And along the way, another happy accident!
While we were in Vian, I noticed thru Facebook that friends Rhonda and Randy Dietz were home and in-country. Home being Bella Vista, Arkansas…just a 2 hour drive from Vian. Long before our swing thru Vian we had communicated about swinging by for a visit, but we were under the impression that they were going to be overseas. So, NEXT TIME, we had agreed.
As it turns out, they were LEAVING FOR a European River Cruise, but we could, if carefully coordinated, overlap by a few hours as they were packing. A happy accident of timing…How could we NOT do this?!
We pointed the bus north and met Rhonda and Randy at a restaurant near their home. Brunch and conversation were on the menu, the former was good and the latter was excellent! After brunch, we followed R&R back to their beautiful home on Loch Lomond. Their development is sort of loosely Scottish-named. Streets like Cromarty, Kalaen and Glasgow. Kinda cute in a kitschy way.
R&R thot we could park in their driveway for the night, but I KNEW from the look on Randy’s face (we get that look pretty often), he was from the first moment he saw the bus considering how that might (or might not) work.
After considering their driveway for a bit, we decided we MIGHT be able to make it in…their’s is a “level(ish)” lot (for the area), and there was a flat spot. But we also decided it would be just as easy to park at Walmart after our brief visit. After all, they were leaving in the morning for Europe…
They did not need the possible complexity of a Bluebird stuck in their driveway. Or Living Room.
We had several hours of conversation, aided immensely by Randy’s home brewed beer (though given the names of the lake and the streets, I think Randy should be making Scotch). Randy, unlike many home-brewers who use generic or otherwise-labeled, recycled bottles, has his own label (courtesy of his son). Now THAT is impressive…and impressive hospitality.
We had already agreed that we would come back at a time when we could spend some time…but this sealed the deal for me!
Leaving R&R, we headed to a Walmart for the evening. And NOT JUST ANY WALMART. There is a Walmart in nearby Bentonville, Arkansas that is in fact across the street (Walton Blvd, to be exact) from Walmart’s World Headquarters! How could we NOT stay at the Mothership, suckling, as it were, on the main-teat?
The Walmart Mothership!
And we even toured the Walmart Museum, situated in one of the very first of Sam Walton’s stores — a Five-and-Dime on the square in Bentonville. Followed by ice cream at the 5-and-Dime’s soda fountain.
Walmart’s museum’s presentation of Walton and Walmart was a pretty one-sided one (not much about minimum wage and women-in-the-workplace and benefits for part-time workers and ecommerce struggles), but we know from our travels in the Civil-War-South that history is always told by the winners from their perspective. A VERY interesting museum whose subject matter IS a version of what cannot be disputed as one of the world’s most successful companies.
From Bentonville, we proceeded to Little Rock, Arkansas. This was our original target for a few days, before we added the swing up to the Dietz’s and Bella Vista and Bentonville. And with low expectations (no one we know speaks highly…or at all… about Little Rock), we have learned that this is NOT FAIR. Little Rock Rocks! (At least a little)
First of all, there is an RV Park right downtown, and right on the river. This is SO RARE. Very few cities or towns have RV options anywhere close to downtown. Some don’t even allow parking in private driveways. Even the Walmarts around big cities are often precluded from allowing RV Parking. So, when we can find a place for RV WHERE YET within walking distance of a CBD (ANY CBD, even a little town square), we book IMMEDIATELY. In Little Rock, the park is not only convenient to “stuff” (more in a moment on that), but is also CHEAP. $27/nite for full hookups!
So, what stuff is near the downtown RV Spot (and what is there to do in Little Rock)?
Well, to begin with, and our reason for travelling TO Little Rock in the first place, the Clinton Presidential Library. This is directly across the river from the park, and in fact we parked the bus for the week hard up against an old railroad-trestle-cum-pedestrian bridge that is part of the Presidential Library Complex. One day was forecast to be rainy, so we simply walked across the bridge and visited the library. Could not be more convenient.
And the library proved once again Presidential libraries are rich experiences regardless of politics. As with all the Libraries we have seen, it tries to portray a flawed person (as we all are) in the most favorable light. But there is a lot of information…details we didn’t know and nuances we were not aware of.
For example, MOST FASCINATING: For each year of the Presidency, there was the actual, official DAILY SCHEDULE month-by-month. Down to 15-minute increments, and including travel times between offices, building, meetings, etc.
I wonder if anyone else in the world has (or would tolerate) their life so carefully choreographed for EIGHT YEARS.
Next, our little RV Park Gem is sitting right on the Arkansas River Trail…a network of bicycle trails and parks that follow the Arkansas River for miles (about 50). A Spectacular Resource…level, paved, scenic and just awesome. Our first day was sparkling-sunny, so we rode to the Big Bridge (the largest purpose-built pedestrian and bicycle bridge in the USA, over the Arkansas river) and back…about 18 miles.
BTW, many locals pronounce the river: “R-Kansas” but the state “Arkansaw.” Spelled the same, of course. The “Official” pronunciation is supposed to be like the state, but this is routinely ignored as are most government pronouncements down here.
Wednesday nights there is Jazz on the Riverfront…a free concert very close to the RV Park. Our particular Wednesday the air was wet…too wet for an enjoyable outdoor concert. Sometimes it is enuf to know you COULD enjoy such things.
Next, about ½ mile up the river (on the aforementioned trail) is the Dickey-Stephens Stadium…home of the AA Baseball Arkansas Travelers, who are affiliated with the Seattle Mariners. During our stay, they were playing a series against the Tulsa Drillers. Weather was good, the walk was nice…how could we NOT go to this game???
Liz choose the Drillers and I chose the Travs — I could not resist…their secondary mascot, “Otey,” was an evil, ratty-looking possum (primary mascot was a much more polished horse). There was Fleece Blanket giveaway, and even though we missed the $1 hot dog promotion (the day before), what we found was what one often finds at minor league baseball…GREAT family atmosphere (notwithstanding the College marching Band with VERY suggestive dancers), reasonable prices (even missing the $1 hot dogs we paid only $13 for scout seats – FIRST ROW behind home plate; Beer was $5) and the feeling that the team genuinely appreciates one’s patronage.
There was even a hint at what is wrong with America…at least medically or diabetically speaking…
And speaking of diabetes, the final amenity in Little Rock: a Freddy’s Frozen Custard!!! Fortunately not TOO close to the RV park…unlike Lynn’s, our metabolisms do not support Frozen Custard as often as would be procured if close by and convenient! Better to have to make some effort – even an expedition — to satisfy the craving!
Our next stop, we decided, needs to be Memphis, Tennessee. It is on the way (more or less) to St. Louis, where niece Shayna gradumacates from college May 6. We have identified an RV spot directly across the parking lot from…Graceland. I cannot wait to reprise our pilgrimage to Elvis’ domicile/death site from the early 80’s.