Hot Springs National Park, Arkansas

We arrived at the KOA campground near Hot Springs National Park.  We decided to go downtown and walk through Bathhouse Row, just to get our bearings.  I was drawn to Buckstaff as it is the oldest traditional bathhouse still in operation.  All the other bathhouses except for Quapaw which, in contrast to Buckstaff, offers moderns pools, now serve as either museums or visitor centers, etc.  So off to Buckstaff we went.  The ladies’ floor was on the second floor, while the men’s was on the first floor.

Quapaw – Modern pools

Fordyce Bathhouse – now the Hot Springs National Park Visitors Center and Museum

Buckstaff – traditional bathhouse

I can only speak as to my experience, as John and I were separated.  I was taken into a metal sided dressing room which contained two lockers, just like the ones I used when in middle school, tall and narrow.  I was asked to remove my wardrobe and hang them in the locker.  Soon after, an attendant came with a bed sheet and wrapped me in it, just like a toga.

The way there were:

Neither cameras nor cell phones were allowed in the treatment rooms, so I will instead narrate from my perspective:

From the dressing room, I was taken to another cubicle containing only a porcelain tub with a whirlpool, full with hot mineral spring water awaited me.  My bath attendant, Mattie, had over 35 years experience.  She actually used my loofah mitt and rubbed my back, my arms and my legs.  Heck, the last time someone bathed me like that, it was when I was a very little girl by my nanny in Peru.  I almost asked Mattie to make sure she didn’t miss behind my ears.  I was left to soak in hot, hot water, and asked to sip hot water for about 20 minutes.  I’ve never done that before.

From the soaking bath, Mattie wrapped me up again and took me to a cooling room.  I was asked to lay on a bed where I was wrapped with incredibly hot wet towels.  One for my back, one for my neck and chest and one for each of my legs.  The one interesting thing was that I was asked to drink ice water before the hot packs were applied and to chew on ice cubes when the hot packs were applied.  Amazingly after the initial shock, it felt very relaxing. 

From the cooling station, I was taken to a vapor cabinet.  This was actually a sauna, a small closet in which I was asked to sit with only my head exposed.  Mattie wrapped towels around my neck so the vapors would not escape and would concentrate on the body.  After a while, she removed the neck towels, so that I could inhale the vapors.  She said it would open the facial pores and clear the sinuses.  I felt like a mole waiting for someone to hit me on the head.

After that, it was time for a sitz bath, also filled with hot mineral water.  This was a deep porcelain sink which sat on the floor and where I was asked to slip in.

The final stage was to take a needle shower.  This was a round spray which showered you with luke warm water, which acted as a coolant for the body.

I was not uncomfortable at all as I was wrapped in the toga all the time when I went from station to station.  After being wrapped so many times, I am now ready for a toga party.
Except for the floors and stalls in the dressing room, the entire bathhouse was all white.  The walls were white, the porcelain tubs and sitz bath sinks were white, ceilings were white, even the floors were a 1″ hexagonal white tiles.  Everywhere I looked I was in awe as there were antique fixtures, pipes, and lighting, etc.

It was an amazing experience and one that if given the opportunity I would certainly repeat.  

John told me he had a similar experience, however not in the same order.  He enjoyed it as well.

The following day, we opted to take the duck tour, Jackson too.  It was really not much different than any other duck tour in any city, except for its destination.  Jackson knew he was on land and the next thing he knew, he was on water.  Talk about being confused!

This one took us to Lake Hamilton, which is one of the three lakes in the area.  Lake Hamilton, Lake Ouachita (pronounced wachita) and Lake Catherine.  We saw the Hamilton House which was the first house ever built on Lake Hamilton and apparently became a “secret” gambling place.  The house had a 70′ underground tunnel that would lead the guests out of the house through the door (right below the house’s name) onto the backyard dock where a boat would pick them up whenever the cops raided the house.  When the cops left, the boat returned, and the party continued.  The house was sold and it became a restaurant, then sold again and it became a Bed and Breakfast Inn.  It is currently up for sale.  

We opted to dine at the Ohio Bar a well known gangster bar still in operation.  The food was absolutely delicious and the ambiance was really a lot of fun.

We also drove around the Hot Springs National Park and went to the top of the Mountain Tower.  The city of Hot Springs is surrounded by the National Park, so it is truly a beautiful area.  Water filling stations can be seen everywhere and people are encouraged and welcome to take home as much as they can carry.

