Saturday, July 2, 2011
Day 20. Branson, MO to Van Buren, AR. 177 miles.
A favorite childhood memory is a morning swim in the Buffalo River where my parents' had pulled of the road for a pit stop. Before this trip, I googled the Buffalo River to find its location, which is in Northern Arkansas. I had a rough idea of where it was located, but no good driving directions. We stopped at the very accomodating AR welcome center. Two very sweet gentlemen supplied us with maps, driving directions, recommended points to stop, crayons, Arkansas coloring book and a sucker. Pleased, we continued our drive which soon took us down a two lane road with minimal traffic.
The Buffalo River is protected by the National Park Service and was the first to be declared a National River. We pulled off the road at the first crossing of the river we saw behind a National Park service office. There was a picnic area, bathrooms, and a view that was familiar to me. I think we may have found the same spot I visited with my family 25 or so years prior. We had a very relaxing time playing and a cross-cultural experience talking to some locals. One man we talked with described jumping off of the 80 ft tall bluffs on the opposite side when the river was higher. That is one of my memories- watching others jump- not doing it myself!
Our swim must have exhausted Molly because after we left, and I drove down a very long side road to a campground and river access, she wasn't interested in checking out the river again. Soon after, she was asleep. I was a little disappointed to miss out on some swimming holes that I knew were coming up along our route, but I was thankful for what we'd already experienced.
Now the nice gentlemen at the Welcome Center did not advise making sure I had an adequate supply of gasoline before following our river-seeking route. I didn't realize just how many tens of miles we'd be driving on winding mountain roads through the Ozarks with no cell service and rarely a place of business. I was nervous, but not nervous enough to attempt to buy gas at a little family run deal without electronic gas pumps where I'm sure there was no Pay at the Pump with a sleeping girl in my backseat.
Our gas supply proved to be sufficient, and I enjoyed the drive. It was a good thing Molly slept because it would have been our first opportunity to test whether she is prone to carsickness. I regret not turning back to buy a gallon of blackberries for $10 after we passed a roadside sign (we would have only had to travel with them one more day).
We saw some tornado-damaged areas. One was called Ozone, AR. Just south of the town (it was one of the few towns on the map that had a post office. In one, the only place of business was a church.) there were lots of downed trees in a ravine in the mountains. It was the weirdest sight. I never imagine tornados striking mountainous areas. I saw a lot of damage also passing through Clarksville, where I also found the kind of gas station that I'm familiar with.
Molly awoke as we made it back to the freeway after several hours on a two lane road. I always knew that my dad liked to take the scenic route, but I'm amazed at how remote the Buffalo River was from the beaten path and wonder at how he ended up there a few decades back.
We checked into our clean, comfortable hotel, decided that the pool was too cold and opted for a hot bath, and splurged at Chili's with a giftcard. One of the highlights of the day and quite possibly the best purchase was a car wash and vacuuming of the interior (the second of the trip). We returned to our hotel, watched church online and colored. It was a beautiful day.