Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Little Rock: Don't forget to smell the roses

Our "home" for the last ten days has been Little Rock, Arkansas. We extended our stay due to some mechanical and weather "issues". Along the way, we are reminded that it is good to "stop and smell the roses". There is so much beauty and history waiting to be discovered in this cute town on the Arkansas River.

Our current hangout, Downtown Riverside RV Park, is located in North Little Rock and connected to the town across the river by the River Trail and pedestrian bridges. Since our leveling jacks are not working, we were grateful for the fairly flat lot...Doug's "marine grade" blocks of wood raised the front of the RV up just the right amount.

In the meantime, he tinkered, tested, researched, and figured out the problem with the leveling jacks (we hope). The new part, a "relay", arrived on Monday. Unfortunately, the current rain has prevented him from installing it to see if it is a true fix, but we will continue to keep our fingers crossed...and wait for drier ground. He debated taking it in to a repair shop, but Doug really enjoys and is very good at solving problems such as...
  • A little water coming through? He seals the joints.
  • A piece of food gets dropped behind the couch? He fishes it out!
  • My internet running slow? He power washes my chrome book!
  • A few (hundred) ants making their way in? He annihilates them!
So I have no doubt that he can level us out as soon as the ground dries out!

Speaking of wet weather....well, the Arkansas farmers are going to make us honorary citizens. This area has been in a serious drought with not a drop of rain for the last two and a half months. After our first couple of sunny dry days here, the rain started on Friday and hasn't stopped since. Someone asked me what we do when it rains? We grab our umbrella, rain jacket, and walk...lots of exploring to do in this historical city! We walked to Sunday Mass at the Cathedral of St Andrew, the oldest place of continuous worship in Little Rock.

The William J Clinton Presidential Center, located just across the river from our RV park, was another good rainy day destination.

I visited the Cabinet Room and Oval Office, but was too early for the White House State dinner...

There are many interesting exhibits like his honoring the "Little Rock Nine", recipients of the Congressional Gold Medal, but to be honest, I really enjoyed the exhibit that replayed some of the classic moments of President Clinton making fun of himself. He has quite a sense of humor as shown in the YouTube video "President Clinton: The Final Days".

Spent another afternoon at the Old State House, Arkansas first capital building.

Many issues were debated here ... and a lawmaker or two was stabbed in this chamber.

And yes, I was able to visit another state capital!

Studying the map, I realized that we were only an hour away from a National Park. Can't pass up an opportunity...so we took a day trip to Hot Springs National Park.

Hot Springs National Park is different from my previous experiences with National Parks. Instead of acres of natural scenery in the middle of nowhere, this is more of an "urban" attraction. The natural hot springs have been manipulated by humans through the years. They have been diverted into elaborate "bath houses" that attracted the wealthy and those seeking out the perceived healing properties of soaking in the 143 degree spring water.

Fortunately, the National Park Service was able to step in and help save the water quality making it possible to still drink pure 4,400 year old Hot Springs water. Wish I had brought a few more water jugs to fill up!

A walk along the Grand Promenade and along Peak Trail to the north mountain tower provided beautiful vista views. 

Back in the city, we refueled with a "Chocolate on Chocolate" and "Salted Caramel" cupcake from "Fat Bottomed Girls", one of the many touristy shops around.

Back in Little Rock, we have enjoyed biking the 16 mile River Trail loop in between rain drops, but we have realized that we can also "smell the roses" and have lots of fun when it is raining like...

...walks through Sculpture Park and viewing historical art at the Historic Arkansas Museum.

...."Happy Hour" at one of the many breweries. The Nighty-Night barrel-aged Imperial stout at Lost Forty Brewing would have gotten two thumbs up if Doug wasn't holding the umbrella at the time!

....Just spending time together in the RV doing "projects". 

OK, it is almost 12 noon and Doug is still in his pjs, but he is deep in thought contemplating RV repair solutions...

A classic of me and my siblings from 1971

....while I managed to scan in a very large box of old photos that I should not be carting around in a very small RV... 

The tourist information states that Little Rock is a great "foodie" destination". Doug, however, already has a darn good "live in" cook, so I can't really provide any restaurant reviews. But since you are still reading this long blog entry, I can provide you with a possible dinner recipe idea. A walk to the Farmer's Market on Saturday yielded yellow squash, tomatoes and basil that became a delicious, easy RV meal.

Creamy Tomato Basil Alfredo

1 chicken breast; cut up 
Yellow squash; about 1 cup sliced
2 garlic cloves; minced
1 can artichoke hearts; sliced
6 tomatoes (or 1 can diced tomatoes); diced
1/2 cup basil leaves
1/2 cup prepared Alfredo sauce
Pasta; cooked

Cook chicken in olive oil. Add yellow squash, garlic, artichokes, tomatoes, and basil leaves; saute. Add Alfredo sauce. Heat through. Serve over pasta.

Little Rock has been filled with beauty whether the sun is shining or not. We are grateful to be able to "stop and smell the roses" wherever RVentures take us! 

Until next time, y'all enjoy the daily adventures in your life!
(like the Southern accent that I'm developing??)