Our last night in Hot Springs, we were pelted with dime sized hail .  Fortunately we did not sustain any damage.  We left Hot Springs on our wait to Petit Jean State Park, between Russellville and Conway.

Little Rock and North Little Rock, Arkansas

We arrived in Little Rock, Arkansas and it rained almost the entire time.  We were able to visit several times with long time friends, Darlette and Tony Ellis.  

The campground we were in was on the banks of the Arkansas River, literally across the river from the Clinton Library and within walking distance to downtown Little Rock.  We had a view of the Little Rock skyline, but it was gloomy and rainy.  

Clinton Presidential Library

We walked across the Arkansas River on the Clinton Presidential Park Bridge and visited the Library and had the opportunity to view full-scale replicas of the both the cabinet room and the Oval Office.  Regardless of your political persuasion all presidential libraries are fabulous and provide an excellent educational experience.  

Finally, a pretty day to walk on the Clinton Presidential Bridge

View of Little Rock’s Skyline from our campground.  Can you find our fifth wheel? 

Beautiful flowers adorn the bridge.  Kelly Williams, please let me know the name of these please?

As you might know, from 1979 through 1996, John ran the Plumber’s Union in Miami and thus, was and continued to be heavily involved in politics until his retirement, two years ago.  As for me, I have always tried to remains a bystander.  Regardless, I would like to share a very personal experience, which occurred a year after Hurricane Andrew. 

Hurricane Andrew devastated many South Florida communities in August of 1992.  On the Thursday prior to Labor Day Weekend in 1993, John and I were out to dinner.  When we returned home we had learned from the babysitter that “some man from the White House”, had called and asked to speak to John Lindstrom. She thought it was a prank call and hung up on the person.  The “man” was Joe Velasquez, the White House Deputy Political Director at the time.   We later learned that he also happened to be my next door neighbor the year I lived in Bethesda, Maryland when I was in the 5th grade.  Small world.  Well, he called again and emphatically stated it was not a prank call and to please give John an important message – “The President of the United States wanted to visit a devastated site in Cutler Ridge and to please call him back because he would be arriving on Monday”.  The long and short of the story is that they were asking John, of all people, to arrange for this to happen, and so the frantic preparations began.  He was asked to provide many things, but the ones that stuck out as most challenging were a flatbed truck with two levels (specifications were never provided nor explanations for its use were given at the time), a Presidential sound system (what exactly was that?), and to make sure the locale was fully prepped.  We were hoping for a quite weekend, perhaps maybe even a small cookout.  Oh well, the weekend became a whirlwind.  For starters, you must understand that most of the contractors who might have had that type of equipment were out of town, as it was a holiday weekend.  The chosen site was a decimated and abandoned apartment building without any facilities.  The grass was incredibly overgrown.  The grass needed to be mowed!!  ALL on a Holiday weekend with only 3 days warning!  He was able to secure the flatbed truck, which we thought was going to be for the President to stand on, but no, it was for use by the press.  He secured a “Presidential” sound system, which only meant, it needed to be reliable.  He had to call I don’t know how many people to secure generators and many, many, extension cords.  The only issue left was to find a yard service who would do the job on such short notice and that soon became a problem, so ultimately, we had to hire our personal yard guy to do the job.  I can only imagine what must have been going through poor Jose’s mind at the time.  He then informed us that the area was riddled with fire ants, so again we had to get our exterminator to do that.  

On the day of the event and it was actually rather interesting.  Secret service agents were crawling everywhere scanning for bombs and who knows what else all the while John’s guys carried gas containers to and from their vehicles to feed the many generators they each provided for the electrical needs.  In the end, it all worked out.  Randy and Katrina both had the opportunity to personally ask both Bill and Hillary, a question of their choice.  Randy asked what sport Bill played as a kid while Katrina wanted to know how many rooms the White House had.  It’s interesting what kids think.

Walking through the Library today, the saw the many notebooks containing the Presidential Daily Schedule.  As they were available for viewing, we were able to find the event on his schedule.  It brought back a flood of memories.

Caribbean West Apartment in Cutler Ridge was on the schedule – 

Exact replica of the Oval Office during the Clinton years.

A few exhibits really drew my attention, one was that all the piers were lined with blue boxes.  There are 4,536 blue boxes containing presidential records.  The collection displayed represents approximately 2-3% of the entire collection, estimated at about 80 million pages.

