Archive for the 'Travel' Category

Omission apology

I was reviewing my anniversary and birthday getaway posts and the pictures I had included in them. I will spare you the absolute insanity induced by repeatedly uploading pictures to WordPress, only to find them lying on their right side when they get there – and then rotating them 90 degrees to the left, and uploading them again, only to find them lying on their left side the second time. Sometime the third time was a charm; sometimes not. Anyway, in looking back through things, it seemed like the sequence of pictures of courthouses somehow didn’t line up. I found a picture of the Baxter County courthouse, but I couldn’t remember the deal about it… Well, it dawned on me this morning. VERY early this morning, but that would be a whole ‘nother story.

Evidently I had totally forgotten Mountain Home! On our Sunday rainy drive home, after leaving the Calico Rock jail and before eating our gazebo-on-the-courthouse-grounds lunch in Gainesville, we made a significant stop in Mountain Home, Arkansas, the seat of Baxter County. Of course, we first drove around the (rather three-sided) town square and saw the courthouse,

but we had another more important stop to make in Mountain Home (and no, it wasn’t for a bathroom!). You see, for a few years as a teenager, Scott used to live in Mountain Home. His dad was a civil engineer, and their family moved their for Dad to build two highway bridges over Norfork Lake. BTW, Norfork Lake is so named it was formed by damming the 109 mile-long north fork of the White River. Scott graduated from Mountain Home High School, class of 1982. We drove by the (formerly Methodist, now non-denominational) church he attended, the ball field where he coached his sisters’ softball team, and with effort, we finally found the house he’d lived in. It’s a nice house and other folks live in it now.

It’s located on Live Oak Drive and backs up to a large neighborhood pond called Gardner Lake.

Our little stop in Mountain Home was a walk down memory lane for Scott, and I enjoyed seeing some places that had been significant in his life before we met. Scott has now spent more than half of his life married to me, and as far as I can tell, he’s quite happy about that.  = )

To Calico Rock and beyond

Highway 5 runs north from Allison roughly paralleling the White River on its western side. The road is one to ten miles from the river, so a lot of the time we couldn’t see the water, but the drive was pleasant.

In that part of the country, we’d seen a number of black and white informative signs, all of the same style, akin to this,

and if you’ve ever driven with me on a rural road, you know that it’s as hard for me to pass a historical sign as a good bathroom.

So Calico Rock. Even among folks who’ve heard of Calico Rock, AR, who really knows much of anything about it? Well, Scott and I now know quite a bit about it! As we came into “town” (and it’s not much of a town), we turned right and drove across an old one-lane bridge. That was fun, and at the far end of the bridge on the left side, facing the direction we’d just come from, was another one of those black and white historical information signs. We stopped to read it and learned that having just crossed Calico Creek slightly above where it enters the White River, we were now technically in East Calico, which back in its heyday was evidently a thriving little community and the true heart of Calico Rock. Not only that, there was a WALKING TOUR of East Calico! This brought back our old days of doing the walking tour of Eureka Springs on our seventh anniversary getaway and pushing seven month-old Josiah in his well-worn umbrella stroller up and done innumerable stone stairs and over many uneven stone sidewalks while reading a brochure about all those fascinating Victorian houses.

Standing there in “downtown” East Calico, we heard a train go past somewhere very close by. We heard it but couldn’t see it, and in looking for it we drove down a short dead-end street and found a section of overgrown railroad siding and an abandoned railroad bridge over the creek.

Hmm… Very odd, and we were quite keen to do the walking tour, but first, I needed a bathroom. 

Subway to the rescue, and in getting there we ended up driving through a different part of town and passing a log cabin with yet another one of those classic black and white historical signs. Turns out it was the Trimble House, a pre-Civil War log cabin, which was not open to the public, but into which we could look through the windows.

According to posted information (and wikipedia), it’s “one of very few pre-Civil War log buildings still standing in Arkansas.” We also read aloud the extensive and very informative verbiage on a series of signs on the cabin’s grounds, and learned that the land on which the cabin now sits is owned by the large stone church across the street.

We were doing all this cabin scoping shortly before 11:00 AM on a Sunday, and people in Sunday dress were walking into the church as a bell rang the call to worship. How neat! And would you care to guess the name of that particular church? It’s the Calico Rock Cumberland Presbyterian Church! Attentive readers of my post “Our A and B getaway, continued” will recall that the Calico Rock Cumberland Presbyterian Church (at which we were now looking from across the road at the Trimble House) had been planted by the Mount Olive Cumberland Presbyterian Church (which we’d seen the day before, three miles off the beaten path during our drive home from Melbourne, of yard sale fame). And this very Calico Rock Cumberland Presbyterian Church had subsequently planted the Fifty-Six Missionary Baptist Church of which our good friend Don Thomas (the wonderful Stone County museum volunteer whose great-grandfather was the first official resident of Branson) was a member!

Really small world, huh?!?

I was thrilled to actually see how all these pieces of local history fit together. Wow!

Well, we were still anticipating our walking tour of East Calico, so we returned to that part of town, again crossing the Calico Creek bridge. The tour covered a deserted several-block area of town, and all the shops were empty and long-abandoned. In some places only foundations remained, but other buildings were partially or mostly intact, and from the signs we could usually figure out what businesses had occupied them. We saw remnants of two different car dealerships, a funeral home, a garage, a grocery, a boarding house, a movie theater, a flooring supply, and a feed store, among others.

