We left our music friends in Adona and headed NW to meet some Camino friends in Bella Vista. There was lots to see and do in Arkansas. Dave is a long time member of the Ottawa Civil War Roundtable and likes to visit U.S. Civil War battle sites. As we made plans for the day we noticed that the Pea Ridge National Military Park was directly en-route. After an extremely hilly, steep and winding drive into the Ozark Mountains, we arrived at the site where the pivotal battle of Pea Ridge was fought in March 1862.
The battle was won by Brig Gen (later Major General) Sam Curtis, Commander of the Union Army of the Southwest. It was lost by Major General Earl Van Dorn, Commander of the Confederate Army of the West. A good part of the action took place in and around the Elkhorn Tavern which is still there. We explored the well preserved site hiking from one end to the other. Dave bought a book and subsequently gave a presentation to our roundtable group back home. If you are curious and have a Powerpoint viewer app, click the link below to download a copy of this presentation.
We continued on to Bentonville and toured the Walmart Welcome Centre. It was here in 1950 that Sam Walton opened Walton’s 5&10. His wife liked small town living and Sam wanted to take advantage of the different hunting seasons that living at the corner of four states had to offer. Well the rest is history and today Walmart – love it or hate it – is among the biggest retailers on the planet.
Finally we made our way to Bella Vista – a lovely residential town just south of the Missouri border. We had met Rev. Richard on the very first day of our 2010 Camino de Santiago back packing pilgrimage in Spain. “Call me Dick”, he said. We kept running into each other and really enjoyed chatting with him. He confided in us that he was a minister in a protestant community church back in the U.S. on sabatical. He loved to hear people’s stories- why they were hiking the Camino, who they were, why, etc. Afterwards we lost touch since we had not exchanged contact info. However, one day back home I googled his name and found him through his church in NW Arkansas. We made contact and he and his wife Carol invited us to drop by while on our Inner Journey pilgrimage.
We arrived at their beautiful lakefront property. They gave us a tour and we had some great conversation over dinner and breakfast. He gave us a copy of the humorous Camino presentation he made to his congregation in Bella Vista. We parted ways promising to keep in touch. Wow, what a great visit we had! Subsequently we did keep in touch, having visited each other many times and hoping to visit them again this Fall in FL where they now live. Thank you Dick and Carol for your hospitality and friendship for the past 11 years!
On our way out of town we stopped and toured the stunning Mildred B. Cooper Memorial Chapel and then drove by their pretty Bella Vista Community Church. Then… it was on to the next adventure in our Trekker.
We were no where near Kentucky or Virginia but we were about to discover some Bluegrass. We headed north out of Louisiana for Arkansas. We noticed how close we were to the Oklahoma border – so we diverted west again just a bit. The first day we drove on a winding road to a state park called Broken Bow. Wow – a huge park on a river and lake with superb facilities, store, restaurant etc. We hiked for an hour or so and enjoyed a nice étouffée dinner followed by a warm crackling campfire. It was to be a cool night and we were up by 7h30 raring to go a little farther into OK the next day.
As we were about to leave we noticed an Ontario plate at the campsite across the road. We had a nice chat with a friendly couple, Charlie and Cathy from Perth, Ontario. They were on their way home hauling their 5th wheel travel trailer from Harlingen, TX which is near the Rio Grande border with MX. Many Canadians spend the winter there in the dozens of RV parks that abound. Well it turns out they like music – specifically Bluegrass and were on their way to an informal festival with friends in Arkansas at which they would be playing. They invited us to join them there the day after next.
We googled things and realized that we were smack in the heart of ‘tornado alley’ in tornado season. Keeping a wary eye to the sky and listening to weather forecasts, we headed farther north in OK. It was a scenic drive through beautiful trees and we stopped for lunch at Windy Stop National Park. Continuing we stopped for the night at Talemena S. P. and found a nice grassy site. We went for a 90 min hike along the historic Ouachita military trail. The shrimp and dirty rice dinner tasted so good that night that we danced for joy.
The next day we headed east for our rendezvous in Adona, AK not too far from Little Rock. We found the Cypress Creek Music Park and checked in for a very unique night. That evening the fiddles, guitars, mandolins, base and banjo came out and we enjoyed an impromptu concert. Charlie and Cathy were great hosts and made us feel welcome. They were also very visible Christians. We enjoyed their presence. We promised to meet up in Canada again someday – and we did by chance at the Bluegrass Music Festival in Renfrew, ON a couple of years later.
So a chance encounter in tornado alley lead to some really good Bluegrass times. Check out Bill Monroe:
Heading east out of Texas we spent one lovely last night at Lake Tawakoni S. P. It was then on to our favorite State – Louisiana. We have been partial to LA ever since we visited New Orleans in 2005 just before Katrina. We love the food, the music, the gaiety and the people who are either really really happy or really really down and out. There is no middle ground in LA.
It was an easy 3 hour drive to Shreveport, a city of 200,000. The third largest city of LA, it has a history of oil and gas development and production. Today it is the educational, cultural and commercial centre of the Ark – LA – TX tri-state area. It is on the navigable Red River where it meets the historic Texas Trail. The Mississippi River is still another 3 hours east at Vicksburg.
We drove straight through town to camp at Lake Bistineau S. P. And what an experience it was. About 200 years ago a huge log jam on the Red River flooded the land here. Later a dam was built that created the 27 sq. mi. permanent reservoir. the S.P. is dotted with cypress and tupelo trees whose bases are under water. Annual flooding can be a problem for the alligators who thrive here! We had a good chat with the park attendant who was most friendly as southeners are. She told us all about the area. It was early in the season an we basically had the park to ourselves. Take a look.
The next day we drove into Shreveport looking for some crawfish. Crawfish have a distinctive flavour – you either love them or you don’t. We looked around town a bit a found what we were looking for at the local casino.
After a great feast we spent another night at Lake Bistineau before nipping off into the SE corner of Oklahoma. Fond memories of our visit to the Shreveport area persist.
So there we were in West Texas. Every second vehicle was a white pickup truck – all oil well service vehicles. It felt good to be on the road fitting in between them. We left Monohome SP – the one with the sand dunes – and made our way to Odessa. We stopped for some tomales at a roadside Mexican stand and also picked up some dinner to go.
We drove to Abilene. It is a very pretty little town with trees which we had not seen for a few days. Checked into Abilene S. P. and enjoyed the sights, our Mexican dinner and a very peaceful evening as you can see.
After a great 9 hour sleep, we stopped at a Walmart in Abilene and then drove to Cedar Hill S.P. just south of Dallas. It is a huge park with a lake and beach. That evening there was a huge electrical storm. Sheet lighting lit up the sky for an hour. It was magical camping at its best.
The next day we zoomed past Dallas and made our way to Southfork Ranch. If you are of our age you will surely remember the soap opera show called Dallas that was filmed there. It ran from 1978 to 1991 and featured the greedy scheming oil tycoon character of J. R. Ewing played by that fabulous actor Larry Hagman (I Dream of Jeannie). Who Shot J.R. was the cliffhanging last episode of the 1979-80 season. J. R. hears a noise outside his office, steps into the hallway and is shot twice. All during the summer of 1980 we asked our friends, neighbours and family – who do you think shot J.R? Everyone had their theory. That episode remains the second highest rated prime-time telecast ever!
It was a fabulous tour and well worth the stop. It turns out that most of the episodes were actually filmed in a studio in Hollywood, CA and they only shot certain scenes at the ranch. That was OK with us as we wondered through the mansion – and what a mansion it was.