Also, I loved the Dale Chihuly glass tree given as a Christmas present.

Upon leaving this Library, I told John that I would like to visit all the Presidential Libraries.  So our next one probably will be Truman’s Library in Independence, Missouri.

We then took a drive around town and noticed what I probably would describe as the smallest Benz dealership ever.

We drove Jackson to Burns Park hoping we could find a place for him to run around.  It is one of the largest parks I’ve ever visited.  It had an 18 hole golf course, 6 baseball fields, who knows how many soccer fields, the same went for tennis courts and even pickleball courts, bike and walking paths, hiking trails, etc.  The dog park was huge, unfortunately by the time we arrived, it started to rain.  

We visited the Old Mill at T.R. Pugh Memorial Park, which is an authentic reproduction of an old water grist mill which appears on the opening scene of the classic 1939 film, Gone With the Wind.  The pictures for this just don’t do it justice.

And finally, drove by the historic Central High School – site of forced desegregation during the American Civil Rights Movement. Our friend Tony, graduated from Central in the spring of the year desegregation was mandated.  I found it rather interesting that, according to our friends the Ellis’, both born and raised here, everyone wants to go to Central now.

Time to move again!  Hot Springs National Park here we come. 

See you soon…

Elvis, Oh Elvis… Where are you?

Thank goodness the truck breakdown saga is now over with.  Kudos to Good Sam Roadside Assistance.  They paid over $1,000.00 for two tows, no questions asked.  The best insurance any RVer could ever have.  On our last day in NOLA, we drove our rental car to the French Quarter one last time.  I did get my beignet fix, John got his hotdog fix, and we met yet another retired friend from Tampa, FL at Acme’s for a hello/goodbye lunch.  We left Pontchartrain Landing RV Campround and Marina in New Orleans, Louisiana on Saturday morning.  The night before it rained cats, dogs, kittens, puppies and lots of animals too.  Since we were parked on the boat ramp, you could see the rain water, combined with mud, rushing down the ramp and into the river.  It was pretty eerie to watch the flow of the water from our vantage point but most especially for Jackson, who was hearing the sound of the heavy raindrops on our roof, thunder all around, and of the running sludge beneath us.  If I had a Benadryl I think I would have given him one, as his heart was pumping out of his chest, poor little boy.   When the rain subsided a bit later that evening, I took him for a walk and we both had to walk in ankle deep mud.  Of course, after his walk, Jackson was no longer tricolor as he was totally brown and yucky, but he had fun!  In the morning, in order to connect the truck, we also had to mostly walk in the mud.  Now, when the weather does not cooperate, that’s the yuckiest part of our lifestyle, however you do learn to become flexible and very adaptable.  We hosed off and dried up before climbing in the truck and off to Memphis we went.

We drove all the way through to Tom Sawyer’s RV Park, which sits on the Mississippi River in West Memphis, Arkansas.  We arrived at Tom Sawyer’s RV Park and had an unimpeded view of the River.  We’ve saw barges of every shape and size go upstream and downstream.

We drove into Memphis and visited the Peabody Hotel.  This hotel was quite a bit of history, but on the cute side, they have a duck master on their payroll.  You read right.  For 80 years they have paraded had mallard ducks into and out of their lobby fountain.  Everyday, at 11:00 am they march out of the elevator or shall we say, they waddle out, on a red carpet and led to the fountain in the middle of the lobby.  At 5:00 p.m., they get led back to the elevator and back up to the rooftop, where they reside and until the next day.  It is actually really cute to watch.  

The Peabody Lobby:

Duck Master

Rolling out the red carpet and getting ready for the duck march
Descending from the rooftop and coming out of the elevator
And to the fountain they waddle

We drove by Elvis’ home (and the security guard told us he wasn’t in) so we decided to go have lunch on Beale Street instead.  We also drove over 30 minutes to pickup ribs from Corky’s for dinner, a Memphis bar-b-que tradition which has been in business for over 30 years.

Off to Little Rock we go!

