Little Rock Central High – A School With a Big History

While staying in Little Rock, the attraction I was most looking forward to seeing was the Little Rock Central High School National Historic Site.   My visit here was as interesting and thought provoking as I had hoped and one of the highlights of our trip so far.  It was a great follow up to the Brown vs. Board of Education site in Topeka, Kansas.

On the first day of school in September 1957, nine African American students set out to attend Little Rock Central High, an all white high school to begin desegregation.  They were stopped from entering when the Governor of Arkansas, Faubus ordered the National Guard to bar them for their “safety.”

Above is a famous photo of a white student yelling at one of the “Little Rock Nine.”  In the book store I found a book titled “Elizabeth and Hazel, Two Women of Little Rock,” about how these two students many decades later became involved in each other’s lives.  I have put it on my “to read” list.

President Eisenhower ordered that troops be sent to to assist in the desegregation and 1,200 soldiers from the 101st Airborne Division protected  the Little Rock Nine as they entered the school.  The 101st Airborne remained at the school until November.  It was interesting to us because many years ago Mark and I served in the 101st Airborne.   Above is a photo of the street in front of the school.  I found the neighborhood to be quiet and it is hard to picture hundreds of angry people crowded into the narrow street to protest in September 1957.

I took a guided tour with a National Park ranger.   Our first stop was the gas station across the street.  The station has been preserved as it was during the 1950’s.  Reporters gathered here to cover the news of the segregation and on the first day ended up protecting the Little Rock Nine from the mob that was trying to hurt them.

The school is located across from the gas station.  I was impressed by the size and beauty of the building.  It was built in 1927 at a cost of 1.5 million, the nation’s largest and most expensive high school at that time.  Much of the interior is original and I felt transported back to 1957.  While drama students conducted an informal class on stage, we sat in original seats in the main auditorium while the ranger explained to us what happened during the desegregation.  Being in the building and hearing the stories made it so much more real than if we had been back at the visitor center.  It was difficult to hear the accounts of the cruelty of the white students as they tried to physically injure, verbally abuse and drive away the Little Rock Nine throughout the school year.  We learned however that not all students acted out with resentment, some were friendly and helpful, but many others did nothing to ease the transition.   Below is a picture of the school cafeteria, the only place we were allowed to take pictures as long as students were not around.

While our tour continued in one of the hallways, the final school bell for the day rang and students started filing out of classes and crowding into the halls.  It was our signal to also go and we made our way out with some of the 2500 students that attend.  We were told during our visit that the school offers some impressive academic classes including five foreign languages, many AP and pre-AP classes and a number of service, academic and honors clubs.

Our tour concluded at a small memorial park across from the visitor center.  It features two arches with photo collages of important events that commemorate the Little Rock Nine.

The Arkansas capitol is a beautiful and stately building that I enjoyed visiting.  (As I have probably said before, I love looking at the state capitols)!   It was completed in 1915 and built on the grounds of the state penitentiary.  The state used 200 convicts to level the prison and build a new state capitol in its place.

My favorite room in the capitol was the Governor’s Reception Room on the second floor with many original furnishings.   When visiting the capitols, I find it interesting how many places visitors can wander on their own, including this room which is used as the Governor’s conference space.

The capitol has six 10-foot tall bronze doors which were purchased from Tiffany’s of New York in 1910 for $10,000 and are now reported to be worth $250,000.  The doors are polished inside and out each week to maintain their luster.

My favorite monument on the capitol grounds honors the Little Rock Nine.

The Old Mill, a tribute to Arkansas pioneers was built in North Little Rock in 1933.  Although it resembles early grist mills, it was never actually a working site.  It was constructed to look abandoned, so does not have doors and windows.

It was designed to look whimsical and has fake wooden bridges and benches that appear real from a distance.   The mill and surrounding ponds, creeks and gardens are quite pretty and fun to check out.  It is a popular place for weddings and photo shoots.

While visiting here, I thought of my friend Valerie.  As a fan of the movie “Gone With the Wind,” she may or may not know that this Old Mill is the last standing structure from the film.  It was featured in the opening scene.   I had to check this claim out on You Tube since it had been decades since I had seen the movie and sure enough there it was.

Thanks for your kind attention.  In the next blog I will be writing about the beginning of our stay in Louisiana and Cajun Country.