Back in the day, wholesale supplies were delivered to the various businesses and manufactured goods were shipped out from them along that railroad siding and bridge we’d seen across the way. Not only that, back before there were any dams on the White River, heavy rains would cause it to rise and the backwash would come up Calico Creek and flood East Calico. Some of the signs on the walking tour told of people being rescued by boat from second floor windows of buildings that were standing in front of us today. Walking down the street we could visualize what that volume of water must’ve been like in that town. Almost unbelievable!

The final stop on the walking tour was the Calico Rock jail.


The blurb on that sign is interesting, and below are a couple pictures of the hole referenced in the final sentence above.


Yikes! But I do like an old-timey jail, so here are a couple more pictures.


Continuing north on Highway 5 through a drizzly rain, we located the Ozark County, Missouri courthouse – our fourth on this trip! – in Gainesville. With no offense to anyone from Ozark County, we weren’t terribly impressed with the town of Gainesville, but since we were hungry, we opted for “dinner on the courthouse grounds.”

This consisted of pulling our wheeled cooler of leftover groceries into that nice gazebo on the left, sitting on the benches within, making sandwiches (with our handy-dandy hot pink glove compartment knife) and rounding out our luncheon with grapes and Gardetto’s while trying to stay warm in the cool, rainy breeze. We succeeded! And from there it was a straight  shot (well, actually a fairly curvy shot) “home again, home again, jiggety-jig,”which My Hero drove while I lazily napped.

And thus ended our wonderful 32nd anniversary and 59th birthday getaway!

Driving me crazy

We drove out to the Ozark Folk Center, but it was closed and although I vaguely remember going there once as a kid with my family, I didn’t recall any details, and we drove away thinking (maybe totally incorrectly) that it didn’t look like much of anything. I think we were both still wanting to actually do something fun before calling it a day when we zipped past a place we’d already passed several times in the past couple days – an old, old-fashioned go-cart track. Country version. Not much to look at, but Scott said, “We could ride go-carts…?”

I thought sure he was kidding. This big girl? In a go-cart? I’d never been in a go-cart in my life! But although everything in me said, “No way, José!” on a wild whim I said, “Well, maybe.” And the man who, before marriage NEVER turned around to go back, turned around and drove a half-mile back to Mountain View Go-Carts, a small, family-owned operation that’s probably been in business for thirty years. There were a few people around, but no one said a word to us, and while we sat at a rickety picnic table and waited, I watched the three drivers who were on the course and wondered if I’d even be able to do it. I was heartened to see that one lady who seemed to be doing fine was significantly larger than me. When her ride was over, she came off the track smiling and saying that she’d never driven a go-cart before, her arms were still shaking, and it was fun. I was cautiously optimistic.

They had six cars, and this family of four potential drivers (mom, dad, teen girl, and grandma, plus a little kid) had been waiting before we got there. We’d all waited for what seemed like half an hour but probably wasn’t while the three on the course zinged around. The man told us they had five good machines, but that the green one had issues and because it wouldn’t go very fast, they only used it for kids or people who were doing it for the first time. I said that would be just the car for me! I didn’t want to go fast; in fact, my biggest concern was that the other drivers would get mad at me because I’d be going so slowly. Between tobacco spits, the man told me that the green car was 13 years old (I said that was fine), that I’d have to keep the pedal all the way down all the time (no way was I about to do that!), and that I wouldn’t be able to race (my kind of go-cart, for sure). So I clambered/dropped down very ungracefully into the driver’s seat and put on my shoulder belt. Scott called my name and when I looked back, he took this picture.

A hand-painted sign on a pole said the pedal on the right was gas and the one on the left was brake. Pretty simple; evidently go-cart driving didn’t require rocket science. The man filled my gas tank and I sat at the front of the line, waiting for everybody to be ready to go. We hadn’t read anything, signed anything, been told anything, or paid anything. The information board that said “Go-cart rides $5” was the sum total of what we knew.

The man said, “Go!” and I pushed my gas pedal. Nothing happened. I pushed harder, all the way down, and v-e-r-y slowly I began to creep forward. The pit stop area was on a slight uphill, and my ancient car couldn’t even make it out onto the track. I just knew everybody was getting mad at me. (Actually they weren’t, but they were all behind me, so I couldn’t tell.) The man came and gave me a shove to get up to the “top” of the slight incline, and finally I was going. Downhill. Toward a tight curve at the bottom.

My brain was racing through five thoughts in a split-second: I was going faster. Would I make the curve? How tightly could I turn? Would someone behind me hit me? Would I flip over? At the risk of angering the other drivers, I decided to slow down a bit.

I pressed on the brake pedal, but my car didn’t slow down. At all. Uh-oh. I pressed harder on the brake and kept coasting faster. I shoved that brake pedal all the way to the floor and basically stood on it with all my weight. It seemed that Green 07 had no brakes at all! This was very unsettling as the first curve (to the right) was right in front of me. Panic! I leaned hard right and turned as tightly as I could while other cars zinged past my right shoulder. Whew! I’d made it. Now full throttle to go back up the hill and into a curve to the left. Would this be endless anxiety? Sheesh! When I got to the pit area, I pulled off and told the man that something was clearly wrong; my car’s brakes didn’t work. He said yeah, that that green car didn’t have any brakes, that they needed to put brakes on it, and that I was fine. Then he gave me another shove to get me going uphill, and away I went. What a crazy thing.

