Some people would say there isn’t much to see or do in Arkansas. And that may be partially true…but I have some magical memories there…so lets start the journey now.
Leaving Memphis late afternoon made for a short day of riding, to ensure as I mentioned we were off the road once it became dark. Since Little Rock, Arkansas is only about 2 hours away, we decided to head there. It was as always a back roads journey with beautiful scenery, winding roads and farmland as far as the eye can see. We went through Lonoke which got its name in a unique way: it was originally named Lone Oak, named after the one red oak tree that remained after the forest was cleared to build the town. Due to a misprint in the local paper, the town became known and spelled as Lonoke, and it remains so today. Funny how things can change in unexpected ways.
After a couple of wonderful hours of taking in the scenery, we arrive in Little Rock. I imagined it to be a small city, but it was bigger than I expected. Little Rock was the home of Bill and Hillary Clinton. It is also where the Bill Clinton Library and Museum is located which houses an exact replica of the Oval Office at the time Bill Clinton was President.
Little Rock got its name from a small rock on the Arkansas River. The rock was used as a landmark in the 1700’s for all of the river traffic and it became the site for crossing the river. It was named Little Rock in 1772 by a French explorer….and it has stayed to this day. Awesome!
I don’t recall where we stayed…but it was likely as always a decently clean room. So we went cleaned up and headed downtown for food and nightlife.
We happened to stumble upon a very funky restaurant….one of those places that, back then, the food was okay, but the ambiance was amazing.
Welcome to the Dizzy Gypsy Bistro…a wonderfully funky place with a full menu, cool drinks and an atmosphere that keeps you searching the room and finding new treasures your entire the visit.
After dinner it was time to find a bar. We walked the streets looking for a nice spot for a drink. As a note, always keep your id with you when bar hopping in the USA. We were id’d every bar we went to ( made me feel young again),..oh, and don’t have any chains attached to your wallet (common when riding a bike)…considered a weapon at the bars and the bouncers will tell you to move along.
We stumbled upon something I had never seen before…a bar featuring dueling pianos. Now as a player of the keyboards myself, I was really excited to go in for a drink.
This was a wonderful way to spend some time sipping a bevie and listening to the two extremely talented pianists duel it out…playing requests from the request jar simultaneously and even doing impromptu duets seamlessly. I absolutely loved this and look forward to another bar with dueling pianos. As a note…as I write this I found out that this bar is no longer operating…thats a shame.
Well, it was time to find another bar for a wee tipple before heading back to the room. We came across a rockin bar and went inside. I am happy we did. There was a live band with a brass section, and the place was packed. I remember the singer was incredible and it was some very funky blues and jazz being played. We had a couple of drinks, a couple of spins on the dance floor and then it was time to go. I really do wish I remembered the name of this club.
I need to mention something here….we started out this trip with too much gear. Now, if you have never packed for a bike trip, you would not realize how little space you have. With one saddle bag dedicated to gps, maps, tools for on route repairs and the like, and the other saddled bag left for leather jacket storage and outer wear, there was little to no space for…um…clothing. So by day 2 a system had been worked out and it seemed to be doing ok, until while riding down the interstate at one point I notice the bag at my back starting to tip over. This elicited a quick stop to a Walmart for some bungie cords. Perfect. Not. At Little Rock we realized that our rain gear was taking up too much room, and we didn’t really need it ( oh, wait for my South Dakota blog and you will see how wrong we were), and there was a big camera and other things that we didn’t have room for or really use. So, it was decided that we would stop in Hope, Arkansas ( the actual hometown of Bill Clinton), and mail these extras home.
Hope, Arkansas. I don’t remember much of this town other than it was really quaint and tiny, with a population of only 180 people. Hope is historically a railroad town, named after Hope Loughborough, the daughter of a railroad executive. We located the post office and in we went.
I got a box to fit our things, the paperwork to fill out and set about getting things packed, weighed, insured, organized and paperwork in order. In the meantime, my riding partner was…well…starting to piss me off. He was chatting with a guy and had told him that he looked exactly liked Tommy Lee Jones. They laughed, and laughed and thought this was hilarious. I did not. One: why was he not helping me pack up our things and two: in what universe did he think this guy looked like Tommy Lee Jones. After much coercion, I finally took a picture of this guy, he left and I successfully sent off my package.
There was a great little surprise in Hope. We were told of this place not too far away called Washington, Arkansas. We hopped on the bike and went to discover what would turn out to be a very interesting site.
Washington, Arkansas is small….really small. It really is made up of a historical buildings and the Washington State Park. Washington was built in 1824 and was the first stop for pioneers as they traveled the South West trail to Texas. James Bowie and Davey Crockett traveled through Washington on their way to the Alamo. While there they met James Black, the local blacksmith, who crafted a knife for James, now known as the Bowie knife.
The park is a must see. It is filled with history, and historical buildings. We paid our admission, and set out to check out the sights. We explored the Courthouse first. In 1825 this was the County Court of Pleas for the area. It is a plain building, largely historically intact, but just thinking that pioneers who were heading out into the unknown to build there lives had been in there….well that made it a very special site to me.
We are walking out of the courthouse and meet the guy that made our visit to the site remarkable, and fun. I don’t recall his name, but he was there with his horse drawn carriage, working to get his last hour in so that he could head to the beer store and get some…supplies for the evening. This guy was informative, knew the history and shared it in such a fun way. He took his time to show us all of the highlights and to let us really get a feel for what we were seeing. He showed us the oldest magnolia tree in USA, the other buildings on the site, and we ended up at the weapons museum. The place was closing, and our guide told the museum curator we were visiting from Canada and so the doors were opened just for us. If you are into weaponry from all decades this is a place you don’t want to miss.
When our tour came to an end we looked at the map for a place to spend the night. I chose Texarcana. When asked why do you want to go there…I replied…..because its fun to say. Enough of a reason to go. And so we did.
Texarcana straddles two states; Arkansas and Texas. The state line actually runs right through the middle of the post office. Now that is cool.
We found lodging at a Rodeway Inn on the Arkansas side with the state of Texas side right across the interstate behind us. When we pulled in I knew it was going to be a nice evening. The place was full of other bikes, families and other travelers. We got changed and came out to a parking lot party. So fun. At one point a mom traveling alone with her 3 boys came over because the boys wanted to see the bike. How excited were they when we said they could sit on it and get a picture taken to show their Dad. Happy kids….happy mom. Most of us stayed outside to see the stars and drink beers and chat. A really great night.
The next morning after I packed up the bike, I walked over to join a conversation my partner was having with a guy in a truck. Sounds normal right? Not entirely. This guy was a policeman and he was on his days off…chasing storms…particularly tornados. He had a massive truck and inside, right beside him, he had an entire laptop setup, tracking weather systems. He was predicting rain and a potential storm coming. He told us that we could speed through to the county line to avoid the storm ( at this point the rain starts), but be careful in the other counties because the police love to give out tickets…even to him.
We said our goodbyes, and went to the bike, realizing that we had sent all of the rain gear back to Canada (timing truly is everything). We had the radio set with tunes playing, and then we did something that to this day makes me smile. We laughed….we laughed because of the non existent rain gear…the fact we were soaking wet…and likely hysteria due to lack of morning coffee. So we danced….we danced and danced and forgot about the rain, and where we were and everything else. We just danced in the rain…why…because we could…and where…in Texarcana…because its just fun to say.
Now we are in Texas…where everything is big….even the adventures….stay tuned.
Live Your Life Jan