So here’s the deal, we had a long day and Rick is old now, officially. And we had to be up at Insane-o’clock to go to a Labor Day Parade in a small Missouri town. As a result, last night’s edition of Plucky Survivors See America was the Reader’s Digest Edition, but now we’ve updated it with more information and more pictures. But we’re still a little sleep deprived so don’t expect it to make much sense.
Rick woke up on the morn of his 40th birthday in a depressing Rodeway Inn in Arkansas with a suspicious stain on the wall, which in many ways was exactly how he always thought it would be. But then things looked up when he took PluckyMobile to get a bath and it involved bubbles and a light show.
When you pull up to a car wash and your options are $5 for the regular wash, $6 for the super wash, $7 for the ultra wash, and $8 for the ultra wash plus a light show the choice is obvious in our humble opinion. Wacky music, bubbles floating out of the thing before you even drive in, multi-colored foam, and chaser lights in the shape of a 57 Chevy turn car washing into entertainment. Now that Rick is 40, he gets to say thing like this: “I remember when I was a kid and we had to make due with soap and brushes for our car wash fun.”
Rick made it over to Mary’s hotel so she could do a little pre-road work only to discover that the wireless Internet connection, which had worked fine the night before, was not so much with the working. We immediately began banging our heads on walls since this was now day three of big Internet fun.
It all started in New Orleans. Mary’s wireless is not working but no worries, Nettie and Diana (who own the other side of the double shotgun house) are able to access the neighbor’s wireless all day long. So Rick tries and it doesn’t work.
“We’ve got a cable modem, just hook up to that,” Mary says cheerily, “It works great!”
Except when we try to use it, nothing.
So we go back to the 20th century and decide to use dial-up since the land line is working again, a mere year after Katrina. Except that doesn’t connect either. Meanwhile, Mary goes over to Diana’s computer, which is humming along on the Internet (you know, the wireless connection that won’t work on the other side of the wall) and it stops as soon as she touches the keyboard.
A friend volunteers her wireless connection, which she insists is working fine and she invites us over to use it. Laptop in tow, we merrily jaunt over and it stops working the second we walk in the door. Seriously.
We finally get a very tenuous dial-up connection back at Mary’s house and are able to upload a brief update.
In Natchitoches, the wireless at Mary’s hotel isn’t working with Rick’s computer so it’s back to a very spotty dial-up at Rick’s hotel, which seems to work best when Mary isn’t around.
In Hot Springs, the wireless at Mary’s hotel works when we get there in the afternoon but of course Rick is in another hotel, so she uses the public computer and he uses the dial-up while nervously eyeing the stain on the wall.
That brings us back to this morning in Hot Springs where the wireless isn’t working. We call the front desk to have them check their router, and they say, “Oh, it’s not the router…it’s the cable line. The internet is down, all over the city.”
We may be overestimating our power here but we’re pretty convinced that we broke the entire Internet somehow, at least in the entire town of Hot Springs and residents: we apologize. We are hoping the “you break it, you buy it” policy does not apply here.
We left in a timely manner and Mary promptly threw us off schedule by insisting that we stop at a quartz mine where you can mine your own crystals, thereby proving that she is easily distracted by shiny things. Not so much because she cares about crystals but it was an opportunity to talk like a grizzled 1890s prospector, consarnit! Rick was a big baby about the whole thing, starting from the point when the nice ladies said “Do you have anything to dig with?” in a delightful Arkansas twang.
“Golly, I left my good diggin’ tools in my other suitcase,” was Rick’s mostly mental reply, having thought that “mine your own crystals” meant a sassy hard hat and a few whacks at a wall with a rubber mallet. He didn’t realize it meant digging in piles of red dirt in the hot Arkansas sun with a bent piece of rebar and a burlap sack. Not to mention what it did to his shoes!
Rick insists now that this is all just comic exaggeration and that he really did enjoy it. Whether you believe him is up to you. The good news is that Mary did find some cool crystals, we think, but they’re coated in dirt so they pretty much look like grimy rocks in a burlap sack.
