The last few weeks have been a whirlwind. Don-Michael retired and we had a 40th birthday and retirement party for him. Although everyone from work attended and drank his drinks, they of course thought he was joking, and are still expecting him back soon. Andie worked day and night packing away the house and choosing things to take along for our 12-month RV trip. Now that we’re in the RV, it’s clear she prioritized Life cereal, Sour Patch Kids, and vodka over clothing, bedding, and first aid supplies. Jill flew from Los Angeles to Dallas to join in the fun. She mostly watched Don-Michael and Andie fight like cartoon boxing kangaroos, but she also found decent-tasting, non-dairy “cheez cake” and therefore declared the year a victory already.
On our last weekend before our journey, we held an impromptu garage sale, and only hoped to get rid of a bunch of crap. Unexpectedly we pulled in some bank. It turns out that, if you hold a garage sale, people will come and ask for the stuff they like, whether you planned to sell that stuff or not. “Hey, do you have any lawn mowers?” “Are you selling watches?” “Would you like to sell an old nursing pump or a Singer sewing machine circa 1947?” We answered YES to everyone, and made a bundle!
In the weeks leading up to our departure, Andie became concerned that we’d chosen an RV that was too small for our crew of three adults, one angry child, and sometimes a bigger, equally angry child as well. She forced Don-Michael to look at the tiniest fifth wheels on the market, which are exponentially bigger inside than our Sprinter, which is one of the few motorhomes that is allowed in parking spaces marked “Compact Only.” But, due to exhaustion and the Xanax Don-Michael was slipping in her milkshakes, Andie relented and now we’re here in our Sprinter at our first stop....
HOT SPRINGS, ARKANSAS!
From Dallas to Hot Springs, we towed our rare new (slightly used) imported sports car, a Veloster, which took its name from an amalgamation of Velociraptor and plaster, we think. The first time it was ever hooked up to the RV was five minutes before we drove it to Hot Springs. Don-Michael’s mechanical skills shined through and we made it without incident to the Treasure Island RV Park of Hot Springs, Arkansas! ...and then we passed it. And then we ended up on private dirt roads. And then we ended up on private dirty properties. See, you may not know this but: You cannot go in reverse when you flat tow a car. So, say you pass your RV park, and say you see signs ahead of you that say no outlet, and say there are no circular paths leading you back to where you came from. Well, if you say all that, then you are seriously effed. So Don-Michael decided there was no choice but to stop, unhitch the Velociraptor/plaster, and reverse each vehicle separately. He stopped the RV. Andie decided to walk around the house we parked in front of, hoping we could drive around it. The house had two chained up pitbulls, a muscle car that was never going to be restored to the glory of driving, and three windows made of Ziploc bags duck taped together. Jill was overheard wisely advising, “No, Lily, you can’t follow mommy.” Andie understood that her choice was not wise, but felt that no one would be threatened by, or suspicious of, a 5’0”, 40 year old woman in a stylish camping outfit (jorts, muscle tank, and Bruce Springsteen headband). Unfortunately, it didn’t appear possible to drive around the house, and Andie scurried fearfully back to Home Sweet RV. Then we unhitched and reversed like it was nothing.
When we pulled into the RV Park, checked in at the front desk and were shown to our spot. As Don-Michael was hooking up the electricity/sewage/water a nice man named “Big Dave” arrived in a golf cart offering help. After the water was hooked up, the RV sprung two small but eager leaks that joyously fountained inside the RV. Big Dave provided the contact information for Jerry (a certified technician who came to the campsite and came through like a champ (for a meager $100). In short, crisis averted and the party rocks on.
The first couple we met here (within minutes of pulling in) was Bill and Jo Murray (who go by the moniker “Trailer Trash”) from Crestview, Florida. They’ve spent the last 20 months living full-time in their RV and have visited the majority of the US and Canada. She is a talented artist who has works at the Smithsonian and invited us into her home on wheels. It was a very beautiful Class A. They had sold all their worldly possessions, and this RV is now their home until they decide otherwise. Jo said they’re doing “ten years to life.” She advised us where to go for a dip in the hot springs of Hot Springs, which were first protected in 1832 as a Hot Springs Reservation. She said it costs $20 to lounge in one, as they are all pumped into spa-like buildings now. Don-Michael didn’t think he should have to pay for God’s bath water, so he planned to find a hot spring in its natural state and skinny dip for free, even if he gets Augustus Glooped.
