toys, the Arkansas shop selling art from the state, but how would pirates get to a landlocked Central Arkansas? In addition to the stuff, there is an interesting assortment of restaurants and diners. Because it was the off season, several of them were closed, but I did manage a Bodacious Burger at Bubbalu’s, as opposed to one of their Classy Dogs which were impressive.
For the most part the springs themselves are capped to avoid contamination, although you can see an open spring in the Fordyce. And in front of the Arlington Hotel is a hot springs cascade, which was awash with steam and icicles on the day I was visiting (it was a very cold day). As the steam rose off the springs, it instantly froze on the overhanging vegetation and rocks. It was quite a thin place to watch the heated water vapor instantly become ice. Another source of the hot springs is a fountain by the visitors bureau. Here you can fill your bottles (BYOB), and take the hot spring water home. I brought enough for a couple of gallons, which paled by the fellow who had almost 32 gallons in the back of his van.
The day of traveling was capped off by a stop at the best Barbeque in Arkansas, Burge’s of Lewisville. Too cold for the ice cream I remember from my childhood, but definitely a to go box of their chicken and pork.