Saturday, September 22, 2012

Eureka Springs

We took a few days to celebrate Holly's birthday with a trip to Eureka Springs, Arkansas and as usual our compatibility and laid back attitude made for a relaxing and enjoyable trip. We like to travel with no real agenda, no schedule, just a vague notion of what we want to do in a particular area and we enjoy finding unique things to do and try.

If you get a chance Eureka Springs is a nice place to visit. Its an old mid 1800s town that has managed to retain its architecture and late 19th century feel without being cheesy. It has a very funky vibe and was originally a resort area for the lower Midwest where people came to stay in luxury hotels while visiting the many springs in the area that were known for their rejuvenating qualities. Through the mid 20th Century it turned more towards motor courts, camping, boating on the lakes and they realised they had a gem with the narrow winding streets perched in a valley and the old Victorian hotels. Sadly, too many old towns like that let things get away from them but in the historic district of Eureka Springs there are no fast food restaurants, no stop lights, and thankfully none of the modern cold and cheap looking architecture that mars most US cities now days.

So here are a few pictures of our trip.

For our Alaskan friends, Eureka Springs is very similar to what Basin road and Star Hill look like in Juneau; very hilly with narrow winding streets and unique architecture.

The down town is very Victorian and full of ornate buildings with interesting shops and restaurants.

One of our first stops on arriving was the Palace Hotel where we had lunch and a cold beer on the second story balcony overlooking downtown. The weather was perfect; sunny and in the mid 70s with low humidity and a nice breeze. The hillbilly beard is growing back nicely after being singed twice this fire just kind of fits with the rural farm life in the Ozarks and after so many years in the military I enjoy not shaving.
This is a very arty community with lots of earth muffins, musicians, artists, hippies, bikers, and other tourists all happily mingling together. None of those adjectives are meant derogatorily as the eclectic mix of people is what gives the place its energy.

We took in the miniature golf and go kart track of course.

 I had originally planned for us to stay at one of the downtown fancy hotels but Holly decided to get on line and look for herself and while I was out on a fire call prior to the trip and she booked us into a 1940s motor court where you had an individual cabin. I was a bit skeptical at first but it was clean, quiet, conveniently located, and 1/3rd the cost of the hotel I had been contemplating. As usual she picked a good one.
We are game for anything and like variety so we have stayed in everything from 5 star hotels to B&Bs to a memorable night in a converted ATCO trailer in Beaver Creek Yukon Territory in the middle of winter but this cabin was nice and had that whole mid 20th century vibe going on.

Yes this is a picture of the bathroom, Holly didn't want anyone to think we were relegated to an outhouse. The first night we were tired and came back from exploring town early in the afternoon and watched an old John Garfield black and white movie before walking across the street to a steak house/bar where we had great steaks and played pool until late.

This was the old power plant that burned in the 1930s and is now a derelict and for sale.
One of the things we wanted to see was the old War Eagle grist mill that still functions as a grist mill. It was burned during the civil war by those damned Yankees and washed away in a flood so this is the 3rd or 4th version of the same mill.

It sits on the War Eagle river next to a great narrow bridge built in 1909.

According to the owners, its the only undershot mill currently operating in the United States...and by undershot they mean the water powers the wheel from a viaduct beneath the wheel.
The water power drives these belts which operates the mill and it makes a not unpleasing clacking. We had lunch upstairs and explored a bit.

This old bridge has survived several major floods with the most recent on in 1985 covering the entire road deck by a couple of feet of rushing water (they had pictures).

It was just a very quiet and picturesque place worthy of a visit.
This always shocks visitors to our farm because we frequently have chain gangs come by the front of our farm to pick up trash and clear brush from the roadway. And Arkansas was the same way, striped suits and all. Yes it gets hot and they are guarded but the work isn't too onerous and I can personally attest as a jailer who worked for the Sheriff here that most of the inmates would rather be outside working that sitting in the primitive jails that predominate in many of the rural areas.

This hotel is called the Crystal I believe and its one of the places we looked at staying; beautiful place.
While we were at an overlook taking the picture of the Crystal 5 deer walked up in front of us maybe 30 feet away and Holly called to them and this doe came right up and stood there so I could take a picture. This is in town in Eureka Springs and the deer were obviously habituated to humans but I swear Holly can talk to the animals.

And our final adventure was a dinner train on the Eureka Springs and Northern Arkansas railway. It was a big deal in its hay day and used to connect to the Frisco line and points west but its now relegated to catering to tourists.
This old water tank had seen better days but you don't see many of these around any more.

And if you are into trains at all you know that working turn tables of this scale are rare.
I just thought this old track inspection car was cool. The whole place was full of old railway cars, abandoned steam engines, hit or miss engines, old tractors etc.

Up until a few years ago they ran this steam locomotive but maintenance got to be too much to run it regularly (though its still functional).
Now the dinner train is pulled by this old diesel electric switcher

So we boarded the train and spent a leisurely couple of hours having a great dinner of Prime Rib and Almondine Trout with a soup and salad course and a nice dessert of Baked Alaska. We really enjoyed this step back in time and the cost was about the same as if we had the same dinner at a nice restaurant...but we like trains and always try to hit dinner trains wherever we are at.
As you can see, the dinning car is very nice and it was a perfect cap to a great couple of days. But now that we are home, playtime is over and today we spent fencing...and I found a blown radiator hose on the TH 424 tractor that needs to be fixed...and a wind storm blew off a roof panel on the lions club tractor shed we had to fix today...and I had a fire call this evening....I kind of miss that cabin in the woods!

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