The Road Trip begins!
There was more than the usual hassle at the car rental place because there was a “do not rent” warning attached to my driver’s license number. Apparently someone with an identical number from a different state had wrecked a car in the past and the computer flagged me. It only took about an hour to get a car rented. I always enjoy little tests of patience, and now have even more empathy for those on the “no-fly” lists.
After a late start, the drive to Shreveport was slow, both by traffic in Baton Rouge as expected, re-routing due to construction, and rain. It was a grey day, and required concentration on the road. I stopped at a promising roadside stand outside Alexandria-Billy’s Boudin and Cracklins-to find they were sold out for the day. I pressed on, and had a nice dinner with the Shreveport Fergusons.
The next day was a long one, Shreveport to Hot Springs, Arkansas to Eureka Springs. The first leg was highway driving, and I ended up at McClard’s BBQ for lunch. It is famous for being famous, with photos of presidents at the lunch counter and awards on the wall. It was packed with locals, and loud. it smelled great, with the hardwood smoker fired up in back. I had a shredded pork sandwich, dressed, and slaw. The pork was mild and very lightly smoked, and the sauce was excellent, tomato based and spicy.
The drive from Hot Springs to Eureka Springs was excellent. It was on two scenic routes through the Ouachita National Forest with very little traffic. There were a couple of spots with a huge warning sign saying steep and curvy for miles. I was jonesing for my little red car, but I drove the rental car hard. It was a blast. I caught the tail end of the fall colors. The leaves were on the trees, but past their peak. It is still quite a show for somebody used to the spruce/hemlock forests of Southeast Alaska.
I arrived in Eureka Springs after dark. It is a pretty town from the turn of the century resort era, and I stayed in the Basin Park Hotel, one of the originals from 1880. There were very few people in the hotel, and had a Jack Nicholson at the Overlook vibe, right down to the empty ballrooms and bars. Eureka Springs is just a couple of streets built into the side of a mountain, packed with tourist shops and attractions. Just about everything was closed because it is mid-week in the winter, but I wasn’t really looking for hillbilly pajamas anyway. It has about twice as many shops as Ketchikan, and they seem to be a little higher quality and apparently locally owned. It is what Creek Street could be.
I walked the town and found the only open tavern, a coffee shop/tap room. They had good local beer on tap, and were hosting a Memorial for Transgender Victims with live music, an accordion and guitar duo. There was an interesting phot exhibit of portraits of cisgendered men with women’s earrings. The small group in attendance was probably the most interesting in this part of Arkansas, and the whole scene was a welcome psychic antidote to the last 12 hours of driving through Trumplandia.
On to Columbia via the backroads today!