War Eagle & Crystal Bridges

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.

War Eag

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.

CrysBrid-2After 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!

Natural Falls-4As 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.

About rhysfunk

Rhys Martin was born in Tulsa, Oklahoma in 1981. In 2009, he sold everything he owned and left the country, living out of a backpack for ten months. He discovered a passion for photography while traveling throughout Southeast Asia and Europe. After returning home, he looked at his home town and Oklahoma heritage with fresh eyes. When he began to explore his home state, Rhys turned his attention to historic Route 66. As he became familiar with the iconic highway, he began to truly appreciate Oklahoma’s place along the Mother Road. He has traveled all 2,400 miles of Route 66, from Chicago to Los Angeles. He has also driven many miles on rural Oklahoma highways to explore the fading Main Streets of our small towns. Rhys has a desire to find and share the unique qualities of the Sooner State with the rest of the world. Cloudless Lens Photography has been featured in several publications including This Land, Route 66 Magazine, Nimrod Journal, Inbound Asia Magazine, The Oklahoman, and the Tulsa World. Rhys loves to connect with people and share his experiences; ask him about enjoyable day trips from Tulsa, locations along Route 66, and good diners or burger joints along the way.
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One Response to War Eagle & Crystal Bridges

  1. Donna Le says:

    I am much older than you and it has been years and years since I’ve been to War Eagle. There used to be a huge crafts fair there which I think was held in the fall. The old mill is beautiful. That part of Arkansas is full of charm.

    I want to remind you to come back to Guthrie area late summer. The sand plum jelly should be on sale by then. I hope this rain doesn’t mess up the crop. I see the bushes are full of sand plums now. Hopefully the cooler, rainy weather won’t cause the fruit to rot. I’m hoping we have a bumper crop.

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