The 2018 RV Trip Continues
Back Seat Driver
It's Friday...I think. We found a small "coffee shop" in the south eastern part of Oklahoma so I could upload. So far, the coffee leaves much to be desired and the internet is slug speed. As I type this, a server walks by to ask "We just got opened last week so is the internet ok?" and I feel guilty for complaining. At any rate, you should get some photos, and at the very least the text at this stop.
We left the caverns at 8:00 am, it was too damn cold to do anything outside anyhow. This was a driving day for sure. We stopped for an hour or so at a Starbucks in the nearest town so we could use wifi. I obviously was able to get all my photos up and a bit more on the blog while Justin worked on downloading some navigation updates to the nav system in the RV. It was then that we decided to head to Memphis, TN. We found an RV park there that boasted of free laundry and wifi, two things we seem to take for granted when at home. It was still cold, mid 30’s but the sky was blue. I’m thinking we try to head south after this, look for warmer weather.
When we got to the park, again it was very empty. It was on the edge of the Mississippi river with a cool view of passing barges and tugs. The banks were lined with broken limestone rock and the swift water was a gritty muddy brown. It was still cold, so I dedicated the afternoon to doing laundry and walking up and down the river banks with Lil. We did happen upon a fossil shell stuck in a large limestone rock, too large to carry and too tough to break out, sadly it stayed right there in the clenches of the stone. I was able to get a sunset photo, but didn’t try too hard because I’m a sissy in the cold, go figure.
Through out the night, I could hear the hum of barges working tirelessly on the river and it lulled me to sleep. Morning came and greeted us with frozen puddles in the park. Nothing on the RV froze, so that was a relief. A quick sunrise photo over the mighty Mississippi, a brief walk with Lil, and we pulled out to go check out the big city of Memphis.
All the night before, I was singing to Justin little excerpts of “Walking In Memphis, walking with my feet ten feet off of Beale…”, I was sure he was sick of it, but he wound up playing it for us anyhow. We strolled with Lil past Union Avenue and up and down Beale street. It was still early, but the city still held a lively vibe, even when the neon lights were still resting from the night before. I could just imagine the night crowds, hear the blues rolling out of each doorway, see the glowing lights and smell all the soul food. Made a mental note to come back when we have time to experience it at night. On our way back to the RV, we strolled along the cobblestone banks of the Mississippi past the riverboats, then on we went in search of Graceland. Just a quick stop so I could get a photo of the outside, after all, they were closed for tours today anyhow. It was its own small piece of majesty nestled in a downtrodden area of the city, surrounded by kitschy souvenir shops. A few quick photos and some support to the closest souvenir vendor and down the road we went.
Lil's Best Elvis Impression Click on photo to see more of the Memphis area.
This was the first time we ran into heavy traffic, basically a parking lot on the interstate, but our navigation got us off and past it rather quickly.
Into Arkansas we went, south toward Hot Springs National Park. There was so much litter along the roads, and any most roads leading off the interstate were dirt. A lot of the paved sections looked like patchwork pieces with all of the repair the’ve had. And with as many vacant business as I saw, I thought, this is where gas stations must come to die.
We passed through a few industrious in their time river towns; some had successfully bloated into a large city like Little Rock, but most seemed to be barely hanging on. Farther on we went until we started gaining elevation into the Hot Springs area. We got our RV spot right on a little river with many trails along it. Then scootered a mile or so into town to see what the area’s “hot spots” were. This town was actually pretty cool. Stuck in time with the early 1900’s era architecture, but you could tell in its heyday that it must have been quite an attraction. The hot springs had been harnessed and commercialized into bath houses resembling ancient roman buildings encased in various creative stonework. They still had much of the original detail, and a few were open for tours while others had been slightly modernized to still accommodate bathers. I couldn’t help but feeling a little twinge of creepiness, like I was standing in the set of an old horror movie, waiting for ghosts to pass in front of me in a mirror or something. The whole town felt that way, but its also part of what I liked about it. We strolled up and down the main street until the rain started again. It was too cold to tough out, so we scootered back to the RV to warm up for the night.
Wednesday, Feb 14
Today marks one full week on the road so far. I’d say we’re doing great. I love my office on our bed with squishy pillows, a cuddly dog, and the creek right out the back window.
Rain again last night, a lovely patter on the roof of the RV. I could also hear the creek babbling no more than 20 feet from the back of the RV. And true to form, the rain quit by the time we wanted to go outside. The morning started with eggs, bacon and mimosas. With that fuel, we took Lil on a hike through the trails up the hill (mountain?) behind us. It was a moderate hike uphill, around 4 or so miles. At the top was a lookout, but with the heavy mist in the air, one couldn’t see more than 50 yards, but that in itself was just as captivating, almost eerie at times. Some of the foliage seemed to glow with color, almost as if they were radioactive. Every now and then an old foundation of a tumbled building or century old buildings themselves would creep into view from the mist, and again I felt like I was in a scary movie; you know, the one where someone escapes from the local insane asylum and tears off running through the woods to disappear into the fog. Maybe I just have an overactive imagination. Along the trail, there were so many different kinds of rock, ranging from white to rosey pink milky stone to jet black flaky flint stone. I can see why this area is known for producing such stunning gem and rock formations. Arkansas is one of the top places in the world to get high quality quartz, and there are several local mines in the Hot Springs area. Walking along the trail, I even found two lovely little crystal pieces mixed in the gravel.