After a few laps, I got into a working pattern of when to turn, how hard to turn, which way to lean, when to mash the gas, and when to let it off completely (this car was all or nothing; either max gas or no gas), and although I never really relaxed completely, it was actually was a lot of fun, and I’m so glad we did it.  = )

After our ride, Scott paid the man our fee of $5 each, and an older man who also worked there (maybe the original owner?) came up to me and said that if I hadn’t enjoyed my ride there’d be no charge. I assured him that it had been fun, and as we left, I wondered aloud what go-cart rides cost in Branson. At Mountain View Go-Carts, we got 15 minutes for $5 and both thought that was a steal of a deal. I guessed that Branson would charge $15 for five minutes!

As per the forecast, Sunday morning looked tuttish for sure, but we were able to load everything up in the dry. Actually, Scott did all the loading, heavy and otherwise, while I washed dishes, collected dirty towels, and gathered all our stuff. Scott had decided he’d like to go home via Highway 5 up to Gainesville, MO, which was a county seat, and our drive from Allison to Gainesville took us through an interesting town full unexpected surprises.

To be continued…

Our A and B getaway, continued

I’m so determined to get this written relatively quickly because I’ve learned that if I don’t write about a trip within about a week, the chances of me remembering what I wanted to say and making time to say it just get slimmer and slimmer.

We knew rain was expected on Sunday when we’d be leaving Gracie’s Place Cottage and driving home. The idea of driving some two and-a-half to three hours on curvy country roads in the rain didn’t sound all that fun, so we were strongly motivated to enjoy as much other outdoor stuff as we could on Saturday.

We’d conquered two town squares so far, and Scott – Scott?!?! – suggested that since we were already in Izard County, well, at least 1/4 mile into it, we could drive over to the county seat of Melbourne and snag another one while we were in the area. I’m always game for a scenic rural drive that might involve a town square, so we did it. Now, I must warn my fellow travelers that there is truly nothing on the stretch of Highway 9 between Allison and Melbourne. No towns, no traffic, no billboards, and almost no houses; just a winding, scenic, two-lane road that can’t be traversed at an average speed above 40 mph. In fact, there was literally only one section of about half a mile that had a dotted yellow line. ALL the rest was double-lined, and the 19.6-mile drive to Melbourne took the better part of an hour.

As we finally came out of the woods and approached the town, we saw a yard sale.

Since I began intentionally decluttering my life a few years ago, I have been practicing avoiding yard sales (book sales are another matter), and I believe I have mastered the skill. There was a day, especially when the kids were young, that I would occasionally stop at one and  actually find good deals on things we really needed and used – along with an array of junk – but I am not in that season of life now. Now my goal is to get rid of something every day, not to bring more in! So the yard sale on the edge of town did not tempt me at all. We saw another one less than a mile farther along; it was obviously a clear, sunny, Saturday morning in Small Town, RA (Rural America).

As we drove around looking for the center of town, we came to a stoplight, and at that intersection there happened to be two yard sales in the parking lots of two businesses on diagonal corners. Melbourne-ites clearly had their pick of yard sales that day! But little did I know.

Thanks to my diuretic, I needed to go to the bathroom, and as My Faithful Chauffeur tooled along the main drag, I was looking for anything akin to a McDonald’s (they always have great bathrooms, but unfortunately Melbourne is McD-less) or even a gas station with a convenience store. We did see one of those, but it looked pretty seedy, so we continued on, and as we did, amazingly, it seemed like there were yard sales in EVERY parking lot in town! I mean on every corner and in between every corner! In steadily increasing urinary desperation, I told Scott to pull into Dollar General; at that point, any bathroom would do. Several people were waiting in line at the check-out counter, and when I asked the lone and very busy clerk if they had a public restroom, he just nodded, pointed, and quickly handed me a purple plastic ruler with a key on it. I found the restroom and when leaving it, as instructed, re-locked the door. As I returned the key to the clerk, I thanked him and then commented in general to the folks still in line, “There sure are a lot of yard sales in this town. Do y’all do this all the time?”

One lady said, “Yep. Every year. The first weekend in October and the first weekend in April.”

“Wow!” I replied. “We’ve never seen anything like it!”

And as we continued our search for Ozarka College (quite small but seemingly adequate) and the town square (here’s the Izard County courthouse)…

…we counted yard sales. Get this: we verified – in this small, remote town of 1813 people – at least 32 (thirty-two!) yard sales on one Saturday morning. That was truly amazing, and I’m guessing that since the total population of Izard County is only 13,686, with Melbourne being the largest city in the county, the whole county must come in to Melbourne twice a year for its yard sales.

As we drove back “home” to Allison along Highway 9, looking for a nice spot to stop and have lunch, we pulled off at a sign for a historical marker and started down a nice paved road. I will say that Izard County is not known for its abundant signage. We stopped briefly at Devil’s Shoulder and surveyed the Devil’s Gap trailhead, but decided that for several reasons we really weren’t up for a hike. At my urging, we continued down that road (I later learned that it was Mt. Olive road) despite Scott’s repeated comments that we must’ve passed the historical marker or maybe there wasn’t a historical marker and we probably ought to turn around. Some three miles on, we turned a corner and saw the white frame Mount Olive Cumberland Presbyterian Church, organized in – can you believe it? – 1826(!!!) with a historical marker in its side yard. So there! I felt vindicated. As the crow flies, that church building is only a quarter-mile from the White River, where we saw a number of folks fishing for trout.