There Really is a Little Rock

We stayed for a week in the city of Little Rock, capitol of Arkansas.  One of the main attractions here is the Clinton Presidential Library, an unusual rectangular shaped building projecting towards the shore of the Arkansas River.  Clinton served two terms as governor in Little Rock, so he definitely has a big presence in this city.

Visiting this Presidential library was quite a bit different than our visit to the Truman Library in Independence.  The Truman library is a more conservative building with smaller space, one floor and is of course older than the Clinton library.  The Clinton library has more high tech exhibits and the building is very modern with three floors of viewing.  The building also features lots of open space between the floors.  Since I am afraid of heights, it made me feel a little uneasy walking around on the top floor that looks down on the floors below and outside.  Above is a picture of the Clinton Presidential Park Bridge as seen from the museum.

The design for this building was inspired by the Long Room at Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland.  In the picture below, you can see many blue boxes displayed in cabinets.  The museum has 4,536 blue boxes containing presidential records from the Clinton White House.  You can get a glimpse of the boxes in the pictures both above and below.  On the righthand side of the picture above is also a Chihuly glass sculpture.  Below is a picture of the first floor with Mark standing at the end of the room, probably waiting for me.  There were lots of exhibits!

The museum has a replica of the cabinet room at the White House where one can sit at the long oval table.  The cabinet room has been the center of presidential decision making since 1902 when it was added to the West Wing of the White House by Theodore Roosevelt.

I decided to sit in the chair of the Secretary of Health and Human Services since I worked in the field of human services (hee, hee).

There is also a replica of the Oval Office.  I had to take the picture a little to the side, because there was a photographer in the middle of the room.  You can take pictures in the room, but not a picture of someone sitting at the desk unless you pay to have your photo taken, sigh.

We found the library and museum to be really quite interesting.  There was lots to read and see about Clinton’s time as president, as well as many exhibits about Bill and Hillary’s personal lives, both in and out of office.  I enjoyed seeing the variety of gifts he received from other countries while president.  I read that Clinton was the most traveled president as during eight years in office he visited 74 countries on six continents.

We took a break for lunch at Cafe 42 downstairs in the library.  Mark and I are still getting used to the presidents being referred to by their numbers.  It is a beautiful spot with big glass windows looking out on the bridge and river.  Though the cafe had a sophisticated feel and a trendy menu, the prices were surprisingly reasonable, the food delicious and the service very attentive.  This was one of the nicest places we have eaten on the trip.

We finished up our visit with an eye opening look at the Mandela exhibit.  I am often reminded in my travels how little I know about the world.  I appreciated the exhibit as I learned a lot more about Nelson Mandela and his life.  Above is a replica of the 8 x 7 foot prison cell where Mandela was held for 18 of the 27 years he was a political prisoner.  He was an amazing man for all the work he did to end apartheid In South Africa!

Across the street from the library is the Heifer Village main headquarters.  Heifer is a charity organization that provides animals and financial support to people in poor countries so they can build businesses and a means of support for their families.  Some of you might have received their booklet in the mail, asking for donations.  Often the requests are donations that will pay for a certain animal; for example, a llama for $150, water buffalo for $250, or a goat for $120.  Besides the large headquarters building there is a visitor center with exhibits on the work they do.

We most enjoyed seeing the Village’s large garden areas and greenhouses. Vegetables grown here are distributed to local organizations to help the needy.  A variety of farm animals are kept here including alpacas (above), one of my favorite animals.

Little Rock has a very nice river walk that passes several bridges, parks and sculptures.  I liked the origami bird sculpture seen above.

The Junction Bridge is a popular pedestrian and biking bridge that connects Little Rock with the city of North Little Rock.

Along the river front is an area dedicated to La Petite Roche or a “Little Rock.”  Historically, there was not actually one little rock but an outcropping on the Arkansas River used as a navigation point during early exploration of what would become the state of Arkansas.  Much of the rock had to be removed in 1872 to support the Junction Bridge and have an adequate channel for river traffic.   This rock is part of the area dedicated to the spot and explorers that gave the city its name.

I thought these yellow street cars that tour around the downtown and travel across the bridge to North Little Rock were very cute.  We hopped on board for a free ride and had the car to ourselves with a driver that pointed out interesting sights.  One of the more interesting things he noted was that Bill and Hillary Clinton stay in a residence on top of the presidential library when they come to town.

