Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Home again, home again

Hello everyone. We are back from a very relaxing vacation. The Mother went along with us and the Other Mother stayed home in the charge of her other son. It was a respite for my mom to get away from her senior citizen building where drama runs rampant. It seems those seniors can really mix it up as far as gossip and controversy goes. Anyway she had a good time even though we really didn't do much.

As far as healthy eating goes, we all through caution to the wind. The south is home to some of the most wonderful food and we took advantage of the opportunity to try it all. There's a restaurant outside of Hot Springs called The Home Plate and we had wonderful fried green tomatoes for an appetizer one night and a breakfast mess one morning. I call it the mess because it's a concoction of hash browns, bacon cheese and other ingredients, ala Waffle House.

We always make the short trip to Little Rock for the barbecued ribs at Shorty Smalls. The ribs are great and so are the baked beans and biscuits. YUM. Then it's off another evening to the local Mexican restaurant that has a HUGE menu. It's really hard to make a choice but we someone managed.

Does it sound like we did nothing but eat on this trip? When I think about it, that's almost a true statement. We really didn't do any sightseeing this time around because we've seen almost everything there is to see and I wasn't up for a trip down to the diamond mine. So, we relaxed and visited with friends. As the Farmer and I get older we acknowledge our limitations. We both flat out admit that we can no longer tolerate the 12 hour drive in one shot. It's nice to stop early at a hotel, have some dinner and relax before finishing the drive the next day. My grandfather was the king of the epic drive. He would never stop for food so when he made a pit stop for gas you had to run and grab whatever was available inside the gas station and in those days it wasn't much. Gas stations back then were NOT mini-marts.

The worst thing about the drive from here in northern Illinois to Hot Springs Village is the stretch of I-40 from West Memphis to Little Rock. It's just a horrid stretch of road with hundred and hundreds of trucks. This is the second year that construction on a small bridge has had traffic backed up for MILES! Last year we sat for over an hour, moving a foot at a time. You would have thought the project would be finished by now or that they would have devised a better way to funnel traffic through there but NO! We sat again, this time not quite as long but woe to the person who hadn't filled up on gas or gone to the bathroom before hitting this snag. It was so bad that the Farmer swore he would not take that route on our return trip. Our friends suggested an alternate route that would take us up into Little Rock and out the other side, heading northeast through Arkansas and Missouri, ending up just south of St. Louis. This route could also be problematic because parts of it are two lane highway. The thought of traveling on I-40 was just too much so we decided to take the alternate 67/167 and we were so happy we did.

Instead of heading directly east to Memphis and then a bit back northwest through the boot heel of Missouri, you head northeast in a more direct line towards St. Louis. By the way, WHY does Missouri have that boot heel? I guess I'll have to watch that TV show, "How the States Got Their Shapes." Our new route took us directly through the Arkansas delta land. It is stunning how flat the land is in the delta, and I'm from Illinois so that's saying something. It's a rural agricultural area and the farms are spaced quite a distance apart. The people live simply adn there are no fancy farmhouses and very few towns of any significant size.

What is so impressive about eastern Arkansas and the Missouri delta land is that they grow over 50% of the rice grown in the U.S. We wound our way past Little Rock on the 4-lane divided portion of the road and then onto the 2 lane highway. There were very few cars and only one or two trucks the entire length of the route. We were so happy not to be in that crush of truck traffic on I40 and even though our speed was lower than would have been possible on the interstate we were making good time. I've always felt that if you can spare the travel time, it's always more interesting to get off the interstate and travel the secondary roads. We passed through Cabot, Tuckerman and Walnut Ridge before turning onto a 2 lane stretch near the Missouri state line. We were all needing a bathroom break and referring to my trusty atlas I told the Farmer that we'd soon be coming into Pocahontas, Arkansas.

At this point we are traveling on very flat terrain, skirting around the far edge of the Ozark range. Pocahontas has a population of about 6,000 people, only 1,700 actually living in town. There's not much there but they do have a McDonalds, Burger King and Wendy's! The Farmer decided to stop at Wendy's for our bathroom break and then decided he needed a burger. Fast food wasn't so fast in this establishment so as we waited I engaged in some people watching.

This was Sunday so everyone was dressed up having been to church earlier. An older gentleman carried his tray back into the dining room where his wife sat waiting. I imagine that these people have never traveled far from home, maybe never having even left the state. Two young girls entered and placed their order at the counter. They were perhaps 15 or 16 years old and wearing dresses not jeans. When they turned around I saw that they were twins and as my grandmother used to say, they were as cute as a button! Honestly, these girls were as cute as any model in Seventeen magazine and I wondered what their lives were like in this small delta town.

The other thing about getting off the interstate is that besides the fast food there are local restaurants available. On the way into Pocahontas I spotted the place I really wanted to eat at. It was a low white nondescript building but the parking lot was jammed. Hand painted lettering identified it as "Delta Barbecue". Unfortunately we couldn't take time for a sit-down meal. Sigh. I bet that barbecue is awesome. Perhaps we can try it the next time we pass through that town.

Thanks for stopping by and visiting with me today. I hope you enjoyed going along with us on our trip. Not much to do I'll admit but very relaxing. Have a great day everyone.


Anonymous said...

It sounds like you had a wonderfully relaxing vacation.

Millicent said...

Your trip sounds fabulous. I love traveling through small towns and off the interstate. It is so much more interesting than a boring freeway around all the towns. Glad you had fun, and glad you're back!

Debbie said...

Driving back from Texas 2 weeks ago had us on this some route. Fortunately, the bottleneck was in the other lane and we were driving back late. Still, those cars were lined up over there.
I40 is a long road and there are lots of big trucks. And deer. You didn't mention all the deer! And armadillos!
We had plenty of barbeque in Texas. Next time get the bargeque.Pictures on my blog.

Steph said...

You know, Memphis is only 3 hours from me. :)

Stickhorsecowgirls said...

Next time you go to Shorty Smalls, let us know and we'll meet you there! We'd love to meet you and your mom! "C" can bring her mom along too!
We haven't been posting much lately, but "C" wrote a new post today! Glad to see you made it home safely!

Terri said...

So glad you are back! I've been missing you.

Anonymous said...

I enjoyed this post. And I enjoy traveling the US on the state and county highways and byways, going thru the towns and cities.

Vee said...

How wonderful to get away and have a change of scene and some relaxation. Sometimes visiting with family and old friends is like a tonic.

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