Have you ever wanted to sell everything you own and just "take off?" Travel the country's back roads, paddle down a meandering stream, experience breath-taking mountain views, walk among 100-year old trees, and just marvel at America's beauty? That is the dream that my partner, Betsy, and I decided to make a reality. This blog describes our adventure. The food we eat, people we meet, sights we see, and the enjoyment we find in traveling.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

RV Park Review–Southgate RV Park (Fayetteville, Arkansas)

Website:      Southgate RV Park
Location:     2331 South School Ave., Fayetteville, Arkansas 72701
Date:           March 2016
Price:          $32/night
Site:            #33

This is one of those RV parks that you have a love-hate relationship with.  You love the location – super close to a 014town you want to be in and its attractions (in this case it was downtown Fayetteville) but, you drive in, take a look around and let out an “ugh!”  There is nothing appealing about this park – gravel roads and sites, no picnic tables, no fire pits, old bathrooms/laundry, and not much else.
The park has some 80 sites set in a horseshoe-shape with a mix of permanent people and transients.  We were in a pull-thru that faced a big field separating the park from a neighborhood development and a Tyson chicken plant mysteriously labeled “Mexican Original.”

Site description:
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Roads and sites are gravel.  Some sites had a paved pad but most are gravel.  All sites have 50/30 amp, water, and sewer.  There are back-ins and pull-thrus.  At one time there was cable but it was not working when we were there and we were not able to get any antenna channels (although our friends picked up 20 or so).  While there are no picnic tables at the sites, there are two areas in a big field that have picnic furniture and available for anyone to use. 

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Sites are fairly close together with just a few trees scattered about for shade.  The water and electric worked fine.  This park is big rig-friendly and we had no problem maneuvering our RV with the car attached through the park.

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We called about making a reservation and the owner said to call him prior to our arrival and he would give us a site number.  When we arrived he drove by and instructed us to put our money (cash or check only) in an envelope and drop it in an outside deposit box. 

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Amenities:

Can’t say there are any amenities except the two picnic areas and an old, tired bathroom/shower house.  We were only in there one time and that was during a tornado watch.  It was old, needed painting and in need of cleaning.  There is one washer and dryer that are housed in the bathroom.

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Surrounding area:

The park is a short drive from I-49 with an easy in and out on good roads.  After exiting the interstate you will notice the correctional center, bail bonds, homeless shelter, pawn shop, and huge Tyson processing plant.  However, you are just five miles or so from downtown Fayetteville where you have everything at your fingertips.  Within just a short drive you are downtown where restaurants, shops, entertainment and more were very close.  Fayettteville is home to the University of Arkansas and has that cool college town vibe with good restaurants, lots of microbrews, funky shops, and lots of energy.  Restaurants range from fine dining to ethnic to a gourmet grilled cheese restaurant.  There is lots to do in Fayetteville and other towns in Northwest Arkansas.  Just north of the park a couple of miles (in south Fayetteville) is a funky section that focuses on farm-to-table restaurants, a bicycle themed bar, the winter farmer’s market, and a well-revered wood fired pizza joint. 

What we liked:

The location of this park is great – easy access to I-49 and downtown Fayetteville.

What we didn’t like:

One big turn off was the smell from the Tyson plant.  It had a masa-type smell and knowing it was a chicken processing facility we had the feeling that chickens were being converted into something called “Mexican” based on the Tyson sign along the road.  The surrounding neighborhood is definitely not the best – remember we mentioned pawn shops, jail, etc?  That being said we never felt unsafe in the RV park.

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The park has no real amenities and the bathroom/shower/laundry are pretty run down.  The sites are o.k. in that they are level but this is not a park where you would want to spend a lot of time hanging around your site outside. 

Spirit’s two cents:

Spirit liked the fact that this park had a huge field (right in front of our RV) for playing in and a ditch to cool off in (that part we disagreed on).  The park is small and not much room to walk a dog in and the neighborhood is not one conducive to walking a dog.  But, while we were there Spirit had her dog friends (and newbie RVers) Cosmo, Bee, and Leroy who all enjoyed running in the field chasing various toys.

