We have been quite busy trying to stay ahead of the freezing weather so I’m a bit behind on updates. We are currently just outside of Austin and plan to be here for the week. It’s been raining non-stop for the last few days but the sun made a much-welcomed appearance today so we went to church with a coworker of Lenny’s that lives in the area and then puttered around Austin. I look forward to sharing more about this area in my next post but I’ll catch you up on our travels since Thanksgiving.
I’ve had two convertibles in my life and sometimes when I get on a beautiful winding road I really miss driving with the top down. One of those vehicles was a fun little two-seater sports car that was so much fun hugging tight turns. After visiting with family in Branson, we traveled to Hot Springs, AR down 7 Highway. It’s one of those kinds of drives you love in a little roadster but not so much with a big truck and trailer!! I do highly recommend this route as the views were incredible but also be prepared to get a good glute workout. Again, Lenny was a champ but between the oohs and aahs I was flinching and grimacing the whole way. The steep drop-offs are always on the passenger side! We stopped at a little roadside gift shop at about 2100 ft. The view from this area is absolutely amazing and according to the roadside stand, you can see into Missouri as well. I don’t doubt it.
We arrived after dark at the Gulpha Gorge campsite which is managed by the National Parks Service. It is a first-come-first-serve location so we weren’t sure what we would find but we were hopeful. As we were driving around we were flagged down by an enthusiastic guy who told us his friends were just visiting in the spot next to him and that it was an awesome campsite. He helped us to get the trailer backed in and shared the warmth of his fire for a moment. When we woke up the next morning we were not disappointed. It was a great little spot that backed right up to the creek and the hills over Hot Springs.
Hot Springs is an interesting National Park. You can hike some great trails into town and if you hike to the observation tower you will enjoy an amazing 360-degree view over the town. Besides the trails, the park is the town itself as well as the bathhouses along Bathhouse Row that utilize the 143-degree mineral springs that are unique to the area. If you take a ranger tour you get the full history of the Fordyce Bathhouse which is one of the nicest in the area. When I heard “mineral springs” and “bathhouses” I envisioned this wonderful spa experience but the bathhouses were really built as medical facilities. People would come from all around with a doctors order for a series of baths. There were ALL kinds of ways that they bathed people but none of them really looked very relaxing. One of the more disturbing treatments was an area where a “medical professional” would wash people with what looked like high-pressure fire hoses. There are some other very unique treatments but I’ll leave it for you to explore on your own. Lilya can also give you a tour as she is now a sworn Jr. Ranger!
Outside of the history of the mineral springs and Bathhouse Row, the town is a cute little area with lots of quaint shops and restaurants. One highlight for Lenny was a visit to the Superior Bathhouse which has been converted into a brewery. We enjoyed a sample of their local brews that are made with the mineral waters. We also had an amazing pizza at Grateful Head Pizza and spent an afternoon working from Kollective Coffee.
We have met some great people so far on our trip and one of our highlights from Hot Springs was the family next to us at Gulpha Gorge. Remember our enthusiastic neighbor that was so helpful getting us set up the night we arrived? Well, Tom, his wife Shannon, and their three kids have also been living full time in an RV for the past 10 weeks. Tom is a retired professional snowboarder who has a pretty interesting story. He has lived through the wild world of snowboarding and now focuses his energy traveling around the country talking to kids about dreaming their biggest dreams and not letting their circumstances deter them in any way. Tom also works with an organization called Compassion Causes that has a school in Nicaragua. Spend ten minutes talking with Tom and you quickly realize you are talking with someone who has found his passion and is pouring himself into it fully. The kids all became fast friends, we exchanged information and wished them well on their way back home. We are looking forward to meeting up with Tom and his wonderful family again in California. You can read more about Tom and his mission with Dare to Dream here as well as his work with Compassion Causes here.
From Hot Springs, we traveled on to Fort Worth, TX. Again, we have been traveling in the evenings but we landed at a nice location in Grand Prarie called Loyd Park. Thanks to the park staff, we once again found a great campsite with a pretty view of the Christmas light display across the water.
Our purpose for stopping in Fort Worth was primarily to visit with Cody and since we all had quite a busy work week, we didn’t get to explore much. We did, however, go late one afternoon to see the longhorn cattle drive through the Fort Worth Stockyards.
It’s a ten-minute event but pretty cool and a great chance to see longhorn cattle up close. I don’t recall ever seeing one previously so it was a fun experience. Most importantly, I was able to visit with Cody a couple of evenings, see his apartment downtown and get a little time to just hang out.
So far, things have been going well and we look forward to staying south in the warmer weather at a slower pace of travel.