Community Highlights North America Arkansas

We were sad to leave Kentucky but it's time to point west towards home. We figured we would put in a solid day of driving and took the backroads. We have come to hate the poorly maintained, driver crazed interstates. So we wandered through the back roads, being a Sunday everyone and their dog were at church. So the roads were very quiet and we drove through some obvious towns that were struggling and some historic towns that were thriving but all were tucked prettily in the rolling green countryside. After a long day of driving we landed in a sweet little spot for the night. Harvest host comes through. We stayed at a moonshine distillery (Samuel T Bryant Moonshine Distillery) Being a Sunday of course we taste tested and bought our own little bottle of Tennessee moonshine. (I particularly liked the vanilla cream moonshine, so tasty but could be deadly😁)Screenshot_20240308-204350_Google.jpgScreenshot_20240308-204430_Google.jpg After a great night's sleep at the distillery (moonshine definitely helps you sleep) we headed into Arkansas for much needed showers, septic dump and water refill. We looked and felt like full time van lifers living off grid. We found a beautiful empty campground right in Little Rock, (Maumelle Camping) We were only going to pay for day use but when we saw what a beautiful little spot it was, right on the river with no close neighbour's, we coughed up the 30$ american and spent the night.20240304_130722.jpg20240305_064422.jpg Downtown Little Rock itself was meh... nothing bad, nothing notable. They had a river walk, which I think on a Friday or Saturday night might be hopping but during the day it was pretty empty. They did have some beautifully restored homes but by now we could only think of the use of slavery to have built them (😔) We searched out a few antique stores but nothing jumped out at us in any of them. After a very peaceful night we left the next morning. 20240305_135321.jpg20240305_135945.jpg20240305_135440.jpg20240305_135959.jpgWe were heading for the Ozarks. We read that there was a cute little spa town named Eureka Springs and that the Bentonville area was a mecca for mountain biking. Not too far from the town of Ozark just off the I-40 we saw an antique mall and quickly pulled in. Finally a decent affordable store! I couldn't control myself. I have to now confess at this point in our wanders I am having to move several things off our bed each night to sleep, the oven is jammed with stuff and every nook and cranny has something stuffed in it. We continued on into the small town of Ozark and started climbing. From this point on, at least in the south eastern St. Francis Ozark area; everything you imagine the Ozarks would look like is true. Rough little shacks tucked into the bush with discarded household items and garbage surrounding them. Rusted wheeless cars. Big, hand made smokers on the porches with dilapidated chairs beside them. You knew the people living here were gettin their gun and killin something for food; (maybe a possum or a coon?) Even the people looked rough, dare I say hillbillyish????? Shack after shack like this as we wound are way through the hills until we reached the top and got to a town called Huntsville. Suddenly the socio-economics of the population changed dramatically. We couldn't figure why this line was so defined. Now the bushes were cleared and farms with tidy farmhouses dotted the landscape. It wasn't like we saw a disparity in the infrastructure, the landscape was still the same, there was not a difference in racial background; we wondered why such a dramatic difference in living situations??? And then just as dramatically as we entered Eureka Springs you knew you were in an artsy town. This cute little arts town tumbled down the mountainside just like Jerome Arizona, but on a larger scale. Eureka Springs is obviously a weekend destination spot known for its natural springs that are purported to have health benefits. Because of these waters, resorts and retreats are tucked in and around the hills of the town. So we liked the artsy funkiness of the town and the colorful decorative buildings, but we struggle with the absolute tourism of it all. Yes you can call us jaded. It takes a lot for us to get excited after 90 countries. We had planned to spend the afternoon and night but after walking the main streets and scoping out the possible iOverlander boondocking spots we felt uncomfortable squeezing Gary in for the night. We also felt we"d seen this all before.🫨 20240306_145720.jpg20240306_150953.jpg20240306_152001.jpg20240306_150809.jpgf73ac520-ddbf-11ee-97ca-75da7e0db1ab.jpgSo we carried onto Bentonville, about an hours twisty turns drive away. Now Bentonville excited us! The moment we pulled in, we fell in love with this town. It was full of life groups of people on their bikes right downtown stopping to chat with the patrons of the sidewalk cafes. Young, old all intermingling on their bikes. Now if you are a mountain biker or a wanna be like me this is a mountain biking mecca. We have never seen anything g like it. Mountain biking trails of all skill levels weave their way through the city all thanks to Sam Walton and his family. The Walton family owners of Walmart, billionaires, happen to donate millions of $$$$ every year. Enough so that there is a full time crew of 12 plus all the