Wednesday, October 9, 2019

BOLT: "Best of the Loop Trip"!

Our big, lazy, five-month, 8,479-mile loop around the Northeast and Canada gave lots of special memories.  Invariably, when we return, people ask "What was the best thing you did?"  Add some of these "best of the best" locations and activities to your travel bucket list ... you won't be disappointed!

BEST STATE OVERALL
Maine


What's not to love about Maine?  Gorgeous picture-postcard scenery, endless cheap lobster, perfect summer temperatures in the 70's, crashing waves, charming small towns galore, outdoor recreation in spades, lighthouses, boats, and friendly, low-key people.  LOVE!

Runners-Up:  Vermont, New Hampshire


BEST NATIONAL PARK
Acadia National Park (Maine)


Acadia has both a "quiet side" and a "crazy side" and they're both terrific.  Scenic drives, pebbled carriage roads, 158 miles of hiking trails, free Island Explorer buses, seven peaks above 1,000 feet, rocky coastlines, ranger-led tours, and pet-friendly (rare amongst national parks)!

 Runners-Up:  Arches (Utah), Canyonlands (Utah), Mammoth Cave (Kentucky)


BEST STATE PARK
Watkins Glen State Park (New York)

WGSP is a gorgeous state park located walking distance to its famous Gorge Trail with 19 waterfalls in just 2 miles.  395 wooded sites have electric and water hookups, towering trees, hot showers, and even an Olympic-size swimming pool ... say whaaaat!?

Runners Up:  Gooseberry Falls State Park (Minnesota), Hocking Hills State Park (Ohio)


BEST HIKE (PET-FRIENDLY)
Corona Arch Hike (Moab, Utah)

The largest arch located in Utah not located in the nearby Canyonlands, this relatively easy 3-mile round-trip hike takes you to two different arches located next to each other.  And pet-friendly too ... Sprinkles wants you to know that it doesn't get any better! 

Runner-Up:  River View Trail, Gooseberry Falls State Park (Minnesota)


BEST HIKE (NON-PET-FRIENDLY)
Beehive Loop Trail (Acadia National Park, Maine)

If you've got the guts (and aren't too afraid of heights), the Beehive Loop is the most fun you can have on two feet!  With giant stone steps, multiple sets of iron rungs embedded in rock, exposed cliffs with steep drop-offs, gorgeous distance views, and 520 feet of elevation gain over 3.2 miles round-trip.  If this doesn't get your blood pumping, nothing will!

Runner-Up:  Gorge Trail, Watkins Glen State Park (New York)


BEST KAYAKING
Boundary Waters National Recreation Area (Minnesota)

 The Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness is over 1,090,000 acres of watery goodness straddling the U.S. and Canada.  So close to the border, the Customs Department has an office here just for people entering the U.S. by canoe or kayak.  Whether an hour or a week on the water, there's a reason National Geographic calls this one of the "50 Places of a Lifetime!"

Runner-Up:  Peaks-Kenny State Park (Maine)


BEST BIKE TRAIL (DISTANCE)
Fred Meijer White Pine Trail (Michigan)


92 miles running from Cadillac to Grand Rapids, the White Pine Trail follows an old rail bed and is part crushed limestone, part paved, and 100 percent car-free.  Philip loved it for the isolation, the beautiful countryside, covered bridges, and the smooth asphalt covered with leaves made it feel like heaven.

Runner-Up: Gitchi-Gami Bike Trail (Minnesota)


BEST BIKE TRAIL (CASUAL)
Carriage Roads, Acadia National Park (Maine)

Acadia has over 45 miles of carriage roads, made of broken stones, and 16 pretty stone bridges, built by John Rockefeller and other wealthy industrialists who vacationed here. The roads lead into the heart of the park, and are today shared by bicyclists, pedestrians and horseback riders, all of whom enjoy the park the way Rockefeller did generations ago.  So fun!

