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Plucky 2006

About The Trip

Day 1
New Orleans to Natchitoches

Day 2
Natchitoches to Hot Springs

Day 3
Hot Springs to Branson

Day 4
Branson to Little Rock

Day 5
Little Rock to Memphis

Day 6
Memphis to Tupelo

Day 7
Tupelo to Birmingham

Day 8
Birmingham to Montgomery

Day 9
Montgomery to New Orleans



overview | journal
September 2, 2006: Day Two Overview
Start: Natchitoches, Louisiana
Click Image For Full Size
End: Hot Springs, Arkansas
Miles Traveled: 241
Highlights:
  • Bonnie & Clyde Ambush Museum; Gibsland, Louisiana
  • 10th Annual Spa City Blues Festival; Hot Springs Arkansas
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    Daily Journal
    Nothing like starting your day fueled by two breakfasts—or at least Mary was, which, as you will see as you read, didn’t stop her from eating more, soon. She had to have breakfast at her B&B before walking over to collect Rick at his, and it would be downright ungrateful to turn down offers of food. So: fruit and sweetened yogurt parfait, Mama’s French toast, and sausages at the one, biscuits and ham and eggs at the other, and the Plucky Survivors were fortified for Day Two (aka, Rick’s Last Day In His Thirties. Dun dun duuuuun).

    (Rick: Shut up, shut up, shut up)

    We left Natchitoches around 10am, a little later than we planned mostly because we were weighted down by breakfast and moving slowly. But that gave us the opportunity to fully appreciate the town in the daylight – lovely, was a word bandied about more than once.

    We hit the road heading north and Day Two of Cow started almost immediately, with Rick scoring nine and Mary scoring seven and both wiping out on cemeteries about three minutes later. GAME ON. No seriously, it got cutthroat today with both offensive and defensive strategies developed to the point that when the road sign offering us the choice between towns called Lucky or Friendship came up, we choose Lucky. Screw friendship, we’re playing Cow! Stay tuned for the final score.


    Game On

    Mary, a Cowboy, and PluckyMobile

      Northern Louisiana continued to impress with its cotton fields and gently rolling, forested hills. We were actually starting to grow blasé about the entire thing and then we stumbled across a giant statue of a cowboy and that’ll perk you up, right quick. It was next to a building under construction and no, we have no idea what it was pointing at.

      Around a few bends and over a few knolls and we ambled into the almost completely deserted (from a human perspective at least) main street of Gibsland, Louisiana, home of our first stop of the day: The Bonnie and Clyde Ambush Museum.

    The town consists of about four buildings (a gratuitous exaggeration but not by much) other than the Museum itself located in the former café wherein the desperate duo bought some sandwiches before heading out for their final rendezvous with the law.

    We were shown in by a tall, weathered, cowboy hat wearing man who told us to watch the DVD playing before viewing the exhibits, advice we promptly ignored, instant gratification types that we are.

    The exhibits were mostly short on actual artifacts but long on informative plaques explaining the duo’s back story. This included the harrowing tales of Clyde’s time in jail, an experience that changed him from a fairly sweet guy (per friends) to a “rattlesnake” determined never to return to prison, and shots of the shack-like houses his family occupied during his youth.

    The rare artifacts were poignant, such as the brooch Bonnie was wearing when she was shot, a plastic set of acorns and leaves. Think about it; she was on the run and she took the time to pin on a brooch in the morning.


    Back in the entry way, we continued talking to the operator, who said he thinks all the movie versions of this tale “got it wrong.” Why? “Because it’s really a love story,” he said.

    We noted that the museum makes a point of explaining that there are conflicting stories about what happened that fateful day (except how they ended up “very, very dead”).

    “There’s only one right one,” the man said, “and it’s the one by lawman Ted Hinton.”

    We asked him if he had been a Bonnie and Clyde buff for a long time.

    “Since I was five months old,” the man said.

    Blink, was our response.

    “You didn’t watch the DVD, did you?”

    See, we don’t pay attention to the emergency evacuation instructions on airplanes anymore either and this is the kind of trouble you can get into.

    So who is he, this guy with an interesting bias of compassion towards these outlaws? Why, the son of one of the men who shot them, Ten Hinton himself.

    Boots Hinton, as he is called, explained that his father knew both Bonnie and Cldye in different capacities and also knew their families well enough so that Clyde’s own father said to him “Ted, I know you’re going to have to shoot my boy” because Clyde would refuse to return to prison and there was no other way to stop their spree.


      He also told us stories of Bonnie’s brother coming over to visit his family and hang out while Boots was growing up. This illustrates a very different attitude toward justice and the role of the law than we have become accustomed to, and it is intriguing that the man who had a major role in their deaths would bring up his son to see them as people and to have empathy for their situation.