Yikes – Our First Ever Truck Breakdown

We broke camp this morning, connected the truck and left the French Quarter RV Resort.  Not even 5 blocks away as we were in the middle lane attempting to make a wide right turn, our truck just quit running.  No warning, it just stopped and began leaking some reddish fluid.  Our guess is transmission fluid, but who knows.  So we found ourselves in the middle lane of a busy intersection, in a NOT good neighborhood waiting for Good Sam Roadside Assist to send a tow vehicle that could tow the truck AND the RV.  THANKFULLY it was daytime and was an extremely busy corner, but right net to the I-10 overpass.  At Good Sam’s suggestion, we called 911.  The operator told us to put our blinkers on (which were already on) and wait as there is not much that could be done.  Not enough cops some say.  That’s reassuring!  The street people and those inebriated and, of course, still drinking, who were hanging around under the overpass, came up to us wondering what was wrong and tried to engage in conversation.  Can we help you push it? They would ask.  All we know is that 5 minutes later we could have been on I-10 and it would not have been pretty.

Shortly thereafter, a cop showed up and parked behind us.  Thank goodness.  He asked if we were fine and told us he would stay with us until the tow truck arrived.  Funny, how nobody approached us after that.

It took about 2 hours for the tow truck to arrive.  Once connected, we pulled out and had to stop a few blocks away.  He said something about having to disconnect the drive shaft.  The driver went to the bed of his truck and we waited and waited for him to come back, he was on the phone and off.  We noticed that he appeared to be looking for something and soon learned he was missing some kind of socket wrench.  He he had called his boss and was waiting for the socket wrench to be delivered.  Fortunately, John had one, a bit smaller than needed, but the driver had an adapter, and it worked.

In the meantime, Jackson and I stayed in the tow truck, which vibrated like those beds you inserted a quarter into long time ago.  Everything in my body was shaking, and this was without music!  Jackson too was as nervous as a cat on a hot tin roof so he decided to just lay down on the seat cushion next to me for a while.  Fortunately, the a/c worked.  

Good Sam Road Assistance also called a hotel relatively near the Dodge dealership so that we could park the RV in their lot for a few days as the French Quarter RV Resort and other nearby campgrounds were sold out in preparation for the French Quarter Festival which starts in two days.  However, I saw that Sams Club was much closer to the dealership so I called and spoke to the manager on duty and she agreed to allow us to park on their side lot.  While I thought the tow truck driver was pretty good as he was able to maneuver the RV into a great spot even though he was working with two pivot points, he told us that he was still in training.  Great!

Upon arriving at the dealership, we learned that they could not even look at the truck until tomorrow.  So we called Enterprise Rent-a-Car.  When they arrived to pick us up they told us that Jackson would not be allowed in the car and if we did put him in the car, there would be a penalty.  Really?  So John went to pick up the car and returned to get me and Jackson.  I guess we will have to detail the car before returning it, otherwise they might just have babies.

I’ll keep you posted.  Memphis, we might just miss you this time.  Who knows. 

We are on our way!

We finally left Florida and unless absolutely necessary, we will NOT be coming back until November.   We headed to Sorrento, Florida for the Heartland Florida Chapter rally.  This was our second Florida rally and it was great to again reconnect with friends.  We then headed to Augusta, Georgia to visit with John’s cousin, Vivian and her husband, Skip. We had the opportunity of again seeing Vivian’s daughter, Karen, whom we had not seen in over 20 years, and her husband, Stacey.  Vivian and Skip drove  us around Augusta and we saw how the town was preparing for the Masters Tournament, which is quite an undertaking.  Just about everyone rents their homes out for the week, reaping a nice tax-free profit, then leave for the week.  Vivian and Skip also rent out their home and they set it up just like the Ritz and I am not exaggerating either.

Home of Vivian and Skip Grkovic and (Savannah – of course) in North Augusta (ready for the Masters Tournament)

As we were breaking camp to leave, I noticed our neighbor had Canadian tags on this truck and Big Horn, also a Heartland product.  As I greeted him I thought he looked familiar, but then again it was early and I hadn’t had my coffee yet so I wasn’t positive.  

However, after chatting with him for a little bit, wouldn’t you know, they too had wintered at Torrey Oaks.  As soon as I saw his wife, I immediately recognized who they were and it was really cool to reconnect again in Augusta of all places.  Amazing how small this world really is.

Before leaving the southeast coast in earnest, and heading to New Orleans, we just had to go to see Randy, Carolyn and Camden one more time.  Cam is now 8 months old and almost walking on his own and just began daycare.  Randy and Carolyn just recently closed on their new home and will be moving in soon. It was wonderful spending time with them.  We just couldn’t get enough smoochies and hugs.


