Day #61 – A visit to Mammoth Springs

LOCATION:  Northeast Arkansas
CAMPGROUND:  2nd night at Lake Charles State Park
WEATHER:  Chilly in AM, warming to 65

It was nice not waking to rain, as we have done the past few days. 

A note about bathroom functions…..Campers seem to talk about poo and pee more than most people.  It just comes with the territory!  As I have said before (and sometimes get criticized for it), we mostly use public bathrooms.  Our experience is that the campground ones are pretty good and are kept clean.  In fact, since a lot of people don’t use them, we often are the only “customers”.  The ones at this campground are particularly nice, and brand new.  They are the kind with individual rooms – shower/toilet/sink in one private, handicap-accessible room. 

We are pretty remote here, so have no cell service or internet.  However, the campground offers its own wifi.  The node is next to the bathrooms.  So this morning, as I was using the bathroom, the screen on my phone came to life.  I realized that I had a really good connection right  inside the bathroom.  And, it was heated and comfy!   So, I took my time and answered emails, etc. while in the bathrooom.  Suddenly all the lights went out.  I realized that the light was motion-sensitive, so I had to frantically wave my arms around to get the light back on.  Kind of funny.

We took a drive to Mammoth Springs State Park, home of the world’s 9th largest springs.  We took a hike around the springs and lake. 

First up was a set of falls that had been used in the 1800s as a power generator.

Because of the power, this city was a hub back in the day.  The train connected it to St. Louis and other major cities in the area.  In fact….here comes the train!

The cute train station is now a little museum.

The geese chased me around a bit….

The hike ended with the springs.  The springs pump 10 million gallons of water out per hour!

The springs flow into Spring River which we followed on our way home.  We got off the highway and went down a gravelled road to check out one of the “resorts” along the river.  This is a popular place for canoeing and kayaking.  George decided to take a “shortcut” back to the highway.  Uh-oh.  The road deteriorated and at one point it was under water.  I wanted to turn around;  George said we could make it.  I had to close my eyes as we passed through the water.

It is a very scenic area.  You can see the valley below from this bluff…

DINNER:  George built another great fire.  He just loves the stand-up grills in campgrounds (versus the firepits in the ground).  We had brats that we had bought at the Harvest Host farm. They were really good – probably the best I have ever eaten.   I baked a loaf of bread – the “take N bake” kind I had in the freezer.  It was excellent.  Side was creamed spinach with onions and mushrooms. 

Day #60 – Two months on the road!

LOCATION:  About an hour from Jonesboro, Arkansas.  No town nearby.
CAMPGROUND:  Lake Charles State Park.  Electricity and water; some sites have full hook-ups.  Many sites have lake views.  Brand new, beautiful bathrooms/showers.  Fire pit, stand-up grill, and picnic table.  Huge sites, set far apart.  $18/night for seniors. Wifi, no phone service, BUT – PBS!   4 stars out of 5.
WEATHER:  Just like yesterday – rain in AM followed by beautiful PM

Today marks two months on the road for this trip!  It seems like we have done a lot.  It has been fun to explore Arkansas and Louisiana, 2 states we had mostly whizzed through before. 

We waited out the rain parked in last night’s brewery parking lot.  We hadn’t expected the rain, so we hadn’t put on the tarp, but we stayed dry.  YAY!  I ran over to the brewery (closed) that had left their strong wifi on and their patio open, so did some computer work. 

A short two-hour drive back south and a bit east in Arkansas.  Not only are the Ozarks known for their beauty, they are also famous/infamous for their tackiness.  There are a lot of touristy junky shops and just plain junk all over the place.  So sad.

We haven’t seen much wildlife along the road for awhile, but today we counted 15 dead armadillos on the shoulder.  They must crunch when you run over them.  Eeeuuhh!  We also spotted two turtles creeping across the road.  I hope they made it. 

