Arkansas Part I: Hot Springs

We did not make multiple stops during our month in Arkansas. We drove from Branson to Hot Springs and parked the coach at a lovely RV Resort on the banks of Lake Catherine, just south of the city. It was January and we did not want to be at the mercy of frigid weather on travel days. We decided to stick ourselves in one location for the entire month and avoid as many headaches as possible. In the long run, the weather turned out to be almost perfect for most of our stay. The sun was bright on most days and the temperatures were mostly mild the whole time we were there.

Hot Springs regards itself as ‘America’s First Resort’, and we enjoyed our time in the interesting little town. The landscape was beautiful with mountains surrounding downtown and big lakes on the outskirts in almost every direction. The downtown is built around the original bathhouses that featured hot water from the natural springs of Hot Springs Mountain. There were shops, art galleries and restaurants along the main commercial corridor. It was obvious that this town’s heyday had climaxed at some point in the distant past. Although there were plenty of thriving businesses in the city center, lots of gorgeous historic buildings sat painfully neglected. At the end of the main drag, a large hotel resort had been demolished and the rubble was just left in a big messy pile – as if the community had all but given up on trying to make a good impression.

I visited one of the bathhouses alone, and Mike went with me to the only other one that remains open. We strolled the downtown streets with the dogs, and enjoyed a few meals at some of their restaurants. We did not know it until we got to town, but there is a Horse Racing Track in Hot Springs called Oaklawn. They have races from January to April every year. We lucked out with our timing, and spent one afternoon betting on the horsies. The racetrack is a big deal there and it obviously generates lots of tourist dollars for the local economy.

We drove into Little Rock one afternoon and walked around downtown before eating an early dinner at Gus’s World Famous Fried Chicken. On extremely gorgeous days, we stayed close to home – sitting in the sun and soaking up the vitamin D we had been missing out on since November. Mike got to use his Arkansas fishing license on numerous occasions, but the fish were sneaky.

During the last week of our stay, we took the Honda on a side trip and drove back to The Homeland. Since we were only 4.5 hours from Mike’s parent’s house, we wanted to squeeze in a visit. This was the closest we had been to them in two years, so it was time to get together. We drove over on a Wednesday and stayed a couple of nights with them. Mike’s sister and brother-in-law also drove over from the Dallas area to have dinner one night, so it turned out to be a great family visit. After we left the Martin’s, we drove to Tyler and visited our friends, Melanie and Bob. Mike and Bob went to High School together. Melanie and I used to play on the same tennis team. She is responsible for introducing me to Mike. Their youngest son, Zach, is our Godson. All of my cookbooks and Christmas decorations are stored away in their attic. We spent a busy weekend with them – watching Zach play in a tennis tournament, eating out, cooking, eating in, telling stories, napping, sitting in the hot tub, playing ping pong, studying, and playing dominoes. Mike and I really enjoyed talking to other people besides ourselves for those five days!

Lake Oichitaw. I think it would be fun to rent a house boat on this lake for a summer vacation outing.

Lake Ouachita. I think it would be fun to rent a house boat on this lake for a summer vacation outing.

Hot Springs is interesting because there is one Main Street full of ornate historic buildings, set against the backdrop of rugged mountains on both sides.

Hot Springs is interesting because there is one Main Street full of ornate historic buildings, set against the backdrop of rugged mountains on both sides.

The dome of the historic Quapaw bath house, set against the backdrop of the National Forest.

The dome of the historic Quapaw bath house, set against the backdrop of the National Forest.

We watched quite a few dramatic sunsets from our campground in Hot Springs.

We watched quite a few dramatic sunsets from our campground in Hot Springs.

The Hot Springs United Methodist Church was celebrating their 100th year in the same building. We attended two of their church services while we were in town.

The Hot Springs United Methodist Church was celebrating their 100th year in the same building. We attended two of their church services while we were in town.

A selfie from the horse races at Oaklawn.

A selfie from the horse races at Oaklawn.

We didn't even know there was a race track in Hot Springs when we made our reservations for this stop on our Tour.

We didn’t even know there was a race track in Hot Springs when we made our reservations for this stop on our Tour.

The Gangster Museum was a very interesting stop in downtown Hot Springs. After our tour, I spent a little quality time with Al Capone.

The Gangster Museum was a very interesting stop in downtown Hot Springs. After our tour, I spent a little quality time with Al Capone.

A view of our spot at Catherine's Landing.

A view of our spot at Catherine’s Landing.

We made one daytrip to Little Rock during our time in Hot Springs. It was about an hour's drive from our spot. The downtown area was full of all kinds of art sculptures.