Runners-Up:  Towpath Trail, Cuyahoga Valley National Park (Ohio), Little Traverse Wheelway (Michigan), Razorback Greenway (Arkansas)


BEST LARGE CITY
Old Quebec City (Quebec, Canada)

Visiting the fortified city of Old Quebec will make you feel like you've been whisked away to Europe, with loads of French-Canadian culture, old architecture, art galleries, shopping, museums, sidewalk cafes, and more.  Voted best destination in Canada by Travel + Leisure, Expedia, USA Today 10BEST, and others, Old Quebec City definitely warrants a place on your travel bucket list!

Runners-Up:  Portland, Maine; Burlington, Vermont; Grand Rapids, Michigan


BEST SMALL CITY
Boothbay Harbor (Maine)

We fell in love with the walkable charms of downtown Boothbay Harbor, with amazing gardens, shopping, lighthouses, festivals, and restaurants and breweries.  There are, of course, lots of Maine towns that fit this description, but Midcoast's Boothbay Harbor has a special charm that is undeniable!

Runners-Up:  Eureka Springs, Arkansas; Bayfield, Wisconsin


BEST TOURISTY PLACE
Niagara Falls (Canada & New York)

One of the most popular tourist destinations in the world, Canada and the US share the falls, and both sides have different experiences!  We really expected to hate it, and then we couldn't help but love it!  All the hype is warranted and you've got to go, at least once in your life!

Runner-Up:  Mackinac Island (Michigan)


BEST CHEESY ATTRACTION
Mothman Museum (West Virginia)

The 1966 visit of "The Mothman" to Point Pleasant, West Virginia, was sufficiently noteworthy as to inspire a Hollywood movie starring Richard Gere.  The tiny museum was stuffed with artifacts and renderings, and the statue is the town's point of pride.  Suspend your disbelief for an hour, just as you will when you visit Roswell, NM.

Runners-Up:  Corn Palace (South Dakota), Branson (Missouri), Wall Drug (South Dakota)


BEST TOUR
Shawshank Prison (Ohio)

Our #1 best tour was of Portland, Maine, and that was because our friend Sue Seriachick took multiple days to be our own private tour guide to Portland and Peaks Island.  But since most of you don't know Sue and therefore can't take her "tour," the next-best was the prison where Shawshank Redemption was filmed.  Really a fascinating facility and So! Much! Fun! if you liked the movie!

Runners-Up:  Mushroom Houses (Michigan), Holland Windmill (Michigan), "Gossip Tour" at Fort Ticonderoga (New York)


BEST CONCERT
Niagara Falls Queen Anne's Park (Canada)

The night-time LED light show on Niagara Falls, plus a brief but beautiful fireworks show, happens every night, and many summer nights there are also live music concerts in Queen Anne Park across from the falls on the Canadian side.  And you won't find better people-watching anywhere on earth!

Runner-Up:  The Boneheads @ Shore Hills Campground (Maine), Americana Vineyards (New York)


BEST STATUE/MONUMENT
World's Largest Picnic Basket (Ohio)

It's a basket!  It's a building!  It's both!  And it's also abandoned.  But still really cool!  200 feet wide and 7 stories tall, the former headquarters of the Longaberger Basket Company is pretty impressive and will make you feel oh-so-very-small. 

Runners-Up:  Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox (Minnesota), World's Tallest Filing Cabinet (Vermont), Lakenland Sculpture Park (Michigan)


BEST SHOPPING
Niagara-on-the-Lake (Canada)

Canada's #1 Food and Wine Destination (according to TripAdvisor) is super cutesy.  Flower-lined streets, charming shops, fine restaurants, horse-drawn carriages rolling by, and finely restored 19th-century Victorian buildings will have you wondering if you're in Canada, or on the streets of Disneyland.

Runners-Up:  Portland, Maine; Old Quebec City, Canada; Bar Harbor, Maine; Eureka Springs, Arkansas


BEST MUSEUM
Corning Museum of Glass (New York)

With 35 centuries of glass art and history, a floor dedicated to glass science and innovation, a stunning contemporary art wing, and the largest hot glass demonstrations space in the world. Add a Make Your Own Glass experience and you've got a full (I mean FULL) day's worth of excitement!