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Sunday, April 24, 2016

Why stop in Northwest Arkansas?

Northwest Arkansas has made a name for itself.  The quaint towns dotted in the Ozark mountains have been relatively sleepy in the past, but a recent awakening is luring visitors to this area.  Here, art and culture mix perfectly with the natural outdoors.  You will find a world-class museum, A-lister film festivals, amazing farmers markets, fascinating natural features, and an emerging culinary scene claiming James Beard awards. 

Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art is arguably the most important new art museum in America in decades and what brought us to the area.  Located in the small town of Bentonville, when the museum opened in 2011 it triggered a metamorphosis of the town.  Bentonville is the home to Walmart and when Alice Walton (daughter of Walmart founder Sam Walton) announced that world-class art was coming to northwest Arkansas, art aficionados and collectors across the country were aghast.  Some of the most famous art pieces would be in Arkansas instead of New York or Chicago.  But Alice Walton’s objective was simple – people in mid-America should have access to the same quality of art as those in other parts of the country.  And, to further make sure it was accessible to all – admission is FREE!

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Alice set out to build a museum that respected the natural environment and made the grounds as much a part of the museum as the art inside.  The simple philosophy that art and nature are both vital to the human spirit and should be accessible to all is evident when you wander around the miles of trails that surprise you with amazing views of the museum and wondrous art pieces. 

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During our visit a traveling exhibit called “The Open Road – Photography and the American Road Trip” was there.  How appropriate for us and our Airstream friends, T and Kelly, as we were on a road trip.  The exhibit tells the pictorial story of everyday places and experiences that cause the viewer to see things in a new light – the economic dichotomy of class in the south, our national monuments, wacky roadside attractions, and scenes along the iconic Route 66 during its heyday. 

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No visit to Bentonville is complete without stopping at the birthplace of Walmart.  The humble little dime store known as “Walton’s 5 – 10” opened in 1950 and now serves as The Walmart Visitor Center Museum.  The storefront serves as a souvenir shop where retro toys and candies take you back in time and the Spark Cafe Soda Fountain celebrates America’s past with an ice cream soda fountain.  Ice cream was loved by Walton and it seems T and Betsy share that love.

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The rest of the building is the museum which tells the history and rise of Walmart from a 5 & 10 to a Fortune 500 company corporation with over thousands of stores around the world.  One of Walton’s simple but effective philosophy of customer service was the “10 – Foot Rule.”  Every time a customer came within ten feet of an employee they were to smile, look them in the eye, greet them, and ask if they needed help.  The museum is a glimpse into Sam Walton's life with his office and old pick up truck.  

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In the heart of northwest Arkansas is Fayetteville – home of the University of Arkansas Razorbacks – and recognized as a great college town.  Here you will find a hopin’ dining scene with everything from gourmet grilled cheese to Hawaiian to fine dining.  We could not resist indulging in cheesy goodness at Hammontree’s Grilled Cheese which had us coming back two nights in a row for the amazing sweet blueberry grilled cheese desert.  And, thanks to T’s appreciation of her Hawaiian roots, we sat down to great Hawaiian food at Hawaiian Brian’s and embraced her good taste in food.  Fayetteville is becoming known for its beer scene and attracting beer lovers to its Ale Trail.  After all, what college towns don’t have craft breweries. 

Downtown Fayetteville is charming with boutiques, galleries, funky clothing stores, and an awesome bookstore that looks like an organized mess spewing books off the shelves.  Fayetteville is also home to the “Naturals” minor league baseball team,  Botanical Garden of the Ozarks, the Arkansas Air and Military Museum, and an extensive paved trail system that will reach 100 miles when completed.  One thing you will notice around town is that the Walton's have contributed lots to the area as their name adorns many buildings. 