I will close with pictures of two of Little Rock’s bridges at night taken across the Arkansas river on the North Little Rock side.   The picture below is the Junction Bridge with the downtown Little Rock skyline.

Thanks for reading – next time I will be talking about a famous high school.

Hot Springs – A Park Dedicated to Hot Water

I find Hot Springs National Park in southwest central Arkansas an unusual National Park.  It is hard to think about it the same way one would think about Yosemite, Yellowstone, Zion or Glacier.  Those places boast grand scenery, a large amount of protected land, big visitor centers and numerous activities.   Hot Springs is a very small park that was created to protect the natural hot springs that flow from the nearby mountain.  The main attraction in addition to the springs are bathhouses, especially one historic house that is run by the National Park Service.  The park does include nearby forests with a few trails, a mountain drive to an observation tower and a campground.  But most visitors come to see and learn about the hot springs and the bath houses.  Since the park is so small, I am surprised it was not made a National Historic Site or National Monument.  The park is located in downtown Hot Springs with the bathhouses on one side of the street and stores and restaurants on the other.  I found this park to be a unique and interesting stop, a different sort of national park.

People have been soaking in these springs for many years.  American Indians bathed here in the late 1700’s and early 1800’s.  In 1832 the federal government set aside four sections of land here, the first U.S. Reservation created to protect a natural resource.  The first bathhouses were tent like structures made of canvas and wood that were placed over the springs or reservoirs.  Businessmen later built more permanent wooden structures which did not hold up well.  In 1877 the federal government approved the building of private bathhouses and even operated a free bathhouse and public health facility for those unable to pay for baths recommended by their physician.  Above is a picture of bathhouse row.

In 1921 Hot Springs was declared the nation’s 18th national park.  Bathhouses along “bathhouse row” catered to crowds of health seekers with the latest equipment and pampered the bathers in beautiful surroundings.  They even included gymnasiums and beauty shops.  By the 1950’s, water therapy was on the decline and people became less interested in vacationing at the bathhouses.  They began to close in the 1960’s and only one, the Buckstaff has remained open since it began in 1912.  Above is a picture of the Buckstaff, the only bathhouse that still offers the same bathing experience as when it first opened.  There are other bathhouses in the area that offer a more “modern” experience.

The park visitor center and museum is located in the Fordyce Bathhouse, built in 1915.  Visitors are able to do a self-guided tour of the bathhouse or have a group tour with a National Park ranger.  Exhibits include the bathing areas with original tubs, showers, steam cabinets, sitz baths, massage tables and reclining chairs for relaxing.   There were separate facilities for men and women.  Below is a picture of the men’s bathing area which was larger and more ornate than the women’s with a stained glass ceiling and statue in the center of the room.  Bathers could drink from the spring waters flowing from the statue.

Hot mineral water was piped into the tubs.  Since the water is too hot at an average temperature of 143 degrees, cooler water had to be added.  When we had our backyard hot tub in Modesto, I could barely tolerate 103 degrees.   At the time, a single bath with an attendant cost $2.30.  Below is a picture of a bathtub in the women’s section.  The clothing displayed next to the bath was used by the bathing attendants.

A steam or vapor box was used after bathing.  I thought the box looked quite confining with only the head to stick out.  People remained in the cabinets for up to 30 minutes at a temperature from 115 to 140 degrees.  Ouch!    It was reportedly used in the treatment of rheumatism, advanced syphilis, jaundice and obesity.  Below is a row of vapor cabinets.

The Hydrotherapy room was perhaps the most interesting part of the bathhouse with treatments prescribed by physicians for more difficult ailments or injuries that were not helped by the simple bathing ritual.

The most bizarre was the electric bathtub, seen above.  Although today using electric devices in water is unheard of, in that time period the belief was a little electricity with your bath could be medically beneficial.  Surprisingly there were no known deaths from electrocution while it was in use.  Other treatments in this room included the power hoses that attendants sprayed on bathers while they were in the shower (see below).    Yes, the room had a bit of a creepy feel.  As bizarre as this seems to us today, at the time it seemed important to protect and preserve this area.

There were several massage rooms and a few had scary looking devices – electro massage machines that were used for applying electric charges to various parts of the body.  Massages might also include mercury rubs which at the time was the primary treatment for syphillis until penicillin was developed in the 1940’s.  The rubs were stopped when people became understandably sick.   Arsenic rubs were then used which also proved to be problematic.