      Boots talked about Bonnie’s single mom and described her kids thusly: “The brother was perfectly all right, he just couldn’t stay married. Bonnie was perfectly all right, she just had terrible taste in men—look at her first husband. And the other sister was all right, she just couldn’t stay married.”

      Boots himself said that his friends wondered why he would leave Texas to live here and run this place, and he said “I’ve outlived three wives, my children are grown and it’s just me and the cats. So why not?”

      He gave us directions to the actual ambush site, which was back the way we came more or less, so we turned around and drove a few miles to the granite tombstone-like marker, chipped away by stupid souvenir hunters who don’t realize the thing was not there at the time. We were the only figures on the road, and we stopped and listened to the quiet and thought about the moment it happened, and the end that resulted, and found it unexpectedly moving. Again, we mused on small towns, lives that seem dead end, and what possibilities people see and don’t see for themselves.

    Back on the road, we drove through several small towns, including the classically named Athens and Homer, by now looking for a place for lunch. But none of the towns had so much as a small coffee shop or burger joint.

    We stopped in Homer and asked a woman working at the Piggly Wiggly (the accompanying picture worth 5 scavenger hunt points, by the way) for a place to eat, and she couldn’t think of one. Now, Homer has a stunningly beautiful courthouse, with giant white columns running all the way around it, placed in a movie-set perfect town square. But most of those brick buildings were empty, deserted, windows broken, as though instead of starring in an Andy Hardy flick, it was a post-apocalyptic scene of desolation.


    5 points
    Of course right outside the main part of town, were several new, utterly generic fast food places—the usual suspects, KFC, Pizza Hut, McDonald’s—and here’s the thing; people like us, or anyone, when they travel, want to go places and feel like they’ve been somewhere. Part of anyone’s pride in their place in their home is what makes that place unique. And we were searching for clichés, sure, the barbeque joint or what have you, but all we found were the places you can see anywhere, and what made this place special was gone, eaten, maybe by those very chains.

    Okay, maybe that’s hyperbole and maybe the residents of Homer prefer the KFC to the Fried Turkey Shack but the fried turkey shack was closed and dead and KFC was thriving and thus all elements of choice, history, and sense of unique place are removed.

    We read all the time that the small town is in jeopardy, and this is what it means; dead town squares and generic fast food chains. We don’t have the answers, but we do know this; in the Bonnie and Clyde Ambush Museum, there was a small bronze plaque thanking it for putting Gibsland on the map. So go there. And maybe they can open a café again one day.


    Steve, Chuck... this is what real men barbeque on

      With our righteous anger blazing, we impulsively went to tour tiny Magnolia, sure we would find the same conditions. After all, it is surrounded by the giant Wal-Mart and a host of other cookie cutter shops in a series of pre-fab strip mall boxes. But instead we found another town square and while it was not pristine and gleaming and ready for its Stars Hollow close-up (Gilmore Girls, watch it), was nonetheless thriving. Each shop was occupied by a local business (including a bakery with excellent vanilla cupcakes!) and just outside of town was “Toys for Big Boys” which included a giant barbeque grill shaped like a rocket. So all is well in Magnolia!
    So where did we eat? At The Breeze II, a truck stop, gift shop, convenience store, and church of sorts, heavy on the middle-America kitsch. The menu was uninspiring, but we were too busy listening in to the older black man, lunching with his son, quiz a preacher who was holding a regular Bible study class there. The bested (or perhaps merely tired) minister slunk off, leaving the son trying to keep his patience while dealing with the frustrations that come as age diminishes a beloved figure. The father wouldn’t eat his lunch, and wanted to leave, and so Mary distracted him by asking the old man questions (which turned quickly into him asking her the same questions he was grilling the hapless minster with; she tried to change the subject but he was too wiley) long enough for the son to finish eating.

    We learned the father had worked numerous mill and factory jobs all his life, sometimes simultaneously, and the son revealed he was an architect who had gone to Stanford, and whose own children were a doctor and a lawyer. We had the American dream, fulfilled, right in front of us in the form of a physically and mentally weathered old man and his success-story of a son, forgetting his situational frustration for a minute as he rubbed his father’s back tenderly.

    The son, by the way, shocked us by having children, since he looked about 35—but was, in fact, 60. Those are some powerful genes that old man passed along.

    Wait; we haven’t talked about food in awhile. We had Blue Bell ice cream, finished before we got into the car, and barely down our throat before Mary spotted a donut shop that had closed exactly ONE MINUTE before we got there. Things like “Closed” signs don’t deter Mary when it comes to things like donuts and so she tried to get the nice Chinese owner to open the door and fry up a fresh batch since they were sold out for the day. It didn’t work but it was worth a try.

    From there it was more rolling hills and twisty back roads only more hilly and more twisty. One stretch of lonesome macadam (Highway 24 west out of Chidester if you’re ever in the vicinity) was so deliciously roller-coaster-esque that Rick wished he was driving a nice Italian sports car. No offense, PluckyMobile, but sometimes a Buick is just a Buick.