Runners-Up:  Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (Ohio), NFL Pro Football Hall of Fame (Ohio), Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art (Arkansas)


BEST MOUNTAINTOP
Mount Washington (New Hampshire)

It's fun in a terrifying sort of way to get to the top of Mount Washington, the first and oldest man-made attraction in the USA, opened in 1861.  8 miles of a 12% grade straight up up up, on narrow roads with steep drop-offs and no side railings!  At the top, "the worst weather in America," where the still-standing world record wind gust of 231 MPH was recorded in 1934. 

Runners-Up:  Cadillac Mountain, Acadia National Park (Maine), Whiteface Mountain Auto Road (New York), Mount Battie, Camden (Maine), Cannon Mountain (New Hampshire)


BEST CAVE
Mammoth Cave National Park (Kentucky)

The world's longest cave system was used for gunpowder manufacturing, a TB sanitorium, and for tours for wealthy people in the beginning of the century, including women in corsets and high heels crawling over rocks through the dark by candlelight for 10 hours.  But today, tours are much more tame ... just watch out for the section of the cave known as "Fat Man's Misery"!

Runner-Up:  Wind Cave National Park (South Dakota), Nada Tunnel (Kentucky)


BEST UNKNOWN NATURAL LANDMARK
Red River Gorge (Kentucky)

Red River Gorge Geological Area is an incredible part of Kentucky that includes sandstone arches and towering cliffs sculpted over millennia by the scenic Red River, with 500+ miles of hiking trails. With more than 100 arches, waterfalls, and old-growth forests, it borders Natural Bridge State Park and the complement to the above-mentioned "Fat Man's Misery" ... here it's "Fat Man's Squeeze"!   

Runner-Up: Buffalo National River, Franconia Notch (New Hampshire)


BEST WATERY FUN
Hurricane Deck - Cave of the Winds, Niagara Falls (New York)

Strap on your souvenir flip-flops and plastic poncho, cuz you're a-gonna get WET!  Take an elevator 175 feet down to a series of wooden walkways that will bring you to the unforgettable Hurricane Deck, just feet from crashing Bridal Veil Falls and a whole lotta water!  Tons of fun and laughter!

Runners Up:  Swimming in Echo Lake (New Hampshire), Rockland Lighthouse Breakwater (Maine), Seawall Point - Acadia NP (Maine)


BEST BOAT RIDE
Maid of the Mist, Niagara Falls (New York)

With 600,000 gallons of water falling all around you, it's the best possible way to experience Niagara Falls, short of going over them in a barrel.  Safer and more fun, to be sure.  When the boat gets right next to the falls, you will really appreciate the power of H2O!

Runners-Up: Camden Olad Schooner (Maine), Apostle Islands National Lakeshore (Wisconsin)


BEST FERRY RIDE
Lake Champlain Ferry to Burlington (Vermont)

Leaving Upstate New York, we loaded Lucky Charm onto a ferry bound for Burlington, Vermont.  They advised vehicles' height could be no more than 11'3" -- Charming is 10'11."  We jussssst fit!  Once the terror of driving on subsided, the one-hour trip was relaxing and beautiful.

Runners-Up:  Casco Bay Line Ferry from Portland to Peaks Island (Maine), Local Motion's Burlington Island Line Bike Ferry (Vermont)


BEST SCENIC DRIVE
Valley Loop Drive, Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park

One drive on the park’s 17-mile loop of geologic majesties will make you ready to saddle up your horse and take up a new way of life.  The highway cuts straight through the center of this park where many Western movies have been filmed, and the scenery simply can't be beat.

Runners-Up:  Scenic Loop, Badlands National Park (South Dakota), Park Loop Road, Acadia National Park (Maine)


BEST FORT
Fort Ticonderoga (New York)

Fort Ticonderoga is a beautifully preserved fort, but what really brought this place to life was their "Gossip Tour."  A guided walk regaling tales of drunken soldiers, stolen wives, unsolved crimes, and attempted murder made "real" history come to life!  If only high school American History class had been this fun!

Runners-Up:  Fort Mackinaw (Michigan), Fort Niagara (New York)


BEST RESTAURANT
Restaurant at Skylon Tower, Niagara Falls (Canada)


This 775-feet tower (think" Seattle's Space Needle, or Vegas' Stratosphere) has a revolving restaurant at the top with 360 degree views of the falls.  Bonus:  the food was great, the live piano music was a bonus, and we got to go outside on the platform a floor below afterwards. 

