On Saturday, we drove to Little Rock to have discussions at a branch bank about setting up telephone wire transfers. We’re not confident that will be an option when we close on our house; another trip may be required to get a cashier’s check for the funds we’ll need. But while we were in Little Rock, we decided to enjoy ourselves.
We went downtown, seeking the Flying Saucer Draught Emporium. It wasn’t hard to find, but its location in the very popular River Market area, not far from the Clinton Library, meant heavy traffic, a lot of pedestrians on the street, and hit-and-miss parking. That, coupled with the fact that we accidentally timed our visit to coincide with the waning hours of some special events made for a tough time finding a parking space. But, after circling a block and having decided we would wait until a less frenetic time, we happened upon a parking space directly across the street from the Saucer. I grabbed it.
My choice of lunch was the ever-popular (with me) Kick-Ass Chicken Sandwich with a side salad topped with jalapeño vinaigrette and two sides of sliced jalapeños. My wife opted for the shepherd’s pie, with its heavily Indian-influenced spice mixture. The “fire-sale” beer was the Marshall Atlas IPA, a draft brewed by the Marshall Brewing Company of Tulsa, OK. My assessment off the beer: keep trying. Because I dared not overdo it on the beer before getting behind the wheel, I kept it at one beer. After another 41 unique beers at the Saucer, will have earned my plate on the ceiling.
After lunch, we walked down to the Junction Bridge (next to the Julius Breckling Riverfront Park) from which there are spectacular views of downtown Little Rock and the Arkansas River. From there, we wandered through the River Market, then drifted toward the Clinton Library, stopping along the way at the Witt Stephens Jr. Central Arkansas Nature Center, which overlooks the Arkansas River.
The short visit to the Riverfront Park area was enough to confirm our interest in another, longer and more involved, visit to Little Rock in the coming months.
Because my wife will be making a trip soon to meet up with her sister in Illinois, near Chicago, we decided to drive to the Little Rock airport so I would know where to find it and where to park when I have to drive over the Thursday morning she leaves for the visit. While the drive during the commute rush will no doubt be far more congested that on a Saturday morning, I was pleasantly surprised that there was virtually no congestion, neither on the way to the airport nor once we found the terminals. That is a dramatic difference from what I’m used to in Dallas.
The trip back home was uneventful, an easy day and an easy drive.
When we got up yesterday (Sunday), we piddled around the condo for quite some time, then decided about 11:00 a.m. to go for a drive to explore. We got on Arkansas Highway 7, which has a reputation as a beautiful scenic drive, and headed north. Though the skies were overcast, the drive did not disappoint. The road winds through thick forests, most of the land on both sides of the road within the confines of the Oauchita National Forest. One of the most impressive elements of the scenery was the presence of exceptional numbers of dogwood trees, in full bloom, in view beneath the canopy of pine and hardwood trees. The dogwoods are much shorter trees, so their blossoms are visible against the dark trunks of the taller trees; there is, for the moment, very little green underbrush behind the dogwoods, so their brilliant white and yellow-white flowers are in stark contrast to the dark brown and grey trees and forest floor behind them.
We stopped for lunch at a Mexican restaurant called Tarascos in Dardanelle, AR. I was pleasantly surprised at the quality of the food; the place bills itself as delivering “Real Mexican Taste” and it does not disappoint. We drove around Dardanelle for awhile, then continued north to Russellville, AR, a much larger town on the Arkansas River, adjacent to Interstate 40. Russellville, a town of roughly 30,000 residents, is home to Arkansas Tech University and boasts the presence of Arkansas’ only nuclear plant. The Russellville logo gives just a hint of the topography of the area:
We encountered very heavy rain during the trip back down Highway 7. As we neared Hot Springs Village, the deluge was sufficiently heavy as to make it almost impossible to see the road, despite the windshield wipers being on full speed. Just as I was ready to stop, though, the rain let up just enough to permit us to keep going. The rain did not let up, though; it continued raining, though not quite as hard, for the remainder of the trip and, then, for the rest of the afternoon and evening.
We decided to get a pizza for dinner, so we called the local pizzeria and ordered one for pickup. In the rain, we went out to get our pizza, then brought it back to the condo where we buttoned down for the night. Last night was one of violent weather; explosive cracks of thunder punctuated the sound of rain coming down so hard it seemed as if it would come through the roof. Lightning lit up the sky almost non-stop for several hours. After I went to bed, I was awakened two or three times by jarring claps of thunder and brilliant flashes of lightning; the curtains had no hope of keeping the light from flooding the room.
I failed to take a decent camera with me. The photos I took with my iPhone are of poor quality, so the only decent graphic evidence of our trip is what I included here, from others. It’s a lesson: take a decent camera wherever I go.