    Along the way Cow turned into a blood sport, with much mocking and pounding of chests at the sudden reversals of fortune the cow filled pastures followed quickly by cemeteries provide. Mary even accused Rick of cheating when she sensed he was speeding up when bovine pastures approached on her side and slowing down when they approached on his (makes counting harder for her, easier for him), but Rick denied this heartily and is still awaiting a ruling from the East German judge.

    A missed turn (Rick: “There was no sign, shut up.”) took us a little bit out of our way but we recovered quickly and made our way to Highway 7 heading up into Hot Springs.

    We gaped at big lakes, and stopped at Pig Pit BBQ for a shirt (5 more scavenger hunt points for anything advertising a venue using a pig image) and of course, a sandwich (smoky slices of the other white meat in a sauce Rick found too vinegary).

    We pulled a U so that Mary could check out a used bookstore featuring old children’s books, promptly endearing herself to the owner by knocking over his wooden Uncle Sam which lost its arm. “Is it okay?” she asked, meaning could it be fixed? “Evidently not,” he said, dryly taking her literally. She made up for it by buying a bunch of books, which will come as no surprise to anyone who has been to her house.

    Rick noticed the bumper sticker on the owner’s truck which read “Teach, Not Preach, In Public Schools.” The owner nodded; “People don’t get how important that is,” a sentiment surprising given both the location and his own Christian-oriented décor. Whether you agree or not with the sentiment, we are reminded that people can be more complex than one might assume in areas one would not assume to find them in.

    Because of our wandering and detours and lollygagging and missed turns (THERE WAS NO SIGN!), we arrived in Hot Springs around 6pm, too late for the Alligator Farm and Tiny Town, much to our disappointment.

    This was only furthered when we found that the room at the Holiday Inn Express was not exactly the “double” as booked unless you count the miniature love-seat hideaway twin bed, which Rick didn’t. So it was off in search of a second hotel room in a busy resort town on Labor Day weekend with many “Sorry, hon, we’re sold out” replies to the inquiries. Finally a room was located at a Rodeway Inn on the other side of town and Mary assured Rick that the stain on the wall wasn’t blood.

    We headed off to the town proper, wonderful old buildings mixed in with the town’s famous bathhouses, marvelous edifices of another era that seem completely out of place in this place. The whole thing would be beautiful if it wasn’t so relentlessly touristy, complete with those horrid Duck Boats trolling the streets further jamming up already jammed traffic.

    But no mind, we had the windows down and we smelled some sort of barbeque-esque scent and moments later PluckyMobile was parked and we were following our noses toward the scent. Our ears took over the hunt though as the sound of blues music wafted through the night air. A couple of blocks away was the closing night of the Spa City Blues Festival and we found a big parking lot full of the town’s denizens enjoying the music, the beer, and the various food on sticks and/or barbeque.

    The blues singer on stage was surprisingly good, even for Mary who insists that the only true blues music can’t possibly come from anyone still alive. Or sighted. But since dead people don’t give too many concerts this would have to do and do it did, a true Mississippi bluesman with back-up from a Chicago bred harmonica player, a St. Louis guitarist, and a New Orleans bassist.

    The cross-section of people in that parking lot was as socio-economic and racial melting pot as you can get, all mingling and enjoying and drinking and dancing. We hate to go back to these kinds of stupid stereotypes but when you come from Los Angeles where the tribal lines are fairly well drawn by neighborhood, seeing this kind of poor/moneyed, young/old, black/white congregation was heartening.

    We passed on the booths of food and headed back over to the main street in search of a late dinner, stopping finally at a small Italian joint. See, Italian language CDs can come in handy even in Arkansas. Of course we haven’t actually listened to them yet. And this is Arkansas after all so the language barrier was more of the southern twang vs. west coast plain variety but we still feel like we have a point. The dinner was fine Americanized comfort food and got the job done nicely.

    A couple of quick last notes… First, thank you to everyone who is sending us e-mails about our journey. We appreciate every last one and even if we might not have time to respond to each immediately we will absolutely be in contact after the trip. Second, many, many thanks to our friend Chuck at Looka who is promoting the heck out of us, which we suspect is mostly because he thinks we’re bringing back some real southern barbeque for him. Chuck, if there’s any left when we’re through, it’s all about you.

    And last… the final score of Day Two of Cow: Rick 72, Mary 0. Those last minute cemeteries as you head into town are a bitch, aren’t they? So that’s one game for Mary and one for Rick and we’re pretty sure that by the time the trip ends Cow will have become a full-contact sport.

    Tomorrow, a bible themed amusement park, dinosaurs, Dolly Parton, and a giant ball of twine. Oh, and what else? Oh right, Rick turns 40.

    Rick: "Shut up!!"

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