Runners-Up:  Buffet at Grand Hotel - Mackinac Island (Michigan), Cafe Lafayette Dinner Train (New Hampshire), Wharf Gallery - Corea (Maine), Betty's Pies - Two Harbors (Minnesota)

BEST BOOZY PLACE
Boothbay Brewery (Maine)


Arguably one of the best breweries in Maine, their beer flight and homemade brick-oven pizza was complemented by a dog-friendly patio.  Yessss!

Runners-Up:  Stoneyard Distillery (Colorado), Cellardoor Winery (Maine), Americana Vineyards (New York)


BEST MEAT SHOP
Bell's Meats (Pennsylvania)

We are STILL dreaming of the meat they sell at Bell's.  Let that sink in.  STILL DREAMING OF IT.  Months later. Every single thing they sell is that good.  Lemon pork chops, marinated flank steak, 25 kinds of homemade sausage (get the Greek), and so much more.  To die for!

Runner-Up:  Harbor Fish Market - Portland (Maine)


BEST GROCERY STORE
Market 32, Pittsfield (Massachusetts)

We almost skipped this place because its full name is Market 32 by Price Chopper, which sounds kinda like a dollar store.  Imagine our astonishment when we walked in anyway, and found it to be the nicest grocery store we would encounter on the entire trip!  In nothingsville Pittsfield, Mass. Wow!

Runner-Up:  On The Vine Marketplace - Scarborough (Maine)


BEST BAKERY
The Bakery at Winter Harbor - Schoodic (Maine)

Open seasonally, The Bakery is literally a tiny screened-in porch on the front of the chef's house.  Don't be deterred ... it was the yummiest of the yummiest baked goods we tried ... and we tried a LOT over five months.  The scones ... mmmmm the best!

Runners-Up:  Village Bakery - Mountour Falls (New York), Standard Baking Co. - Portland (Maine), Sugar Bakery - Trenton 


BEST FARMERS MARKET
Fulton Street Farmers Market - Grand Rapids (Michigan)

It's huge, it under a permanent covered roof, and it has a great variety of foods, plants, meats, vegetables, crafts and more.  Farmers Markets can be a mixed bag of good and bad, but this one is really really GOOD!


BEST LAUNDROMAT
Wash World, Cave City (Kentucky)

One of the challenges of RV'ing is doing laundry.  Usually, its a half-broken dusty washer in a campground, or occasionally you'll get two machines from which to choose.  Imagine my delight in nothingsville Cave City, Kentucky, to stumble into Wash World and see this!  I wanted to pitch a tent and stay the weekend, right there in their aisles!  If you don't understand this, then you haven't RV'ed much.


BEST WILDLIFE (CREEPY)
Hickory Horned Devil Caterpillars (Kentucky)

Ewwwww.  Just plain ewwwww!  And this guy is as long as my entire hand!  Hold up your hand ... go ahead, do it .... and picture this guy that size.  What .... the ..... heck!!!!!


BEST WILDLIFE (CUTE)
Western Meadowlark - Badlands National Park (South Dakota)

From ewwww to awwww, this little guy was perched on the top of our picnic table shelter in the Badlands campground.  I took this photo from the door of the RV, finding him wonderful, until I found out that the meadowlark chirps LOUDLY, and continuously, 24 hours a day.  That made him somewhat less cute. 


BEST CAMPGROUND - OVERALL
Buffalo Outdoor Center RV Campground (Arkansas)

With extravagant views, long/level sites, abundant peace and quiet, full hookups, and a bathhouse with showers that rival the finest hotel spas, all the middle of nowhere, we couldn't believe our eyes!  There was nothing we didn't love about this campground!

Runners-Up:  Fall Lake Campground - Ely (Minnesota), Wanderlust Crossings (Oklahoma)


BEST CAMPGROUND - EXPERIENCE
Turpentine Creek Wildlife Sanctuary (Arkansas)

TIGERS WERE RAHRRRING RIGHT OUTSIDE OUR RV DOOR, ALL THE TIME.  That's all you need to know, to realize how special and unusual this experience was!  With full unchaperoned access to a 93-animal big-cat wildlife rescue sanctuary, it was one of the coolest experiences we have ever had RV'ing, at a truly special place with an amazing staff.

