On May 16th, I was halfway between Tulsa and Oklahoma City when the Mustang had a massive coolant system failure. After several hours of unproductive roadside assistance, I was towed back to Tulsa and out of commission for nearly a week thanks to a busted water pump and thermostat housing. Couple that event with the copious amounts of rainfall we’ve seen in Oklahoma recently and I haven’t done a lot of driving lately. Today, however, I finally put some more miles on the car (Sam’s car this time — still a little shy with the Mustang after that emergency surgery) and toured a little bit of northwest Arkansas.
Samantha and I got up early. Sure, it’s a holiday and we could have slept in, but there’s nothing that gets me out of bed faster than the promise of breakfast. Our first stop of the day was the War Eagle Mill near Rogers, AR. The mill itself has been in operation for over 170 years and has been rebuilt several times, including once after being burned by retreating Confederate soldiers to prevent it from falling into Union Army hands. It is still a working gristmill (the only one in Arkansas, actually) powered by an eighteen-foot waterwheel. In addition to the mill, there’s a delightful old iron truss bridge that crosses the river; it makes for a very picturesque location. On weekends (and holidays!) their little restaurant serves breakfast…which means I was able to gleefully partake in a fresh, delicious meal when we arrived. Their biscuits were divine. Sam was able to buy some freshly-milled flour to bring home, too. The river itself has swollen quite a bit with the recent rain; I’d visited back in March and there was a lovely little waterfall next to the mill. Today, however, the river churned powerfully and the water wheel was locked in place. The mill and bridge aren’t in danger, it seems, but some of the access roads nearby were getting close to flooding.
After we finished with War Eagle, we hopped in the car and drove to Rogers. I’m a sucker for old neon, and I pulled into an old ice-cream shop so I could capture their lovely sign; the chocolate shake was purely an afterthought. This was on the way to our second stop: Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art. Some friends had recommended the museum, but I didn’t really know much about it. We got to Bentonville (home of Wal-Mart, which actually also sponsors the museum so that admission is free) and arrived at the museum, which was expectedly packed with holiday crowds. It was really worth the drive; the grounds are beautiful (they have several nature trails) & the artwork inside is varied and intriguing. I saw a Picasso, some Georgia O’Keeffe work, Maxfield Parrish, a Van Gogh, several Andy Worhols, a Norman Rockwell painting, and more. Everybody we ran into that worked there was SUPER excited and enthusiastic. They even relocated a Frank Lloyd Wright house from New Jersey and are re-assembling it on the property to be unveiled this autumn. Now that I’ve been there, I recommend it too!
As we wove our way back home, we stopped at Natural Falls State Park in far eastern Oklahoma. I first visited the falls back in October of 2013, on the day that Samantha and I first started text messaging each other. This was a few days before our first date! It was lovely to return to this place with her now on my arm. Unfortunately, I had not planned for a short hike and the unexpected sunshine had turned my flannel shirt into a sauna. We made it to the base of the waterfall, but on the way back up I started feeling wimpy. By the time we made it back to the car, I had to sit in the air conditioning for several minutes before I felt up to getting back on the road. I need to eat fewer burgers and spend some time improving my personal health; I’m only 34, but it gets harder every year.
We capped the day by having dinner at Mom’s, the three of us chatting on the back porch as another wave of thunderstorms rolled in. I’m really tired of the rain, and the next week has a chance every day. Guess I’ll keep my hat handy and hope that my days off bless me with some sunshine so I can continue to visit all of the little stars on my map.