Randy, Camden and Carolyn

John and Camden

We arrived at the French Quarter RV Resort, which is actually on the outskirts of the French Quarter.  We again reconnected with Doug and Kelly Williams, who live in James Island, and whom me met during Fantasy Fest in Key West last October.  Talk about trouble!

The first order of business after setting up, was to go to Acme Oyster House and get our fill of charbroiled oysters.

Of course we went to Pat O’Brien’s

We took Doug’s sister’s advice and went to the Louisiana Bistro, a new one for us.  We chose what they refer to as “Feed Me”, which is really a potluck from the chef.  Chef David was amazing.  He surfaced from the kitchen and talked to us prior to beginning his preparation of the surprise specialties.  He asked about allergies or special situations.

After that, it was just that.  A total surprise.  Not even the waiters knew what would be coming, which was interesting since there was no way to choose wine pairings.  We chose the four course meal   and Chef would come to the table to explain his surprise meals, once served.  Chef David prepared as choice 1) basil charred gulf shrimp on top of a fried green tomato with jumbo lump crabmeat over salad; 2) bourdin stuffed pork roulade with garlic mashed potatoes, charred asparagus with cane syrup glaze; 3) grilled lamb chop topped with crispy shallots, bacon braised green beans with whiskey butter sauce (yummy); and 4) smoked duck breast poached in bacon fat, bourbon mashed potatoes, micro cumin and black mission figs.    Hungry anyone?

On Wednesday we went to Tujagues for lunch, walked around the Quarter and saw many entertainers on the streets of Jackson Square

On Thursday we drove an hour west to Thibodaux where two members of the New Orleans Plumbers and Pipefitter’s Local Union, James and EJ, gave us a very interesting and personal swamp/bayou tour.  EJ who owned the boat that Doug and Kelly were on, was filmed in an episode of Swamp People.  The boats we went on were appropriately named “mud boats”.  John and I on one and Doug and Kelly on the other.  These little boats can as easily cut through the sludge as they can go on water.  

James Templet – white striped shirt and EJ Sevin – solid black

James Templet, our guide

James, our guide caught baby alligators and gave them to us to hold.  Actually, they are kind of cute when young, until we realized that momma had to be close by. 

The sludge was so thick that insects literally can crawl on top

Mud splatter on the lens.  Oops.  

There are some houseboats on the banks of the bayou (which are actually little sheds or shacks) and September is alligator hunting season.  We just might be back some September for that adventure.

Afterwards, James and his wife, Ramona and EJ took us to B&C Seafood Market and Cajun Market, a local eatery in Vacherie, another nearby small town.  They have the absolute best fried catfish, white beans and rice, and delicious crawfish.  It was even fun going to the ladies’ room.

Me, James, Ramona and my favorite Gator Boy, EJ

Crawfish pasta

Ladies’ room bathroom stalls

On Friday, Doug and Kelly’s last day, we took the street car to our most favorite eatery for brunch, The Camellia Grill, at the end of the St. Charles line.

We also took the harbor cruise on the Natchez Steamboat

New Orleans’ skyline view from the Mississippi River

St. Louis’ Cathedral in Jackson Square – view from the Mississippi.

We went to Pascal Manale’s for Bar-B-Que Shrimp.  Oh my!!

Our friends, Doug and Kelly left NOLA as they had to return to Charleston, and barely made it, just in time for Easter dinner.  We will catch up with them again in Sturgis.

We even took an afternoon to drive Jackson through Bourbon Street.  He too was amazed at what he saw.

We had a fun Easter with our friends Bunny and Theresa Jaeger, whom we have known for over 30 years, live in Covington (just across the river from Nawlins).  They took us for a spin on their boat, which reminded us of our boating days. 

Bald Cypress knees:

We got caught in a rainstorm on our way back to Theresa and Bunny’s home, and of course got soaked.

Theresa and Bunny took time to drive us around their beautiful city of New Orleans, not just the French Quarter.

Theresa and Bunny Jaeger

Just a few of the French Quarter Balconies:

They also took us to Lake Lawn Metairie Cemetery so we could see the beautiful architecture of the mausoleums:

Some of those shotgun houses are just too cute:

Single shotguns:

Double shotgun:

There was so much to see and do.  We simply ran out of time, so we will return.  We’ve had way too much fun.  This was the first time that we had the opportunity to see another side to this beautiful city and for that we infinitely thank the Jaegers.

Laissez les bons temps rouler!  Let the good times roll!
On to Memphis we go……