There were many other rooms that touted ways to improve health including physical therapy with exercise machines and a full gym.  The Assembly Room, pictured below is a cheerful and pretty room with a much more attractive look than the sterile looking bathing and massage rooms.  Both men and women could use this room to socialize, play games, read, listen to music, etc.  A beautiful stained glass ceiling decorates the room.

A promenade for walking was built on the hill with a view of the town and bathhouses below.  You can also walk past a few places where the springs come down the hill side.  It was fun to feel the water which is quite hot, so you can’t keep your hands in too long.

Outside of the city of Hot Springs is Garvan Woodland Gardens, situated in a forest and alongside a large lake, one of the nicest gardens to be visited in Arkansas.

The gardens were designed by the University of Arkansas and feature trails and paths by plantings, rock gardens, streams, small waterfalls and ponds.  There are several bridges including my favorite below which is called the Bridge of the Full Moon, located in the Japanese Garden section.

Along the trails are views of Lake Hamilton through the trees.

This is a beautiful and peaceful place and a perfect location to walk for a few hours admiring the scenery.  We almost had the gardens to ourselves, a benefit of being retired and able to go on a weekday!

The gardens are known for the many Christmas light installations placed throughout the park.  They had just put them up when we were there, but would not be lighting them for another week.  It would have been neat to see them!

Next to the gardens is the Anthony Chapel which is a gorgeous building that has 55 foot tall glass windows looking out on the surrounding woodlands – built to be a part of nature.  This chapel although similiar to the one I visited in Bella Vista is a little bigger and was designed by a different architect.

The chapel was an ideal place to commune with nature and end a day of sightseeing!

As always, thanks for visiting our blog!  Next time I will be sharing our stay in the city of Little Rock.

Mountain View – Folk Music Capital

We stayed one week in the little town of Mountain View, located in north central Arkansas in the Ozark mountains.   The town calls itself the folk music capital of the world and comes by the name legitimately as far as I am concerned.  This town is all about music – there are regular music jams around the court house and at the downtown picking park, often on a daily basis.  There are musical shows in the evenings at different venues and the town hosts music related festivals throughout the year.  Below is a picture of the “picking park” with gazebos to sit under while playing.  Unfortunately during our stay, the cool weather was usually not conducive to outdoor gatherings.

Many of the RV parks in town have a few music jams weekly, during the days or evenings.  When we checked into our park, we were given a list of activities which included dulcimer jams on Monday nights, potluck supper on Tuesday nights and jam sessions on Wednesday and Thursday mornings.  The park where we stayed has a “picking shed” where they hold their music jams and other get togethers including a musical church service on Sunday mornings.

The dulcimer jam on Monday night featured a few musicians from the RV park as well as the town.  It was great to hear them play.  I tried to encourage Mark to bring his mandolin and join in but he always says he needs to practice more first.

There are often impromptu jam sessions in the office.  While taking out the trash one day Mark heard them playing so we both came over to listen.   The office was crowded with pickers so we rocked on the porch and listened.

Mark and I made a trip to the local dulcimer shop which is well known throughout the U.S. for making fine mountain dulcimers.   Mark tried out a few with help from the dulcimer maker.   He wound up buying a beautiful cherry wood dulcimer and at this time is learning to play.  It is quiet and a great instrument to have in a trailer.

The Ozark Folk Center State Park is probably the best thing about Mountain View.  The park features old time crafters as well as multiple music venues.  I will first talk about the crafters who are located in little shops throughout the park property demonstrating their crafts.  My favorite was the copper colorist who creates patterns and colors on copper with only his torch flame.  The flame makes the many colors by the number of times the heat is applied and how long it is applied.   He has been working on this unique technique for over 30 years.

It was fascinating watching him work and explain the details.  Below is the finished hummingbird he was working on in the above picture.  I couldn’t resist taking it home.

The Folk Center has a number of other crafters on site so it takes awhile to visit them all.  Crafters include: A blacksmith, spinner, cooper, quilter, potter, broom maker, candle maker, toy maker, wood carver, doll maker, knife maker, printer, soap maker and herbalist.   Luckily we were there during a less busy time in the fall so it was easier to see the shops.  So much nicer than our experience at Silver Dollar City.

The printer demonstrated a press that uses handset metal type and a foot powered press that is over 100 years old.  You can buy some neat cards made on the press.

