Cindy's May 2007 Blog
May 1st 2007 I Want to Check You for Tick's
We arrived in Heber Springs today with the hopes of finding a river to kayak. We asked many questions of the locals and even went to the Heber Springs Visitor Center and could not find anyone to spot our vehicle or tell us anything about the area rivers. We did enjoy the Visitor center, which had been built in the 1930's by the Civilian Conservation Corps as it had quite a bit of local historical information displayed. The evening was spent by a roaring fire, picking ticks off of each other.
I have now decided that I enjoy this ritual of combing through the hair on Pat's body since he doesn't have any on his head, and having him pick through mine like we're a couple of baboons looking for desert.
It kind of reminds me of when I was a little girl and a break out of Head Lice would threaten the school. Everyone would have to go to the nurses station and get the two pencil, head check which always put me to sleep. I keep joking with Pat that we're going to have to get a package of pencils to check each other over with.
I had Pat take a picture of us doing this to show you how happy it makes me!!
May 2nd 2007 Rain, Rain Go Away!!
Another day of sporadic rain kept us inside again today. We will be heading out tomorrow to find some dryer weather and more sights to see.
May 3rd 2007 Blanchard Springs Caverns & Mirror Lake
We drove north this morning in the rain with hopes that we could reach maybe a dry spot to camp. We passed a sign that said Blanchard Springs Caverns and decided that would be a good rainy day time passer, little did we know how much beauty we would explore.
Pat went inside to check out the camera situation while I gave the dogs a walk and got dressed into some warmer clothes. On the brochure that we had picked up, it let you know to wear appropriate clothing since it is always a brisk 58 degrees in the cave no matter what the outside weather is.
We were headed off on our one hour guided tour with a group of 20 or so other people. We were first and foremost told not to touch any of the formations for the oil from our skin would kill it. The formations are thought to be some where in the vicinity of 40 to 50 million years old, although this area of the cave was not discovered until 1963.
The formations are formed by the dripping ground water from above depositing minerals in to the ground such as Calcite, Iron Oxide and Magnate. The tour guide explained the names for the different formations such as Wall Bacon, Draperies, Cave Coral and of course Stalactites and Stalagmites. Any question we had, the tour guide was very eager to answer and boy do they know their stuff.
The acoustics in the rooms were so great! Pat had commented how music would travel eloquently if aloud to be played. Toni, one of our tour guides informed us that once a year during Christmas time, local musicians performed a caroling show for everyone to enjoy. She went on to say that this is now one of their busiest times of the year and they sell out every show they offer.
Thanks Toni for letting Pat bring in his camera equipment and we'll come back again when the middle section is open. Make sure to check out the Blanchard Springs Gallery
At the end of our trip, we were informed that the Blanchard Springs outlet was close by and offered a waterfall to photograph and also a Lake which is a pristine color of blue called, Mirror Lake. After our hike to see the Falls we headed out to the Lake and saw some heritage from the old Blanchard Springs.
A mill had been built right along the flowing river in the mid 1800's. When the CCC came to this area they attempted to rebuild the mill just the way it was back then only using the local rock and stone to make it a permanent structure to enjoy. The mill was 80 percent completed when the CCC program was dismantled, what is left today is still magnificent to gawk at.
While Pat crawled down the hill side to take photos of the mill, I went on to check out Mirror Lake. The blue-green color of this lake is caused from the different minerals in the water creating a magnificent glowing, clear, almost turquoise color like I have never seen before.
I stood, mesmerized by the amount of fish I could see in this lake. I witnessed one gentleman next to me catch a fish with every cast of his line. This made me RUN back to the camper and break out our fishing poles. I yelled at Pat to meet me at the lake when he was done shooting and I would have his pole for him.
When I got back to Mirror Lake, I was gung ho about the amount of fish I would be able to catch and release before Pat could get started, then it would be so hard for him to catch up, our competition would be over. I had barely gotten my line thrown out when he came walking up, probably thinking the same thing I was. The angler next to me gave me a fishing lure and showed me how to tie it on to the line. I asked him if he would take the fish off for me when I caught it to which he replied, "I will show you how to, but it ain't catching a fish unless you do it all by yourself."
Within the next few minutes I had my first little swimmer tugging at my bait and trying to play tug of war with me until he won. As I reeled him in I felt bad for taking him away from his swimming fun and making him try and breath oxygen though his gills.
I then had a sudden burst of panic, knowing that I would have to touch it. Pat had his camera out and he kept saying "Hold it up, hold it up!" I immediately removed the hook with the anglers help and sent my first Rainbow Trout right back where I got him from without ever even touching his scales!
After all that excitement, I was completely content with just one for today and I gave my rod to Pat so that he could feel the same rush that I did. After talking with one of the locals who informed me that the water had just been stocked with thousands of fish and he had once caught one with a cigarette butt after he had told a friend who easy it was. Oh well, I didn't care, I had my first trout notched on the fishing pole and that's all that mattered.
May 4th 2007 Kayaking The White River
This morning was an early breakfast and out the door we went to Kayak the White River in Calico Rock. This river was extremely wide and fast flowing to the degree that I never even had to paddle. I fished for close to 2 hours and never even got a bite while Pat on the other hand had already caught 5!?!
This was the straw that broke the camels back and ruined me for any type of competitive win with our 'Keeper of the Fish' Competition. I don't think Pat knows about this competition, but I guess I'll have to let him win this one while I think up something else to compete with him for. When Pat yelled "Fish On" for the 5th time, I put my pole on the side of my boat and just enjoyed the immense rock formations lining the sides of the banks and the many types of birds that I could find on this river. I saw everything from Cave Swallows, Humming birds, huge Woodpeckers and also got to see a large Bald Eagles nest with two babies in it.
It was cool the way some spots would have cow pastures that came right up to the edge of the river and the cows would wade into the water to cool off. They would look at us curiously as we floated past them wondering what the heck we were doing? The river is so clear that I could watch the fish swimming under my boat and I think they were growing fingers so they could laugh and flip me off as I floated on by. We had a quick lunch in our boats so we didn't miss anything on the river banks and finished up this four hour trip in just six short hours. We came home and had some dinner and a bonfire and turned in exhausted and happy.
May 5th 2007
This morning is a warm sunny day and a perfect day for a motorcycle ride. I asked Pat to take me into town to a local realtor so I could get an idea on the price of land here on the water. I think this would be an exquisite place to retire for us since it offers everything we enjoy here. The rivers are in abundance to kayak and fish, they have mountain biking trails which we are both to out of shape right now to ride, but we do enjoy. The mountains are incredible and there aren't alot of people here. Every thing we have been looking for.
After our trip to see some mountain side property that overlooked one of the many local rivers, we put that info into the hat for our final destination stop. We stopped in town, which is so small it doesn't even have one traffic signal! We had some lunch at a little diner before riding back to the Sylamore Creek Campground to sit by the river and try my luck at some more fishing.
May 6th 2007
This morning we are headed obviously in the wrong direction to get to the Buffalo River. We took HWY-5 North for some reason and before I even thought about looking at a map, we were almost in Missouri, completely the wrong direction to do any kayaking. If we would have driven 20 minutes in the other direction we would be in our destination area by now. I am not pointing fingers or naming any names but someone, not me, went the wrong direction. Pat turned around and we got a second look at the twisty turning roads which we had just come down.
We ended up in Buffalo City, which is a town where the White River and Buffalo River meet before ending their journey south where they dump into the Mississippi River.
Buffalo City is best described as an area at the end of a dead end road with a community of about 40 people living in it. Apparently we learned from the owners of the White Buffalo Resort that Buffalo City used to be a booming metropolis of 300 people back in the late 1800's.
Steam boats and then trains used to pass through here to fill up with supplies before their long journey. It was also part of the Trail of Tears which is evident with all the arrow heads and artifacts that are found on the property. Now it is an extremely small, quaint area which has spectacular views and lots of great fishing. Pat and I are here from the recommendations of a gentleman we met at another campground and we are glad we took his advice.