It looks like this campground was busy over the weekend, but it had cleared out almost completely by the time we arrived today (Sunday) afternoon.  We got set up and I took a walk around the lake.  Very nice.  This huge mushroom had popped up overnight with the rain.  I took the photo with my shoe so you can note its size…

While enjoying our Sunday afternoon Bloody Marys, I watched the squirrel activity right outside our front door.  The squirrels were very interested in our wood prepped for tonight’s fire. 

Popping in the paper bag full of firewood..

Then, running away again….

Enough of squirrels.  Isn’t it funny how we think they are cute and that their rat cousins are nasty?  Someone once told me that squirrels are the same as rats, only with a good Public Relations Manager!

DINNER:  George got the fire going and grilled the chicken thighs we had bought at the Harvest Host farm.  Perhaps a result of better, free-range chicken plus George’s grilling technique, they turned out to be excellent.  Sides were mashed potatoes and mixed steamed vegetables. 

Day #59 – Another day, another brewpub!

LOCATION:  West Plains, Missouri, just across the border from Arkansas in central part of state
CAMPGROUND:  Wages Brewery and Taproom.  A Harvest Host site.  We are parked in their paved, level parking lot with one other RV.  Very friendly host/owner.  Easy in and out.  Good beer, too!  5 stars out of 5
WEATHER:  Rain in the AM, turning into a nice spring afternoon.  High 71

We spent the cool, grey, rainy morning snug in the Airstream at Cranfield Campground.  To pass the time, we watched a movie.  Our DVD player comes and goes.  Today it felt like working.  We watched “Young Frankenstein” which we had never seen before.  It was well-done and funny.

Once the sun came out, we took our time to get ready to go.  We only had a short drive today and were not in a hurry. 

The hour drive was pleasant – through a part of Ozarks National Forest.  Everything is green and lush right now. 

We arrived here at the brewery in the late PM and introduced ourselves to the owner.  He welcomed us and chatted with us for quite a while.  He loves being a Harvest Host.  We agree with him – it is a win/win arrangement for the hosts as well as the travelers.  We met the other Harvest Host RV couple, parked next to us.  They are in a huge motor home, pulling a pick-up.  I don’t understand why a lot of RVs, like theirs, are now all electric.  They don’t have any propane, so they depend on a generator/batteries when they are not hooked up to shore power.  They also have to worry about weight (40,000 lbs!)  when they go to a Harvest Host site – they might sink if parked in a grassy lot!  We think our set-up is much better, but then we are probably a bit prejudiced.  🙂 

We enjoyed pizza, beers, and wine out on their patio while listening to live music.  The owner had had a cancellation, so he played the guitar and sang.  He is quite good.

We went to bed rather early, and enjoyed the music from the brewery from the comfort of our bed.  It ended about 10:00, and everything quieted down nicely. 

Day 58: Is this Arkansas….or Paradise?

LOCATION:  Mountain Home, Arkansas
CAMPGROUND:  2nd night at Cranfield Army Corps of Engineers Park, part of Norfolk Lake
WEATHER:  BeYUUUUTifull! Sunny.  High 75

I took another long walk around the campround, checking out the big marina.  I chatted with a local guy who says the lake has been super high like this for 4 years.  They can’t let any water out through the dam as the rivers are too full below.  This sign used to be in the parking lot!

We took off for lunch at another fishing resort that had been recommended.  We passed the Norfolk Dam that creates Norfolk Lake from the White River and Norfolk River.  This is a darling little resort with cabins overlooking the lake.  (This is the same lake that is at our campground,  30 miles away). 

We were able to get a table outside on their patio.

We shared a fried green tomato sandwich which was great, and George had a beer brewed in Norfolk, just down the road.  The view of the lake was spectacular.  The roses are in full bloom….

Also the irises are at their peak…

On our way home, we stopped at the dam and checked out their fish hatchery.

Back home, George made a fire in the firepit and we sat around munching on peanuts and sipping drinks.  What a life!

