Day 25 - Thursday
Buffalo River National Park, Arkansas
Evening - 98 degrees
I sit on a picnic table in the shade staring out at an empty shadeless campground. No one is here. There is no water in the river. Boat launches are closed. I sip water and sweat. I wonder if I will be able to sleep.
At 7:40 p.m. there is a change. The temperature drops. My skin feels cooler. Air moves, leaves ripple. There is hope for sleep.
Morning. The air became cool during the night. I pulled a blanket over me and slept well.
Today I will follow the Buffalo River, West as best I can then swing north toward Eureka Springs. Some riders told me Eureka Springs is a "must see" place. It has a daily Passion Play. Don't we all?
This area of northeast Arkansas is filled with lakes separated by steep hills. The roads go straight up and down.
I must digress and describe an area of Arkansas I went through several days ago. The primary town is Camden. It is in the west central part of the state. The area is agricultural rural poor, very small towns, dry scrubby land. A "keep the highway clean" road sign appears. Instead of the local Cub Scouts the road is being kept clean by General Dynamics. I thought that was interesting. A mile on, I came to a groomed and gated entrance. The guard house sat back a hundred yards from the road. A silhouetted soldier stood near the orange gate with razor wire all around. A sign read: General Dynamics - Armaments.
So this is where our weaponry is made. It has to be made somewhere. We're not outsourcing all our manufacturing.
For miles, the roadway either had a wet ditch and thick pine trees on each side or trees and endless railroad track on one side with tanker car after tanker car. There were sidings with more cars. This went on for miles. Then a new sign appeared: Martin Marietta - Defense Division. It's efficient to have all the players in one location.
Now I'm slowly cruising down this endless road trying to think of a way to photograph the magnitude of this country setting. Should I go back and photograph that silhouetted soldier? Right. This idea from the fellow who wanted to photographed Attica Prison and was chased away by a surprised guard. (You'll have to read about that in Road Wise.)
So I'm thinking these thoughts and I look in my rear view mirror. There is a police SUV 100 yards behind me. He is going at my speed, no faster. I roll on. No photos here. Around a bend there is a larger railroad yard with old concrete buildings near the road. They look abandoned, empty. Is this all leftovers from the Manhattan Project or a great ruse? I pass the buildings and the railroad ends. The trees look different too, more deciduous, less pine. There is litter. The SUV pulls over.
Okay, back to the present. I make it up to Eureka Springs. The day is over 100 degrees. Stopping means roasting. There is a commercial part of town and an historic part, plus the Passion Play. I saw a sign for it. I kept moving in my own play.
At this point I made the decision not to visit Bentonville, Arkansas. The whole point would have been to take a photo in front of the first Walmart store. The irony of that image would be lost on most people. I turned north and crossed into Missouri.
I find Missouri's Raging River State Park just over the line and one or two more ridges. This place is a fisherman's and woman's paradise. Limit, four trout a day, flies only. There are catch and release sections of the river too. Daily license plus fee is $10.00. All I want is a tent spot in some shade and access to some water, either in the river or the shower room.
So I drive into the "tent only" section which is next to the road and banked so as to receive the maximum amount of sunshine possible. There are about ten blades of grass per square foot on the crackling hot ground. Reed-like trees are poised here and there as if imposed by a kindergarten art class. My spirits sank as my core temperature rose.
I drive into the RV section. There are real trees and shade. One side is lined with thick trees and shrubs. Decent grass fills in the non-driving areas. I spot a space with no reservation card and holy of holy's, a green tag. That means tenting is okay.
I can have the tent set up in tent minutes after getting off the bike. I place it in what is then a shady space, but I have no idea which way the sun is moving, so I peg it down lightly for possible future movement. Now here's the kicker, the river is only five feet away down a very gentle embankment. I have my own pool right out my back door.
The water in the river was so low, it could not be called a river, but instead, a brook. That was fine by me and about three dozen kids and parents frolicking the afternoon away. No one was fishing.