We have found a spot right along the banks where we can watch the fish in the crystal clear waters of the White River and listen to the birds soar above our heads looking for their next meal. We didn't waste any time and jumped right in to the fishing game, hoping to catch the next big one. At the end of the row of camp sites is where the White and the Buffalo River meet. We chose this area to fish until we were ready to call it a day. No luck in catching anything but we enjoyed the scenery.
May 7th 2007
It looks over cast and rainy this morning so we decided to do a little fishing here at the campsite, than go into town to do some laundry, make some phone calls, and catch up on the web site. We are pretty far out here and are unable to pick up a signal for the phone or the computer.
I headed down to the river before our day of chores began and left Pat lagging behind me. My last words to Pat while I walked out were "OK, but if you don't come down here to fish with me, you will just have to believe me that I caught a bunch and threw them back."
Within minutes Pat was walking up to the river banks with pole in hand.
Pat took the smooth part of the water, just before the little waterfall to fish in and I walked out into the little rapids where the two rivers meet. Within 10 minutes I had caught the one and only fish for the day. I caught a brown trout which was close to 2 maybe 2 1/2 pounds and man did it give me a fight. I kept reeling him in and he would flip and toss and struggle to get loose and I would give him some slack.
This battle with my brown trout went on for a good 15 minutes and each passing moment I expected him to just break my line in two and I would loose him. Pat came running over to me and said "Wow Cindy, you are the best angler I have ever seen!"
He went on for quite some time about how he wished he could fish like me and I really had the jump on him for the biggest fish. Then I snapped out of it and realized the brown trout was only 2 maybe 2 1/2 inches not pounds, and Pat was actually saying how cute the small little fish was, not how big it was.
We turned in the fishing poles for the laundry basket and went to accomplish the things we have been putting off for a while. I guess if I only have to do these things once a week I should not complain.
May 8th 2007
We decided that today we are going to float the White River again instead of the Buffalo. I think we will do the Buffalo closer to Jasper where it seems to be flowing better. It is a short ride from here and I hate to pay someone 30 bucks to drive our car and drop us off and then drive it back to our camp site. This is where the motorcycle comes in handy.
We drove the boats down to the put-in point, approximately an eight mile float trip from our camp site, and when we arrive back here at the White Buffalo Resort, all we have to do is jump on the bike and go pick up the truck. This saves us about 30 bucks in spotting fees.
The river was wet today and beautiful. By wet I mean it rained on us for half of the trip but it really didn't matter since we have rain gear and such for the occasional rain shower. Pat started the day off with a bang again, catching one after another and another. I had it up to my gills when I heard him say "That's Nine" and I had none.
I suddenly turned into a two year old who was put in time out and had her toys taken from her. I was pouting and saying "I Hate Fishing! I can't catch anything and I wanted to cry." I went on like that for a while until Pat was ready to strangle me. At that point he said "What can I do for you?" and I said "Switch poles with me, I think the fish can hear mine??" (OK is that even possible?) Pat switched with me and then continued to catch fish with my loud fishing pole. At this point I think I was stomping my feet and saying something like "I wanna go home!"
Pat yelled at me and said "Stop being a big baby! You're putting off that bad vibe and the fish can feel it!" He called me over to an area where he had just caught three in a row and said to cast it there. I did and got his favorite lure stuck on a rock.
I had to release my line and paddle as fast as I could up stream and try to get it loose before I lost the lure. Pat was furious at me and said "I can't be around you, I am fishing somewhere else!" I finally maneuvered my way up stream far enough to set this lure free from the rock. I cast two more times and each time I got it stuck on something which really did make me want to cry. The river flows pretty fast and it is hard to go up stream to try and free this sucker over and over again.
I finally landed in a spot which had very little current and no danger of catching Pats favorite lure on the bottom. Pat was upstream and away from me in order to not drowned me or accidentally hit me in the head with his paddle.
I thought I had it stuck on a rock again but to my surprise when I tugged, it tugged back.
Yeah!!!! I caught a fish and was reeling it in and happy as all get out! I yelled for Pat to come over and fish where I, the angler was, and stop acting like a baby. After that I caught five in a row and was in the best mood for the rest of the day.
Tolerance and understanding are two things that a couple has to have when traveling the way we are. I am so glad Pat understands me and I can sometimes act like an idiot and get away with it.
Make sure to check out our White River Gallery for some good shots from our days on the river
May 9th 2007
We woke up today and could not even see the river beside us because of all the fog. It usually clears up by around 8 or 9a.m., but today the fog was with us all day. It rained on and off and I was really glad. After yesterday with the amount of time I spent traveling up stream and the stress I put on my self to catch a dang fish, my shoulders and back were so sore I could hardly move.
Pat had just finished a book and loved it so much he wanted me to start it. I laid in bed from 10 am until 10 pm and completed the 700 page book in one day!!
The name of the book is Night Fall by Nelson DeMille, and man is it a real nail bitter.
I got out of bed just in time to go back to bed! I love those kind of rainy days when I don't feel a bit guilty about not moving all day. It is really hard to have one of those days since we have been on the road. We haven't had TV now since the first week of April so we can't just veg out and use the remote until our minds are numb, so we have become pretty good at keeping ourselves busy outside or playing games and such.
It is weird to not really know what is going on in the rest of your world due to lack of contact. We listen to NPR on the satellite radio when we don't have the Comedy Channel on in the truck, but that's about it. Current events would not be my strong point of conversation right now if by some chance we were at a cocktail party or something. However I can't see that happening anytime soon so I am not fearful of feeling uncomfortable in a crowd.
I told Pat that after this trip, we will never really be able to fight and argue like normal couples do. At this point we just say "OK, whatever" and go on to the next thing to talk about. I mean what can we say? "I am going out tonight" or "I'm leaving you and staying at a friends" or "You're sleeping on the couch tonight", you see my point?
None of those things can really serve a purpose with us, so it would be useless to argue. I am sure when we get back to the hustle and bustle of a job and the real world however, we will find a way to argue like we used to!
May 11th 2007
Yesterday was a short drive through some beautiful mountainous country to get to the small town of Jasper. We decided to stay here because of the access to the Buffalo River kayaking scene. We've found a spot in the Dogwood Springs Campground which is located on the side of a big hill.
When we arrived there was a large group of campers here from Hot Springs and they pretty much took up the whole place. The spots that were available were hard to get to, uneven and down in the woods.
I think the spot they gave us are mostly for tents, but the owner did manage to find a spot for us when she was full, so no complaints. She even came out and helped Pat get down the steep hill and placed us in a nice shaded spot. While hooking up, Pat and I both decided to stay inside as much as possible due to the amount of ticks we found on each other in a matter of five minutes. We each had around 10 on us!!!
I have been getting up every morning and doing my daily ritual of floor exercises for a couple of weeks now. I bought an eight pound exercise ball so that when we are stuck inside on those rain days or when we have a long day of just sitting I can feel like I've done something to stretch my muscles out.
I have fortunately lost 10 pounds since I left Florida which brings me back to 5 pounds over my weight from when I left Michigan!?! I am trying to eat less and not enjoy my own cooking so much as to fit into some of my clothes a little better.
Pat and I have decided to try and do some sort of hiking or biking or kayaking at least 4 times a week so we don't get used to the enjoyable weight gain that we've had in the last year. Not working in the fast pace of a restaurant has shown up on our waist lines.
We decided to check out the small quaint town of Jasper today and scope out our opportunities for the rest of the weekend. We drove all over the spectacular mountains and stopped a few places to ask the locals for recommendations.
Our goal was to kayak but the weather doesn't seem to want to agree with us. I guess the Buffalo River is pretty fickle when it comes to the availability of floating it. Only after some heavy rains can the upper part be floated and it can loose its water depth of 2 to 4 feet in one day. I guess floating it in the rain was our best bet.
We drove down to an area where we could see the canoers and kayakers paddling by and witnessed every other kayaker tipping over in the swift current. The water is deep and fast today due to the last two days of heavy rain fall.
While there, I met a very friendly fellow who happened to live only a few towns over from where our house is in Michigan! We sat and talked for a little while and shared some of our travel experiences as he is trying to visit every National Park in North America!!
