Birthday trip to Arkansas…January, 2023

Sammy trying to hitch a ride in my duffle.

Day 1 1.11
I left around 6:30 am catching the sunrise along my route.  As I usually do, I’m trying to travel over my birthday…this one a big year…sixty-five (it seems less harsh to type out the number).  My first choices usually include someplace with family, but if that doesn't work, I have a hundred other places I’d like to go.  I could make a wonderful million dollar list that included countries where it’s actually warm, green, pretty, & fun.  But, the million dollars has eluded me, so I chose a state just a few hours away, (really hoping to avoid bad driving weather & freezing temps) to explore some new towns & trails.

I mentioned to my niece, Amanda a couple of days ago, I was going to Arkansas for a bit of exploring & she put Bentonville on my radar, complete with a list of recommendations.  Thanks Amanda!

I made a quick stop at Blowing Springs park & campground to see about then possibility of camping here tomorrow night.  The website said it was just $11 for a tent site.  I drove through checking it out…the trails look nice, but the camping wasn’t great.  All the RV’s & trailers were just parked next to one another in a big lot; the tent camping was a bit more spread out, but not much.  But, when I went into the office, they said it was $22 for a tent spot.  I chose not to reserve anything yet…that was a lot of $$ for a crappy spot.

I drove up to Coler Mountain Bike Preserve where I had reserved a van site for tonight.  Their rules state if you buy a tent site, you have to put up a tent & they were all hike in sites anyway (this is a huge mountain bike area). But, it was right in the middle of the woods & surrounded by tons of trails.  I couldn’t check in for awhile, & I had a lot to pack in before I set up camp anyway.

Amanda told me a really great place to eat was Paulettes Crepes in Bentonville.  So, that was my first stop.  I ordered the Thai Peanut Chicken crepe & it was fantastic!  The outside of their building had this lovely whimsical french style mural on the wall.

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My next stop was the Bentonville Brewery.  Check out these really cool tap handles made by a local artist.  I had a really good BA stout & super friendly bartender!

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I strolled around the town square….
not many shops here, but the murals were really nice!  The weather had been really nice this afternoon, temps going up to 66 degrees with skies filled with sunshine.  But, it was beginning to cloud up now & cool off.

I wanted to start hiking some trails before the weather changed.  The bartender had recommended a park called Tanyard.

The waterfall was definitely the highlight of this little community park.

One of the bridges across the little creek.

After my hike here, I drove back to Blowing Springs to hike one of their trails.  I logged 6.5 miles today…it’s all brown, but I got my feet on dirt & enjoyed the afternoon.

The Preacher’s Son is located in a former church building.  My niece told me I’d find a hidden Speakeasy inside!

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The inside of this high-end restaurant was gorgeous.  I’d gotten there right when they opened, but I was looking for the Speakeasy & it wasn’t up here.

One of the many beautiful stained glass windows inside the restaurant.

From the main restaurant you follow the Exit sign to downstairs, then go through the door marked “Coatroom”.  So fun!

Inside was just Speakeasy perfect…low lighting, great small bar & nice bartenders.  I had a delicious Old Fashioned…I love places like this!

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It was dark by the time I left the Speakeasy & I drove out to my campsite for tonight.  The temps were definitely plummeting & the skies growing thick with clouds.  I was the only one there for the first couple of hours, then a van drove up & parked across from me.  This campground is gated, so I figured they belonged there.  It’s way out of season for very many biker/campers, so I wasn’t surprised we were the only two campers there.  There are about 4 van sites…really just a parking space…no fire pit or picnic table on the individual sites.  There was a huge loud boom as a big thunderstorm rolled in lasting a couple of hours, dumping a bunch of rain & dropping the temps more than 30 degrees.

The entrance to the bathroom/shower house….super nice! And very hot showers!

My little barren but nicely wooded camp spot for the night…before the thunderstorms landed.

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Day 2 1.12
My plan for today had been to hike some of the mountain bike trails that surrounded me, but when I woke up in the fridgid temps this morning & knowing they’d all be muddy, I changed my plan.  But one thing I really wanted to do was to walk the mile paved trail to the Airship Coffee Shop that sits in the middle of this preserve…walking is the only way to get there.  I’d taken a hot shower before I left my campsite & layered up wearing my fleece lined pants, wool socks, boots, thermal shirt, fleece pullover, a down coat, mittens & a wool beanie.  It was 36 degrees, but the wind chill was 24.  Not the weather I was hoping for when I’d planned this trip.

Along my walk, I saw this swing right beside the walkway…I can never resist a swing!

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I passed this wonderful set of metal stairs going up up up into the woods.  If it hadn’t been so cold & I thought they might be ice covered, I’d taken them to see where they went.

But the coffee shop was awesome!  Another Amanda suggestion.  I’d love to come back here on a warm afternoon to have a beer & sit in their wonderful outdoor spaces.  But for this morning, I enjoyed my cold but pretty walk to the coffee house & was grateful for a cup of hot tea when I got there.

Airship Coffee at Coler Preserve.  Notice the really awesome outdoor space (to the left of the building) to sit & have a great time with friends, including twinkle lights!

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The view from this open air unique coffee house.

