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!

Friday, September 14, 2012

Fun at Lake of the Ozarks

We took a break from farm chores and spent a day at Lake of the Ozarks goofing off but before I get to that I want to ask a rhetorical question...WHAT THE HECK IS WRONG WITH THE PRESS LATELY?

We have NBC skipping a moment of silence for 9/11 to air a Khardashian fluff piece, we have NPR reporter Ari Shapiro decide that standing when the National Anthem or Pledge of Allegiance is said is fascist so he refuses to do it while he is on assignment, and then we have just about every main stream news outlet show graphic pictures of our dead Ambassador to Libya who was murdered. Who makes these stupid decisions and what happened to common decency? Decent people world wide stand when any countries national anthem is played (Jamaican Hussein Bolt stood and was respectful of the US National Anthem during the Olympics....too bad his example wasn't followed by the said Mr Shapiro), decent people give up their seat on the bus to the elderly or infirm, good reporters don't need salacious and indecent pictures to make a point, and smart people understand they don't bite the hand that feeds them. They may have a right to do some of these things but we seem to have entered a phase where the media from all quarters are sinking to new depths of dishonor. End of rant and end of my semi annual contributions to NPR.

Judy likes to explore and the other day she convinced us to take a day trip to Lake of the Ozarks which is about an hours drive from here and so we did. We expected lots of traffic as we went on Labor day but we ran into few people and I think that isn't a good sign for the economy around here but it was nice not to fight the crowds. If you don't know Lake of the Ozarks is huge with more coast line than the state of California but the waterways are relatively narrow and the main areas are often crowded with boats with operators who seem to only know how to go full throttle....not a place I would choose to go boating but its picturesque and has lots of things to do in the little towns that line its shores.

We started with a winery tour and tasting at the Seven Springs Winery halfway between Camdenton and Osage Beach. It was a beautiful and peaceful place and we left with 4 bottles of wine of various types. Our vineyard at the farm is just getting started and next year will will be going at it hard but with the drought we just had to put it off for a year.

In back was a nice balcony overlooking a valley where you could see deer and wild turkeys running about. It was very romantic and I could have stayed there all day enjoying a glass or two of wine and just doting on my beautiful wife but we had more plans for the day.

Like I said the lake is huge and there are hundreds of little inlets and docks in out of the way locations scattered among the busy town locations.
But everyone has to get places so fast; I prefer a leisurely sail boat experience myself.

There are a lot of fish in the lake and the fishing is excellent. I took this right off one of the docks and there are bass, catfish, bluegills, crappie, and other types to be had.

There are a lot of clubs, restaurants, arcades and water parks everywhere and we found this pleasant miniature golf course while we were looking around and decided to play. Naturally I won!
Judy likes to play but she is a terror on the course with a typical hole starting out like this. "Okay Judy now just be smooth and hit the ball gently no need to kill it" then "WHACK" and an "OH MY GOD DUCK!!!".

Holly and I are very competitive and enjoy playing just about anything against each other but she is so cute she distracts me which isn't really fair. But I try to get through it.

It was a hot day but there were fans, shade trees and a breeze blowing and it was very nice.
Next stop was bumper cars and since we were the only ones riding we got an extended ride and had fun crashing into each other.

We were about equal on this ride as we both got in some good licks and had a great time.

There are go cart tracks everywhere and if you haven't gotten into go-cart racing your missing is a blast!
Holly did well but I must confess I lapped her twice...I like to go fast in anything I drive.

The course had numerous curves and elevation changes and you could really get going good and power slide around the corners.

We ended the trip with a late lunch at a nice steak house and came home to a rainbow. It was a good day.

Barn Find

Its amazing the deals you can find around here and the other day a friend of mine was wanting me to put a new motor on his riding lawn mower and we started to chat about price etc. We were going to barter something and at one point he mentioned he had an old 4 wheeler in his mother in law's barn and I said I would take a look at it to see if I wanted to trade my labor for the 4 wheeler.

Long story short we came to another arrangement but I asked him what he wanted for the 4 wheeler and he said $100 so I bought it. The motor turns over, the wheels and tires are good, the transmission shifts like it should, the body cladding is in perfect shape and it was a real bargain as I could part it out if I wanted for a lot more than $100.

You hear about these old barn finds but around here they aren't just tall tales as you can find some really cool things.

This was under a tarp in the far corner of the barn and when I pulled off the tarp I found a mid 1990s Yamaha Blaster 2 stroke.

It hadn't been ridden in a couple of years but nothing was seized on it and there was zero rust or damage to any part of the bike. Chris was home for a couple days break from his truck driving and helped me yard it out and load it on the equipment trailer.

Blasters aren't large bikes but they go like scalded cats and are a...well Blast!
Just a couple minutes with the hose reveled a pretty nice ATV. You can see the automatic oiler tank is missing and the ports are filled with epoxy so its been modified to just run on pre-mix; just saves me the time to do that mod anyway as the old automatic oilers were prone to pickup problems.

Muffler , frame, tires, chain, everything was there and in great shape.

Not even a tear in the seat or fade in the paint.
I need another project like I need a kick in the head but when opportunity knocks you have to answer and I am very happy with this deal. The riding lawn mower I am going to re-power for him is also extremely cool. Its an early 1960s Swisher 3 wheeler that looks like a small tractor and almost identical to one I had in Kansas City 20 some years ago. It will be re-powered with one of the Greyhound engines from Harbor Freight that are Chinese knock offs of Honda engines so that should be interesting and I will post pictures of that project when I start it.

The drought has been a spider heaven around here and this guy took up a place right outside our French Door off the family room. Thew garden spiders are very big and very cool and catch a lot of flies....they are your friend.

And on the same day as the spider picture this turtle came to visit in the same place. WE are smack dab in the middle of a Box turtle migration route and at certain times of the year they are all over and we enjoy them.
The summer garden is mostly played out but we still get some residual produce from it for home use. The fall garden is just coming on and will be producing shortly.

And finally, we put Chris to work running a friends tractor to load our trailer with fire wood. There was a big storm that came through here with 80mph winds which took down a lot of trees so we helped this rancher clear some of it and left with over a cord of wood. Good deal for all of us.