Pat wanted to put in at 6 pm and take a two hour float, but on our way to get ready, a huge storm moved in. We spent the afternoon watching from a mountain top look-out as the clouds filled the mountainside.
The lightning strikes were every few minutes and the thunder filled my ears with the strength of Gods powerful sounds. We sat watching the magnificent show for a few hours until the storm passed, then retreated down the mountain to the safety of our little camper.
May 12th 2007 Hemmed-In-Hollow Falls
Our first plan for the day was to kayak but when we woke up at 7 am it was raining again. We fell back asleep and awakened to a sun shiny day. With it being Saturday and this close to a holiday, the river had hundreds of kayaks and canoes on the water. This is not our idea of a great float which is why we had wanted to get an early start on the paddling. Oh Well, something is telling us not to go, so we'll find something else to keep us busy.
We decided to wait until Sunday to brave the water and our destination for the afternoon changed to a waterfall hike on top of a mountain called Hemmed-in-Hallow.
This waterfall is 177ft tall and is the tallest waterfall between the Appalachians and the Rocky Mountains. It was a five mile hike, round trip and man it was a tough one. We have hiked a few different trails since we left Michigan, but nothing like this one.
The trip down was not so bad since down hill always seems easier for me anyway. While on the way down, I carried the back pack with the camera equipment and Pat carried the "Survival Pack" containing all of the food, H2O and other items he fells the need to bring with us on these hikes.
After arriving at the falls Pat decided to climb higher on the water falls on an area which had no specific trail. I always let him explore these regions on his own, since I have no reason to want to put my life in the hands of a steep, slippery rock with no guard rails for me to hold on to.
As I was gazing at the waterfall, I heard Pat scream "WHOA, WHOA, WHOA!" I knew he was either messing with me or he had just fallen. I held my breath until he answered back that he was OK. When he got back down to me, he showed me his sliding abilities that his fore arms have and said he almost lost the camera. My response was "Your lucky because your not getting back in the truck with out that camera."
While Pat was climbing, a couple of boys came walking up the hill with a snake in their hands. I asked what kind of a snake it was as it looked like it could be dangerous. We had been warned by numerous Forest Service Staff to watch out for Cottonmouths, they weren't sure but we all knew that it was poisonous because of the cat like shape of the eyes.
Pat had just bought a reptiles book to keep in the backpack so we could identify all these slithering creatures we see on our hikes. I looked it up to find that this was a baby Cottonmouth! It was small enough that the fangs were unable to pierce the skin, although it did get ahold of the boys shoe and would not let go. When I asked what they were going to do with it the guy said he was going to give it to his Mom for Mothers Day!?! WOW! I'm sure she will feel special when she opens that one up.
The hike back to the vehicle proved to be much more difficult than the trip down to the falls. I thought I was doing OK until I started seeing black spots in my eyes and my breathing became very challenged.
I thought I was going to pass out at one point so I sat with my head between my knees for a while until I could catch my breath. I'm sure glad we waited until the later part of the day to do this hike or it would have been really hot and much more difficult with the humid temperatures this area has been getting lately.
I enjoy being challenged, so this wasn't a problem for me to feel like I was going to die any minute due to lack of oxygen. Pat however was sprinting up the hills saying "Come on, lets try and run back up"
I just wanted to squeeze his little eyeballs out of his head so he would know how I felt. After a mile or so of up hill climbing, I asked Pat to switch packs with me so I could carry the lighter one.
Pat being the gentleman that he is, offered to carry both of them since he could see how hard I was struggling to breath. After he took my pack from me, I felt like a million bucks, just chugging along uphill and keeping up with him at this point. It's sad that I have to load him down with 30 extra pounds of weight to equal out our climbing skills, but hey, what ever it takes.
We made it back to the vehicle where we enjoyed a feast of grapes, carrots and celery sticks before I indulged in to the refreshing V-8 juice I had packed in the cooler. Man I hate diets!
We drove until it turned dark out, while enjoying the countryside and viewing the way people live here. People seem to live very relaxed and laid back here in this area and it seems like there are no efforts to have to keep up with the Joneses, which is refreshing.
On the way back, while passing through Boxley, we got to see some of the Elk grazing in an open field. They were huge and there was probably ten of them just casually eating while we watched through binoculars.
We came back to the camper, scrubbed off with some Poison Ivy repellent, picked off some ticks and turned in for the night. I am sure my sleep will be very peaceful this evening.
May 13th 2007
Today is Mothers Day and I really miss my beautiful daughter and would love to see her smiling face. It is hard for her to contact me because of the lack of signal in the area we are in right now, although ,I did get an email Mothers Day card and I want to say "Thank You Donielle and I love you and miss you lots."
Today we made our way down to Kyle's Landing Campground which is amazing that we didn't loose our house on the way there. The top of the hill has a big sign that says "Not Recommended for RVs and Busses".
That should have been our first clue although Pat thinks signs are put up for other people, not him! The trip down was so absolutely horrendous that I had to lean my seat all the way back and close my eyes.
I believe I had a chance to say at least 22 OUR FATHERS before screeching to an uncontrollable sliding halt of dust at the bottom of the mountain.
I will try to explain the road with its curves, washboard surface and the abundance of open air on both sides of the road.
On one side of the road was a 3 foot ditch from the hard rain washing away the dirt and loose gravel and on my side was the edge of the mountain. As I looked over the side I could envision our camper just dangling over the edge and I could here me screaming "Why didn't we follow the signs?!?"
When I asked Pat to "Please slow down" since the cars coming up the hill needed space to come up and we might need to make room for them, he laughed and said "I can't slow down, the brakes are to the floor and the trailer brakes are all the way on."
Our diesel motor sounded like one of those big 18 wheelers when they're coming down the hills with their engine brakes on, but it wasn't doing any good in slowing us down. This gave me more time for additional Our Fathers.
I should have known this was a stupid idea when we passed other motorist coming up the steep hill with their "Thumbs up" and "high-fives" out their car windows and the hysterical laughter coming from the passing vehicles. One guy even screamed "You have some big balls to try this hill" as we flew passed him on our downward ride.
After my life had passed before me, I reflected on the moment and felt like we were in a bad episode of the I Love Lucy show. Pat was Ricky driving their Airstream, and I was Lucy with the all to active facial expressions just trying to make the best of it.
We finally reached the campground and if I had to guess, I would say we were at a 12-15% grade while traveling down at least 2000 feet to the river at the bottom.
Thank God that was over, and I think we need new brakes.
We set up camp for the night and I tried to unwind a bit while Pat went and met our neighbors. He got some real good info from the friendly people about where to go when we are in Oklahoma.
They also gave us a free night at the campground which they already paid for but had decided to head home early. We had some dinner and turned in early so that we could get on the river in the morning.
Monday May 14th The Worst Day of my Life on the Water!
Pat and I have been wanting to kayak the Buffalo River for a while now, and I should have been real excited to go, but I just couldn't muster up the feeling of joy after I witnessed the numerous people flipping over and hearing the horror stories from at least six couples of how rough the water was and how many people got hurt.
I told Pat that I was not sure why, but the rock thing really freaks me out. I have done plenty of fast flowing, technical rivers and loved them all. I can maneuver quickly though trees, paddle over and around any obstacles that a river can present to me, but big rocks put the fear of God in me.
I told Pat that I wanted to wear a helmet and he laughed at me saying "The full faced motorcycle helmet would look ridiculous" and I had nothing to worry about. So onto the river we went.
The rapids were fast as soon as we got on the water and the technical stuff was not that hard; besides the incredible bluffs mixed with the turquoise water eased my fears and I was really enjoying myself. I took the challenges given to me and I ruled the waters. After about 2 hours into the trip I heard a noise which I compared to a plane fling over our heads and couldn't figure out what it was.
As we paddled around a tight bend in the river, we realized it was a long set of rapids that had a big drop-off right at the beginning. Right about then I got sucked into a swift blast of water and I was moving to fast to even evaluate the water in front of me.
I saw Pat go down to the left side and he made it over, so I tried to follow behind him. I wish Pat had his camera on me just then, because I am sure my face turned pale as a ghost with eyes as big as saucers.