Runners-Up: Stoneyard Distillery (Colorado), Abbott Farms (New York), Steamboat Park (Michigan)


BEST SUNSET
Sunset Bridge - Franconia (New Hampshire)


Well, what do you expect, when a photo is taken at sunset from a place named Sunset Bridge?



BEST LOVIN'
"Love Notes From Home"



Daughter Kelsey made us a box of weekly love notes, with cute pictures or memories or quotes, one for each Monday of the trip, giving us just a taste of family love while on the road -- very much appreciated and enjoyed!  Beyond that, we also appreciated visits from various friends and family at various stops, including Sarah and Sean, Taylor, Kelsey, my parents, and my cousin John and his wife Judy.  It also means so much to have y'all write, or text, or comment on the blog, especially when we are on the road for a longer time. Thank you all!


BEST TRAVEL BUDDY
It's a tie !!!  Sprinkles & Philip


Before and after! 146 days. 8,479 miles. 17 new U.S. states. 2 new Canadian provinces. 7 national parks and 11 state parks. 51 campsites. 1 heck of a summer!



WHAT'S NEXT?

Alas, the Lucky Charm has rolled her last mile with us.  We bought her to either "get us into" or "get us over" the idea of RV'ing, expecting to have an entry-level RV for only a couple years while we gave it a try.  Six years and 50,000 miles later (and lots of lessons learned), she has been traded in on a newer model, which we took delivery of shortly after returning to Phoenix from the Loop Trip.   She's a 2019 Fleetwood Southwind 34C model, and her name is Elsie 2.0  (Elsie = L.C., in honor of the original Lucky Charm).   We are so excited!


Lots more adventures are in the works, including the Carolinas and Georgia in April-June, 2020!
Thanks for rolling along with us!


Wednesday, October 2, 2019

Ozark (Arkansas and Missouri): Not Just A Great Netflix Show

Arkansas has long been one of our favorite states, not least because it's the home of Philip's look-alike, Bill Clinton.  This trip included time spent in the Ozark Mountains, a multi-state region that includes Arkansas and Missouri.  (Ozark also the name of a GREAT show on Netflix, but I digress.) 


Hawksbill Crag, just outside Ponca, is the most photographed point in Arkansas.  A moderate 3-mile hike that culminates in steep cliffs and jaw dropping views leads to this natural crag.  It's usually crowded, but we had it all to ourselves!  Score!


A good time/place to get in some physical fitness!  #planksinprettyplaces


We had some wild weather in this part of the country.  
The day we arrived, the Lucky Charm looked like this ...


.... and 24 hours later, like this!


One day, one wild all-night lightning storm, and 3+ inches of rain later, we were back on the trail and enjoying this neck of the woods, including the Buffalo National River, the nation’s first federally protected recreational river.  It's dry at the moment, but during spring and summer, people come from around the world to kayak its 153 miles of water.


There is a herd of Rocky Mountain Elk that were introduced to the area in the 80s and have developed into a thriving herd of about 800, but we never found them.  Instead, we found a chainsaw street sign, and I'm pretty sure that's an equal trade. 


Leaving Ponca, an easy 50 mile commute led us to Eureka Springs.  In a nutshell, if Bisbee, AZ and Jerome, AZ had a baby .... it would be Eureka Springs.  Where else could you find a 500-pound Humpty Dumpty?


With historic appeal, restored Victorian buildings, a disproportionate number of excellent restaurants, and lots of small-town charm, Eureka Springs is our kind of place! 


Quirky/weird/interesting, full of art and also "art," and with exactly zero traffic lights, it is a dream come true for people who like unusual little places.  



We were here during "Bikes Blues and BBQ's," a motorcyclists' gathering that involves 550,000 bikes coming to the area over 4 days, not surprising given the hundreds of miles of winding, relatively traffic-light roads through the gorgeous mountainside. 