The quilt shop was probably the most attractive and colorful of the shops with so many quilts displayed around.

There is only one animal at the park and he is usually busy pulling an old fashioned swing for the kids.  On this quiet day he was all by his lonesome when I found him.  I have always had a soft spot for donkeys.

The Center has a number of historic cabins and other buildings that were moved and displayed here.  In the picture below, this building from 1870 was used as a school in the late 1920’s and early 1930’s.  The walls are original, but the floor had to be replaced by the park.

Music is big at the Folk Center and they have a large auditorium and shows three nights a week.  One reason we chose this particular RV park is that the campground is located right next door to the Ozark Folk Center.  It was a short walk from our trailer through the gate to the auditorium.

We went to shows here three nights in a row.   The shows always start off with square dancing.

The last night was an awards ceremony which concludes the folk center season for the year.   It was very interesting to see how the Mountain View community gathers together to celebrate and encourage their musicians.  They are especially fond of their young musicians.

There is a musical program at the schools here called “Roots.”  The program was developed to keep mountain music alive through the generations.  Students are loaned an instrument and receive group lessons, all at no cost.  The kids play amazingly well.  Below is one of the groups that performed during the show while couples waltzed in the background.

Since Mark and I love music including folk and bluegrass, Mountain View was a great place to be for a short while.  Perhaps we will be back for one of their festivals or for more mountain music!

Thanks for reading!  When Mark heard about our next destination he said, “We are driving to a place to see hot water?”

A Visit to Pea Ridge and a Living Cavern

I had never thought much about Civil War battle fields west of the Mississippi since it seemed to me the fighting was mostly in the east and south.  The Battle of Pea Ridge occurred in Northwestern Arkansas in March of 1862 and was one of the first major engagements in the Civil War.  It became known as the battle that saved Missouri for the Union.  At the beginning of the war, it was critical to keep Missouri in the Union.  The battle involving 23,000 soldiers lasted two days and saw the Confederates defeated.

Pea Ridge is a historic site managed by the National Park Service (NPS) and has an interesting visitor center and a seven mile tour route that takes you along the areas where the battles were fought.  I was surprised at how beautiful the drive was and how well the NPS is managing the site.  The battle fields are very large and are well marked with sign boards.  In addition, the park is out in the country, well away from any towns or homes and therefore feels quite authentic.

There were 11 stops on the route with information at each stop.   Perhaps my favorite stop was the overlook of the largest battlefield.  From above I couldn’t believe how huge it was.

Here is another picture from the overlook with the Visitor Center, driving route and battle field.

Elkhorn Tavern is located on a once important road.  Prior to the Civil War the road was part of the Butterfield Overland Stage Route and had telegraph lines.   During the Indian removals in 1837-1839, the road served as the northern route of the Trail of Tears.  During the battles of Pea Ridge, a major skirmish occurred around the Tavern.  If you look closely at the picture, you can see the elkhorns on the roof and Mark on the porch.   We had the park to explore almost to ourselves and it turned out to be a highlight of our travels.

Blanchard Springs Caverns is a wondrous place run by the U.S. Forest Service and located in the Ozark National Forest in north central Arkansas.   I have always enjoyed visiting caves and anticipating what formations might be inside.  One of my favorite experiences was at Carlsbad Caverns some years ago when I walked from the large mouth of the cave down a long paved path to the bottom where there were rooms with spectacular formations.  At Blanchard Springs Caverns, our very small group was taken a few hundred feet down in an elevator to the upper floor of the three level cave system.

We walked the Dripstone Trail, one of three possible tours offered at the Caverns.  On this trail, you can see almost every type of calcite formation found in limestone caves. This includes delicate hollow soda straws, massive flowstones, columns, stalactites and stalagmites.   I was awestruck at the number of formations seen here, one of the most decorated caves I have visited.

We walked through two major rooms with the first room the largest.  It was quite impressive and surprising to walk in and see the immense Cathedral Room which is said to be long enough to hold three football fields and still have space left over.  During the Christmas season an event is held in the Cathedral Room called “Caroling in the Caverns” where visitors are entertained with a show.  I think it would be amazing to listen to a chorus of singers and musicians in that huge expanse.

Unlike many cave formations that are dry and have stopped growing, this is called a living cave because it is constantly growing and changing as minerals deposited by the dripping water create new formations or add on to current ones.   It was interesting to see and hear water dripping into pools below.  The formations take many, many years to develop and it is hard to imagine how long some of these have been growing.  A spring that flows out of the cavern and into a lake below is one of the main contributors to the cavern’s formations.