I could see my demise was coming but I could do nothing about it due to the fast moving water. I ended up going over a big flat rock drop-off and smashing the nose of my kayak into a rock in front of me. I didn't tip over, I just simply couldn't move. If I leaned to either direction I would start taking on water.
At this point I realized I could just simply step out of the boat and onto the flat rock which I was stuck on. I held onto my boat hoping to get back into it, but after a few minutes, I realized that wasn't going to happen.
By this point Pat had paddled back upstream and was screaming something at me, but with the roar of the water all around me, I couldn't hear at all.
I yelled out to him "What should I do with the boat?" He said something which again I couldn't hear, so after a few more minutes with my hands getting tired, I unlodged the boat and pushed it over the rocks hoping that Pat could get ahold of it at the bottom of the rapids. I could just see us riding double in his boat for the rest of the trip.
As I stood on the rock analyzing my options, I was cracking myself up that I was bent over in the middle of the river with people watching me, wondering how I was going to get myself out of this mess.
Pat was walking up stream now as he had our boats secured to the side. He screamed for me to walk though the rapids which were only around 2 feet deep. I was fearing for my butt and my head at this point and really wished I had worn my full faced helmet anyway.
I had kept my paddle for balance and Pat was able to walk on to the rocks right across from me. I held onto a branch above my head and to the paddle which Pat had grabbed at the other end, and slowly walked across the knee deep rapids.
I was laughing at myself for how scared I was in this little bit of water and Pat was guiding me across the rocks so I wouldn't get swept away. I made it across and to my surprise, I wish I hadn't.
Pat turned into the biggest Jerk-Face on the planet and started yelling at me because he had to climb all the way back up here to help me instead of me just doing it by myself. He said the other canoers probably think I'm a dumb City Girl who doesn't know how to paddle and after a few minutes of ass chewing, I got back down to my boat and paddled off on my own.
I didn't get 200 hundred yards ahead of him before I went over the same type of rapids. This time I didn't roll over or get stuck, but I took on enough water to practically sink me so I had to talk to the Jerk-Face again to get the bilge pump from him.
By this point I was so mad I started crying and could not stop the urge to knock his head off. After seeing me get doused by another set of waves, he thought it was just great fun and giggled at me until I let him know I would be shooting him with one of his own guns when we got home.
We got off the water and I didn't talk to him for at least 20 minutes (Hey, he's the only one around and I like to talk) He said his multiple apologies and the feud was over, but man I really wanted to hurt him while we were on the water.
Did I mention that I have a little bit of an anger problem in extreme situations?
Needless to say, I slept like a log that night and never even turned over all night long. Make sure to check out the Buffalo River Gallery
May 15th 2007 On to Eureka Springs
We decided to take off this morning and brave the inevitable mountain climb up and out of the campground. We wanted to head up and over to Eureka Springs after so many people have told us good things about this little mountain town.
We had a long conversation with our neighbor Randy before we left talking about life, faith, what we thought was important in to happiness and how family is a big part of that. This made me miss my sister and daughter a whole lot and wished I could get a cell phone signal so I could talk to them. Oh well, soon enough and we will be able to contact them.
Our trip up the hill was not nearly as scary as the roller coaster ride down because we didn't have as many cars passing us; although the motor of our Ford diesel has got to be so broken in now, I'm sure it will never be the same. We had to put it into four wheel drive and Pat never let off the gas pedal or we would have never made it. At one point I thought I could hear the transmission screaming "HELP ME" in a sad whiny way.
Our drive across the mountains had a little break in it due to the weather. We were crawling through what looked like a tornado so we decided to pull over in a church parking lot and watched as the sky opened up and the hail bounced off the roof of the truck. We ran back to the camper and had lunch and took a nap and as we were getting up the rain was just subsiding.
On our way again and looking forward to Eureka. We had some other intentions planned for the arrival to the Springs area -ALCOHOL!
You see we have been in a dry county since my birthday, April 24th, it is now May 15th. I have never wanted to have some socialization with other humans and a nice night out at a good old fashioned local bar in my whole life.
As soon as we pulled into town, we stopped at Shawbee's Big Dawg Saloon. We ate fried food and pizza, we played Mega-Touch and shot some pool, we met some new people and got to know the owner of the establishment.
We had some great people watching, with Jeff the dancer and Chris the juggler. Chris put on a nice little show for us with some balancing acts and kept us occupied with some good traveling stories. (By the way Chris, if you read this, your friend was not a nice guy!) I had my fill of the nightlife I was so craving and we left at closing time as that is our tradition to be the last people to leave any place we go to.
May 21st 2007
Pat and I have spent most of our time here in Eureka Springs drooling over the grandeur of the life they must have lived in this town in the 1800's. I know we always say that we don't enjoy tourist towns and we honestly thought this would be a quick stop, however, this town is an exception.
The history of this town is bubbling out at the seams with the stone masonry buildings of the mid to late 1800's, still standing and in very good condition.
All of the side walks are paved with large blocks of solid sand stone which are worn to a shiny smooth texture from years of cowboy boots walking on top of them. In every crevice of the enormous natural stone hillsides, there are small plants and flowers tucked away in small gardens that is very pleasing to the eye.
It's amazing that a town could be built on a solid rock hillside to begin with, let alone know that it's been here since the late 1800's. The intricately crafted balconies which have been restored and maintained to the original beauty, loom over the shaded side walks. Some of the original brass-gas lanterns are still glowing in the quaint alley ways.
Almost every place we walked by had some kind of musical talent keeping the guests entertained with their different styles of music ranging from folk to bluegrass to modern eclectic songs.
We went to the outskirts of town to check out the old train station which now has a dinner train that leaves once a day. The train depot is currently filled with old relics that the owners have seemed to salvage for us patrons to enjoy. The depot is free of charge to walk around while checking out the old cars and oddities that have been collected over the years.
We walked down the street to see the an old Ice House which has no roof or windows. It is currently growing quite a forest of trees within the structure of the mason building. We took a few photos of the Ice House which by the way is for sale for an astronomical amount.
I guess the owners figure this property is the only land left here in Eureka Springs which is not currently in use and can be built on. Pat and I were commenting that every single nook and cranny in this town is being used for something whether it be for storage, housing, or commercial property. Every inch here in The Springs serves a purpose.
After we took advantage of the photo opportunities at the Ice House, we walked over to the Pale NDN Art store and met the owner Rod. He was working in his upstairs studio making Natural Native American jewelry when we stirred him to come down stairs to explain some of his work.
Our conversation started out as general tourist questions and turned into what seemed like a meeting with an old friend. Pat, (Sir-Talks-Alot) asked him every question you could imagine to fill his ever curious little bald noggin with yet more info. I swear, sometimes I think his head is going to over fill with all the things he takes interest in and learns about.
We were both very intrigued by Rod's carving skills and his jewelry making. Rod was very obliged to tell us some of his Native American Family History and share some of the knowledge that has been passed down to him through past generations.
Rod and his partner Sue are both what he called "Card Carrying Native Americans" so his family has told him the history of past generations all the way back to "The Trail of Tears" What a wonderful thing to have family members to keep passing down the historical stories which have been told through the years.
We stayed at the shop for at least two hours before my ever hungry tummy gave me the sign to fill it up again. When I hear the growl, I know we better find somewhere fast or else. Just as we were ready to leave, we had the pleasure of meeting Stone Akin, a retired Native American architect who also lived in Michigan just like us.
We were shown the crafting skill that he has which is just spectacular. Stone has mastered the art of working with gourds. Not the kind of gourd bird houses that you see on the side of the road, but the kind of gourds that are used for bowls and water carrying and we were both surprised to learn that loofa sponges come from Gourds.
I think you would just have to see one of these master pieces to appreciate the hand crafting that goes into them. Stone told us that one gourd could take him 20 to 30 hours to finish. He then intricately burns a figure onto the side of the hollowed out gourd with I'm assuming a very steady hand. The finished product is like nothing I've ever seen before, which makes the time put into the work very rewarding, I'm sure.
