Arkansas, Eureka Springs

Sunday night I returned to the Jolly Swag after a great meal with my new friends in Eureka Springs.  They are all Eureekies, but only one, Freya, wife to Chaffyn, was an Arkie.  Chaffyn and Freya have been married but a few years and are still unabashedly affectionate. 

Of their four-decade age difference, Chaffyn says,  “I’d love Freya even if we divorced.  After all, she’d still be my daughter.”  It was a joke, I’m sure.  Well, pretty sure.

Chaffyn lent his kitchen to me to cook up a mess of tilapia.  He improved on the traditional Levenson family recipe when he suggested crushed corn flake breading instead of corn meal.

I left the feast with a doggie bag that included three leftover pieces of fish and a helping of the pot roast Chaffyn had prepared for a later meal.

I did collect more tidbits of the personality of Eureka Springs.

This is the Bible Belt, and there are two churches on every corner.  Plus chapels–ES is second only to Las Vegas in the number of wedding chapels.

I inferred from one remark that small plots of marijuana abound, including one cultivated by the CIA–presumably to infiltrate the agricultural community.

Christ of the Ozarks dominates the landscape and welcomes busloads of people to the nightly passion play, as well as a Christian-themed musical theater.  The statue is sixty-five feet tall.  Originally designed to a height the FAA would have required a flashing red light at the top, its feet were cut of by the artist.

(Pix)

ES is famous in Arkansas for its grand Victorian homes.  But for a traveler that hails from the San Francisco Bay Area, who lived in Alameda, and cycled Petaluma, the Vics of ES are unspectacular.

Alongside the Christian community are about 600 gays, who claim this is a town where the misfits fit.

There is a piece of the Berlin Wall.

(Pix)

Despite the local artists’ community, make no mistake the major cash crop is tourism.  There are 3000 hotel rooms in this town of 2000 yearround-residents, as well as scores of Bed&Breakfasts and a writers’ residence.  Most of the hotel rooms were posted around $35/night—of course, now it is way off-season.  But the one 4-star Crescent Moon Hotel’s rates started at $220.  The hotel is a recycled hospital, which began as a hotel. 

The lobby has a fireplace as grand as anything I’ve seen east of the Awanee hotel in Yosemite, and two organs, one of which has a slot for a quarter that will get the music rolls going for a couple of minutes.

I’ve been running the furnace a lot of late and had run the propane so low that the furnace would not ignite.  I had already decided that Monday would be the day to Get South.  I passed up an invite to find the village of Hogscald and got going early on the shortest route to the Gulf—nothing like a cold morning without heat to help decide the day’s route.  I backtracked to Fayetteville and southed on scenic route #71.  I missed a turn at Ft. Smith, which I figured out when I saw the Welcome to Oklahoma sign.

I passed through Fort Smith without raising the Old Broads I befriended a year ago in Monterey. (https://allevenson.wordpress.com/people/some-old-broads/).  I continued south out of impending winter and caught up with late autumn’s colors, now muted with a dollop of rusty brown over the fading oranges, yellows, and pinks.

I aimed for Texarkana in the corner where AR, TX, and LA come together.    But overcast and a fifty-yard fog combined to dim the light early.  A Walmart appeared on the highway at 4 p.m., and I called it a day–just in time for the rain to paint gentle gray sounds on the roof.

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16 Responses to Arkansas, Eureka Springs

  1. Dave L says:

    Yes, been to the Crescent Moon, eaten there in the restaruant. Seems to me the place was origninally a home for some deep pocketed guy. And there’s an interesting old chapel nearby, did you happen to confess? Your wandering around the “corner” brings me fond memories and thank you for that. I hate to see you leave.

  2. Colleen Rae says:

    Al – Had lunch at the Crescent Hotel dining room. Very spectacular food as well as hotel. ES was a place my partner and I still contemplate moving to. It woud be close to his kin and open-minded enough for us. But his mother recently passed away in Jonosboro so we may not move to ES afterall. It is not a cheap place to live, so I learned when we were there. But it’s beautiful. And a lot of open-minded people, and of course plenty of ‘crops’ to partake.
    Hope you hit warm weather soon. We are in a cold spell here in MI. But T-Day it should warm up in the 50’s.

  3. Sheri Cohen says:

    Al,
    Woke up last night at 4:00 a.m. for no reason in particular and grabbed my cell phone to read some of your material I haven’t had time to read in the past few weeks. And then I asked myself, “when did he start writing and when did he get so darn good!?!” And what a wonderful adventure you are on!

    Don’t forget, we are in your old stomping grounds (Fort Lauderdale) for a few months now so if you get this far south, we want to hear your stories up close and personal. In the meantime, I’m enjoying the adventure vicariously – – – even Arkansas (a place I’ve never been and never would have put on my bucket list until now)!

    Cuidate,
    Sheri

    • allevenson says:

      Arkansas calls itself The Natural State. Mother Nature has smiled broadly on AR. I think the best way to see the state may be from the back of a motorcycle. See if Chuck isnt game for a last hurrah. You’d look good in black leather.

