We went to Van Buren and Fort Smith. It is only 45 minutes from here, but over very hilly terrain, bridges hundreds of feet in the air and the only tunnel in the state. It is quite an adventure just getting there, and we don't do it often. When we do, we pack a bag and stay a few days.
The day we left it was DH's birthday, and apparently, it was very hard on him as after the loooong 45 minute drive, he could barely a) get out of the car or b) maneuver the three steps up to the train depot. Getting old is hard! He'll always be older than me so I can pick on him about it.
This is one of the buildings in Historic Van Buren. It was a restaurant long ago and my Mom and I had lunch there when I was pregnant with The Bean. Now, it seems to be a church of some sort. I adore this building. Don't you?
We shopped a bit, walked along the railroad tracks (we found a rusty spike - that was our souvenir) bought some homemade fudge, The Bean did a little jail time, and then we headed on to Fort Smith.
( There is so much history everywhere, that we laughed when we spotted this marker on a building.)
I had booked our hotel on Hotwire.com. That was the first time I had used Hotwire. You tell them what you want and what you want to pay, they find it for you, you pay and THEN you find out what hotel you booked. Kind of scary in a new town or a big city. But we knew the town well and where this hotel was (once we found out which hotel it was) and thought it would be okay. Okay was an understatement! The rooms range from $150.00-$200.00 a night and I got our for $50.00 a night plus taxes.
Here's our room. Pretty, right? It had just been remodeled and everything was brand new. We had eight pillows for two beds! I slept better there than I have in a long time. And, I normally do not sleep well in hotels.
We stayed on the fourth floor, but we made a hundred trips to the ninth floor. The Bean + Glass Elevator = Up and Down and Up and Down....
Our first night in town, we got lost trying to find a short cut back to the hotel (there are no short cuts when you have to cross a RIVER, but DH insisted there was. Anyway, we spotted this sign in a neighborhood. I suppose it means CHILDREN AT PLAY, but I'd never seen one like this before and it absolutely cracked me up. DH is getting used to me screaming, S"TOP! Get the camera!" at the oddities I spot.
Day Two began at the Trolley Museum. You can take a ride on a real working trolley for $2.00. Somehow, I'm not sure how, but the three of us ended up going on the tour with a busload of Senior Citizens from Missouri. They just loved it that us "kids" were with them on their tour. One lady was sitting in front of me, and I kid you not, her head was just barely visible over the back of the seat and she turned to me and said, "Can you see over me?" Uh, yea. When it was her turn to get off the Trolley, the rest of the Seniors actually picked her up and set her on the ground! They waved at us and wished us well as we left like they were waving good-bye to the grandkids.
Across the street from the Trolley was an outdoor Amusement park with an outdoor video arcade. There's a diner in an old railroad car, a snow cone/popcorn stand inside an old Double Decker bus and an old wooden Ferris Wheel.
Thankfully (for me anyway) it was spitting rain so the Ferris Wheel wasn't open. I don't do rides.
In fact nothing was open that day due to the weather, but that's okay, we prefer to prowl and window peek without an audience. If you enlarge this photo, you will see all sorts of mannequins wearing 1950's clothing in the bus - the driver, Mom's and Kids. It was pretty comical.
Then it was on to Miss Laura's. I try to take The Bean to as many educational and historical places that I can find in our area. And, well, Miss Laura's is educational and historical, but, well, it's a Brothel. I finally told him that is where men went for "companionship". That's about as far as I was willing to go with it. It is all set up with period furniture, clothes and architecture. Lots of pretty things, as them hookers liked purty things. We learned that the doctors used to come to the Brothel once a month and give the girls check ups. If they didn't pass, they were not only asked to leave the Brothel, but the Sheriff escorted them out of town and they were told not to return. Good news for me though! I was given a "Clean Bill of Health" upon leaving. The tour guide leaned in, gave me a wink and told me I was "good to go, if you know what I mean". Now, I thought it was funny, but I can see that not setting well with some ladies. Or their husbands!
Next was a bus tour of the Historic Belle Grove . Tons of very old and very historic homes. Famous Civil War Commanders and the local Hangin' Judge all lived in these houses.
Beautiful homes that made me ache for a humongous house with a big porch. Sigh. Most of these homes are restaurants, lawyer's offices, insurance agency's and even a TV Station and not private residences anymore. I imagine the costs of keeping up an old house would be crazy high for a family, but I bet there are tax incentives for a business. Sort of sad, I think.
There have been a lot of storms in our area and Fort Smith was hit badly. Practically every window that faced the direction of the storm was broken. This building looks abandoned, but was actually full of workers (they park out back). Many of the historic homes lost their windows and they are having difficulty locating thin enough glass to fit in their existing windows. If they have to change the windows, then they are not truly historically preserved and can lose their accreditation. So, the city is trying to find a loophole in the Historic Books to let them get windows.
Day three: We check out of the hotel and try to take a walk along the Riverfront, but it starts to drizzle. Instead, we drove over the river to Oklahoma so we were officially in a different State for about twenty minutes! We got gas at the Indian Reservation Casino ($3.64 - a bargain). Somehow I took a wrong turn into the gas station and ended up in the Big Rig lot. I almost got us squashed by five different tractor trailers who could have absolutely cared less if they flattened us or not. I felt so teeny in there with those trucks! We headed back to Fort Smith where I managed to find two thrift stores that were icky dirty yucko and left them both empty handed.
Next we headed to Fort Chaffee. Fort Chaffee was home to Cuban Refugees, the location where Elvis had his official Army haircut and lots of other military and government maneuvers still happen during maneuvers during Summer Camp for the National Guard. This winter there was a fire in one of the old wooden buildings and it took out nearly 150 buildings. These pictures were taken as I was zipping (and driving) down the road at 65 miles an hour. Nothing but chimneys as far as you can see in every direction.
They did manage to save a few buildings for Historical purposes including the aforementioned Elvis haircut building. It is sad that it is all gone. It was so interesting to see all those buildings standing like soldiers all in a row.
Okay, are you still with me? After we left Fort Chaffee,we decided to "backroad" it a bit and see where we ended up. We passed by a sign that lead to a Lock & Dam, So by dam, we went. ha.
No boats or freighters came through, so we didn't get to see the Lock in action. We thought and pondered on how we could get out of the Park and find that bridge so we could drive over it. Luckily, when we left, we did drive over it without any searching at all.
One of the roads we drove on twisted and turned and some took you back to where you began because they circled over themselves. One sign warned, " 22 people killed on this curve. Don't YOU be next!" Yikes.
We stopped at "Artist Point" which is an area where you can see seven mountain ranges away. It was still sort of overcast, so I'm not sure if you can make them all out or not. It is such a beautiful place up there. Quiet, peaceful. Wonderful.
At the Gift Shop on Artist Point, we met Oscar. When we drove up, he crowed to alert the shop owner that we were there. He walked over to greet us and usher us to the Lookout Tower. He followed us to the Gift Shop and back to our car when we left. He was totally cool.
Oscar was definitely the highlight of The Bean's trip. "I've never pet a chicken before," he said. Me neither kid. Me neither.