November 27, 2019
The day begins with a view of the lake right outside the hotel door, sun rising over the mountains illuminating it. I knew we were in the mountains, but it is obvious we are on a mountain side. I’m not sure, but I thinking the lake is manmade as a result of a dam somewhere on the mountain. (It turns out this is true!)
I’m up early, something I am trying to work on. Apparently getting to bed early can make the difference. I get out of bed at 6:30 and I head to Starbucks to journal, plan the route for the day and write that first blog entry. I looked for a local place close to Bath House Row, to no avail. How can a place like that not have a local coffee shop on the most popular street in the city.
The Hot Springs Spa that I want to go to doesn’t open until 10, so I hang out until about 9:30 and make my way downtown. It’s a sweet little town, reminding of some of the little mountain towns I was in while working in British Columbia. I got the National park office and exhibit and cruise through, seeing how people took to “the waters” over the history of the park.
Now, off to the Baths. It’s fantastic! $22 to use the hot pools, which is all I need. While there are other services one could avail themselves to, I am on a timeline and the pools will be enough. There are 4 pools, ranging in temperature from 95’ to 104’. I head to the 98’ pool and that’s fine, but I need more heat. I spend the next hour and a half alternating between the 2 hottest pools and intermittent cold shower. It’s blissful and my shoulder and lower back pain melt away. While chatting with a couple and their grandson, who are here for the holiday and travel to hot springs whenever they can I find out there is a steam cave that you can enter for another $10 fee. Note to self: check out the steam cave on your next visit!
I get out of the pools and after another cold shower, get dressed and head out. My body temp is way up at this point and the sun is out. I walk around in a t-shirt and check out the gift shop and a couple of stores. A couple of Arkansas quartz crystals are purchased at a store called All Things Arkansas. Its hard for me to pass on picking up a rocks from every city I go to, but I am circumspect and only get a couple of small things that I can give away on my travels.
Heading out of town, I stop at a local thrift store. I did not pack any shorts and I am headed to California. What was I thinking? And of course, they don’t have any out, but I grad a couple of short sleeved shirts for $3 each and get back on the road.
I didn’t realize how far we had climbed into the mountains, but as I exit the city it is apparent that we did. And at one point we climb even higher before headed down to merge back on the Interstate. Arkansas is beautiful. The last time I was here I spent a half day in Little Rock and went to the Clinton Presidential Library. It is a beautiful state and the stop at Hot Springs will be repeated.
I am headed to Fort Worth to spend Thanksgiving with my dear friend, Joan B and her partner Dwayne. Joan moved here a couple of years ago to take a job at Alcon as Head of Global Diversity and Inclusion. She is one of the smartest people I know and love spending time with her. We always learn something new about the work we are doing. She says she found me under a cabbage leaf at the Kalamazoo Farmers Market, when she lived in Kalamazoo and worked for Kellogg. I was selling textiles and tuffa planters there at the time (I think I was just getting into beekeeping when I met her.) And a conversation about the light needs to succulents turned into a lovey friendship.
Having people in your life who get you, and find ways to encourage you to utilize your gifts is critical. I am lucky to have so many such friendships. Many new ones are emerging and yet the ones that have been maintained for years are most dear. So it will be great to spend some time just being together, cooking, drinking manhattans and enjoying the time together relaxing and reconnecting.
The rest of the trip is uneventful. The change from mountain to prairie to Texas hardpan is worth noting. I realize I should have taken more pics along the way, so you could see the change. I will work on that for the next leg of the journey. Of course, I hit the worst traffic ever as I come into Dallas. I’m sure it even worse being Thanksgiving Eve. Google maps saves me 20 minutes of stop and go traffic but I arrive later than I thought I would. The highway between Dallas and Fort Worth isn’t nearly as busy and tons of little sports cars speed past me and weave in and out of traffic. Apparently sports cars and giant half-ton trucks are the norm here. Who knew?
We are joyfully greeted by Joan and Dwayne, with a cheese plate and manhattans followed by mussels in a garlic sauce by Joan and a potato dish that Dwayne made. It sets the tone for the weekend. Leila is welcomed with open arms. Dwayne lost his Corgi, Taffy, a few years ago and they both dearly miss having a pup around. Good food, perfect manhattans, and lots of love and laughter. The perfect way to end this first leg of the journey.
