Thursday, May 19, 2016

Mostly Hot Water

This portion of our journey is dedicated to the memory of Jim Gaston. He and I were "pen buddies" and we planned for me to visit his world-famous resort when we came through this part of the country. Jim died last year, and so I shall miss the pleasure of his company on this final leg of our Southern journey. Wherever you are Jim, may the fish be jumping and the whitewater flowing.
We left Little Rock Thursday morning and, through no great virtue but the desire to avoid interstates, picked up Arkansas 7 which the state claims as a scenic byway. It certainly is one of the best driving roads I have been on. This was one of the few times I’ve wished Sharon was not with me on the trip, but then I probably would have gotten myself into some sort of trouble.

Instead I was able to drive it at moderate speed and enjoy the changing terrain. We did not stop for a lot of pictures (it was not always safe or possible to do so) but these few will give you an idea.

And then there was Hot Springs. Something dimly remembered told me that it was worth seeing. The springs as spa date back to 1832 when Congress set the area aside and since then it has provided therapy and recreation at the public and private levels with both theraputic installations and commercial spas.

We had only a couple of hours so we strolled bathhouse row, visited the fantastic Fordyce Bath museum and strolled the shops on Reserve Street.

Both Sharon and I are big fans of the National Park Service. Of all that the US Government does this may be our favorite agency. Over the past three years we have come to realize what a superlative steward of our national heritage the Park Service is. This is their centennial year and to them we say “Bravo!”

A view of the town and one of the many hotels that housed bathers. Many today are closed and crumbling while others have been restored

This massive structure provided rehabilitation services to veterans and others

At the head of bathhouse row, the Lamar

Next to it, the Buckstaff, as you move toward the center of the row, the bathhouses seem to become increasingly grand and fanciful in their architecture

Here, the Ozark
Two views of the richly ornate Quapaw

In this image the Fordyce is in the background.

The Fordyce Baths today serve as the National Park Service headquarters and are open as a museum. This stained glass ceiling is in the entryway. Sadly I was unable to lay the camera on the floor in the center of the room to capture the whole thing, but you get the idea.

TC Boyle's The Road to Wellville is required reading for this segment

The much more modest Maurice
The Hale, this one meant to evoke the California missions

Across the street shops existed to serve the needs of healthseekers
Ed. Spears offered everything the spa-goer could want

And for those who just could take no more . . .

But for the most part the city was given over to health through bathing
From Hot Springs we drove north through the Ouachita (think Washita stone) National Forest into Russellville.

There we stopped into the headquarters of the Ozark-St. Francis National Forest where we were greeted, given a goody bag of cool stuff and bought some souvenirs including a Novaculite Black Arkansas sharpening stone.

 That went nicely with the Case Select knife that I bought myself in Hot Springs. My first souvenir knife for this trip.

Friday we explore the Ozarks area further.

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