If we’re being honest, I had little to no desire to go to Arkansas. I viewed it as my “fly over” state. The one I would go through, see a few sites on the way to my campsite, and that be it. However, upon entering this fine state I found myself pleasantly surprised. As I was driving down the main highway I saw a sign for Bill Clinton’s childhood home so I did a quick swerve off the road and found myself at the footsteps of Clinton’s home. After a quick tour of his home and a chat with the ranger about the evil individuals who set his home on fire (what idiots) I set off in my third torrential downpour of the trip which had me drive through a tiny flood (not my smartest idea). WILL I EVER FIND GOOD WEATHER?! I drove for about 1.5 hours and found my way to Hot Springs National Park. After driving up a mountain that had me reminiscing of wild and wonderful, I found myself on an overlook showcasing the entire city. It was a gorgeous site. Eventually I made it back down to the main part of town so I could see all of the bougie bath houses. For those of you who don’t know, Hot Springs National Park is a spot where way back in the day ancient Native Americans found springs where on average the water was 143 degrees! NATURALLY! Eventually this caught on and the Victorian era folks jumped at the chance of making fancy bath houses. They created a row of extravagant buildings that pulled water from these natural springs and gave patrons the opportunity for lavish experiences. From people physically bathing them, which I find super uncomfortable, to massages, steam rooms, gyms- you name it they got it! The main visitor center gives you an insight to this wild world that is bath houses. You got to step back in time to the early 1900’s. It truly reminded me of the scene from Halloween town where the ghost was in the steamer and immediately upon stepping out he lost 100lbs.
After my time in Host Springs, my Arkansas adventure took me through a mountainous scenic highway with views that were out of this world. I eventually found my way to Lake Dardenalle State Park- a place I randomly discovered online to camp. As I pulled in I was stunned to find a beautiful lake with a mountain backdrop and the NICEST campsite I had ever seen and some pretty groovy trails. It was the cherry on top of a beautiful day. I told the ranger I did not expect Arkansas to be as glorious as it was. As I once again began to set up my standard campsite consisting of my little tent, a woman probably in her mid 60s approached me and asked if I was here by myself. “Sure am,” I replied. In her smooth southern accent she admitted she was too and was starting out on her own journey of travelling cross country in an RV. She then let me know that if I ever needed anything she would be in Camp 16. In our minute long conversation, her kind words encouraged me to keep on doing exactly what I am doing, to always look for kindness in others, and to know there is always someone around for help. As we said our goodbyes, I decided to tuck away into my tent, catch up on some reading and head to bed. In true luck and road trip fashion I was awoken at 2am by YET ANOTHER torrential downpour that had me bolting to the comforts of my car. Irritated at my rotten luck with the weather when I got up for the day I decided to get my anger out with a run. When I returned and headed to the shower another women of the same age came out of her RV and in a quiet southern accent said, “honey are you alright? I was worried about you all night. Why don’t you come in for a cup of coffee.” Not knowing how to respond I told her I was going to shower first and then grab a cup. I packed up my life once again and headed over for a nice morning cup of coffee with my new friends. This fantastic retiree couple opened their home to me as we spoke about life, travel, camping, and solo travel. As I said goodbye, I couldn’t help but be incredibly grateful for that morning interaction. When you are traveling alone it can get incredibly lonely, people like those reaching out and taking the time to say good morning is something I won’t forget.
Arkansas has proven to be one of my favorite destinations thus far. The scenery and the people have made it a place I would love to return to. This trip has taken some unexpected turns, but it is nice to be reminded to not judge a book by its cover and always take the time for a cup of coffee with welcoming souls.