DINNER:  Shrimp scampi.  I got the recipe from a magazine about garlic, so it had a lot of garlic in it.  I sprinkled on some of the goat cheese from the Harvest Host farm, just for fun.  Sides were leftover mushroom risotto and an arugula/avocado/tomato salad. 

Day 57 – In the beautiful Ozark Mountains

LOCATION:  Mountain Home, Arkansas in very north central part of state, near Missouri border
CAMPGROUND:  Cranfield Army Corps of Engineers Park, part of Norfolk Lake.  Electricity and water at site.  Bathrooms dated but clean. Firepit and picnic table.  Our site has water views; some are waterfront.  A bit tricky to back in.  $10.50/night with senior discount.  We love Army Corps of Engineers parks.  This one is a bit dated.  4 stars out of 5.
WEATHER:  Beautiful again.  We are getting spoiled.  High 75

We watched the farmhands tend to the chickens at the Harvest Host farm where we stayed last night.  One of the farm dogs sat in the sun next to me while I read a book sitting on Joy’s steps.  What joy! 

Our route today was not very far, but it was slow-going in the Ozark Mountains.  These signs were posted about every 2 miles…

Then, the dreaded sign saying “Steep grade ahead.  Truckers use run-away lane if necessary”.  Great!  Guess who was driving! !!!

Our ears popped throughout the trip, but the scenery was just beautiful.  Full of trees, mountain views, and rich-looking valleys below. 

As we drove through one town, a big, beautiful Golden Retriever darted out into the highway. We came within an inch of hitting him, just brushing his tail.  Our hearts pounded…..Guess who was driving?

After we got set up at tonight’s ACOE park,  I explored the campground, trying to get in my steps.  It is quite pretty.  This is the view from our front door…

We drove to a fishing lodge for a drink.  It is quite posh out in the middle of nowhere.  The restaurant’s menu looked very gourmet. 

The restaurant/lodge overlooks the White River which is famous for its fly fishing.  People come from all over the world to fish here.

Back at the campground, George made a fire for dinner. 

DINNER:  I marinated the hangar steak that we bought yesterday at the Harvest Host farm, using  a paste our friend Rob uses – harissa and crushed garlic.   George grilled the hangar steak on the fire.    Sides were a baked potato, baked in aluminum foil in the coals, and broccoli. 

It’s official…..our trip to France planned for this September is off.  We have rescheduled for September 2022 when more things should be open for us.  With that in mind, we are really hoping that we can enter Canada in late August/early September.  We want to visit Winter Texans in Sioux St. Marie, Ontario and then travel with our Nova Scotia camping buddies.  For now, it will be “wait and see”.

Day #56: Fun at a nuclear missile ranch and then being chased by a pig!

LOCATION:  Bee Branch, Arkansas, in central part of state
CAMPGROUND:  Rabbit Ridge Farms – a Harvest Host farm nestled in the Ozark Mountain foothills.  Beautiful location.  Super quiet.  We are parked in their spacious, graveled, level parking lot.  Only ones here.  Very gracious and organized hosts – arranged everything via text.  5 stars out of 5
WEATHER:  Chilly in the AM, warming to an absolutely perfect sunny day.  High 72
DISTANCE DRIVEN:  45 minutes

At the nuclear missile ranch Harvest Host site, we awoke to hear a lot of cows mooing in the fields surrounding us.  We were actually parked above part of the missile site.  This is the schematic of what is underground.

The tour was of the launch control center (building on the left).  We entered by walking down 5 flights of steps next to their big sign.

The site was built in 1963  and was used/manned until it was decommissioned in 1987.  There are 54 of these sites in Arkansas, Kansas, and Arizona.  This is the only one that is being used to live in. 

A work camper who is staying here this summer gave us the tour. We started by opening one of the many, heavy- heavy security doors.