Also in Eureka Springs is the world's largest uncrucified (and possibly uncircumcized, but who knows) statue of Christ. This is at the site of the "Passion Play," a large-scale, wildly-popular drama of Jesus' last week on Earth, performed in an outdoor ampitheater.


The statue is 67 feet tall, with a 65 foot arm span, and the whole shebang weights over 2,000,000 pounds.  


  Just the face is 15 feet tall, with eyes that feel like they are watching you always.  And maybe they are!   
#hmmmm  #behave


Not surprisingly, given the artsy nature of Eureka Springs, a local park had been "yarn-bombed," which is when trees are covered in decorative knitting or crocheting, as a form of street art.  





The Lucky Charm had its most interesting sleepover experience yet.  Outside town, the Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge has RV camping spots right there on their property!  See the chain link fence next to us on the right?  That is one of the tiger enclosures!


It was really something to open our bedroom blinds in the morning and see a wild cat strutting around not 30 feet from our door.  Of course, Sprinkles was not pleased at sharing her space, but she eventually calmed down when we threatened to throw her over the fence as a snack.  Hearing the cats "rahhhhring" all night long was a memory we will not soon forget!


 When staying on their property (in an RV, or one of their fun "safari suites"), you are allowed to wander around the big, beautiful facility on your own, whenever you like.  We got a private guided tour and then spent many hours gazing in amazement at some of the 93 animals here.



The 459-acre property is set in the Arkansas countryside with plenty of room for the critters to roam.  Most of them have been rescued from places of neglect or abuse, or from people keeping them in their backyards, who suddenly "saw the light" that a wild animal does not make a good pet (generally when it attacked a family member, or required 80 pounds of meat a day to live), or from the entertainment industry or "tiger cub petting" roadside attractions.


Most of the animals are big cats (tigers, lions, servals, coatimundis, etc.) but they also have a monkey, 5 black bears, and a few other types of rescued animals.





I loved that they were so relaxed and happy!  So unlike the circumstances from which they were rescued. 



 I expected to feel sad here, but instead was filled with gratitude that places like this (and caring people) exist in our world.  To learn more, go to Turpentine Creek Wildlife Rescue.


We moved on another 40 miles to Bentonville, perhaps best known as the "birth of Walmart."  In the 1950's Sam Walton opened Walton's 5&10 in their historic downtown square.


 - That was the start of the empire, and the Walmart Museum in that same location gives you free admission to learn all the reasons you should supposedly love Walmart, including a peek inside Sam Walton's original office ....


... and his beloved 1979 Ford pickup truck of yore, displayed along with Sam's original registration, keys and sunglasses, found in the truck just the way he left it.  This is perhaps the most oft-repeated parable of his humble nature.  Very rich, very humble.  Both. 


 Did you know that little symbol in the Walmart logo (and shown here) is called "The Spark?"  Well, now you know.


 Also located at the Museum, the Spark CafĂ© Soda Fountain is an old-timey ice cream parlor, just like back in the day, but with modern-day prices.  


You can even order "Spark Ice Cream," in the traditional blue and yellow colors of Walmart.
Not that you probably would, if you are over the age of 7, but you could. 


RV'ers have a love/hate relationship with Walmart.  True, they do put a lot of little independent store owners (like we always try to visit in every town) out of business.  But the reality is that there is often a Walmart everywhere along our travels, and they always have whatever crazy thing we need that we have trouble finding anywhere else.  Around Bentonville, however, you'd best LOVE Walmart because the family has funded pretty much all the infrastructure and amazing amenities throughout this area, from music pavilions to theaters to bike trails to their most generous (billion-$$) contribution, Crystal Bridges Art Museum.


Built to look like it is "floating," Crystal Bridges is a renowned American art musuem set on 120 lush Ozark acres, with walking trails, art gardens, and even a Frank Lloyd Wright house.


Because of the Walton Family, admission here is also always free, and it was truly a spectacular place!  And, the MegaSpider was perfect for the first day of October.



The museum was opened on 11/11/11, and so for lack of imagination, their highly-regarded restaurant is called Eleven.  It is known as one of the best Museum cafes in the world, with certainly some of the best scenery.



