Our evening in Magnolia AR was a quiet affair at what seemed to be the poshest restaurant in the town. We were looking forward to a good meal and a glass of wine. The meals were ok but, as usual, deep fried. What set us back on our heels was the revelation that Magnolia is in a 'dry' county and therefore there was no - legal - alcohol to be had. That cast a dampener on proceedings and we also found the waiters not as engaging as we had come to expect. Perhaps because they do not drink?
On our walk back to the hotel we passed by the well stocked shops in the CBD and the very large Baptist church, which has ornate furniture and a very costly chandelier in the foyer. We wondered if they had some influence on the alcohol laws in town.
At breakfast someone reckoned we should take the AR7 Scenic Byway to Hot Springs. This was deemed a good idea and it was certainly better than charging down the interstate. It was quite attractive, but a negative was the three dogs that ran across the road when we were just short of Arkadelphia. One was clear by the time I was upon them, I missed the second by perhaps a metre (travelling at 60 mph) and the third actually ran into the back of the bike as we passed. It fell over, but recovered and ran off. That was a close call.
Morning tea (apple cobbler) followed in Arkadelphia. Completely coincidentally we selected a cafe that is run on the same principles as Timeless in Minden La. Very pleasant, but not quite the same......and so on to Hot Springs.
The approach from the south, framed as it is with water, is very pretty; but then one passes through the urban sprawl. Once at the CBD one is presented with a very striking streetscape of bath houses, hotels and government buildings. Clearly catering to tourists. Wealthy ones. We went into the Hot Springs National Park at the top of the mountain and took the lift to the top of the observation tower, enjoying the vista of the town nestled in the green of the surrounding forests and hills.
At the bottom we looked for a lunch place and there chatted to the waiters and then some other bikers as we left. It had rained while we were eating so it was with damp bums that we proceeded further north up Scenic 7 to Ola, AR where we turned west on AR10, concluding our ride for the day in Fort Smith AR. Five hours twenty minutes in the saddle and 414 kms. A quick swim and then a leisurely dinner at the Outback restaurant - with wine - closed out the day.
Arkansas is perhaps the poorest state through which I have traveled. Grinding poverty is evident almost everywhere. Very few large businesses were observed, although one should not forget this is the home of Walmart. The topography is relatively flat and there are, apart from Hot Springs, no obvious tourism drawcards. There are rivers and lakes, but as America is blessed with an abundance of these, it is really just the residents who use them. Perhaps I have just been spoilt.