There being absolutely no bathrooms – or woodsy areas far enough off the road(s) to provide any privacy – at Mt. Olive or anywhere between Melbourne and Allison, we hurried on home, ate lunch, and rested a while. But by 3:00, I was itching to try the Stone County museum again. Assuming its volunteer showed up, it would be open 1:00-4:00 that Saturday, and that would be our last opportunity to see it. Scott is always kind and and accommodating to me, but on this trip he really outdid himself; we drove back into Mountain View to the Stone County museum, and, lo and behold, it was open!

We wandered around the interesting displays for a few minutes until the volunteer docent, Don Thomas, a wonderful elderly longtime Stone County resident, greeted us and asked where we were from. “Near Branson” launched him into a series of stories about Stone County, Arkansas history in general and his own family history in particular. It was fascinating to hear newsy historical details from someone who had experienced them personally.

Don comes from a family of missions-minded Ozarkian Christians who, way back when, had had the goal of establishing and growing a rural church that would thrive to the point that it could send out people to other rural areas of Stone County and to plant a like-minded congregation. And it just so happens that a Flatwoods, a substantial church there in Mountain View had been planted by the Missionary Baptist church he currently attends out in Fifty-Six near Blanchard Springs Caverns. Way back in the day, it seems that believers in that area were more concerned about congregations of growing Christians than about denominational labels, and it turns out that the Fifty-Six Missionary Baptist Church had been planted by a group of folks sent out from the Cumberland Presbyterian Church in Calico Rock. And the Calico Rock Cumberland Presbyterian Church had been established by a handful of people who went out from the Mount Olive Cumberland Presbyterian Church which we’d been standing in front of just a couple hours earlier!!!

Not only that, it turns out that Don’s great-great grandfather (born in 1822), was the man who in pre-Civil War days had owned the land on which the city of Branson (founded in 1882, incorporated in 1912) now sits. Calvin Gayler is listed as the first permanent resident of Branson and is buried in the Branson City Cemetery down by the railroad tracks. I haven’t scoped out his grave yet, but I thought that connection between our Stone County, (AR) museum guide, Don Thomas, and our own fair tourist town was very interesting.

It was still a warm and wonderful afternoon, so we returned to the lovely Mountain View City Park and enjoyed three games of cuppers (yes, we were traveling with both cuppers and cornhole boards; Scott in particular likes to have options), the final one of which I won decisively – cupping with the VERY last washer of the game! Nice and satisfying.

And as we left town for the final time, we noticed quite a crowd on the courthouse lawn. It looked like a small stage was set up and maybe they were having a concert or something. Hey, a free concert on the grounds? Maybe we’d get to hear some pickin’ and grinnin’. It sounded fun, so we parked and pulled out our bag chairs. Yes, we had those with us too. No, we never travel light. We also had a flip-top box of games packed below our dry food… Anyway, the folks on stage were singing some country-sounding song about love. Some guy was holding a boom mic that was as fuzzy as a sheep, another couple guys were holding up a reflector, and somebody had a professional-looking TV camera on his shoulder. I figured this must be a big deal concert, and maybe some local TV station was getting footage of it for the evening news. But then, IS there really any TV station local to Mountain View Arkansas? Well, when the song ended, some stocky smiling guy with long hair and a beard said, laughing, “So we record it and then we do it thirty more times.” Now, that sounded odd. Who ever heard of a concert where they did the same song 30 times?!? The singers wandered away from the stage, and the guys who’d been holding the reflector traded it for a huge translucent thing on a hinged frame, which they moved to different locations, I think in an effort to focus onto the stage sunlight with no shadows. Then some lady behind us struck up a conversation with me, and I asked her what was going on and she said they were recording a movie! We sat around for about 30 minutes while nothing was happening and then left.

[Update: I later corresponded with someone from the Stone County Leader newspaper in Mountain View. She told me that she thinks the movie they were recording is called “Falling In Love In Mountain View,” which hopefully some television network will buy and show somewhere at some time.]

What we found between the courthouse and our cabin was really something else!

To be continued…

Over the river and through the woods

In honor of our 32nd anniversary last month and my 59th birthday this month (and let me just say that both of those numbers are, in the literal sense of the word, incredible to me!), Scott and I are taking a few days off and away in the general vicinity of Mountain View, Arkansas. We hit the road yesterday on my actual birthday, and it was an extremely delightful day.

We had a wonderful lunch in Harrison at Neighbor’s Mill. Although we’ve driven past it dozens of times, we’d never been there, and we’re so glad we stopped. I’d told Scott I wanted to eat my birthday meal at “some place different. I don’t want a heavy meal that puts met to sleep. If we could find a place kind of like Panera, maybe a neat little sandwich shop or something, that would be great.” Neighbor’s Mill was perfect – a soup, salad, sandwichy place that just happens to be run by Christians, and which serves up an amazing array of baked goods. We ate out on the porch, and my potato soup and Scott’s tomato basil soup were both quite tasty. We enjoyed our salads and left satisfied and not stuffed – just want I wanted. Well, before we left we actually made a couple more purchases.

On our getaways, we usually bring some food from home and then enjoy shopping at some local grocery to get the rest of what we’ll need for our meals at the cabin and picnic lunches. We often splurge on deli meat and smoked cheddar cheese, and we like to find some kind of special sandwich bread that’s more exciting than what we normally get at Walmart. Well, let me tell you that Neighbor’s Mill was the place to get bread! We picked out a Garlic Triple Cheese loaf that right now, at 9:00 AM, makes me think about lunch, just typing about it. And then, since it was my birthday we also picked out a slice of Italian Cream Cake to share last night after supper. It was amazingly rich and DELICIOUS.