The current outdoor exhibition, "Color Field," displayed a number of colorful works in the North Forest.  You know you're a big musuem when you have a North Forest.



We are not art connoisseurs by any means, so we struggled to understand and appreciate some of the works in this exhibit.  This is called "Back to Kansas" and each color in the grid corresponds to a color noted by the artist during repeated viewings of The Wizard of Oz.  Okey dokey then.  Sounds like somebody was getting the most out of their Netflix subscription.


You know how art museums list the artist's medium, like "charcoal pencil on vellum" or whatever?  The one above literally, self-importantly listed "exterior household paint on canvas."  Like, what you buy at Home Depot.  Got it!  And, the artist below used the signature Walmart blue and yellow colors, thereby guaranteeing selection for this exhibit.  Am I right?


This one has a green neon frame to represent smartphone facial recognition software, and therefore the artist "predicts a viewer's recording of their subjectivity," which kind of thinking is way beyond my pay grade.


Inside, however, in air-conditioned comfort, their permanent collection has hundreds of truly interesting works by American masters from colonial times to present.  My favorite was this sweeping coat/robe/body armor made entirely from thousands of Army dog tags.



You could literally spend an entire, wonderful day at Crystal Bridges.  And you should!  Back in the real, un-cultured world, we took a long spin on the Razorback Greenway, sponsored in part by ... you got it, you got it ... Walmart!


This off-road, 36-mile multi-use path leads from Bentonville to Fayetteville, and is extremely popular.  A digital thingamyjigger even counts the number of users!  It's hard to see the number, but so far this year, more than 39,000 bicyclists have ridden past this sign!



If your bike needs air, or a repair, or a tune-up, just look for the tall pile of painted bicycles and you'll find a bike station with everything you could need, except probably a cold beer.


Bentonville remided us a lot of a smaller, quieter Austin, TX -- very cool, lots of art and public amenities, breweries and food trucks everywhere.  Paper airplane, anyone?


At the other end of the Razorback Greenway is Fayetteville, a large college town and the location of University of Arkansas, and their Razorback mascot.  People in Arkansas are crazy-rabid Razorback fans.  



We admired their beautiful sprawling campus on our way to the Clinton House Museum.  Bill and Hillary Clinton lived in this house while they were both Associate Professors of Law at University of Arkansas at Fayetteville around 1975.


In fact, they were married in the living room of this house!  Hillary purchased the "Gunne Sax"-brand dress the day before for $53, and only because her mom made her.


This was also during the period when Bill ran his campaign for Arkansas attorney general, and we know what happened from there.  I've always thought Bill Clinton was handsome, I wonder why?


This was a super-trendy kitchen in the 1970's.  Bill tried hanging wallpaper in the house, but did such a terrible job, that he pulled it all down a few days later!


The Clinton House was hosting a special Johnny Cash photo exhibit, 1968: A Folsom Redemption.  The connection between the two, unclear.  I guess because one had empty walls, and the other needed someplace to be hung.  But as we are currently devouring the Ken Burns' documentary series about country music playing on PBS, it was a welcome surprise!


And, being located on campus, the Clinton House Museum even had its own style Razorback.


On our way to Arkansas, we had made a quick swing through Branson, Missouri, known as the Live Music Show Capital of the World.  


There are more than 50 live performance theaters in their entertainment district, so there is literally something for everyone, most (but not all) musically-based.  We chose "Raiding the Country Vault," a kind of time-capsule history of country music, which was excellent.


Branson is hard to describe, but is basically Las Vegas' twirpy little cousin.  Like Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, it's trying hard to play with the big boys, but the glitz and glamour and wow of Vegas is replaced by a slightly corny, slightly down-home, slightly bedraggled charm of the various building fronts and attractions, each vying for your attention and your dollars.








Missouri was the final sticker of the 17 new ones we garnered over this 5-month Grand Loop journey.  The lower 48 are nearly complete, and the large swath of the South that is still missing is a-gonna be taken care of during a 3-month trip planned for Spring 2020.  Who wants to join us?!


We're now on the fast track back to Arizona, since it has finally cooled down enough to claim that we pretty much missed an entire horrific Phoenix summer .... yahoo!!!  We'll be back home in a week!