When we walked out of the shop we both said "If we only had a home to display these incredible artifacts in, we could spend a fortune there"
After spending a few days in this funky little town we headed out to Omaha Arkansas to attend an event which Stan from Shawbee's Big Dog Saloon had recommended to us. Stan advised us that we should be able to get some pretty good photos at the Chuck Wagon Race which he had been helping put together with his friend, Mike Fowler.
The Rock Bottom Chuck Wagon Races
All I can say about these races is "What Fun! This event was spectacular!" Now seeing that Pat nor I had ever experienced any thing like these wagon races in our small yuppie town of Milford Michigan, every thing was new to us. I spent most of my time asking questions to anyone and everyone that would answer just so I could figure out how all the qualifying times, laps and race requirements worked.
We ended up meeting a real nice couple, Mark and Ronda, who live close to where the races were held. They told us that since this was the first year of the Rock Bottom Races that the turn out wasn't that huge, but it was sure to be a hit next year. Ronda knew all kinds of things about horses and mules that I have never heard of. I have only ridden a horse twice and both times it was pretty much in a circle while being guided by someone. Since Mark and Ronda are locals and we kind of adopted them as our new friends, we also met their friends who were in the arena riding and roping.
I left the pack of folks for a minute to go walk the dogs who were also amazed by the equine population.
My beagle, Lucy, has always been a roller since I brought her home as a pup. Just incase no one knows what I'm talking about, Lucy loves to roll in any thing that smells dead or bad! It was so incredibly hard to keep her from rolling in the manure that I'll compare it to keeping a crack user off of the pipe.
Her tail wagged a mile a minute through the entire walk and every chance she got she would drop to the ground trying to smash her face into anything that smelled like Horse Poop. Luckily she was unable to get a good manure scent going, so I put them back in the camper. While I was walking by the camper I noticed some cowboys and cowgirls were bathing in the river.
They had their skivvies on and the cowboys even kept there hats on. We had a conversation about the camper and what we were doing at the Chuck Wagon Races. Pat and I were parked right along the river and we got to see all the horses coming down for drinks and the people having fun in the surprisingly warm crystal clear water.
I guess it would be safe to say that this certain red headed cowboy had never seen the sun before! As I walked up to the people we were with, I pointed out the whitish, bluish skin tone that this guy had and Justin replied "Whoa, that guy looks like a tall glass of milk with hair in it" I thought I would bust a gut laughing because that description was spot on.
The property that we were on is 440 acres of rolling wooded hills with a creek that runs through it and a large rock bluff that hangs onto the creek side. I just can't believe how spectacular this whole entire state is. The natural beauty of the land is just breath taking and much of it is still untouched.
I thought it was great for the owners to share the land with the hard working cowboys. I know it was a lot of work for them and with Pat and I being from a promotional type background, I know that sometimes it's hard to recoup some of the expenses you may encounter during an event of the magnitude. Especially the first time you put one on.
The races were non stop action and I found myself cheering on some of the teams that showed the most potential or that had the prettiest wagons. Mid way through the event, a tragic loss occurred with a beautiful horse breaking its leg and having to be put down.
I know the young man that road the horse was so tore up about loosing his horse although like a true cowboy, he still road the entire weekend for other teams. When he found out that Pat had some pictures of the episode, he came to us and asked us for a copy of them and you could see he was visibly shaken. As he limped away from us, due to the fall that he took, he said he was going to the hospital to check for any broken bones. Wow, that is a true cowboy!
If anyone ever has the chance to attend an event like this I would recommend it; not just because of the fast paced excitement, but because of the friendly atmosphere. Believe it or not, this was a family event and there were riders as young as 10 or 12 years old riding shot gun for these chuck wagons.
Of course Pat went crazy taking pictures and took so many it was hard for either of us to pick a picture we liked best from the weekend. Make sure to check out our Galleries to see all the action, but be warned, there are a lot of pictures.
Another great weekend spent in Arkansas. After this, we're heading to Missouri to add another sticker to our collection of states we have traveled to which we have on the side of the camper.
May 22nd 2007
We woke up in the parking lot of a well known shopping center which was close to the event we had attended the day before. After the weekend of partying, we were too tired to find a campground, so we slept at the first place we saw. We got some laundry done in the morning, finished up some errands, and started our trip North to Missouri. After a few hours of driving through the winding narrow roads, we landed in Branson. This is another tourist town which we agreed we had to be able to say that we've seen.
We agreed that if we thought it would fit into our curriculum, we would spend a day or two just to see some interesting things. Within a mile into the downtown area I was ready to high tail it out of there, although Pat insisted on going through the entire downtown strip of country music knock off shows, gravity defying buildings and row after row on strangely named hotel and motels.
We have managed to loose a part off of our towing package sway bars, (Pat lost it) so we haven't had sway bars attaching the camper to the tow vehicle in a few weeks. Unfortunately we have been in such remote areas, that we can't find an RV Store which would carry the replacement equipment.
Pat thought with all of these stores and tourist enticing spots in Branson, that a RV store was bound to be here some where. We both agreed that this town is not our cup of tea, so when we couldn't find the store we were looking for, we turned around and headed further North into Missouri.
After a few more hours of driving into the remoteness of Missouri, we saw a sign for the Blue Water Resort. It has been four days since we have been in a campground with hook-ups, so we needed to refill and unload our holding tanks in the camper. This is the first sign for camping that we had seen in a long time, so we followed the back roads, across the one lane bridges, through the low lying areas to arrive, to our amazement, back in Arkansas!?
When we stopped and talked with the owner of the park, he informed us that we had simply went in a big circle winding and twisting back into this big lovely state that we have so enjoyed. We both laughed and said we have got a new goal now, which is to exit this state of Arkansas and head North, again.
The campground we are in sits on top of a bluff over looking Bull Shoals Lake which is a very large lake in the Northern part of Arkansas. We took the afternoon and did a bit of cleaning on the inside and outside of the camper and settled in for the cool, breezy night.
We had dinner and watched the sun set over the sand stone bluff across the lake from us. Our minds weren't ready for bed yet, so we challenged ourselves to a puzzle which is small enough to fit on our kitchen table. After completing this work of art, which by the way looked nothing like it did on the box, we turned in for the evening.
May 23rd 2007
We took off rolling down Hwy 160 this morning headed towards Memphis. Hwy 160 is a lot of fun if you like roller coasters. I have yet to be on any road like this one for taking your stomach and turning it upside down. The weird part is that it doesn't really wind at all there are no curves jump really big humps. The road is straight but goes up and down with so many hills so close together, that I could not stop giggling.
I said to Pat "OK we don't go 65 on a interstate and you are doing 65 on this road." He said he was having way too much fun not to go fast and he liked the roller coaster feeling. At one point it got to where we couldn't see the down slope of the hill we had so quickly traveled up. That is when we had to slow down.
This road goes almost all the way into Memphis from Bull Shoals Arkansas. Unfortunately we had to make a few pit stops on our way, due to some parts problems. We don't have any problems with parts breaking down, just with our fearless driver losing them.
Pat kept stopping at different RV places to find a pin that he had lost from our towing kit, but none had this obscure item. After four different places, we were referred to a local machine shop where we just went ahead and had it custom made from scratch.
The shop was way out in the back country, down a long gravel, red clay road. When we got there, I could not believe the size of this place. It looked like a darn air plane hanger, it was so big.
The first thing the owner did was walk right up to my two dogs and say " What beautiful babies you have" This is a man after my own heart! We haven't met many people that will just put their hand inside our vehicle once they see Luca, the Pitt Bull. He came right up to him and got a good face cleaning from both dogs.
This gentleman continued to tell me that he has a soft spot for dogs and that everyone knows it. Apparently people bring dogs to his house and let them out in his yard when they decide they don't want them any more.
He introduced us to the 4 or 5 dogs in his yard while his son was fabricating the new part for us. His baby though, was a St. Bernard whom he has been taking to get chemo treatments for the past 6 weeks. Apparently he will have to have 26 weeks of the medication and it is a four hour trip one way each time he takes him.
We talked to the gentleman while the part was being made which ended up taking at least an hour and a half. Mid way through the conversation, Pat noticed a big chunk of rubber taken out of one of the tires. I am surprised that it hadn't just blown out due to the dirt and gravel roads we had just traveled down.