The owner (the Harvest Host guy) bought this property and has converted the launch control center building into an AirB&B.  When he started working on it, he opened these doors to find the building completely flooded and full of mud and debris.  It was a huge project to restore it. 

This is the walkway from the entrance area to the 3 floors that make up the launch control center.

This floor is one of the Air B&B bedrooms that was formerly the crew’s headquarters.

The we climbed up the spiral staircase to the floor that used to be the work space, the control center.  It is now a very hip bedroom and bathroom for the AirB&B guests.

We climbed back down to the lowest floor which had been used for cables and storage.  It is now a kitchen and hi-tech meeting room center.  We watched a You Tube video about the site’s restoration.  Check it out on the channel called Death in Bunny Slippers. 

It was a unique experience, thanks to Harvest Hosts!  We hit the road, driving through the scenic foothills of the Ozark Mountains.  We passed through this tiny town with an old-style grocery store…

You just don’t see these much any more.  Sadly, they have been replaced with Dollar General stores all over the country.  😦    The town also had a Baptist Church, of course, with this cute sign.   It took me a minute to get it.

Today’s Harvest Host had sent me specific driving directions.  She said that if we came the other way, it would be “alarming” for a trailer – so we wanted to avoid that!  But, what did we do?  We missed the farm entrance road and went to the “alarming” section of the road!!!!!

We hadn’t gone far when we saw a bunch of huge, fat pigs that belong to tonight’s farm.  I got out to take a photo.

George drove a ways to the top of the next hill so an approaching car would see us.  As I got ready to walk back to the truck, I turned around and saw that two pigs had gotten out.  They were on the road and one started chasing me!!!!! 

We found a farm road entrance and George made a very very complicated and scary T-turnaround.  At one point, Joy was tilting precariously.  My heart was really beating!!!

But, we made it, due to his skills, back to the farm.

We told the hosts about the loose pigs and then got settled in.  We are right next to a field of very healthy-looking cows that are munching on fresh grass. This is the view from our front door…..

This farm is well-known for their grass-fed, dry-aged beef and pork from their forested hogs.  We bought a LOT of beef and pork from their store.  Unfortunately, we are not here for one of their weekend breakfasts or lunches. 

We took a walk around the farm and admired views of Joy.

The owners left for the day about 4:00 and told us to make ourselves at home.  We had the place to ourselves, along with their dogs who patrol the farm.

Being Cinco de Mayo, we got comfy on the barn’s patio overlooking the hills and ponds and shared margaritas and chips.  Paradise!

DINNER:  We started with caprese salad with a few minor twists.  Instead of mozarella, I used some goat cheese we had bought at the Harvest Host farm a few nights ago.  Instead of fresh basil, I used some of my home-made pesto.  It turned out well, and was a good use of the tomatoes that needed to be eaten. 

The main course was a nice, no-meat dish – kale and garbanzo bean soup.  It was super easy and seemed to be healthy!  Ingredients were:  olive oil, garlic, lemon zest, fennel seeds, tomato puree, kale, chickpeas, red pepper flakes, and water or vegetable broth.  Served with lemon slices and grated Pecorino Romano cheese. 

Day #55 – On to a missile site!

LOCATION:  Vilonia, Arkansas, about an hour north of Little Rock
CAMPGROUND:  Titan Ranch – an ICBM missile site, an underground silo built in the 1960s to protect the USA from our “enemies”.  A Harvest Host site.  We are parked in their graveled parking lot as their grassy area is too wet from recent rain.    The owner has converted the silo to an Air B&B.  He gives tours here and sponsors events.  We are surrounded by countryside, mostly cows.  Very peaceful.  We will have a tour tomorrow, so will learn more about it then.  4 stars out of 5
WEATHER:  A relief from the hot/humid weather.  Mostly cloudy.  High 74
DISTANCE DRIVEN:  45 minutes

It poured during the night. High winds and buckets of water. For a period, we heard hail stones pounding the top of Joy. The tarp flopped around on top. A bit scary.

