The last weekend in July, I went on vacation with Ben, the kids, his brother, his brother’s kids, and their parents. We decided on Hot Springs, Arkansas because it was a relatively short drive and the weather would be decent. I’d only driven through Arkansas before, but had never really visited it. Ben’s parents took the family on vacation there years ago. Even though it was a miserable experience, they agreed to give it another try. Ben said that this was really the first vacation he’d been on with his parents and brother since 1999. I think the last family vacation I went on was Christmas of 1994. Though I wasn’t going on a vacation with my family, per se, it was still nice to be going on a family vacation.
Now, if you’re not from The South, then you just assume everyone in The South is stupid and that the food is good (i.e. battered and fried or covered in butter.) If you are from The South, then you know that we argue about which of us is dumber and which of us has better bad-for-you food. If you are from Texas, then you know that we live in our own world and don’t understand why any of the other states do any of the stuff that they do at all. Even when we do think that other states have a better idea about something, we still have plenty of reasons why that would never work in Texas, and those reasons mostly involve statements like, ” Because it’s Texas.”
I say all this because when I make some of the following statements about Arkansas, I don’t want you to think that I’m states-ist or anything. It’s part of Southern Culture to do this.
The hotel was nice. The people working there were great. The landscape was beautiful. Everyone smoked (thankfully, outside), but it was still bothersome to have to hold my breath going in the building. Most of the locals were rude. Most of the places we visited were a disappointment. Downtown was strange because it was very hipster-ish while also being run down while also having the cleanest hobos I ever did see. The clean hobos were due to the numerous hot springs fountains in the downtown area. Hobos and tourists alike gathered free water from the fountains in plastic milk jugs. At one point, while driving through the mountains, we passed a group of men by the side of the road who waved to us. Minecraft commented that he would like to live there someday. Ben told him that it’d be difficult for him to find a job to support himself. Minecraft said, “I’ll work in construction or something like those men back there.” We had to explain to Austin that those men were not construction workers, but homeless people who lived in the mountains and that they were not dark from tanning, but from dirt. They were not as clean as the homeless people in downtown. It was funny, but sad.
I think the kids had the most fun mining for rocks. We came home with four bags of various quartz crystals and geodes, most of them from Ben’s efforts. I was most looking forward to the Mountain Tower, but didn’t make it (that’s a whole other story of miscommunication + hurt feelings = unnecessary stress). Ben brought a mug back for me, though, and it’s a pretty good one. By that point, we hadn’t really been anywhere with very good gift shops. I kept thinking that the National Park Aquarium would be a good place for souvenirs for people, but it ended up being more like a run down pet store. The tiny gift shop had shirts with sharks on them, but should have had shirts with anxious fish and dirty fish tanks.
Arkansas is a beautiful state, though. Hot Springs, in particular, has some impressive man made lakes, plenty of greenery, and places to eat while enjoying the view. I’m glad we went when the weather was okay because I would have hated to be trapped indoors with a migraine rather than enjoying ice cream on the lake. It was a really great way to end the summer.