Observant readers will remember that yesterday, Mary bought about half of a small bookstore and today she got a bag of rocks. Rick has already informed her that he is not carrying her suitcase. Girls wants books and rocks, girl carries books and rocks.
From there it was just a lot of driving on really twisty mountain roads (complete with signs often that said “Road is Crooked and Steep Next 15 Miles,” which is not something that inspires you with a great deal of confidence or gets you very far very fast). So we amused ourselves with Day Three of Cow, which became in many ways a metaphor for the vagaries of existence.
For example, Mary got the (so-far) All-Time High Score in Cow of 163 only to have it wiped out a moment later by a small pioneer cemetery that probably had less than half that number of headstones. That’s the thing about Cow and what keeps it so thrilling: death lurks around every corner.
Rick got to 47 before similarly wiping out, Mary rebounded to 51 and crashed in flames. We’re getting ahead of ourselves here but we know you’re dying of anticipation so the final score for the day was Mary 111, Rick 42. Rick vows revenge.
Lunch was at Feltner’s Whatta-Burger, highly recommended by various road food websites and some readers of this very website who said we must, must, must stop and get one. We did and we found it to be more of a Eh-Burger, which isn’t to say it was bad, just not living up to it’s Whatta-Potential. Mary totally dug the chocolate shake. To our chagrin there were many small barbeque shacks along our route that we found after we ate and we rued our choice.
But keep sending in those suggestions. We’re easily swayed, food, like shiny things distracts us.
Our second Excellent Road Side Stop was the Christ of the Ozarks complex, which has a lot of different attractions including a bible museum, a giant statue of Christ, and recreations of Biblical scenes known as the New Holy Land Tour, which is what we were planning to do. Instead of folk art it turns out to be a massive, slick operation, more theme park than devotional pilgrimage stop, with a nightly Passion Play dinner theater (too horrifying to contemplate eating a buffet before watching the suffering of Jesus), a large parking lot, and no sense of humor whatsoever.
We were dismayed to learn that one does not do the New Holy Land Tour on foot, but in a tram and that it lasts two and a half hours. Unfortunately that timing didn’t work for us as we had a date with dinos and Dolly, we told the ticket lady, who said “Oh, I hate to bad mouth anyone, but you can skip Dinosaur World. It’s just a bunch of concrete dinosaurs scattered on the hillside.” What she didn’t realize is that is exactly what we hoped it would be (one man’s crappy concrete dinosaur is another man’s bliss we always say) and so we still declined to take the tour. An hour of models of Exodus and whatnot would be plenty; two and a half is too much, which was also our reaction to their Museum of Natural History, which we toured instead
This facility claims to demonstrate how science and Genesis can be reconciled but instead turns out to be a shrine to creationism and dedicated to pooh-poohing science and its pesky, “impossible to prove” theories. After listening to an audio program dismissing Carbon 14 dating, all of archaeology and anthropology as giant mistakes, and toting the “facts” of Genesis, you could find us in the fetal position, sobbing. Mary, a theology grad student, is regularly surrounded by devout theists who are also equally devout evolutionists and she imagined them joining us.
The drive through Eureka Springs revealed the opposite of our recent small town experiences, in that it is picture postcard preserved and thriving. Except that virtually every shop we could see is devoted to knick-knicks, geegaws and other tourist-related crap, set within a series of ticky-tacky motels and decent hotels. What usually happens with places like this is that there is a core of some substance and a tourist industry springs up around it, which is precisely what happened here, but it seems that over time that core has dissolved as we couldn’t not tell (admittedly, not that we spent much significant time looking) what was the heart of the place to begin with. Don’t get us wrong; we are delighted it is preserved and doing so well, and thanks to years spent on family road trips, we have a decided sentimental nearly irony-free love for tourist-centric destinations such as this, but there was something unsatisfying about it.
It's as though the town sold its soul to remain forever youthful, or at least, for immortality.