Saturday, September 28, 2013


It is a Happy Day!!  Exactly two weeks from when we pulled into Red Bay, Alabama we got our “Get Out of Jail” card and pulled out of parking space #75 at the Allegro Service Center in Red Bay and headed West – not fast enough!!  Just like our work years – it all seemed fine while we were there getting things done.  BUT, when we knew we were leaving – we could NOT be on our way fast enough.

So, we headed for the spas of Hot Springs, Arkansas – perhaps the most interesting of our National Parks.  While most of our national parks cover hundreds of thousands of acres far from city streets keeping natural resources away from commercial users – Hot Springs does the opposite.  This smallest of national parks borders a city that has made an industry of tapping and dispensing the park’s major resource – mineral rich waters of hot springs. 

In 1832, long before our National Park system was adopted, President Andrew Jackson set aside the hot springs as a ‘special reservation’ in order to preserve the slopes behind the spas where the rain and snow soak into the ground and ultimately produce the hot water – 143 degrees Fahrenheit - of the 47 hot springs in the park which in turn supply the spas.  In 1921 the federal land became a national park.  However, Hot Springs claims the time it was a ‘special reservation’ and bills itself as the oldest NP, outdating Yellowstone!!

The heart of this peculiar park is Bathhouse Row on Central Avenue – the main street of Hot Springs.   In the early years of the 20th century the street was lined with elegant bathhouses where the rich and famous came to “take the waters”.   A couple of the bathhouses are still in operation providing baths from the Hot Springs as well as other spa services.  Some of the bathhouses are now used as restaurants, shops and even the NP Visitor Center.

Hmmm..guess where we are.

Most of these old bathhouses aren't operating any least as bathhouses.

Baseball players liked to come here to rejuvenate their bodies and many say that spring training originated here.  Babe Ruth and Joe DiMaggio were regulars as were many of the Mob, Presidents and actors.  An interesting mix!!  Oh yes – and, this IS the boyhood home of Bill Clinton.  In fact, when he flew in all that BBQ to the White House – it came from McClard’s right here in Hot Springs.

This BBQ joint was made "World Famous" by former Hot Springs resident Bill Clinton.

Other historical buildings along Central Avenue include the Ohio Club, which opened in 1905 and served the likes of Babe Ruth, Bugsy Segal and others.  If you knew the ‘secret word’ you could get into the back room and get a drink even during those prohibition years;-)  The bar has a beautiful VERY LARGE back that was purchased up north, brought by barge then by a specially built wagon to the Club where the front of the building had to be removed to get the bar in place.

The Ohio Club is the small building in the middle.

E bellying up to the Bar where Babe Ruth sat (maybe)!

LARGE mirror with interesting detail work.

One can get a birds eye view of Hot Springs from the Mountain Tower where views of the Spa City and the Ouachita Mountains can be seen.  While the Tower has been updated over the years, it has been providing these views since 1877!!

The Mountain Tower - didn't do the stairs;-(

Great views of Bathhouse Row

Not too far from Central Avenue sits the Garvan Woodland Gardens – a joint venture between Verna Cook Garvan and the University of Arkansas School of Architecture.  Garvan inherited the land the Garden now sits on from her father, a brick and timber businessman who purchased the property in the 1920’s for future timber for his company.  Vera loved the beauty of the peninsula on Lake Hamilton and therefore abandoned the thought of harvesting the timber and decided to conserve the site as the Twentieth Century Gardens.  After working for several years on her own developing the gardens’ infrastructure and planting thousands of trees, shrubs and plants she realized she wanted something bigger.  She contacted the University of Arkansas and entered into an agreement and today we got to visit a beautiful garden. 

The Gardens provided lots of color - including a glass exhibit

and interesting architecture in this Chapel.

We also found that Arkansas, like Alabama, has a golf trail and two of the courses were right here in Hot Springs just down the street from our campground.  So – off we went for a perfectly delightful morning of golf.  E’s round was pretty good and G had his best round ever;-)!!  What more could one ask for?????

We golfed at the very traditional Hot Springs Country Club - Park Course.

OH YES – the ‘campground’ here in Hot Springs.  Never thought we would be so happy to have a cement slab, grass, a picnic table and something like a river out our front door.  BUT – after our gravel, dusty, barren parking spot on the runway in Red Bay – WE HAVE BEEN IN HEAVEN THE PAST TWO DAYS;-)!!!!!!

What a difference a little grass and water makes - GREEN, GREEN, GREEN;-)

OH HAPPY DAYS!!!  How little things can please.

Tomorrow we are on our way to Branson, MO to meet up with friends then we head the wagon west.  Look out – here we come – E & G on the move