Below is a picture from our last stop on the tour and probably my favorite of the formations we saw.  The ceiling was covered with tiny soda straws.  You could see that they were continuing to grow as they were dripping water.  It looked like a fairy tale scene, the formations were so delicate and lovely.

I will have to say that it is difficult taking pictures in caves, so my photos are of course darker than I would like.  In addition, since Mark and I started full time traveling, we have not yet been able to set up an editing system for our laptop and IPad in order to enhance photos.

After the tour, we checked out some other scenic spots in the Blanchard Springs area.  I was disappointed that due to a road closure, we were unable to hike the trail to see Blanchard Springs Falls (the falls that helped form the caverns) as well as another waterfall that flows from Mirror Lake.  We were able to walk to Mirror Lake via a boardwalk.  Along the way we encountered  an old stone mill with only two sides remaining.  A mill at this site once ground corn and ginned cotton from 1900 until 1928.

Mirror Lake is a small and pretty lake that is popular for fishing.  Although I am not into fishing, I can maybe see its appeal at the idyllic spot below.

We visited Blanchard Springs campground and picnic area.   Below I am hanging out in the seating area with tall rock cliffs in the background forming a natural enclosure for the amphitheater.

Sylamore Creek flows through the camp and picnic area.  The scenery along the creek was lovely but I was most impressed by the clearness of the water.  It reminded me of the water of the Smith River in Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park in Northern California.  My friend Sharon introduced me to the beauty of that river, one of her favorite places.

Thanks for checking in – next time I will talk about our stay in Mountain View, Arkansas, the town that is all about folk music.

Bentonville – Mr. Walton’s Neighborhood

Prior to full time RVing, Walmart was never our store of choice, we just didn’t shop there.   If we needed something more than a grocery store, Target was our go to store.  I had always found Walmart to be crowded and chaotic with a long check out line.  I can remember shopping there years ago late one night.   I thought it would be a simple process to stop in to purchase one needed item.   Since it was almost midnight, I figured hardly anyone would be shopping.  I was wrong as there were lines at each checkout and they were at a standstill due to issues at the registers.  When I could finally pay for my purchase, I asked the cashier the best time to shop at Walmart to beat the crowds.  She answered that at 2:00 a.m., it was usually pretty slow.  After that trip, I pretty much avoided the store.

It seems to me now the Walmart Super Centers are bigger and easier to shop in, with more check stands and even self check stands.  After taking off in our RV full time we found that Walmarts as we expected, were almost every where we traveled, even in small towns.  They have most of the things that we need and can get in one stop shopping.  For example, in one trip we got a shirt for Mark, special toilet paper for our trailer, frozen food items and fresh vegetables and fruit.  We are shopping at Walmart regularly now, something I would not have anticipated, but things change when you are on the road.  We also hit local grocery stores and chains when we can, depending on what is available.  I do miss the stores that we used to shop in while living in Modesto, mostly Raley’s for the produce.

Mr. Sam Walton, the founder of Walmart began his store in the town of Bentonville, Arkansas when he opened Walton’s 5 &10 in 1950, buying a previously owned variety store.  He extensively remodeled the store calling it the most modern variety store in Northwest Arkansas.

In 1962, Walton opened his first Walmart.  By the end of the decade, he had a chain of 18 stores in Arkansas, Missouri and Oklahoma.  He built his chain on the basis of offering the lowest prices to be found any where.  In the 1970’s, the store went national and in 1979, Walmart became the first company to reach $1 billion in sales in such a short time.  By 1990, Walmart was the nation’s number one retailer.

In March 1992, Walton was presented the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honor, recognizing his contributions to community and country.   Mr. Walton’s comments when receiving the medal included the following:  “If we work together, we’ll lower the cost of living for everyone …. we’ll give the world an opportunity to see what it’s like to save and have a better life.”  Mr. Walton passed away on April 5, 1992, shortly after receiving the medal.

The building that housed the five and dime store is now the Walton museum and through sign boards, memorabilia, photography and film showcases how Mr. Walton built his empire.  The small and free museum located on the historic town square (picture above), is an interesting visit and rather humble in scope for someone who built such a huge empire.   Below is a picture of Walton’s office, preserved in the museum as it was the day he died.