I also collect town squares – the old-fashioned kind, county seats with courthouses in the middle – and we hit two without even planning to. First we found Yellville, the seat of Marion County.

Marion County Courthouse in Yellville, AR


The lighting is bad, but it does say “Marion County Courthouse.”

I was especially pleased to see that this courthouse is surrounded by a square full of real businesses with real live customers. In many towns, the “downtowns” and the “squares” are dead or dying, boarded up, vacant, and depressing, but not so Yellville! If we’d had time, I would have walked the square and checked out a lot of the little shops. = )  But get this: a sign in front of the courthouse advertised a book sale at the Marion County Library.

WOW! A book sale? In a library? In a small town? On my birthday?!? How great is THAT?!? So I climbed the courthouse steps – I do love an old courthouse, what with its worn steps and 1950s wooden office doors and a feel that reminds me of the Andy Griffith show – and walked into the county collector’s office (just because that was the first office I saw) and asked the friendly lady there where the library was, and she gave me directions.

Although I didn’t fully peruse the Marion County Library, like any small library it did make me sigh deeply and smile inwardly. Probably outwardly too. I have no idea how they made any money on their book sale. Maybe it’s like me decluttering my stuff at home; if a bit of money can be made, that’s great, but my main goal is for the stuff to just leave the premises and never come back. Anyway, they were charging $2.00 a bag. Not $2.00 a book, which would’ve been a bit steep but which I still would’ve paid, but $2.00 for a Walmart bag of how ever many books you could put in it! And if you wanted to a get a lot of books, they provided boxes – those big produce boxes that grocery stockers use when they’re setting out bananas or apples – and the books were $3.00 a box!

Scott is not an avid reader, so while I was leafing through the stacks, I was really surprised to see that he was too. I picked out two: a kid’s book that I thought was neat (but it’s out in the car and I can’t remember the title now) and The Summons by John Grisham. I’m trying to branch out into a bit of fiction, and this one sounded like I’d enjoy it. Scott, meanwhile had picked out several. I was initially shocked and slightly embarrassed, but he said he was getting them for the houses. Oh, the houses, our vacation rental houses! Well yes. So I picked out several more kids books for the houses that I recognized as good, while wondering aloud, “Do kids even read books anymore?” So we got a whole bag of books for a total of $2.00. Amazing.

We were headed to the general area of Blanchard Springs Caverns. I especially wanted to go back there to see the camp site of our very first family camping trip, the one where Jessica made her very loud middle-of-the-night “It’s a BIBLE, Mommy!” proclamation, and where Scott shoved a video camera in my face as I crawled out of the tent at dawn. We weren’t planning to tour the cave, but I will note here that it’s located at Fifty-Six, Arkansas, the naming of which we later learned “primary source” from a an elderly local volunteer historian, but that’s another story. Can you imagine living in a town called Fifty-Six? Its population was 173 in 2010, but had increased to 177 in 2017; the nearest post office is 13 miles away in the unincorporated community of Timbo.

Fifty-Six aside, our drive from Yellville to Mountain View involved about a hour and fifteen minutes on a very scenic (and we do like scenic) and very curvy stretch of Highway 14 that could legitimately be described as a throw-up road. Scott was driving while I commentated, and a good time was had by all. On that section of our drive we did have one experience that we had never had before. We were traveling roughly southeast from Yellville toward Mountain View, and at one point we passed a green highway sign that said, “Mountain View 20 (implied ‘miles’).” As we continued along Highway 14, about five minutes later we passed another such sign that said, “Mountain View 22.” Go figure!

Mountain View also has a town square around the Stone County courthouse. The courthouse was closed when we arrived, but I did document its existence.

Our cabin is up a very steep dirt road in the woods on the Izard County side of the White River. It is all wood inside and out,



and has both a great back porch with porch swing and a king bed that has so little clearance space around it (small bedroom) that I have to turn sideways to walk around it and is so high that I need a stool (provided) to vault into it!

Being vacation rental home owners, we tend to note either interesting features and great ideas that we might want to incorporate at Roberts Vacation Rentals or omissions and problems that strike us as funny. We’ve had a couple of the latter today. Now, we don’t care about these things; they are just funny to us. And while RVR rents out fairly upscale “luxury” vacation homes, this cabin is (like all the places we typically choose to stay in), by definition, rustic, woodsy, and not necessarily immaculate. But we found a half-full water bottle behind a potted plant on the bathroom counter,

and when Scott opened the freezer to get some ice, he found an open box of (originally 12) Great Value ice cream sandwiches. Six were missing (no problem) and five intact were in the box, along with one half-eaten ice cream sandwich. We ditched the half, grinned, and mentally noted the water bottle and ice cream offering as housekeeping “oopses.” Most cleaners make them from time to time, but RVR cleaners only very rarely. And we tell our cleaners to either ditch all food left by guests or take it home and enjoy it! And they do. Our guess is that “Ms. Lola” wasn’t going straight home and so couldn’t take the ice cream sandwiches with her. Or maybe she’s diabetic. She did leave us this note next to a bottle of bleach on the kitchen counter.

We are enjoying our time here and expect the next few days to be packed full of rest, relaxation, and no responsibilities!


Friendly reminder

As we await Scott’s arrival from a mission trip on a late night United flight from Denver, I thought it would be helpful for each of us to be reminded of some basic rules for success in the travel realm of life.