We checked for damage and water leaks when we got up, but all is well.

We hung around Maumelle Park until mid-afternoon.   I got in my walking steps, and then the two of us strolled around the campground to the section with a marina.  This barge went right by our campsite…

We drove less than an hour north to this Harvest Host site.  The geography is changing – more hills and pine trees, compared to flat rice fields in the south. 

Our Harvest Host owner met us on the highway in his quad and guided us down to his property to park.    The owner chatted with us for awhile, until it was time for him to welcome his AirB&B customers. 

DINNER:  Leftover cassoulet.  For the veg, I sauteed some onion, mushrooms, and broccoli and added just a bit of cheddar cheese on the top to serve.  A French baguette on the side. 

BOOK:  “The Lost” by J.D. Robb.  Robb is a prolific author and I have read a lot of her books, mostly about a female policewoman in the 2060s.  This book is a collection of short stories.  Very easy reading.  3 stars out of 5

Day 54: Out and about in Little Rock

LOCATION: Little Rock, Arkansas
CAMPGROUND:  2nd night at Lake Maumelle Army Corps of Engineers
WEATHER:  Mostly overcast.  Hot and humid.  High 87

I walked around the campground to get my 11,000 steps in.  The park is big.  One of the loops is designated for  medical-related issues only.  If a camper has an appointment at the nearby Univ of Arkansas Medical Center, he/she can stay in that special loop.  What a great idea! 

There are a lot of Canada geese running around the campground, including some babies!

Our site is right on the water and is in a field of clover.  Pretty!

On to downtown Little Rock to explore.  We drove through the historic district which looks pretty vibrant – lots of shops and cool-looking restaurants, bars, and music venues.  Our destination was President Clinton’s Library.

It is closed due to Covid, but we enjoyed walking around the interesting building and lovely grounds.

The library juts out over the Arkansas River.  An old railway bridge has been converted to a pedestrian bridge which connects Little Rock to North Little Rock.

There are a lot of bike trails and quite a few people were using the bridge.  One camping option would have been for us to stay at an RV park right next to the bridge on the North Little Rock side and walk over to Little Rock for entertainment.  We originally were going to do that, but the RV park is just one of those unappealing concrete lots.  It is much nicer at our campground, and this day trip was enough city life for us for now.

Time for lunch and a beer! 

We found another cool brewpub.  It is the largest one in Arkansas. 

We shared a wood-fired pizza, which was one of the best we have ever eaten.  It had a white, creamy lemony sauce with roasted garlic and lots of artichokes.  Yummmmm!

The afternoon was spent doing errands, taking advantage of being in a city for a change…..oil change for the pick-up and a run to the supermarket.

DINNER:  This experiment turned out beautifully!  I have been carrying around a jar of hazelnuts since we left Texas.  I googled recipes using hazelnuts (other than desserts) and found this one: 

Kale and Hazelnut Pasta

First, I sauteed some onions and garlic, and added the kale (stems removed)  to wilt.  I roasted the hazelnuts and set aside.  I made spaghetti and set it aside, too.  The recipe calls for mixing all of that together with lemon juice and mascarpone.  The grocery store did not carry mascarpone, so I looked up a substitute.  I found a substitute – to mix softened cream cheese with whipping cream.  It worked out fine.  Now I need to buy more hazelnuts to make this recipe again some time —   it was so good! 

Day #53 – Back to civilization! (aka brewpub!!!!)

LOCATION:  Little Rock, Arkansas
CAMPGROUND:  Lake Maumelle Army Corps of Engineers.  On the Arkansas River, part of Murray Lock and Dam.  Beautiful campground.  Our site is right on the river.  Electricity and water.  Paved, level site with fire pit and picnic table.  Sites spaced nicely apart.  Very nice bathrooms.  Close to city – so TV, cell service, and internet.  $12/night with Senior discount.  Highly recommend this one – best of both worlds. Very accessible for anyone traveling on Interstate 30.   5 stars out of 5
WEATHER:  Mostly overcast and light rain.  High 79

We were awakened very early (3:30 AM!) by the roosters doing their “cockle-doodle-do” and the donkey braying, while staying last night at Tammie Sue’s Critters farm.  We managed to get in a little more sleep before daylight.  It was a comforting noise. 