Walton’s old 1979 Ford half ton pickup truck can also be seen in the museum.   Walton reported, “I just don’t believe a big showy lifestyle is appropriate.  Why do I drive a pickup truck?  What am I supposed to haul my dogs around in, a Rolls Royce?”  The original papers, registration, keys and sunglasses were all found in the truck just the way he left it and are on display next to the truck.

The most amusing exhibit includes famous customer returns such as a mixer that a customer said was “possessed,” a pencil sharpener that didn’t sharpen ink pens, an outdoor thermometer that never had the correct time, a mangled tennis racket that a customer said he could not serve well with, a fishing pole that didn’t work – no fish.  Below is a picture of returns.

When finished looking at the museum, one can visit the old fashioned soda fountain that serves up ice cream treats.  In addition, there is still a small 5&10 store that has souvenirs, toys and candy from a bygone era – I couldn’t resist getting a little of my past favorites, have you had a Bit-O-Honey or Mary Jane candy lately?

In the town of Bentonville is another Walton creation, Crystal Bridges Museum, one of my highlights of the trip so far.   This one of a kind art museum features hundreds of works by American masters from colonial times to the present.

The exhibits are wonderful, but the unusual building set in a ravine and surrounded by Ozark forest is worth a visit in itself.  The building is a series of pavilions around two spring fed ponds with lots of views to the outside.

Crystal Bridges was founded in 2005 by the Walton Family Foundation as a nonprofit charitable organization.  There is no admission cost except for special exhibits.  Below is one of my favorite paintings exhibited, “The Lantern Bearers” by Maxfield Parrish.

Outside there are miles of trails as well as sculptures, streams, ponds and bridges to enjoy.  I could spend hours at this place which I did.

I really enjoy Chihuly glass and there was a temporary exhibit called “Chihuly in the Forest.”  There were about eight installations of his work set among the trees near a winding path.

Below is a picture of one of my favorites, the Fiori Boat.  The inspiration for this was when Chihuly was in Finland and he floated pieces of glass downstream in a river where teenagers retrieved them in rowboats.

The Sole D’Oro sculpture features 1400 hand blown pieces of glass and weighs more than 5,000 pounds.

Many of the trees on the museum grounds were showing some fall colors.  A great place for walking or sitting and enjoying the forest.

While staying in northwest Arkansas we visited a Walmart in Bentonville.  It is located right across the street from the Walmart headquarters offices and Mark commented that we would find this store looking very spruced up.    When we walked in we saw that the floors were highly polished, much more than most Walmarts we have visited.  The rest of the store looked pretty good too.  This store probably has to keep a  high standard since they are located in Mr. Walton’s town.

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Bella Vista, Arkansas – A Beautiful Place to Hang Out

Bella Vista is a small town located in northwestern Arkansas.   Our RV park here turned out to be more delightful than I had hoped.  Located right next to a forest and park, there are a number of trails for walking or biking that go through the woods.  A small stream from a spring in the park flows near the RV sites.  The Ozark forests are really lovely with a variety of hardwood trees and many rock formations.  I took advantage of the chance to walk and hike right from our doorstep; the first place we have stayed with wooded trails to explore.

Perhaps my favorite spot in the Bella Vista area was Tanyard Creek nature trail and an area they call the rapids.  I loved the rock formations with the water cascading down.

It would have been neat to see it in the winter and spring when the stream is really running, but was still beautiful now.  Upstream was a small waterfall that was at low flow, but still rather pretty.

Bella Vista could be described some what as a planned community with homes situated near a number of lakes, golf courses, parks, bike paths and trails.  It is also close to the metropolitan areas of Bentonville, Rogers and Fayetteville with all needed services and shopping.  It appeared to me this would be an appealing place to live.

The Ozark mountains cover a fairly large part of southern Missouri and Northern Arkansas.  I was looking forward to arriving during fall colors, but this year fall was more subdued, less colorful.  Mark and I explored nearby Hobbs State Park to see more of the Ozark region.  On the visitor center nature trail, we learned about how water has created deep valleys or hollows.  An old fashioned washboard in picture above was used as an example.

At Hobbs State Park we hiked a few miles on another trail and got to travel a hollow and around rock formations. The ups and downs gave us a little bit of a workout.  It was late afternoon and the forest was alive with light and color.