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Enjoy the "Pinnacle" Moments

We are in North Little Rock at the Downtown Riverside RV Park on the shores of the Arkansas River. This was supposed to be a fun week of exploring Little Rock, but Doug has been a bit preoccupied with the broken leveling jack problem.  Well, initially, I thought that Happy Hour at one of the many local breweries would ease his worries. But I soon realized that I would need to take him away from the his current project problem ... This would involve a "Pinnacle" RVenture!

With a forecast of 80 degrees and sunny, Tuesday was the day for a bike ride. After finding out that the route programmed into Doug's GPS was about 40 miles, I knew we would need some extra calories, so I whipped up a batch of:

Blueberry Muffins
1 egg
1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup oil
1 1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup frozen blueberries

Combine egg, milk and oil. Combine dry ingredients and blueberries. Add liquid ingredients to dry ingredients and mix until combined. Spoon into muffin tin sprayed with Pam. Bake at 400 for 20 minutes.

Make them for your honey...and enjoy the smiles!

The Arkansas River Trail is a 15 mile loop in which you can bike around the Arkansas River by crossing over on the Clinton Bridge and The Big Dam Bridge; two of the three "pedestrian/bike only" bridges in Little Rock, After the Big Dam Bridge west of the city, the Two Rivers bike trail leads you to the Pinnacle Mountain State Park.

Our goal...to get to Pinnacle Peak shown in the middle of this picture! The bike route was beautiful: well maintained trails alongside and over the river, through tall pine forests, and alongside magnificent homes and quiet parks.

Nineteen miles and two hours later we reached the Pinnacle Mountain State Park Visitor's Center, got a map and information on how and where to find the hiking trail to the top of Pinnacle Mountain....and decided to grab an ice cold Coke for calories, caffeine and courage!

We ate lunch at the scenic overlook by the Visitor's Center. While there we talked with a couple who was picnicking with their 3 and 5 year old girls. They reassured me that the climb up the western slope of Pinnacle mountain was very doable. They had even done it with their young daughters. Well, what the heck...Let's get climbing!

Another 3 mile bike ride got us to the western (and easiest) side of the Pinnacle Mountain trail. The 3/4 mile trail would take us the 756 feet up to the summit. Can't be too difficult...a 3 year old had done this!!! The first half was really a nice hike in the woods, but then came the boulders...

I was glad that they had marked the "safest, most direct route" with yellow paint marks.

I'm still smiling, but secretly thinking: What parent in their right mind would let their 3 year old climb up this boulder field???

Slowly making it to the summit, Doug says, "Look back at that gorgeous view!" I think not....

But yes, it was "picture perfect" at the top!

Coming back down was probably more tricky then going up, because I had to look out at how high I was.

I was very grateful when the trail mellowed out halfway down. At the end, I was so happy that I had gone through "RVenture", but would I have been OK with bringing my sons up here when they were 3? What do you think???

As luck would have it, the strong tail wind that we enjoyed on our way there, died down on the way back creating an easier end to our ride. This picture may look like I was on the road, but that was the nice, WIDE bike trail!

The chance to enjoy a warm evening sitting outside with my sweetie as he photographed the night lights on the Clinton Pedestrian Bridge provided the perfect end to a wonderful day.

Until next time, enjoy the daily adventures in your life!

Monday, October 19, 2015

Mellowing Out But Not Leveling Out...

Driving south through the Ozarks of Missouri and Arkansas gave Doug and me our first experience of testing the diesel power of the Wildebeest up and down hills and around narrow curves. Doug and the Wildebeest did well...I need to "toughen up" a bit as I am sure that there will be many more hills in RVentures!

Wanting a little time to recover from the ride, I was very happy when we pulled into the peaceful Lead Hill campground located on Bull Shoals Lake in north central Arkansas. Lead Hill one of the many US Army Corps of Engineers  (USACE) campgrounds in the area. We had heard and agree that the USACE campgrounds are some of the secret jewels in our country!

After arriving, I soon learned that this stop would not be as relaxing for Doug as he had hoped. He found that the leveling jacks weren't working when we got settled in. Thankfully, our site was fairly flat. Doug has always embraced the "I can fix it" attitude, and I found Doug in an electrical engineer's heaven...completely surrounded by wires, tools and multi-meters.

After downloading the manual, running numerous tests and getting yet another light colored shirt greasy and dirty, it was time to admit temporary defeat and explore the area.

Walking around the small town of Diamond Hill, we got our first indication that we were in the South!

We were told that the area was just recovering from the third 100-year flood in the last ten years. Homeowners are wising up and building the new houses on stilts. 

The walk out to Devil's Backbone Point had some beautiful rock formations and vistas. 

We enjoyed seeing new and different wild flowers, trees and vegetation...anyone know what the round yellow round thingy on the tree is?

Woo Hoo, our "southern" friend, Carol came through with the answer and increased knowledge for us! It is the Osage Orange!

Back at the RV, more testing, but also plenty of relaxing as we enjoyed beautiful sunsets from the front window of our RV. 

Three days in the back country of Arkansas was beautiful, but we are looking forward to more big city activities...including breweries for my hard working repairman as we head to Little Rock, Arkansas.

Until next time, enjoy the adventures in your daily life!