Okay, when I shut down last week’s column, I wuz half-way through a 2,300-mile travelogue to Pigeon Forge, Tenn., and return. We made a big circle with the trip that included the states of Kansas, Missouri, Illinois, Kentucky, Tennessee, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, and Arkansas.
Ol’ Nevah and I decided to take a southern route home to Damphewmore Acres. So, we left Pigeon Forge on a Friday morning headed for Chattanooga, Tenn. We stopped for breakfast south of Marysville, Tenn., at an obscure looking eating place with the generic name of Restaurant. We weren’t disappointed because the friendly owners served up a great breakfast that would have cost half again as much in a big city.
When we arrived in Chattanooga, we stayed on the interstate that dips a few miles into Georgia before it rises north again into Tennessee. I would have liked to have taken the time to visit the Civil War battle site near Iron Mountain, but skipped it this trip. Hope I get to visit the battleground some time in the future.
We entered Alabama almost smack in the northeast corner and followed the highway west that would take us all the way back to Memphis. It wuz slow going through every major and minor town, but it gave us time to gawk.
One thing that surprised me a lot wuz the acreage of wheat growing both in northern Alabama and Mississippi. I assume, but don’t know, that it wuz soft, red winter wheat. Suffice it to say, the crop looked good and northern Alabama wuz the only portion of our entire trip that wuzn’t soggy wet.
The countryside through northern Mississippi was very similar to that in Alabama, but the closer we got to Memphis, the wetter the landscape became.
We arrived near east Memphis around 4:30 p.m. and decided to call it a travel day in Collierville, Tenn. That night we escaped a drenching rain that went north.
Saturday morning, we averted the weekend traffic in Memphis with an early departure after a light motel breakfast. As we entered the Mississippi River flood plain in Arkansas just west of West Memphis, it wuz obvious that even rice fields can have too much rain water. For the next 100 miles toward Little Rock, probably 95 percent of the rice fields were too wet to plant. Ditto for the soybean fields. What little corn there wuz appeared weak, wet and yellow. Even when the interstate rose up on the Ozark Plateau, the fields were wet.
I’ve traveled across Arkansas through Little Rock quite a bit in my later life and I’ve always cussed Arkansas roads and roadside parks. The last few years, my cussing has gradually turned to appreciation and even praise in some cases. The roads are greatly improved and one travel stop on the interstate east of Little Rock wuz just lush and beautiful. Kudos to The Natural State.
Our destination Saturday wuz with friends at their home in Eureka Springs. We took a new route to that tourist hotbed by traveling northwest out of Little Rock and Conway on Highway 65 to Harrison, then east to Eureka Springs. We passed through some spectacular Ozark Mountain scenery and saw a few jaw-dropping ranch homes and farmsteads.
Just by accident we came upon a privately owned, natural bridge tourist site. We decided to take a break and a look and our drive down a “switch-backy” one-lane blacktop wuz well rewarded. Near the bottom of a steep Ozark ravine, we found a parking lot, a souvenir shop, and for only $5 each we got to see the natural bridge and walk the beautiful trail near it. The limestone bridge is at least 100-foot long and 15 feet in the air. There wuz a small cave complex near the trail, along with a small ancient (but restored) log cabin complete with a nice display of old Ozark hills farm and homestead tools and a “white lightning” distillery. All in all, visiting the natural bridge wuz money and time well spent.
We arrived in Eureka Springs at the height of the Saturday afternoon tourist and biker traffic. It took us quite a while to make our way through the throng and find Holiday Island, a retirement community north of Eureka Springs where our friends, Mr. and Mrs. Pryor Beenbeers, have a lovely secluded home with mostly song birds and squirrels as their closest neighbors. Pryor and I have been buddies for nearly 45 years and have spent some wonderful times together hunting chukar, Hungarian partridge and deer in Washington State, pheasants in western Kansas, and quail in eastern Kansas
This trip our “hunting” wuz confined to “memory trips,” but they were good memories and the stories were probably better with age. After enjoying two great meals (with wine), a good night’s sleep and above-and-beyond hospitality from the Beenbeers, we headed for home up Highway 37 all the way to Golden City, Mo.
We had an early lunch of sumptuous homemade pie served up by the fine folks who own and operate the famous Cooky’s Cafe n downtown Golden City. It wuz only 11 a.m. but I ordered a slice of chocolate/strawberry pie and Nevah enjoyed a slice of still-warm banana cream pie stacked with fluffy meringue.
Full of enuf pie to get us home, we headed to Frontenac, Kan., then north to Ft. Scott, then east to Moran, where we decorated the graves of our parents and Nevah’s siblings and other family members.
Around four o’clock Sunday afternoon, we arrived back at Damphewmore Acres to find the area had been flooded in our absence. No damage done, but the weeds and grass had kicked it into high gear. We thanked the Good Man Above for allowing us to cheat death on the road once again and realized that the best part of any extended vacation is getting safely back to the comforts of home. That’s wisdom enuf for this week. Have a good ‘un.