Limestone bluffs (below) are a common sight in the Ozark region and I found them interesting and fun to explore, especially since some of them are cavelike.

We also took a walk to a historic hollow where the Van Winkle family had one of the most important sawmill operations in 19th century Arkansas.  Besides the mill, there was a home and garden and a community consisting of quarters for the workers and slaves.  There were other industries such as a gristmill and blacksmith shop.    Below is a picture of the foundation remains of the sawmill.

The mill also played an important part during the Civil War.  The sawmill cut wood for Confederate soldiers’ housing in 1862 and the grist mill ground corn for the soldiers.  Wounded Confederate soldiers were housed here before the mill was destroyed by fire in 1863 and the Van Winkle family was forced to leave their home.  Mr. Van Winkle rebuilt the mill after the Civil War and it provided much of the lumber to rebuild northwest Arkansas.  The mill finally closed in 1890.  The buildings are long since gone with the house dismantled in 1968.  Below is a picture of the spot where the house once stood.  The grassy area in back of the stone marker was the home site.

I thought it was a shame that the buildings were taken down and the structures not preserved here, but the place did retain an interesting atmosphere.  There are sign boards throughout the property explaining where buildings were located with a few foundations remaining.  Using the imagination, you could picture what life might have been like in this secluded valley of the Ozarks.  Below is a picture of the lovely creek that runs through the property.

I found this bush with colorful berries unusual and something I had not seen before. The berries are a striking purple and hang in clusters.  I found out later that this bush is called the American Beautyberry plant and the berries turn a purplish color in fall and winter.  It is always fun for me to find and learn about new plants in the wild.

Speaking of mills, one of the favorite destinations in northern Arkansas is War Eagle Mill.  There has been a grist mill here since 1832 and has since been destroyed and rebuilt three times.   When rebuilt in 1973, the owner built a reproduction of the original mill to preserve the history of grist milling.  It is the only working mill in Arkansas and is still powered by a waterwheel.

Inside the mill building, you can watch grains being ground and purchase flour, cornmeal and other grains.  The day we visited corn was being ground into meal.  There are three floors in the building with the first floor the mill, second floor a gift shop and the third floor a small restaurant.  Ham and beans with cornbread are the specialty here.  A very large arts and craft fair is held around the mill property each year and was the reason we were unable to get an RV site the weekend before we came.  Below is a picture of the mill taken from across the historic one lane steel bridge built in 1907.

Perhaps the favorite place to visit in Bella Vista is the Mildred B. Cooper chapel built as a memorial and incorporated into a forest setting.  The architect, a student of Frank Lloyd Wright was introduced to the principle of organic architecture or designing to fit into the environment.

Inside the high ceilinged chapel are many arches and windows looking out onto the forest.  I had never seen a chapel like this before and it is amazingly beautiful.

Visitors can come in, sit and enjoy the beauty during the day.  When I visited I had the place to myself and could enjoy not only the lovely nature setting but also listen to quiet piano music that plays in the background.  The chapel is a popular place for weddings.

There are two other chapels of this type in Arkansas, each located in a different region of the state.   I was able to visit another one near Hot Springs.  I will be writing about that chapel and our visit to the area in another post.

Thanks for checking in – Special thanks to everyone who has subscribed.  Welcome Anacani, welcome John, welcome Julie S.  More Arkansas to come!  Next post I will be writing about the Walmart Waltons.

Wishing everyone a happy Thanksgiving!

Goodbye Arkansas, Hello Louisiana!

Hello there!  I haven’t posted for a while so I thought I would put up a quick update.  I don’t want to steal anything from Beth’s epic tale of exploration and adventure so I will stay pretty general.  We are just finishing up a week in Little Rock and our third week in Arkansas (and winding up 12 weeks on the road).  Tomorrow we break camp and head for Lafayette, Louisiana.

Arkansas has been a lot of fun and as usual there are many more things here we’d like to see but it is time to move on.  Beth has been busy exploring and taking pictures to post.  We got a new set up so we can put our pictures up on a tv screen while she does her choosing.  She takes lots and lots of pictures so picking out a few can be a chore!

Her karma continues to hold up and things are still going smoothly.  Her biggest challenge is still her sometimes cantankerous driver.  Tomorrow’s drive will be our longest in a while and we have booked our first park in Louisiana for a whole month.  It should be interesting!

As always thanks for reading!  Next stop Cajun country!