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Swings on the platform of the coffee house (& of course I sat down on that wet cold seat & swung a bit) & this great sign out front.  I know soooo many people who would love this place!

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So, I decided to leave lovely Bentonville with its many mountain bike trails & wonderful outdoor spaces.  

I drove on to my next town, Eureka Springs.  It was about an hours drive on a two lane road that went thru the forests.

I’ve heard so many people that love this tiny town & a few that dont like it at all.  So, now I was about to experience the place for myself…which is the best way to form an opinion of anywhere.  I’d researched this town & knew I was here during their off-season.  I knew about 1/2 the stores & shops would be closed, but it was the time I had to explore here, so it is what it is.

I’d read the ‘best burger’ in town was at the Balcony Bar in the Basin hotel.  It was an OK burger, but I’m a tough judge.  Since I started eating meat again in 2012, I’ve probably eaten about 1,000 burgers (I have no idea how many I’ve had…I just know it’s a lot!) so I’ve had some really amazing ones.  I ate 1/2 then ordered their famous Huckleberry Fried pies that come with Huckleberry ice cream.  No way I could eat it all, but it was delicious!  The crust of the pie tasted like a funnel cake, the fruit filling was yummy & even though I’m not a big ice cream eater, it was very good too.

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The day continued to be gray, cold & windy.  About 1/2 the shops were open, so I strolled in & out of them, to see what they had & to escape the cold for a few minutes.  Not everyday you see a ‘store bunny’!

One thing that was obvious is that hardly anyone is visiting this town right now.  I’m either stupid or smart.  But the shop owners were all chatty & so willing to talk about their love for this place.  It is a very tiny town & I got the impression they all know each other & enjoy this down time of the year.

If I had a dollar for everytime I’d checked the weather during this trip…well you get the idea.  The forecast from when I’d left home yesterday had changed….& not for the better.  It was plummeting down into the low 20’s tonight. I didn’t have a place to camp yet, so I caved & looked up lodging for the night.  The cheapest place turned out to be the coolest.  The Wanderoo Lodge was purchased a couple of years a go & is still in the stages of being remodeled.  I took a break from walking around town, drove 5 minutes away & asked if they had a vacancy for tonight.  Yay…they did & had the little cabin available I wanted.

The office, which includes the Gravel Bar.  So cute!  I wished it had been a good evening to use the fire pit, but it was way too cold.

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My little bitty cabin.

After I secured my lodging, I drove back to the historic section & kept walking around.

The rocky terrain of this town is evident everywhere.

I strolled into Adventure Art & met one of the owners, Amber.  She was super friendly & we found out we have both Sisters on the Fly & Girl Camper in common.  She even knows our Kansas Wranglers & is a graduate of KU & a big fan of Lawrence, KS.  I loved her art & in typical Vicki-style, I bought a post card of my favorite print of hers.  I may not be able to afford (or transport) bigger originals of all the art I see on my travels, but my collection of framed art cards always puts a smile on face when I’m home.

The bartender at the Basin hotel suggested I come here …she said she could "sense my vibe”.  Brews (the name of the place) had the yummy BA stout I’d had in Bentonville, but they didn’t serve smaller pours.  So, sadly, I got some hot tea & took a corner table in this crowded bar/coffee house.  I could tell it was mostly locals…I never mean to eavesdrop, but when people are all gabbing around you & you don’t want to just sit & troll your phone, you overhear their conversations.  Someone would come in the door, & someone else from across the room would greet them or stand up & go over, give them a hug & chat for a few minutes. Tea is a way for me to slow down for 45 minutes…both at home & when I travel.  It’s as close to a nap as I’ll ever get.  There was art all over the walls…that bartender was right…I liked this place!

At 5pm when their doors opened, I went into Missy’s White Rabbit bar.  It doesn’t call itself a Speakeasy, but it has that vibe.

The only people inside were the bartender currently on shift, another off duty bartender & her boyfriend.  I ordered the White Rabbit…well, it just seemed appropriate in this Alice in Wonderland themed bar. (PS:  There’s an even better one in Colorado Springs called The Rabbit Hole….go if you ever get the chance!)

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The three were chatty & super friendly & gave me ideas of places to see & go.  My drink was yummy & the conversation was great…couldn’t ask for more!

Now it was dark & colder than ever, so I drove back to the Wanderoo.

Such a cute little place.  I was grateful I’d come here earlier in the day as they would fill up as the night went on.  I could have taken a room for a bit less money, but I wanted the recently remodeled cabin.  I really don’t like hotels very much & would almost always rather be sleeping inside my 4Runner.  But with the crappy winter temps, I was instead grateful to have a warm place to stay.

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The Gravel Bar, inside the lodge was my next stopped.  I wandered across the parking lot from my warming-up cabin & ordered a wonderful Old Fashioned made with Jamison Orange Whiskey & a buffalo chicken flatbread that was wonderful.  There were locals at the bar & they quickly engaged in conversation.  I sat visiting with a couple of them, as well as the bartender, while I sipped & chewed.  It was such a nice atmosphere & I bet this place is super fun on the nights they have live music.

The heaters on full blast had warmed the room & I'd brought in more blankets from my 4Runner, grabbed a book & finally got warm for the night.

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