But, before Gloop’s Gambit, we went to the nearby Lake Ouachita State Park. It is one of the cleanest lakes in the US, according to its own website. Lakes are very proud of themselves. We went down to the “swimming beach.” The lake did indeed look clean and sparkly. Lily walked her little Crocs into the cold, cold water and collected rocks and shells. She picked up approximately 1,000 rocks, and asked, for each and every one, “Can I throw it in the water?” Another little girl gifted her a shell. Don-Michael taught Andie and Jill to skip rocks. Jill landed like five skips on her first try! Andie needed more tries, but her skipping success was caught on video, so there were winners all around.
The next day we went to the St. Patrick’s day celebration downtown. Jo told us that Hot Springs has “the world’s smallest St. Patrick’s day parade.” Well, ooh-la-la, but why brag about the tiniest parade? Isn’t that, like... the worst parade? Do they have to downsize it each year so that no other medium-sized Southern city beats them out? Right now, it’s 118 feet long. By the year 2030, it will probably have to be just one pale, drunken child, dressed as a leprechaun, sitting in a toy wagon, bedazzled with shamrocks.
Anyway, it was pretty great. There was a lot of green flare on everyone, drunk grannies were on the loose yelling at Don-Michael to “show me your tits!,’ and the fountains had been dyed green. We waited for the parade for about an hour, but it gets very crowded around that 118 feet, and we’re short, so we gave up on seeing that.
Luckily, those bathhouses were right there in downtown, next to the parade! Lily was sorely disappointed that she didn’t get to swim in God’s Glorious Baths. We brought her a swimsuit and everything, but no one under 14 years old is allowed in. Must be a lotta hanky and panky in those pools. Unfortunately, the private couples baths, clothing optional, were all booked up. Don-Michael and Andie had some hanky panky of their own in mind. (Yup, we were gonna pee in the Hot Springs, openly and notoriously, unlike in the group pools, where you have to sneak it in.)
So Don-Michael, Andie, and Jill each bought $20 admission to the group pools. There were four big spa-like pools, one at 104 degrees, one at 102, one at 98, and a big upper deck one at 95. Why settle for mediocre? We all chose to turn our pale skin to lobster red. We each lasted about 15 minutes. It was hot and mineral-y and totes worth it. You can stay as long as you like and it wasn’t crowded and we didn’t have to wait. There are nice showers and lockers for before and after. And there is always at least one bossy lady swabbing the deck and correcting you for not wearing your flops from pool-to-pool (Andie), not showering before your dunk (Jill), or not realizing you let half your left boob sneak out the bottom of your bathing suit top (Andie). Those bossy ladies loved Don-Michael, who fawned over their deep knowledge of pool rules and regulations.
We also tried some local cuisine at The Next Level Kitchen. The décor was a bit lacking, in that is consisted of a back alley parking lot and two picnic tables set up next to garbage cans. We tried brisket, sausage, mac and cheese, baked beans, and fried pickles. The pickles were the crispiest, crunchiest, fried-est pickles we ever had! The brisket was quite delectable, with just the right of marbling for Don-Michael. The sides were pretty normal, but good, and Don-Michael liked the pimento treats in the mac. We all really liked the barbecue sauce, which was spicy and tangy and not sweet. Ranch dressing also came standard as did white bread with some grease/grill time.
Our first RV park experience was a success. Treasure Isle was clean, was next to a pretty lake, and had a little playground. The other RV’ers were very friendly, and Spring Break provided lots of little friends for Lily. Big Dave was helpful and nice. He even clapped for Lily’s twirling and showed how he could NOT twirl like her, making a show of being big and uncoordinated (Think of an older Chris Farley). And, best of all, he and his wife have a dachshund named Roscoe P. Coltrane, who rides shotgun on Big Dave’s golf cart.
We loved Little Rock. There was more to do than we had time for in our three days. We never even had a chance to hit up Crater of Diamonds, where you can mine and keep your very own diamonds. Andie is still very bitter that we went to the World’s Smallest St. Patrick’s Day Parade but didn’t hunt for diamonds...it's easy to rush through and lose sight of the small things.
Now, on to Oklahoma City...