equipment and machines needed and a support for a steady stream of volunteers. This town is unabashedly about biking and hiking and it is fantastic!!! We spent the first afternoon evening walking the downtown core taking it all in. Center square with mountain biking/ hiking trails leaving from it. Funky boutiques and ethnic restaurants and several bike shops all apparently thriving. It seemed like paradise to us after what we have seen. Of course we headed to check out the craft brew scene, so we started with the obvious, Bentonville Brewery. A large and packed brewery with outdoor seating, firepits and a small bike path for the kids on their strikers. Six food trucks lined up along side the full parking lot of cars with whatever mountain bikes on the back and a fitness center right across the otherside. Brilliant planning....20240306_181813.jpgWe were hungry after imbibing and had promised ourselves we were going to try Whataburger; Texas' answer to In and Out Burgers and we must say what a burger! Very delightful and huge🍔💖🍔. We boondocked in the free municipal parking lot with one other van for the night. The next morning we were up early and even though it was raining😌 we hit the trails right outside Gary. So well maintained with such great variety making it so much fun even in the rain (If we lived here we would ride everyday; they are that good)61653e10-ddb8-11ee-8387-d19394b9f3ac.jpg20240307_100829.jpg20240307_100558.jpg20240307_091843.jpg20240308_084824.jpg20240307_091013.jpg Soaked through and through with shit eating grins on our faces we went to one of the packed local coffee shops for something hot. Again everyone was friendly and we had a great conversation with a guy who had more to Bentonville from Alaska partly because of the mountain biking. That afternoon after drying off we went to Crystal Bridges the local art museum; really only because it was raining, so options were limited and because numerous people kept on mentioning that it was a must to see. Our expectations were low. We have been to most of the biggies museums in the world but we would both say this art museum was one of the most enjoyable we have ever been to. Right up there at least for us with the Louvre, The Met, the Guggenheims and The one in London (name escapes me🙄)Crystal Bridges is both architecturally beautiful and well curated. So even non art aficionados like us could really understand the different types of art over the decades. It was curated with American Folk art so there were Georgia O'Keefe20240307_135239.jpg, Norman Rockwell20240307_135320.jpg and Riviera Diegos20240307_135038.jpg and many more; along with an interesting walk through exhibit called an infinity mirror in which the artist had a phobia about polka dots ( goes to Dale's theory that most artists have a twisted mind)20240307_140926.jpg20240307_141059.jpg20240307_141030.jpg5817d0d0-ddbc-11ee-8b5a-6f5cd18edc3b.jpg Also on site was an original Frank Lloyd Wright house that you could tour through20240307_125741.jpg20240307_130355.jpg20240307_090357.jpg and if it wasn't raining we could wander the sculpturely landscaped gardens for many other outdoor art installations. So impressive! The afternoon passed quickly and when we came out 3 hours later we had just a couple of hours to check out an antique mall and (I hate to admit it🤭) Dave and Jenny Marrs from Fixer to Fabulous Mercantile Store. 066b0b20-ddbd-11ee-8b5a-6f5cd18edc3b.jpgWe finished the day with you will probably guess...a craft brewery this one called The Bike Rack. And just for the record I bought the flight glass..613ad2b0-ddb8-11ee-aa54-b38dc000c134.jpg. We then felt obliged to go to The Walmart Museum just because we had too much fun on the trails they had funded. A little heavy on the propaganda we felt but we did our best to be appreciative. cffc9090-ddbc-11ee-8b5a-6f5cd18edc3b.jpg The next morning we planned to mountain bike again, this time at Coler Preserve to the south end of town. What could possibly out do what we had experienced riding the morning before??? Well this area did. Starting with the covered area to fix your bike or chat to other bikers. Even the tool posts had air in them! There was atleeast 200 miles of varying degrees of difficulty in trails all meeting in the center of a valley by a rushing creek and a upscale coffee shop like a Starbucks. It had washrooms table and chairs both covered and out in the landscape and porch swings to sit and watch bikers go buy. 20240308_084221.jpg20240308_083522.jpg20240307_091943.jpg20240308_093454.jpg20240308_093620.jpg20240308_094048.jpg20240308_094611.jpg8aa45640-ddbc-11ee-8b5a-6f5cd18edc3b.jpg20240308_093918.jpg8a565d50-ddbc-11ee-8b5a-6f5cd18edc3b.jpg 20240307_093427.jpg20240307_091438.jpg20240307_093121.jpgReally impressive blew us away. Not a huge supporter of Walmart but the Waltons outdid themselves in Bentonville not only in the amenities they have funded but also that everything in the infrastructure is free. The bike and hiking trails and their numerous features, the world class Crystal Museum, parking and several fitness centers. Just Wow! We were very reluctant to leave and push west that afternoon but Oklahoma here we come.

This featured blog entry was written by dswanderers from the blog A Wander Down South.
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By dswanderers

Posted Sat, Mar 09, 2024 | Comments