I told Pat that "God had planned our day for us and this was meant to be." It's strange how many things have happened this way for us. I am glad some one is watching over us on this long adventure of ours.
We left the welding shop and went to get our tire fixed, and as the sun set behind the Ozarks behind us, we were off to find Memphis. Before we knew it, the big orange ball had sunk behind the night sky and we hadn't seen a town in a while. We ended up sleeping in a strip mall parking lot.
We drove at least 10 miles off of the main Hwy looking for a campground, then decided we would just stay in town. All we wanted to do was sleep for a few hours and didn't want to have a half hour drive to the Hwy.
May 24th 2007
Usually when we get up in the mornings, I will take the dogs out, have some coffee, make breakfast and then clean-up a bit before we leave. This morning we got up at 7:15 and we were on the road at 7:20. We were parked in an area which looked pretty busy and I wanted to get out of there before any of the store owners arrived. We drove until 10:30am and were only 20 minutes out of Memphis.
We pulled into a campground which was right off of the interstate and decided this we be our spot to get ready for the evening of fun in down town. It is so hot here right now! I cant believe the difference from the cool temperatures of the Ozarks to the heat of the flat land.
The temps are up around 88 during the day and 75 at night with most of it being humidity. We opted to wait till the late afternoon so it would be a little cooler.
It is funny how every time that we go out we have the same little ritual of "Are you ready?" This happens every time no matter what. Here's the scenario for an 8 o'clock departure.
Pat 5:30 "You better get ready because all I have to do is post these photos and I'm ready"
Cindy "I'm ready too, all I have to do is take a shower."
Pat "You better hurry then because I'm ready to go"
Pat 5:45 "Are you ready yet because all I have to do is put my shoes on and I can walk out the door."
Cindy "Just let me dry my hair and I can go."
Pat 6:00 " I'm ready"
Cindy "Me too just let me put on my make-up"
Pat 6:30 "Why are you laying down, I thought you were getting ready"
Cindy "I am ready I am waiting for you."
Pat 7:00 "Lets go"
Cindy "I'm ready"
Pat "So am I, all I have to do is put my shoes on"
Pat 7:30 "What are you doing lets go! Why are you doing crosswords?"
Cindy "I'm waiting for you"
Pat "All I have to do is put my shoes on"
Cindy "Put them on then, lets go"
Pat "Ok, Ok stop your gripping"
Pat 7:45 "what is taking so long?"
Cindy "Lets GO!! I'm ready"
Pat "All I have to do is brush my teeth"
Cindy "Well you keep working on the computer so I decided to do a quick nail polishing"
Pat "Get out of here! Are you kidding me? we are never going to leave now"
Cindy "I'm ready I'm just waiting on you"
Cindy 8:00 "I'm ready LETS GO!"
Pat "I'm ready all I have to do is put my shoes on and shut down the computer"
Cindy "I will be in the car"
Cindy 8:05 "You have got to be kidding me, I have been in the car waiting and you are still on the computer!"
Pat "I'm ready all I have to do is put my shoes on"
This is such a pain in my butt that we end up so frustrated with each other by the time we walk out, that we don't talk for a good 3 minutes after we get in to the car. I can't remember the last time that we both walked out and were ready at the same time. It seems like we would learn not to do this little time wasting ritual, but then again we've only been together for 14 years!! I guess we still have alot to learn about each other.
So any way, we are headed down town to Beale Street for the night. We have dinner at Alfred's while sitting on their upper balcony over looking the town.
Just outside of the restaurant, there are four police officers standing in the street, stopping anyone on a cell phone or without a seat belt on. We watch them over the course of an hour write at least 20 tickets! Pat and I both agreed we are taking a cab home tonight no matter what.
We soaked up some history and window shopped, while taking in some good people watching. The streets are becoming more and more congested as the night pushes on. We stopped and talk with a lady about her carriage horse and she showed us how he loves peppermint treats and likes to drink Coca-Cola out of the can.
We ended up at the Coyote Ugly Saloon just so we can say that "We've been there." The place was huge, and they only had three bar tenders and one server? This made for some, not so good service and due to the name, some very expensive drinks. We ended up moving to the bar since we had not seen our server in quite some time.
This also allowed us to watch the dancing and antics up close. The girls seemed like they really didn't want to be there working but they made the best of it. As the night went on and the patrons became more loosened up, some women started dancing on the bar and like the true adventurer that I am, I climbed up there too.
It's funny how much energy, dancing expels, no wonder I was 120 pounds when I was a teenager. It had to be all the dance clubs I used to sneak into and dance till the wee hours of the morning. Now one night of dancing on the tops of bars, and my legs are burning and aching the next day...LOL
I climbed off the bar to try and catch my breath, and within 5 minutes the bartenders were grabbing me and pulling me back up. "NO, NO, I can't -- OH, OK!"
While dancing on the bar some lady asked me to go with her and her friends to another club to dance and I said we would meet them there. Pat and I tried to find it, but by this point we were tired and hungry and ready to go home.
We talked with a gentleman on the street who was taking pictures in front of a night club and printing them out while you wait. He actually liked Pats camera and couldn't believe Pat didn't need a flash to take pictures at night. Funny how he's sitting here making a living with a basic set-up, and we've got this major setup and not making a dime.
We saw a Denny's and all I could think of was a 'Grand Slam'. I persuaded Pat into going there and having something to eat before we went home. It was funny, I think Denny's had more people sleeping at the tables than the local Holiday Inn had as guests. I counted 6 and we were only there for a half hour. God bless those waitresses, I know that has to be hard to deal with drunks all night long when you don't even serve alcohol.
May 25th 2007
We had made some reservations at Tom Sawyer's RV Park for the next few days so we headed out to hunker down for the weekend . Our arrival found us right on the Mississippi River. We have TV here, four whole channels that come a little fuzzy, and I'm in heaven.
I laid around today while Pat worked on the computer so we wouldn't have to do anything in this sticky heat. He was on the computer from noon until midnight. That would drive me nuts just sitting all day, but I guess if he enjoys it, so be it? We pretty much stayed in the camper all day because it is simply to hot to do any thing else.
It got to 90 degrees today, so sight seeing was out of the question. When I watched the evening news, they said it was still in the low 80's with high humidity, so even those open window nights are gone for now.
May 26th 2007
I woke up to my 90lb alarm clock at 7:15 this morning, and got the dogs ready for their walk. I actually don't have an alarm clock. My dog Luca will come to my bed side and just stare at me every morning at 7:15 exactly. He will make some strange whining sound if I don't get up so he can go out for his morning walk. His clock is always right on time so I don't have to worry about sleeping in to late. When I walked outside it looks like the River is covered in fog and the sun is barely peaking through a thick haze. I heard on the news last night that the haze would be thick all day today due to the fires that are raging in Florida and Georgia right now.
We got dressed in the lightest clothing we had and drove the 15 minutes across the state line into downtown Memphis. We were both ready for some of the world famous Memphis BBQ that I have heard and read so much about. I had seen a food show about Memphis BBQ and it said one of the favorite places here was Rendezvous Ribs.
This restaurant has its main entrance through an alley way across from the Peabody Hotel and has been smokin' their world famous ribs since 1948. Surprisingly we were seated and served immediately and Wow!, they weren't lying. The ribs have no sauce on them, so the mouth watering smoky flavor that we tasted came directly from the wood in the smoke house. The meat fell right off the bones and the hot BBQ sauce that was served on the side made my eyes water and my nose run. Perfect!!
After stuffing our bellies full, we waddled our way to the downtown Memphis In May festival where the Regions Sunset Symphony was performing in a downtown park right on the banks of the Mississippi River. This festival is winding up the end of the month long Memphis in May celebration.
The downtown park is located at the end of Beale Street and right along the Mississippi River. This is my kind of celebration which included families, blankets, coolers and lawn chairs. We saw some people with wagons the size of back yard sheds! Pat and I sat away from the stage, choosing to find a small spot of shade instead. The events for the evening included The Memphis Symphony Orchestra, The Temptations and the night came to an end with a display of fireworks reflecting off the Mississippi River.
