Sunday, May 26, 2013

Impromptu ride to Hot Springs, Arkansas

As many of you know, I’m not necessarily impulsive. I like my routine and it’s hard to deviate from it. Not that I don’t mind breaking out of it. I just like advanced notice and planning. It’s Memorial Day weekend and on Friday, Tony’s asking what my plans are for the weekend: “Three days of golf and then watching golf?” “Yes. And washing the windows. Some weeding.” Pretty exciting Memorial Day, right? Tony wanted to go somewhere. Ride somewhere. So when I went to bed, I told him if he could figure out a place to use his hotel points, I was in.

Saturday morning, I get up to play golf (routine) and see a text from Tony about 2 nights booked in Hot Springs, about 5-6 hours away. I head to the golf course. We’ll take off after I get back from my round. But, as I noticed from the wet roads on my way to the course, it rained that night (not much near us). Eric tells us the course is closed with the two inches of rain at Woodbridge because bridges on 2 and 12 aren’t passable. This may make Tony happy because we can get on the road early.

Tony shows me the route on Google. Looks like we’ll be on 30 for a while (hard not to do to get out of Dallas) and then get on lesser roads 67, 37 and 70 to Hot Springs. We overpack our things, load up the bike and off we go to Hot Springs, Arkansas. A new place that I know I’ve never been to.

Before we headed out, had to take a picture of our newly bunted house (with the pretty Mother’s Day hanging baskets from Tony). Winnetka Heights likes anything that gives an excuse to decorate and between Memorial Day and fourth of July, we bunt.

Our start is rocky with a wreck on 30, but then we get moving. I can’t wait to get off the interstate because the wind makes the ride not a lot of fun. I know Tony’s hungry. We settle on stopping for lunch in Sulphur Springs. My rule is to try not to have any “chain food” on a trip. You have to go local. We drive around the Sulphur Springs square where it looks like a parade will be later. Typical little old time square that they try to build now, but don’t quite succeed as they did. We stopped for lunch at Lou Viney's Restaurant and Pub ( ) at the recommendation of a pedestrian and his family setting up for the parade.

It was a good choice with great shoestring French fries. Time to head back on the road again. We’re off the interstate the rest of the journey and it’s immediately better. It smells green. Looks green. The only thing I notice about “rural America” is that there’s a lot of “trash” in yards. Do people just hoard their old tires and chairs and cars and lawnmowers and playsets? And it’s not just Texas. It was like that in Oklahoma. And Arkansas. But, it still is so green and you could smell the honeysuckle on the ride, and the pine, and the fresh cut grass.

I get a better taste of a ride than Tony, who has to pay attention to the road. I get to see the horses and cows and donkeys and such. And probably spend more time thinking about the collections of stuff in people’s yards.

We stop a couple of times to read historical markers about the Trail of Tears. At one marker, we see a Hilltop Tavern with “beer to go” and “bikers welcome.” Since we left quite a bit earlier than Tony expected, we decide we need something for the blog and to stop in. From the outside, not much. From the inside -- well, it was so dark that you couldn’t tell. A few patrons and we order a couple of beers. When we tip the waitress $2 for the $4 tab, she seems surprised. Tony mentioned that was the least we could do since she had to go to another room off of the bar to get our “special beer” (Bud Light and Coors Light in BOTTLES). That’s the minimum tip in our mind for stopping by somewhere. I heard a gentleman at the bar ask her what we were drinking. And a little while later, two more beers appeared at our table. The generosity of strangers. They left shortly before us. We stopped to take a picture of this “landmark” before heading off, passing these guys stopping at the next watering hole down the road. We’re pretty close to the Arkansas line and getting closer to Hot Springs.

Surprisingly there isn’t as much traffic as I’d expect for Memorial Weekend. Figured that everyone would be heading to Hot Springs and there would be a lot more bikes. We’ve seen our share, but not nearly as many as expected. We make one last stop so that Tony can let Siri takes us the rest of the way to the hotel. We’re staying at the Baymont because Tony had points and it “had the most reviews.” It’s been a long day and we’re happy to get there, passing over a lake of some sorts on our way. We’re supposed to have a view of some water body at our hotel, but who knows.

We arrive at the Baymont and so far, so good. Looks relatively fresh. Wish there weren’t a whole group of kids screaming and playing in the pool. Guess that means that we won’t be using it. Pools + hotels = kids. We figure we want to eat and end the day. I’m online looking for a restaurant. Like the above pool comment, Coupon + Tourist Book + Page in Hotel Directory = Bad food, bad service. Sorry, but that’s usually how it is. And the reviews for those restaurants online were not good. There’s a Mexican restaurant next to the hotel. Tony and I are a little concerned about a Mexican restaurant in Hot Springs when we live in Texas. But, the woman at the front desk said it was good and the parking lot is jammed. We can walk so we take the risk. Jose’s Mexican Grill & Cantina (don't know if Arkansas is just behind the times, but really amazed at how many of these places didn't have websites to check out) was pretty good. I had the Chicken Adriana and Tony had shrimp and carne asada. He said it was pretty tasty. The margaritas, not quite up to Mi Cocina standards. The salsa was good. The avocado salsa that we couldn’t identify until we asked -- pretty bland, a little salty. I’d go back to Jose’s.

To bed. In the morning, we’ll be up early, ready to ride. We’re both a little sunburned from our riding today and need to remember the sunblock.

Our plans are to go to see Queen Wilhelmina’s “Castle in the Clouds.“ (  The Talimena Scenic Drive has also been designated a National Scenic Byway, which is an example of the best scenic and historic routes in the United States. According to the website it’s 54 miles and we could see bears, and deer and turkey and other critters, there are historic markers, lots of curves, and you can stand in Oklahoma and Arkansas at the state lines. I’m in. Don’t have anything else really planned.

Apologies for the sideways pictures. I'll blame it on technology, not user error. They appear, "right" on screen and then post sideways. With that said, I think you can turn your head sideways if you really want to look at a picture, don't you?

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