We made one daytrip to Little Rock during our time in Hot Springs. It was about an hour’s drive from our spot. The downtown area was full of all kinds of art sculptures.

The weather was perfect for our daytrip to Little Rocks.

The weather was perfect for our daytrip to Little Rock.

Mike's favorite evening activity. Fire in the pit and meat on the grill.

Mike’s favorite evening activity. Fire in the pit and meat on the grill.

An up-close and personal view of the side of a rock wall on Hot Springs Mountain.

An up-close and personal view of the side of a rock wall on Hot Springs Mountain.

I spent an entire morning at the Buckstaff Baths. It was a very nostalgic experience - original bath interior and legendary treatments. It was very relaxing. Mike didn't join me and I was happy about that, because he would not have enjoyed the experience like I did. He's not the touchy-feely type.

I spent an entire morning at the Buckstaff Baths. It was a very nostalgic experience – original bath interior and legendary treatments. It was very relaxing. Mike didn’t join me and I was happy about that, because he would not have enjoyed the experience like I did. He’s not the touchy-feely type.

The historic streetscape in downtown Hot Springs makes for a lovely environment.

The historic streetscape in downtown Hot Springs makes for a lovely environment.

So the local citizens fill plastic containers of 'magic' spring water at designated fountains throughout downtown. This is slime on the side of one of the natural spring fountains. I wonder if this is part of the magical contents...

So the local citizens fill plastic containers of ‘magic’ spring water at designated fountains throughout downtown. This is slime on the side of one of the natural spring fountains. I wonder if this is part of the magical contents…

We didn't bring any plastic bottles, so we did not engage in the common water collection practices.

We didn’t bring any plastic bottles, so we did not engage in the common water collection practices.

The Hot Springs Mountain Tower shoots up over 300 feet into the sky AFTER you reach the top of the mountain. We bought our tickets and trekked up the stairs to see the view from above. Since I don't like heights, I was a whiny baby the whole way up. I ultimately had to suffer my anxiety in silence because Mike finally had to tell me to pull myself together and suck it up! He's so supportive.

The Hot Springs Mountain Tower shoots up over 300 feet into the sky AFTER you reach the top of the mountain. We bought our tickets and trekked up the stairs to see the view from above. Since I don’t like heights, I was a whiny baby the whole way up. I ultimately had to suffer my anxiety in silence because Mike finally had to tell me to pull myself together and suck it up! He’s so supportive.

A view of downtown Hot Springs from the top of the tower.

A view of downtown Hot Springs from the top of the tower.

The mountains to north and east of Hot Springs.

The mountains to north and east of Hot Springs.

We spent one morning at Lake Catherine State Park. Our hike through the woods was full of giant stone boulders.

We spent one morning at Lake Catherine State Park. Our hike through the woods was full of giant stone boulders.

This is the only waterfall we saw in Arkansas. At Lake Catherine State Park.

This is the only waterfall we saw in Arkansas. At Lake Catherine State Park.

The Ohio Club in downtown Hot Springs is a classic old bar. Established in 1905, the owners boast about previous patrons like Teddy Roosevelt, Al Capone, Bugsy Segal, Mae West, Babe Ruth... and Bill Clinton.

The Ohio Club in downtown Hot Springs is a classic old bar. Established in 1905, the owners boast about previous patrons like Teddy Roosevelt, Al Capone, Bugsy Segal, Mae West, Babe Ruth… and Bill Clinton.

Certain spots around Hot Springs Mountain look like a giant chemistry experiment gone wrong.

Certain spots around Hot Springs Mountain look like a giant chemistry experiment gone wrong.

Various fountains around town bring the underground steaming water to the surface.

Various fountains around town bring the underground steaming water to the surface.

The Fordyce Bathhouse was once known to be the best in Hot Springs. It now serves as a National Park Visitor Center and Museum.

The Fordyce Bathhouse was once known to be the best in Hot Springs. It now serves as a National Park Visitor Center and Museum.

Although we were not on a lakefront spot, we had a view of the water from where we were parked at Catherine's Landing.

Although we were not on a lakefront spot, we had a view of the water from where we were parked at Catherine’s Landing.

I'm sure this campground is busy during the summer months when guests can bring boats and other water toys with them.

I’m sure this campground is busy during the summer months when guests can bring boats and other water toys with them.

A view from our drive through the Ozark National Forest between Branson, MO and Hot Springs, AR.

A view from our drive through the Ozark National Forest between Branson, MO and Hot Springs, AR.

A typical view of calm morning lake water during our early walks.

A typical view of calm morning lake water during our early walks.

A view from the campground's boat ramp.

A view from the campground’s boat ramp.

 

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