Before leaving the area we took a drive to Rogers where the Daisy Airgun Museum is located.  Because you know, if there is a small odd museum we will find it.  Daisy has been in business since 1886 and is easily the most recognizable brand of airgun.  Many youngsters were taught to shoot with a Daisy BB gun.  But Daisy is more than just a kids toy.  It is reported that Lewis and Clark took along a Daisy on their famous westward journey.  The museum exhibits vintage products and artifacts that takes you through the company's history (with the help of an audio wand). 

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After the museum we stopped at Pop’s Wild Hog BBQ for a delicious brisket sandwich and spent some time walking around town looking in antique shops (buying nothing, of course) enjoying the warm spring day.

On our way back to the RV park, we took the back country roads.  We stopped at the War Eagle Mill which has been making stone ground grains since the 1830’s.  Unfortunately, the museum on the lower level was not open due to recent flooding the area incurred. 

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Fayetteville is where we said goodbye to our friends as they were heading back to Florida and we were continuing our journey to Maine.  Our time in Arkansas was made even more fun because of their presence and we look forward to traveling with them (and their dog pack) again. 


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Leroy, Cosmo, and Bee were afraid they would be left in northwest Arkansas and not
get to see the Florida beach anymore.




Thursday, April 21, 2016

RV Park Review–Catherine’s Landing (Hot Springs, Arkansas)


Website:    Catherine’s Landing
Location:   1700 Shady Grove Rd, Hot Springs, AR 71901
Date:          March 2016
Price:         $66/night (for a waterfront site)
Site:           #112


Catherine’s Landing is a great RV park with lots of amenities and things happening.  This park is an RVC Outdoor Destination property which is known for their “resort” amenities.  The park is set on 400 acres with one mile bordering Lake Catherine and about eight or nine miles from downtown Hot Springs. 

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Site description:

All roads, sites and patios are paved and this is definitely a big rig-friendly park.  Every site has water, 50/30 amp, sewer, cable, and wifi.  Fire pits and picnic tables accompany all sites. 

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There are a variety of sites ranging from waterfront back-in, pull-thrus, or interior back-in.  Waterfront sites have a nice view of the lake from the back of the site and access for fishing.

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The park also has yurts and cottages (some of which are pet-friendly).  Adjacent to the yurts is a nice, large covered picnic area with grills, a dish washing station, and restrooms. 

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Amenities:

Lots and lots of amenities here.  Hiking trails, swimming pool, fitness center, lounge, playground, dog park, zip-line, boat rental, boat launch, store, and disc golf. 

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Some amenities (boat rentals and zip-line) are an extra charge.  All the facilities were newer and very clean.

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Surrounding area:

Hot Springs is a nice little town nestled in the Ouachita Mountains with interesting history and natural beauty.  We found plenty to do from hiking the National Park to learning about the bathhouse history to discovering the gangster influence.  We spent four nights and could have stayed longer with all that the town offers.  Most people come here to bathe in the soothing warm mineral waters but there is also a horse racetrack, science museum, off road track, water/theme park, alligator farm, and a few museums.

Five miles from the campground are a couple of restaurants, hardware store, gas stations, grocery, etc. 

What we liked:

Overall, the park is very nice.  The paved level sites with paved patios were really nice.  We always like having that amenity.  The dog park was a decent size for running and mingling with other dogs.  The hiking trail (about 3 miles) was a big plus and got used a lot.  The other nice thing was the access to water.  For water-loving dogs this place is perfect. 

The not so good:

There really wasn’t anything about this park that we didn’t like other than maybe the price.  We booked late and didn’t have too many sites to choose from so waterfront was our only option. 

Spirit’s two cents:

Spirit loved the hiking trail around the property and the access to water.  A big plus was that the dog park was large enough for her and our friends dogs to run in.  Hot Springs National Park has miles and miles of great hiking trails and a great place to spend an afternoon.  The town of Hot Springs is very dog-friendly and we found many places that would allow them in and on the patio for lunch.

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