I must admit that we sat so far away from the stage, that we saw none of the symphony or The Temptations and opted instead for a great night of people watching while just listening to the music.
The fireworks display celebrating this Memorial Day was great, although I have a hard time celebrating such an event when we are at War right now and loosing our men and women who fight for our freedoms every day. I feel very fortunate to live in this country for which I have the ability to say and do as I please without to much interference from Big Brother. I pray for the soldiers that are in Iraq and the other countries that we are trying to keep safe for the good of man kind. How I wish that they could be back in this country "celebrating" Memorial Day with their friends and family as we are.
We headed home for the evening and turned in early so that I could be chipper for my 7:15 wake up nudge.
May 27th 2007
We didn't do any thing real exciting today, basically we ran errands and went grocery shopping. Although we did go to Corky's which is another BBQ joint which is top rated here in Memphis. Personally I liked the natural smokiness of Rendezvous' BBQ ribs better. The slaw in Corky's was great and the warm home baked bread was to die for. The service was impeccable and I had a carry out box, which is unheard of for me!
Since we didn't do anything great I would like to go over a few thoughts that I have had lately about Wal-Mart. I know a few people that will get really mad at me for this and I am expecting some firey emails on the subject, but I feel the need to say them.
Before we left to begin our journey, I watched a documentary about Wal-Mart and how they are taking over the mom and pops places in small town America. This video made me so upset, that I vowed not to shop at Wal-Mart unless there was nothing left available.
It stated that Wal-Mart pays minimum wage and does not pay any benefits nor will it let it's employees band together to even discuss a union. Being from Michigan, unions are a big thing with the Big Three automotive giants, and Kroger being a couple of the large companies that participate. It also stated that it does not give sick pay or maternity leave to its employees. Wal-Mart is all about big business and making a killing off of Americans who unknowingly buy the merchandise that is sent here from other countries.
This documentary also gave an example of how the price gouging is some incredible amount since they can get their merchandise so cheep from foreign countries often made is Sweat Shops. One example was a toy tractor that cost them (I'm not sure of the exact amount) $1.32 and they are selling it for $14.99. That sounds like an incredible mark up!
Wal-Mart has now become the biggest grocery sales company in the US. I have noticed that just about all of the products in Wal-Mart are printed in dual language. Whether it be French or Spanish or whatever, I have no idea what it is, I just know I can't read them.
It was also stated in the documentary that Wal-Mart is polluting the environment simply by neglecting to take the proper steps to dispose of waste. At one point, is showed detergents and lawn fertilizer draining from their parking lot, where many Super Centers store such products, into the city sewers. Apparently they were not displayed properly and left lying on the ground. The lack of concern from the disgruntled management and employees showed how unhappy they were with the chains policies.
So here's the flip side of the coin that I have grown to realize since being on our trip. While we were in Alabama and we had the pleasure of meeting Max Cassidy. Max and I got into a discussion about the lack of goods available in the area. Max explained to me that "People in this area have gotten together and requested that a Wal-Mart come into their town to bring up the economy."
He explained that "Some people currently have to drive up to two hours to find a food store and the food and supplies available are out dated and over priced." When Max told us that "The Poor communities usually pay the most for food, and it's usually the lowest quality" it really made me re-think my understanding of this national chain.
At the time, I could not under stand why any one would want a Wal-Mart as they literally kill the small grocer in your area. After being on the road for months, I now get it. There really isn't a small grocer in these areas. Small rural towns can't support a business that has few items to offer for higher prices. One small town we were in had a 1/2 gallon of milk for double what I'd pay in a normal grocery store. Loaves of bread were way over priced, and very close to going bad sitting on the shelf.
The fact is, Wal-Mart does pay low wages, with small wage increases over a long period of time but at least it's a job. In the last few states that we have been in, the economy is pretty much non existent. Towns that have one street light and five homes which look like they have not seen a coat of paint in decades.
The General Store is a post office, video store, grocery store, gas station and hardware in a 2000 square foot building. The working folk here need a job at Wal-Mart because they have no other options for work. Wal-Mart can employ I'm guessing three to four towns worth of people who other wise would be unemployed.
When people live in towns this small, the general store has few fresh food items including meats and vegetables. The prices of items that people need to get by with in these stores are twice the amount of what you will pay at Wal-Mart because of the small inventory. So, the case is, rural areas have poor, unemployed people getting poor quality products for a higher price. Now I have never been one for big business, but Wal-Mart is giving people jobs, granted low paying jobs, but they are also giving the opportunity for the entire area to have better quality and selection of food and supplies for a lower price.
My next point is, if it's not Wal-Mart, then who else would be jumping in to take the market from the little guy. The smaller merchants can't give the low prices and the good quality, simply because they can't buy in bulk. Wal-Mart is now opening up super centers with tire stores, kids play areas and eye care specialists. They even have hair salons for Petes sake. The hair cut and blow dry is $8.99. The last time I got my hair cut at a salon, they didn't wash or dry my hair and the girl snidely said $38.00. Now for people with a low or no income, how can they afford to pay these inflated prices.
Aren't the other chain businesses such as Home Depot, Lowes, Target and Blockbuster in the same boat as Wal-Mart? Don't they also have employees that are over worked and under paid? Aren't they taking money from the lumber mills, the hardware stores, the video section of your local General Store? Aren't these chain stores also charging less money for a good quality item that are more readily available to the consumer just as Wal-Mart is? Why did Wal-Mart get the black eye? Didn't Wal-Mart begin as a small, local, family owned store and become the huge conglomerate that it is today? Isn't that the American Dream to grow wealthy and prosper in what you do best?
I applied at a Kroger many years ago to be a cashier. I was hired and was called into the office to get the pay structure. I figured out that for my $5.80 an hour job (minimum wage was around $3.60 I think) my take home would have been, after paying union dues and my initial cost to join the union, around $2.60 per hour. Granted it was the union and I would have rights to keep my $2.60 an hour job if I was treated unfairly, and the pay raises were .25 cents on a 6 month time frame, but Come On, how am I supposed to survive on that?!? Lets not forget that uncle Sam still had to take his chunk. As I said, why is this better than Wal-Mart?
One more thing I have to say and I will be done. I have spent quite a bit of time at Wal-Mart since they seem to be every where in these southern states we've been traveling through and we can obviously stay in the parting lot of a Wal-Mart if need be.
I have yet to go into a Wal-Mart with unclean working conditions. I don't see 14 years old kids shoveling piles of raw sewage to make a living. What I have seen is small communities that are eager and anxious to work for a company that pays them a salary if its only a minimum wage salary at that. It helps to put food on the table and food that they can now afford.
I really don't know enough about this situation to quote facts on it, however, I did speak to a Wal-Mart employee in Arkansas to get the following information. He explained to me that Wal-Mart is requiring that the foreign companies that they get goods from, must open a Home Office in Arkansas in order for Wal-Mart to carry their product. He says that they are trying to boost the income and economy of the state and its made the local economy boom because of all this new work.
Needless to say, my opinion has changed on the Wal-Marts popping up every where. I have talked to 6 employees of Wal-Mart in different locations and each and every one of them is happy to have a job. The lack of a job market and businesses in these under populated rural towns gives few opportunities for employment.
Some of the individuals that are hired are retired people, handicapped people, uneducated people, and some that can only work part time. In the competitive job market of today, there is unfortunately no place for these individuals to work. Wal-Mart seems to find a place for them, granted they don't pull down 75k a year, but they do have some money to help pay life's expenses.
A Wal-Mart might not be needed in every town across America, but there are plenty of small towns that I've seen that have really needed one.
If anyone has a comment on this rambling that you have just read, please send me an email and give me your opinion. Especially if you have seen the infamous Wal-Mart Documentary video I mentioned.
May 29th 2007 Sun Records and The Start of Rock 'N' Roll
Since we are here in Memphis, we have decided (Pat decided) that we are going to have to do the tourist things and see stuff like the Gibson Guitar Factory and Sun Studios and things of that nature.