I really do wish I had a record of when this classic list was first created; I’m thinking it was after the infamous international peanut butter trip, which was probably in about 2013 or 2014. At some subsequent time, Katie sent the following reminder to Scott, which I finally saved (with gratitude) in a Word document dated February 26, 2017.

At this time, let us all take a moment to once again consider with deep appreciation…

Katie’s Rules of Air Travel

“Given your recent experiences, I thought you might be able to use a friendly reminder of these basic rules.

  1. Never fly.
  2. If you must fly between December and February, don’t fly. Driving, biking, hitchhiking, and jetskiing are all better options.
  3. Never check a bag, unless it is completely unavoidable, in which case you should find a way to avoid it.
  4. Never fly United.
  5. Never fly on the last flight of the day.
  6. Peanut butter is a liquid.

You’re welcome.”

It’s now 9:37 PM, and Scott’s flight initially scheduled to arrive at 11:17 PM has now been delayed to 11:37 PM. He is only in violation of Rules #1, #3, #4, and #5.

And so we wait.

Better than Burrowsville*

I drove to North Little Rock this week to visit my parents for a few days. We had a wonderful time, just relaxing, talking with each other, reminiscing, and eating things like ham and hash brown casserole and of course chocolate chip ice cream; for Mom and Dad there are no other flavors. We enjoyed a meal at Gadwall’s Grill, and David and Dad did much research and analysis and gave me their combined wisdom (that’s a lot of wisdom!) about the details involved in replacing my ailing, chronically lost iPhone with an Android specimen. It was a great trip, and I’m so glad I got to see all of my family of origin.

I do collect town squares, so before I headed south, I checked my [GASP!] paper map to see if I could maybe snag another town square on the way. I had never thought about the fact that Highway 65 goes directly through four county seats: Harrison, Marshall, Clinton, and Conway. I’ve seen Harrison’s town square (very nice), Clinton’s would be a bit off the beaten path, probably west of the highway(?), and by the time I’d get to Conway, I’d just want to get on I-40 and finish up, so I thought about Marshall. How was it that I couldn’t remember ever turning off 65 to explore Marshall? Of course, I ‘d been to the Daisy Queen and Harp’s grocery and that ultra-foul, incredibly nasty gas station restroom (it’s closed for remodeling now) and McDonald’s and Subway, and back in the day when the kids were young we had a tradition of stopping for lunch at Pizza Hut’s pizza buffet, but even though I’ve whizzed through Marshall at 40 mph more than 75 times – what with visiting family and floating the Buffalo and such – I’d never actually gotten off Highway 65.

This time I did.

It was about noon and very hot and humid. My car thermometer said 99, and we later heard that the heat index was 113, so I didn’t do an extensive reconnoiter, but I did drive around the square twice, and I did take a picture of the courthouse. (I place a high priority on documenting my town square visits, at least in writing and preferably with photographic proof.)

 Searcy County Courthouse

I then walked around a little neighborhood, saw a log cabin in the middle of “town,”

and found a weird old building with iron bars on all the windows. It looks like it’s maybe being renovated, but I wonder if it may have at one time been the county jail.

Searcy County jail

Mystery building

Well, hot dog in the fog! Check this out!

And then when I saw that Highway 27 sign on the corner, I thought… well, I bet Katie can guess what I thought. It was along the lines of, “I wonder where Highway 27 goes,” so I decided to find out. It quickly wound out into the country, the road was nice (standard two-lane, slightly curvy, slightly hilly), and the scenery in those parts is so lovely that all you can say is, “Ahhhh.” I could’ve kept going, but it occurred to me that I had no idea where Highway 27 would end up, so I pulled off and looked at my official Arkansas Highway Department map ‘o joy and saw that while I needed to travel basically southeast (the way Highway 65 goes), Highway 27 was going basically southwest with a fairly strong emphasis on the west. It was heading out into the I’m sure gorgeous Buffalo River area, from which there would be no way to get back to Highway 65. So I turned around, went back into town, and picked up Highway 65 south to Dennard, Botkinburg, Clinton, Bee Branch, Damascus, Greenbrier, and Conway.

But I made a mental note (which I should probably put in my phone… hmm…) that some day I do want to thoroughly explore Highway 27 southwest out of Marshall.

Although my Marshall town square visit was brief, probably only some 30 minutes total, I was very pleased with the results. And then on my way home a couple days later, I stopped again and actually went inside the Searcy County public library! Now, we all see that blue and white library sign every time we go north through Marshall, and of course we all wonder what that library is like. The sign is hanging there at that stoplight where there’s a stone wall on the left (around a church yard?) so close to the road that we think we’d scrape it if we tried to turn in there. Well, I turned in there and didn’t scrape, even in my hefty Durango. I went a block and, seeing no library or any other pertinent signage, I asked some good old boys who were working on a sewer/paving project where the library was, and they pointed me to it. I didn’t take any pictures of it, but I found this small picture on Wikipedia.

     Searcy County Library    (Wikipedia)

I’m telling you, it was so very delightful. I do love, love, love a small town library. Just does my heart good. This one is funded with a county tax, but it had all the good old time-tested kids books and not so many of the new politically correct ones. Please note that I said “BOOKS.” We’re talking the printed and bound kind with ink on pages that you hold in your hands and read, and they actually had more of those than videos; way to go, Searcy County! I could’ve stayed for an hour, but since I had to get home, I just told the desk clerk how much I liked his library, and hit the road.