      Crystal Bridges alone is reason to come to NW AR. I hear Helen Walton has spent hundreds of millions of dollars on fine art. I couldnt get in because it just opened and they were limiting it to 7000 visitors/day. But by the first of the year, anyone ought to be able to walk in.

      Eureka Springs is worth a couple of days of the most cosmopolitan, seasoned traveler.

      Thanks for the compliment and support for my writing. i’ve always liked to write and always wrote a little. For most of my life, my active outdoor pastimes filled the space in my life. Now yacht racing and cycling centuries are behind me and writing is my fav. And, of course, my gypsy life provides more prompts than I can handle.

      I am highballing south and will keep going until I get to the Gulf Coast. I expect to spend a few months ambling along the coasts of TX, LA,MS,AL,ad FL. I had always planned to spend most of the winter with Ocala NF as home base with a foray to Sarasota and southward.

      Have you heard from Neal?

      Fond regards to you and Chuck

      AL

  4. Priscilla Ross says:

    Heading towards Texas, you say. Aim the Jolly Swag over to San Antonio. The Riverwalk is beautiful this time of year with all the Christmas Lights. You know you’re always welcome at our place.

    • allevenson says:

      I have not forgotten that two of my favorite people are in San Antonio. It is a whole lot west of the route I had in mind. But I change my mind with the minute hand on the clock.

      If I head that way, I will call you. If not this year maybe next.

      AL

  5. karen wittgraf says:

    I would never have included Arkansas in any travels, but Eureka Springs does tempt me. I am surprised by the “open mindedness” of such an obvious Bible belt community! You’re really hitting some off the road places and that’s the interesting parts of our country…learning, learning and learning, aren’t you? Envious here- and cold!

    • allevenson says:

      The 600 Eureekies who are lefties now they are an island of liberalism in an ocean of conservatism.

      AL

      • Al, to be true, there are a great many more than 600 of us “lefties” in Eureka, and we did our best to introduce you to as many of them as we could in the short time we knew you here. Perhaps you are not counting the LGBT populations as “lefties.” That would be wrong, and would put the total population of “lefties” in our village at very close to 50%. Much more important that the “leftie-rightie” divide is the amazing HARMONY among different types. We ALL bitch about the new state mandate to put fluoride in our water, and about our electrical “co-op”‘s belief that they have the right to put poison on “their” ROW on our land. We join together to give a memorial to, or a benefit for one of us who contributed art or music or expertise to our community. This is a wonderful place to be, or to visit. I fear that you must have missed its true value, in spite of our best efforts.

      • allevenson says:

        Katie,

        I got a lot from my quick taste, thanks to you. I know I missed a lot, and my blog about ES was not intended to be thorough–more like a teaser. I am sure more than one of my passengers has added ES to their bucket list.

        As for me, I expect I will return sometime to get the rest of my education.

        Thanks for your comments,

        AL

      • And, b/t/w/, we call ourselves “Eurekans.”

        I was recently at Crystal Bridges, and I can attest that it is awesome.

  6. D and A says:

    Last fall I took the same highways as you Al. On the way back from the East Coast. I didn’t stop at Eureka Springs but I took highway 65 to 62 and down to Rogers and back around on 12 to do a 2 day festival. The highway certainlt had a lot of twists and turns and I remember thinking yes a motorcycle was a perferred method of travel if the weather was good. Are you thinking TEXAS? Did you get my Email of locations Angel and I went to? Glad you had a great time in Eureka Springs. The pictures and writeup were EXCELLENT. I skipped the CWC meeting because Oakland is a mess with all the Occupy things going on.

    • allevenson says:

      Dave thanks for this note and the previous ones. I know you have a Florida contact for me. I hope to remember to ask you for it when I get to Florida. I dont seem to be able to remember such references when I get them too far in advance. Do you plan to fire up your motorhome for a long distance trip anytime soon?

  7. Linda Brown says:

    My 91-yar mother moved to NW Arkansas eight years ago, following my brother [the appointed one] who moved there about 20 years ago. I enjoy the relaxed lifestyle and fall colors in the wooded, rolling hills. By contrast, I am occasionally shocked by the racist comments I hear from the mouths of otherwise wonderful, educated, and refined peoples–reminds me of one of the reasons I left Texas over 30 years ago and why I stay in California.

    On a future visit, I hope to visit California Writers Club Berkeley Branch speaker Molly Giles at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville and and finagle a stay at The Writers’ Colony at Dairy Hollow in Eureka Springs. Has anyone participated in this writers residence program? If so, what was your experience?

    • I cannot speak for all of NW Ark., as I have been in Eureka for only about two years, but I CAN say that you will not hear racism in Eureka. There is one old fellow who walks around the village with a Confederate flag on his shoulder, but if you ask him what it is intended to say, he’ll tell you that he is opposed to gays. Even the gays tolerate him. Tolerance is the by-word for Eureka. After 30 years in Austin, my way of dealing with those types is to say, “He’s doing HIS part to ‘Keep Eureka Weird.”‘

  8. Linda Brown says:

    Austin & Eureka Springs,

    How lucky-Living in Austin for 30 years. I lived there for two years and it remains my spiritual home.

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