I think that my attention span is too short because I really don't find myself having a great time on these tours unless they are something that I am really interested in. The first day that we arrived in Memphis, we had driven passed the Sun Studios building and I thought it looked small, old, and not something I would enjoy visiting.
Pat convinced me to take the tour anyway since he really wanted to. He said I needed to not be so narrow minded and try and enjoy some things, even if I don't think I will like them. Needless to say we headed out to take the Sun Studios Tour today.
When we arrived at 706 Union Ave., we had to drive around for at least 20 minutes to try and find a spot that our rig would fit into. We circled the block so many times, that a vehicle pulled next to us, stopped and asked us if we needed directions and if we new where we were going!
We finally decided to park on a back street illegally and take our chances on getting a parking ticket. The Studio had free parking for there guests, but we couldn't fit into the lot towing our Sunline.
We walked into the little shop to buy our tickets and I thought I had stepped back in time and was instantly transported back into the 50's. The counter was actually a malt shop where they're still whipping up the frosty treats on these hot summer days.
Every table was covered in photos and articles from news papers straight out of this incredible era. I spent most of my 25 minute wait time looking at the memorabilia on the walls and table tops. The best part about this is that these artifacts are genuine, not reproductions for chain restaurants which are so popular today.
Pat bought some stuff at the counter and our tour was ready to begin. Now I felt bad for our tour guide because she has to put up with tourists. I heard her say at least 7 times "No flash photography or video cameras" and sure enough both were being used numerous times on our tour. She was a trouper though, and she said she doesn't really get bothered by that sort of thing.
The one hour tour flew by before we knew it. Our guide was very funny and informative and added a great sense of humor to the tour. She answered alot of questions for people and even played a little guitar picking that Johnny Cash originated for us.
I learned so much history of music and I couldn't believe I was standing right where it all began. Learning little tid-bits like Carl Perkins first sang Blue Suede Shoes (Most remember Elvis's version), and Elvis visited the studio for a full year before he even recorded his first single. It seemed as though this place started as more of a group a close knit friends, helping each other out, rather than the hit making studio that it was.
Sam Phillips seemed as though his passion for recording hits was unstoppable. He even got sued at one time for song infringement rights and almost lost the Studio. Luckily he thought quick on his feet and got it back by selling the contract he had written with Elvis for $25,000. If only he knew what a fortune he had just lost. After the tour was over, I couldn't believe I had to be talked into coming here, I would recommend this tour to anyone who has the least little bit of interest in either music, Elvis, or the history of where it all began. Thanks Pat for making me go!!! I had a wonderful time and felt like I am a little closer to this era in time.
I had no idea what kind of shop this was, so I was delightfully surprised to find an actual shoe salesman inside? I'm not sure if that would even be the correct terminology or if its politically correct in this day and age, But I've never been known as a politically correct type of person anyway? I'm not talking about an Al Bundy type shoe salesman either, this was a young, good looking guy named Daniel, and when I walked in he actually asked me what I was going to do in my shoes.
How far I would be walking each day, and if it would be on a treadmill, gravel or concrete. He brought me outside and had me walk up and down the sidewalk and explained my foot technology to me. I thought this was great and ended up with a pair of sneakers that will give me the support that my duck feet require.
I also bought some Montrail flip flops, that after I put them in the oven for a couple of minutes, will conform to my feet. I cant wait to try these out and see how they last to our abuse we give flip flops. In the five months we've been on the road, we've both worn through a pair. It reminds me of that Jimmy Buffet, Margaritaville song "I blew out my flip flop, Stepped on a pop top, Cut my heel, had to cruise on back home." I'll give you a report in a few weeks as to how they're breaking in and how they hold up to 7 days a week abuse.
May 30th 2007 Were Going To Graceland!
We are staying in the Graceland Campground & RV Park, right next to the entrance of Elvis's House. I am pretty excited to go to Graceland because I practically grew up with Elvis's music playing on the radio at all times.
My father loved to sing and Elvis was one of his favorites to try and carry a tune with. I watched all of his movies and danced to his 45's for the first 10 years of my life. I remember where I was when I heard that he died and remember that I bawled my eyes out when I heard the terrible news.
It was like loosing a president to an
assassination for the entire country. I have heard so many things
about his home and can't wait to see it for myself. We are headed
out for the day so I will come back to let you know how it was.
Back From Graceland
We spent about three or four hours at the Graceland compound and it was really cool.
I tell you what, that Elvis was one cool cat. He had some great decorating techniques that my mother could only aspire to. I thought I was cool as a kid to have a red and black bedroom, but Elvis went all out.
He had objects in the house that I couldn't believe. All of the artifacts and furniture are from when he lived in the home and are the actual pieces.
The tour was very informative of his life as an actor and singer. He had so many gold and platinum records on the wall, that I could not even begin to count them all. The home tour made me laugh, thinking of the crazy parties and wild family times that he must have had there.
After the home tour, we went outside to where his family grave sites have been moved to. It was amazing that people still send flowers and stuffed animals and such items to put on his grave daily. We even saw a group of people seated by his grave site crying. I couldn't believe that he died at the young age of 42. I guess when I was a kid, he seemed so much older to me.
We got shuttled back to the exhibit grounds and walked through the museums of Elvis's costumes and cars and toys that he enjoyed around his house. This was so awesome to see the many articles of clothing that were almost Liberace style, but not quite that far over the top. Elvis was hot and man did he wear this stuff well. The museums brought us all the way to the time of his death which is weird, because I actually got really sad for him and his family for missing out on each other with him dieing at such a young age. I wondered what it would be like if he was still here. Would Priscilla still be his good friend? Would he have any more kids? Would Lisa Marie have married Michael? WTF was that anyway?? Makes me wonder.
If you are ever in Memphis, make this a stop. If you are not in Memphis, make this a destination. This is a part of our culture that has been around for decades.
Elvis is a word that will be handed down for generations as an icon that is not to be forgotten. He started a revolution of jiving and hopping and moving to a beat that he made himself and the rest of us dug it so much, we happily followed along with him. Elvis is the King of Rock 'N' Roll and his memory will live on forever. Make sure to check out our Gallery of Graceland
Elvis Has Now Left The Building
After lunch and a nap back at the camper, we decided to take the tour of the Gibson Guitar Factory. Bad choice! I am not sure if it was because we were there at the wrong time of the day or what, but Gibson's employees are not very informed about the activities in there theatre or actually any thing that we asked them about really.
We always like to come into places and let the manager know that we are writing for a travel website and ask for any specifics that would make our information more correct and accurate.
When we went to the guard sitting behind the desk, we asked him for a press kit or a person to speak to in the marketing department. We had already called twice and sent two emails and had not heard back from them, so we thought we would just try showing up and hopefully someone could help us.
The guard very rudely asked if we had an appointment? We said "No" and explained that we just wanted any info to make the article more accurate. He wrote down a number and said "Call this person" and went back to watching his desk. Which consisted of looking out over a big empty lobby, but he tried his hardest to act like he had something busy to do.
We then tried to call the number which was disconnected? After entering the Gibson store, we also asked the sales person the same question since they give the tours and also sell the $10 tickets.
We got another phone number for Human Resources and didn't even try that one. We were told by the sales person that the information in their brochures was wrong and they didn't know how to help us with getting any kind of press kit. They instructed us to go to the lounge to find out?
For some reason we fell for it and walked down to the closed lounge only to find a security guard that said the Gibson Store could answer our questions. Is this some kind of game they play?
We walked back to the store and asked some info about a concert tomorrow night and all three of them said that they don't sell these tickets and had no idea where they were sold. They usually sell them in the store, but not this time, so again, they couldn't help us.
Ok, I am not going to keep going, I will just say that the tour was not a life changing experience and it wasn't one I'd recommend like the others! Pat got some good pics out of the thing, but that is all I can say. Make sure to check out the Gibson Gallery to see some really cool shots.
I felt sorry for our guide because he seemed so uninformed that any question made him stutter and loose his train of thought. Now this is where my ADD kicks in. Just let me find my own way out, PLEASE.
So that wraps up our afternoon and we are heading out tomorrow towards Nashville to see more stuff!!