We encountered the first inclement weather since Pennsylvania on Tuesday the 7th. It rained a bit overnight, and the day was calling for more. On and off showers.
Our plan this day was to scoot across a bit of Missouri, make a stop or two at the Ozark National Scenic Waterway and then drop down into Arkansas where we had a stop planned if the weather cooperated.
Wife and I made it up to Van Buren in good time, and after stopping at a small grocery store for lunch provisions, we decided to check out Big Spring. This spring is reputed to be the “biggest spring in the US”. There’s some argument about this, of course, but there is an impressive amount of water that comes out of the ground there. And the color is an exquisite shade of blue, almost turquoise. Here is a short video:
There was a trail that crossed the head of the spring, and despite the light rain, I made the short walk. The path was paved with stone, and was a little bit slippery. There were several caves carved out of the sandstone next to the path.
We had this park to ourselves that morning, but did not stay long once the rains picked up. On the way out we stopped at the NPS Visitor center in Van Buren. If you ever go this way, I recommend that stop. Maps and information are available, and the staff is very friendly and helpful.
Rolling along westbound once again, it wasn’t too long before we turned left and headed south along US 63 into Arkansas. This country was entirely new to me, and the driving was challenging in places, as the speed limit was 55MPH on the 2-lane road, and the road went up and down like a rollercoaster. Blind crest after blind crest at speed. After a while I got the hang of it, but I’ll tell you we stayed as far right as we could through those hill crests. Fortunately, traffic was light.
The second stop planned for the day was a visit to Mammoth Spring State Park, located in of all places, Mammoth Spring, Arkansas. This park is in the center of the town and there is no fee to enter. The spring boils up into a pond, and then travels through a short dam-controlled sluice before emptying into the Spring River. The pond was very low when we visited, intentionally so, as park management was trying to kill off some of the algae. This town is also where reunions were held of civil war veterans, both Union and Confederate years ago.
Wife and I enjoyed our lunch at one of the park tables. Perhaps enjoyed is not quite the correct description. It was cloudy, and the wind added some chill to the air. Maybe saying we endured lunch would be more accurate!
After eating I walked the path around the small pond, and then we loaded up the Jeep to make the final push to Little Rock. We arrived there around 5PM, and checked into our hotel for the evening.
Having never been through Little Rock before, my first impression reminded me of Des Moines, Iowa, both in size and layout. There the resemblance ended, as Little Rock is so much dirtier than Des Moines was when I lived there, and the city does not effectively address its homeless and crime issues. Aggressive panhandlers on every corner- sometimes in the middle of the street- and the already high violent crime is increasing. This is why I try to avoid staying in city centers.
Despite Little Rock having shithole status, we did find a little gem of an Irish pub for dinner. Dugan’s Pub, located not far from the hotel, boasted of authentic Irish meals on the menu, so we had to give it a try. We drove the short distance to the restaurant, and memories of Des Moines returned when we were searching for street parking. The parallel parking skills were still there, however, as I shoehorned the Jeep into a small spot across the street from Dugan’s.
We hit the jackpot that evening, as the pub had a full ceilidh in swing, with nine trad musicians on the raised platform in the corner. Fiddles, guitars, accordions and percussion all were represented, and the traditional Irish music was great.
The food was also great. Wife had a wonderful Shepherds Pie, while I went with the Irish Breakfast (served all day). The food was authentic, and combined with a couple of Smithwick’s made for a good ending to another day on the road.
The next day would be the final drive into Dallas, now only 300 miles away. Episode 6 will chronicle that event; stay tuned!
Thanks for stopping by!