All in all, I definitely know more about Marshall than I did. I wish I’d stopped a few decades ago. I wonder what other interesting places I keep driving by and never seeing…


* Before the Civil War, Marshall was called Burrowsville.

Record breaking

Some time ago, on a mission trip to India, two of Scott’s checked bags failed to arrive in New Delhi when he did. He had flown United from Chicago to New Delhi and would be flying Air India to another city. Because those bags contained some important and necessary items, and because he was scheduled to fly immediately on to Visakhapatnam, this was a rather significant problem. Of course, it does happen occasionally when he’s flying home, but that is generally no big deal here. At the Springfield airport, he simply reports the bag missing, they tell him it will be in on the next flight, we go home without it, and they deliver it to our door (53 minutes away) the following morning.

Not so in India.

Scott was exhausted and about to finally get to sleep, so he sent me the tag numbers of his two missing checked bags and asked me to contact United’s baggage service to find out when they would arrive.

I called United, and after a 22-minute hold, talked to a real man whose Indian name I could not understand, pronounce, or remember. He could not look up the tag numbers Scott had given me because they were incomplete, but since Scott had (brilliant man!) taken a photo of the claim tags and sent that to me, I was able to get those essential missing first four digits (0016). Whew! The man looked them up, confirmed that they were for Scott Lindsay Roberts, and said that he was not positive, but he thought they had already been handed off to Air India. This was at my 1:23 PM Sunday.

Patty: These are my husband’s bags and he is currently in New Delhi. Will his bags arrive in New Delhi on United 126 today?

Man: Air India will be responsible to get them to Visakhapatnam.

Patty: So he won’t pick them up in New Delhi?

Man: I believe they have already cleared customs. And Air India will get them to Visakhapatnam. You will need to call Air India with further questions.


He gave me a File Reference Number: DELAI24722 and two different phone numbers for Air India: 800-223-7776 and 212-751-6200. He said I would have to give Air India only the last 6 digits of the tag numbers.

I then called the 800 Air India number, and it said my hold time would be 10 minutes. Hoping the other one would be faster, I called it, and it just rang forever and no one answered. So I called back the 800 number, and it again said my hold time would be 10 minutes. I was hopefuI, but my hope was decidedly premature. I then proceeded to be on hold with Air India, not having yet spoken with a person, for 1 hour and 40 minutes (from 1:55 PM till 3:35 PM) – clearly a new record!!

When a woman finally answered, I told her I had two bag ticket numbers and I needed to know where those bags were. I had a VERY hard time understanding her and had to ask her over and over and over again to repeat herself very slowly, but even with that, much of it I still could not understand. (My friend, Debbie, was here at the time – my phone was on speaker – and Debbie said she couldn’t understand ANY of it!)

I gave the lady the two 6-digit numbers, and she asked if she could put me on hold for a few minutes. Really?!? Debbie laughed, I took a deep breath, decided it was an act of faith, and said yes. The lady came back very quickly and said I should give her a phone number and Air India Baggage would call me back.

Patty: Can you tell me where the bags are? Or when they will arrive?

Lady: Air India Baggage is not available. Please give me a phone number and they will call you back.

Patty: [sighing] It’s a United States number. Is that OK?

Lady: Yes, sure, that is fine.

Patty: Here is my number (I gave it to her).

Lady: Is the code 1?

Patty: I don’t know! I think the country code for the U.S. is 1, but I don’t know for sure!

Lady: Yes, that is fine.

Patty: OK, but when can I expect them to call me back?

Lady: They will call you back in 3 to 4 hours.

Patty: So, I guess I will just wait for 3 or 4 hours?

Lady: That is correct. Is there anything else I can help you with today?

Patty: No.

Lady: Thank you for calling Air India. Have a good day.

Patty: Thank you.

And we hung up at 3:40 PM Sunday. As of 6:15 PM Sunday, when it had been 2 hours and 35 minutes, they had not yet called back, and in fact, they never did call back.

I can say for a fact that Air India on-hold plays a 15-second “we’re sorry you’re having to wait; we’ll be with you as soon as possible; in the meantime you can visit us online” recording every 40 seconds. I know because I heard that recording 150 times. Literally. I want a medal for breaking the existing on-hold record.

Roberts Reunion 2019 – part 2 (Monday)

Here are some Monday highlights before I forget them.

~ Scott and I talked with Milt and Becky at their house fairly (about life in general and Mom in particular); during our conversation I watched Mom diligently walking her laps on the porch, ramp, and front walk.

~ Mom demonstrated her new wonder bed to Kevin, Elsa, and John. It is quite amazing. Then they all went over to Mom’s house to visit for a while.

~ Susie and I were able to have an encouraging one-on-one conversation at our house. I think our menfolk were both working…? or talking…?

~ A subset of the cousins went to Starbucks [which cousins were involved?].

~ Katie went with Kristy to take Isabel for her volunteer shift at the library.

~ Scott, Andrew, and I had lunch at our house, finishing off the last of our homemade salsa. Just as we were cleaning up and preparing to leave for bowling, Katie and Kristy arrived. They inhaled lunch while Scott, Andrew and I drove a very convoluted series of backroads to Strikers in [name of town, SC], where our large gang with Groupons presented an at least mild level of challenge to the staff.  = )

~ Bowling was lots of fun! Grandma and Susie had balcony seating and cheered everyone on. I think we were divided as follows:

Lane 3: Krit/Bec, Isabel, John, Milt

Lane 4: Andrew, Scott, Jon, Stuart, Hannah???, ???

