12.06.2018 -50 °C
June 10, 2018
It is interesting to me how those days that are supposed to be shorter on the road and easy, as Denis often refers to them, often end up not quite so.
We left Little Rock yesterday morning for one of those days – or so we thought. That is why we didn't rush and I spent a bit more time working on some volunteer commitments since wifi was so good. Still, we did get out on the road just before 9:30 and crossed the river. Our intent was to see the Capitol building and then drive some 120 miles to Crater of Diamonds State Park. Not a long driving day at all. Those were the plans BUT ....
First off, we had presumed we would find a sign indicating the State Capitol BUT that did not happen (or we somehow missed it) and no prominent building was easily seen that appeared to be the capitol. We had not looked at a map so hadn't a clue. We decided it wasn't meant to be. We would carry on.
Letting Randy (our GPS) guide us the fastest route in our motorhome without certain aspects of the roads, like toll highways, we saw as we got down the road that we were coming very close to Hot Springs (the town and National Park). With only a short driving day, the detour to do so seemed a good plan. A quaint town, “the boyhood home of Bill Clinton”, quite busy with tourists, I likened it our Banff or Gatlinburg (but a little less touristy than Gatlinburg). Many of the buildings displayed such history, but narrow roads left parking Harvey not so easy -- a drive-through worked just fine. We had spied a tower high above the trees on a mountain as we drove in and then found a one way loop to the observation tower. Many sharp turns, some with banks, and we got to the top and found the tower. The admission seemed fair and we took the elevator up to the top. What a view!! And, what history of the town and park. Denis chose to walk the 18 storeys (16 steps per storey) down while I lingered with the history then took the elevator back down.
Hot Springs was another playground/place of healing of the rich and famous, if you will, with history that included theraputic treatments, visits from such notorious people as Al Capone, nightclubs/casinos – here for the healing aspects of the water and the remoteness of the place, with segregation necessitating bath houses for only African Americans until that fight was over. I found the history and grand architecture of many of the buildings so interesting.
Back on the road to Crater of Diamonds we arrived at the State Park just around 2pm. The day was not as warm as some have been but the humidity was still very high and the temperature was still in the 80s. Checking in at the Mine/Visitor's Center we learned the campground there was full. We decided to check out the mining (that's why this place rated being on my “list” -- from reading that one can mine for diamonds). We might have been a tad under-prepared but we were not the only ones and the State Park is prepared for those who are under-prepared – they rent equipment. We had our own – Harvey's shovel, our beach pail and shovel (from our gem hunt in Cherokee earlier on this trip). These were supplemented by a small gardening shovel that a stranger gave me, when he asked if that was all I had to seek my diamonds. Nice of him, right. He didn't look so impressed with the whole mining thing. In hindsight, Denis didn't look much different than him after about an hour. Well, I don't think it was even an hour for him, but we did stay about an hour. Fortunately, the sun was not in full force but, still, it was hot and humid. Denis grew less impressed with the first shovel-full he dug but I sat down to experience the place. We knew, from research, that the diamonds would be the size of a kitchen match head. Hence, the usefulness of a screen to sift (we did not have that in our limited equipment nor did we choose to rent one). We managed maybe five or six holes (well, I did, anyway – after about two Denis wandered and chatted and provided assistance to getting me off the ground). I did bring out a few rocks (I LOVE rocks, no matter if they are anything special) and did actually check one with the crew there to identify your rocks as it felt waxy and non-typical of most we were finding – a jasper, the gal nonchalantly told me. I was pleased with my find just that same.
We left, glad we had experienced it, but me feeling I much prefer the search for agates and other finds on the beaches of Oregon.
Letting Randy guide us once again we set our destination as Branson, Missouri. The drive was often very much uninhabited and then you would come upon a few farms or homes and the occasional small community. Some, like Norman (population 378) and Plainview appealed with their preservation of their history that shone through. By the time we approached Dardanelle and then Russellville Denis was longing for more civilization.
RV parks once we left the State Park area were pretty much non-existent but Arkansas being “the natural state” there are a number of forestry campgrounds or corp of engineer parks/recreation areas but the guide was not the easiest to follow so instead we took to watching for brown signs. This technique did not work so well and the day was marching on. Such sites would also have limited amenities which meant there appeal to Denis (I'm sure) was not much higher than a Walmart parking lot which I was beginning to think might be our fate. Instead, we were rewarded in the end by an almost waterfront site in a lovely state park – Lake Dardanelle in Russellville, Arkansas. We arrived just after 6pm so the Visitor's Center was closed but they had a good late check-in process and lots of availability and the price was reasonable – with water and electric $24.42 taxes in (this changed to $18.32 when we paid because we are seniors)
Our setting up routine has changed some on this southern route, the A/C goes on as soon as we have power and we lock up Harvey for a couple hours at least with it running before opening windows and vents. Last night the A/C did not go off until I headed to bed and all night we have a small fan running. Denis' purchase earlier on this trip – his lifesaver, he calls it. It is hot and humid as I have mentioned time and again. The final temp I saw yesterday was 92.
So there you have it, our shorter/easier day behind us and today should be pretty much the same (dare I say that?!) as our destination remains Branson, Missouri – the last new state for us this trip. With under 200 miles to drive today, it certainly should be a relatively short day and perhaps more.