After the long hike, we tucked Lil in and took the scooter into town, about a mile out. With this town being named for the bountiful hot springs, we had to partake. We opted for a soak in the mineral pools of the Quapaw Bathhouse. Four different pools ranging in different temps from 98-108 degrees. It was so soothing to relax in them for the morning. Since they didn’t allow recording devices in the pools themselves, I have only a few quick pics from sneaking in my cell phone so please forgive the poor quality.
After the baths, we had lunch at the Ohio Club, the oldest saloon in Arkansas known for hosting gangsters like Al Capone and even the local celeb, Billy Clinton (he grew up in this town). 20’s era styled music played while we enjoyed our meal. Onward to another local attraction, the aquarium. Quite small, it felt more like a pet store selling fish, but still interesting enough for me. There was a creepy old wax museum as well, but we didn’t brave that one, I didn’t want any nightmares tonight. One last stop on the way back was at the local mine’s gem and rock shop. So many eye catching stones, it was hard to walk away with just a few, but I did, with the promise of being able to visit their mine tomorrow and mine for some crystal myself.
And to end the day on a fantastic note, spaghetti for dinner!
Bath House Row Click on photo to see more of the Hot Springs area.
Thursday, Feb 15
It got a little warm last night, and the misty haze seemed to be lifting, just in time for our adventure we’ve got planned for today. We started the morning with yet another hike with Lil. Just a few miles this time, up to Goat Mountain. The view was exceptional with the clouds clearing, but wouldn’t ya know it, this time I left my camera behind. We found so many rock clusters that yielded lovely colored stones so I picked up a few (ok, I picked up a lot, filling every pocket I had) so I could send some home to the nieces and nephews. When we got back, we packed up and headed north 16 miles to find the crystal mine, Coleman Mines. They have an area open to the public to allow us to “mine” for our own crystals.
The weather was much warmer, and after all the rain, it was certain to be a red clay mess. We stopped off at walmart to get some throwaway clothing so we wouldn’t ruin our good clothes. When we arrived, we were greeted by an enormous quartz crystal rock the size of a garbage can with crystals the size of bread loaves emerging from it! They say we have to be able to carry out what we find, well I’m sure as hell gonna find a way to carry that out if I find one like it! We got our permits to mine and drove the RV right out to the edge of the entrance. It was a gaping wound in the earth with heavy machinery excavating deep into the crust. I felt a little guilty for participating but the temptation to find crystal was too strong. We tromped up a surprisingly dry road into the public hunting grounds. While it was messy, it wasn’t muddy. There were tall dirt piles surrounding the roads leading into the active mining pit, so we climbed up one and began the hunt. At first I just raked through the dirt to look for them, but I soon realized it was easier to look atop the piles for glistening gems. I found plenty ranging from a grain of rice to a quarter, and was thrilled at those, glistening and purely clear. It was surreal. Then I began to collect the larger specimens of rock displaying the different forms and stages of crystal. When my load got too heavy and I got too hungry, we went back to the RV to unload and eat and sort through our finds. Of course, Justin outdid me in sheer size and quality of his finds, some of his crystals were the size of a candy bar! We went back out and finished up with one last sweep. With too many pieces to carry, we ended our search. Granted, most were not great quality, but we did get a couple dandies, I’ll sort through them later. I did learn one thing; I was willing to reach my hand into a fire ant hill to acquire crystal, then quickly regretted it! The whole drive on to our next stop, I couldn’t stop thinking about how great of an experience it was, and the feeling of the smooth cold crystal on my fingers upon the first find. Memories that are going to last me a very long time.
Our RV at the Mines Click on photo to see more of the Mining experience.
Friday, Feb 16
Our next stop was another nearby gem spectacle; Crater of Diamonds State Park in Arkansas. We were prospectors after all so why not try for diamonds? The night was warm upon our arrival and the park was quiet. The ranger told us we came at a good time, for they were turning away RVs for March already. The diamond field was walking distance from our space. The night was restless with the humid warm air and dreams of crystals and diamonds. When morning came, the weather shifted and brought in a cold and windy day with light precipitation. I took Lil on a mile or so walk down to the Missouri river, then we headed to the field sporting our throw-away Walmart outfits. The field had greenish soil from mineral deposits. Other than that, it looked like a regular farm field, plowed in furrows. They plow only monthly, and a hundred people or more must search this area daily. We set off to an outer edge to surface hunt, on our hands and knees picking at anything shiny. With an average of only 2 diamonds a day being found, we knew our chances were low, but we had fun anyhow. Our feet turned into elephant feet as the mud clung on, but we never lost a shoe! After three hours, I was so cold I had to quit. We screened our slim pickins and brought them to the shop for identification. Just as we expected, no diamonds but enough calcite and crystals. No matter, we can still say we mined for diamonds. A long hot shower, lunch in the RV and some research for our next destination.... Oklahoma, then south, way south, to warmer weather.
Unfortunately, there are no photos to go with this stop, too muddy to bring out my camera. I still see quartz crystal clusters every time I close my eyes.