Lane 5: Rachelle, Amanda, Elsa, Katie, me

We bowled two games (Elsa only one).

I struggled the first game (77)due to the pain of walking in bowling shoes, but the second game I used the “just stand at the foul line and roll it” strategy, which worked MUCH better (110!).

Katie also had a hard time, but definitely improved in the second game. She is such a cheerful trooper!

Grandma ended up wrapping herself in someone’s camo jacket to keep warm.

Jon, who seems to be all arms and legs, had a crazy technique that resulted in either strikes or gutter balls.

Amanda had great power but less precision.

Stuart consistently bowled very well.

Hannah’s goal was to come in third.

I totally enjoyed Andrew and Rachelle’s intense rivalry. They exchanged very narrow (two or three point) victories.

~ After bowling, a larger subset of cousins went to Starbucks.  = )  [Which cousins?]

~ Lesson learned: When you preparing to cook away from home, be sure to bring ALL the required ingredients; baked beans need brown sugar! Scott graciously rescued me by going to Mom’s house to get some from her pantry… more on that later.

~ Our burger cookout at the Jones home was a great success. We ate lots of good food [ask Becky for her salad and potato recipes], the cousins played games including Pandemic, and Stuart is now the rookie cornhole champion of the year, having expertly tossed his VERY LAST beanbag in a clutch so as to both sink it AND knock off another one so as to win the game! And there was much rejoicing.  = )

~ I was really glad to get to talk a bit with Kevin (inside before dinner) and Stuart (outside during dinner – while serving myself to a horde of mosquitoes on the back step). The mid-generation ladies (Becky, Kristy, Susie, and me) later talked around the table with empathy; we can identify with each other as we all have parents in their 80s who are in varying degrees of health and ability. We also shared a lot of laughs.

~ While enjoying the sumptuous repast out back, Scott talked with Mom about the possibility of sub-letting her house and also his plan to get her pantry cleaned out the following morning. She was agreeable to both, and as I type this Tuesday morning, Scott is at her house tackling the pantry.

~ So far during our time in Waxhaw, I have been motivated to:

– work on my strengthening my core and improving my posture

– be more intentional about staying in touch with our kids

– figure out practical ways for us to help Mom

– reply to emails/texts/calls promptly

– get our own will updated (set up a trust?)

~ Elsa is quite the amazing young lady – creative, determined, gorgeous, resourceful, independent – and with hugs all around we saw her off; she would have a 7:00 AM flight Tuesday.

~ Hannah, Jon, Katie, and Andrew reconvened at our house for a Spider Man movie while Scott beat me soundly first at Gin Rummy and then at the stupid game.

~ I’m so thankful for a great bed. It’s more comfortable than ours at home!


We’d done Pedestal Rocks, and all that was left of our four-day, three-night getaway was to drive home. On our way, we took a picture that will surely live in infamy.

Back when we lived in Little Rock (23+ years ago), we made MANY trips north to the Buffalo River area and/or to a remote youth camp called Castle Bluff that Scott had helped construct. On the way, we’d always stop in Russellville to eat at our all-time favorite burger place, Feltner’s Whatta-Burger. Their made-to-order burgers were awesome (still are), their orders of fries were huge, and Scott often got either a limeade and/or a banana shake to go. He was always driving, and we’d take Hwy 7 north through Dover an on up. I remember Dover, with its sharp left turn at the grocery and then that bridge over Illinois Bayou where that one guy had a wreck coming home from a Singles Life float trip because he wouldn’t stay in Scott’s caravan…

Anyway, sometime after Dover and before we turned off 7 onto 16 for the Deer/Nail/Swain section, I’d always doze off for a while. (After all, doesn’t a belly full of cheeseburger and fries plus a car ride obviously equal a nap?) And when I’d wake up, Scott would always tell me that we’d gone through Cowell, but that I had missed it AGAIN. For many years I had the privilege of listening to the “You slept through Cowell” refrain every time we went to Castle Bluff, and through the years, my desire to actually see Cowell grew and grew.

Well, our route home from Pedestal Rocks took us west on Hwy 16 to Lurton and then north on Hwy 7/16 toward Jasper. Shortly before Hwy 16 cut off west for Deer/Nail Swain, Scott said, “Hey, we’re about to go through Cowell!”

Oh, boy! What an opportunity! And I was actually wide awake!

“Now don’t blink or you’ll miss it!”

Eagerly, I stared ahead. There was really nothing to see except grassy rolling hills and deep wooded valleys, but then… Sweet Georgia Peaches! We spotted it up ahead: the actual, literal, green-and-white Cowell sign! Oh, the joy! I was, of course, definitely going to get a picture of the sign, but Scott insisted that I needed to be in the picture in order to document for all posterity that I had actually experienced Cowell. He pulled over where Hwy 55 (a less substantial thoroughfare than Coffee Road) cuts off down a hill to the east, and I hopped out, grateful that there would be no good old boys around to see me grinning like an idiot in front of the green Cowell sign.

But while Scott was getting the shot set up, wouldn’t you know it? A couple of local men in their 40s and overalls came driving up “Hwy” 55 pulling a trailer of equipment, and they stopped to ask if we needed help. Well, thank you, but no, we were just going to take a picture of the wife and the sign and be on our way. They were fine with that, smiled, waved, and drove off. I guess they’re used to touristy types posing by that infamous landmark…

And now, here’s proof positive – after 33 years of passing through it – that I have indeed been to Cowell.

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