We left the farm about 9:00, as rain was predicted and we hoped to set up before the rain.  We were lucky; our campsite was available and we got set up and put the tarp in place.  This is our view from our front door…

We found the brewpub that gives the farm their spent grains for the goats , and had lunch there.  We shared a tofu bahn mi which was delicious. 

The pub is located in North Little Rock, across the Arkansas River from Little Rock.  North Little Rock has a surprisingly hip vibe. 

The brewpub is called FlyAway. 

I was intrigued by the pub’s map (below).  We are traveling in a similar direction as the birds, starting in the southern-most part of Texas, and hopefully ending up with our friends in Nova Scotia!

DINNER:  The last of our leftovers from the Cajun Fest.  Hurrah!  It was jambalaya that I jazzed up with sauteed onions and garlic, andouille sausage, and okra.  Side was a salad with the lettuce freshly picked at last night’s farm. 

Day #52 – Camping with goats!

LOCATION:  Out in the country near Little Rock, Arkansas
CAMPGROUND:  Tammie Sue’s Critters – a Harvest Host goat farm!  What fun!  We are parked on a level part of the graveled driveway amid the vegetables, chickens, goats, donkey, dogs, cats, and llama!  Really hospitable hosts.  5 stars out of 5
WEATHER:  Super nice.  Perfect for staying at a Harvest Host site – no need for A/C or heat.  High 78

We drove through a lot of farmland as we headed north and east.  We passed by huge fields of rice.  Here, they don’t raise crawfish in the fields as they do in Louisiana.  The towns had big grain bins and processing factories for the rice.  We had a European tour, passing through little towns with names like Hamburg, Stuttgart, England, and Slovakia.  It would be interesting to know how they were named.

We arrived at our Harvest Host farm about 3:00.  The farmer – Skip – greeted us and helped us get parked.

He gave us a tour of the farm.  He has LOTS of vegetables.  Everything is so neat and tidy…

He is a very industrious guy.  He uses techniques that help the soil – like using goat poop for fertilizer, keeping tree roots in the ground helping to avoid erosion, not using pesticides, etc.   After seeing George’s brewpub t-shirt, he told us that the local brewpub gives him spent grains which he uses for goat food.  The brewery also gave him some barrels of beer that hade gone bad.  He will use the beer as fertilizer.

Skip also keeps bees and makes honey. 

They raise a lot of chickens. 

Then, it was feeding time!  The donkey,  llama, and goats gathered excitedly for dinner – bales of hay.

Emma, the dog, got in to the fun, too, chasing chickens and watching the goats.

We watched Tammie Sue, the farmer’s wife, milk one of the goats.  It had a broken leg and cannot be with the others.

Then, into the milking barn to watch Skip and Tammie Sue milk the others. 

Skip feeds them “dessert” of the beer spent grains to distract them while they are being milked.

Each goat produces a quart Mason jar of milk. They sell the milk, make goat cheese, and use it to make soaps and lotions.

After feeding time, we visited the “soap barn” where Tammie Sue makes soaps and lotions.  The cats greeted us..

We bought some of Tammie Sue’s soaps and lotions, a big jar of goat milk, a big hunk of goat cheese, and a dozen multi-colored eggs.  We always like to support our Harvest Hosts. 

What a pleasant afternoon! Time to relax!

DINNER:  I thawed some leftover pasta, and sauteed some onions to add to leftover butternut squash.  At the last minute, I added some kale leaves, plucked from a plant next to the trailer, and walnuts for crunch.  Side was a beautiful salad from a head of lettuce we picked.  Wow!