November 25 & 26, 2019
I leave the house just after 7 pm on Monday night but it is almost another hour by the time I left Kalamazoo. Between stopping at Aldi for road food, dropping off a package and stopping for gas it was 8 o’clock. As I got on the highway and started to get up to speed, I hear this rattle I haven’t heard before so I stop at 8th Street to see if can figure it out. Nope, nothing seems to be awry. I decide it is the loose quarter panel at the front of the car that the wind on Hatteras (the last trip I took) loosened. I adjust it a bit, so it fits together better. Get back on the road. Nope! Still vibrating. Stop at the Mattawan exit. Look under the hood and under the car itself. Nothing. I decide that I will drive to Chicago anyway. See if it gets worse. I can always get it checked out along the way.
I got to King Spa about 9:00 pm. Time enough to have a good soak and grab a bite to eat before the kitchen closes. I love this place. there is something about soaking in hot water and hot rooms that does so much good for the body. I alternate between the hot and cold pools, soaking in the heat and feeling my body relax into the delicious heat and finish with a sit in the steam sauna before an ice cold shower to cool down a bit.
My body really needed this stop. I spent that last week getting the kitchen addition on my house framed and a temporary roof on it. I had plenty of help from friends and would not have been able to get it done without their support. It was important to get it as far as I did, before the snow flies. Now I will be able to work on it more. once I get back from this trip!
I head to the restaurant and order the chicken stew. It’s not really a stew, but a whole little capon stuffed with rice and cooked in a garlic infused broth. Served with a variety of kimchi and Korean condiments. Exactly what I need. Simple, hot and delicious. I head back to the pools to soak some more and go to the car to check on Leila, who is curled up on the “upper bunk” sleeping until I return. Nap for an hour, another soak before the pools close for the night and then sleep until about 4:30 on one of the loungers made for just such activities.
I get up at 4:30, wishing the pools opened prior to 6 am, so that I could have another soak. I am anxious to get on the road. It is an 11 hour drive to Hot Springs, Arkansas and I am hoping to get there in time to set up camp. Teeth brush and dressed in street clothes again. I take Leila for a quick walk and then get back on the road. But no coffee before getting on the road. Not even a Starbucks on the route as I wind my way out of the city.
It’s not long before I am on the highway. A quick stop at a plaza for that Starbucks I really need now. I decide to treat myself. A latte with 3 long shots AND 3 raw sugar! The city was quiet but the highway is busier than I expected, although it is not long before I am actually out of metro area and in farm country.
The sun begins to rise over, red and warming. The land it covered in fog, layers of it, big and small, thick and thin. It’s a beautiful morning and reminds me so much of Manitoba and the prairie there. Thoughts of the land where I grew up dance in my head, as I make my further and further south. There is nothing quite like a prairie sky, where the land seems to disappear and the heavens open to a universe that is so much greater than this little rock revolving around its star.
The rest of the drive is uneventful and beautiful. It is why I wanted to make this trip. Watching the landscape change as I move from prairie to river valley and back to prairie again. Crossing the Mississippi, entering Missouri and on. I stop regularly; more coffee, 3 tanks of gas, walking the dog, and moving. I am trying to be more intentional about stopping. This is long trip and I can feel that my body will need the time not sitting as much as possible.
The miles pass and it starts to rain. Hmm, time to think about that camp site. I think it might be better to stop in Memphis, as it will still be light for me to set up. I call the local KOA and try to book a site. The lovely gentleman on the phone doesn’t recommend tent camping. Major storms are predicted to roll through and into the night, with plenty of rain, wind, and thunder. He can offer me a cabin for $75. I say I will call him back and try to decide what to do. I choose to use some hotel points and get all the way to Hot Springs, AR. That way I can be there in the morning and get into the hot spring pools sooner rather than later and make my way to Joan’s earlier in the day, since it is only a 5 hour drive.
I book a room at a Home 2 Suites. It looks like it is on a big lake. It will be dark by the time I get there, so I won’t get to appreciate that very much. More driving, rush hour in Little Rock. How is it that when you are on a big trip, you seem to hit a big city right at rush hour? I don’t get to see much as I wind my way into the mountains and Hot Springs. But I imagine it is a beautiful drive in the day light.
I make it to the hotel at 6pm. The hotel is shiny and new, which is always a bonus. Ahh, time to relax. I order some food, pick it up and settle in for the night. I only got about 5 hours of sleep the night before, with the time change and all. A long hot shower, some foam rolling, muscle rub, some bad TV and I am in bed by 9 pm.
Day 1 done!