There are many thoughts and photos from my time in Arkansas beyond what appears in previous blog entries. Not Earth shaking stuff, just some odds and ends. Stuff I still wanna talk on.
Starting with Walmart. I expected to see Walmarts everywhere in Arkansas. Thankfully not the case which is possibly due to numerous Walmart Express closures in 2016. Nevertheless, Walmart still maintains a very definite presence in northwest Arkansas.
Case in point: when we went grocery shopping for the meal Garth is cooking up below, he made a point to take me to a non-Walmart....and the place was deserted at 6pm on a weeknight. There was plenty of traffic out on the roads too. Really nice store. I was confused. He quickly explained to me that people "drink the Kool Aid here" and that everyone was happily shopping at the nearest Supercenter.
The typical Walmart effect that can ravage towns does not apply to Bentonville. Walmart pumps a copious amount of money into the town where it was founded. Crystal Bridges Art Museum is the crown jewel of Alice Walton's numerous investments in local art. The Razorback Greenway trail that I used to walk from Springdale to Fayetteville is also much to the credit of the Walton Family Foundation. I found an article estimating the Walton investment in recreation trails alone across northwest Arkansas at 59 million dollars all told.
And Walmart as well as Tyson Chicken (also a huge presence in the area along with J.B. Hunt trucking) have managed to not pollute local waterways like the nearby Buffalo National River. The Buffalo is among the precious few truly wild and scenic waterways remaining in the entire United States:
The next Arkansas discussion point here is a bus station situation. Buses between cities in Arkansas don't stop in town centers. Instead, you get dropped at a truck stop or gas station on the outskirts of towns. Riding buses on sunny days this trip, I would get a little messed up on exhaust fumes strolling along busy roadways into city centers. Riding on the cloudy, rainy days (or just in the dead of night) the air was much fresher, but my spirits invariably swung pretty low. Mind you this bus issue is not specific to Arkansas at all; Wisconsin, North Dakota, Missouri...all states where I've experienced the same dismal phenomenon. Bus life in the Midwest is a serious drag.
The number of towns served by buses and/or trains also leaves much to be desired in Arkansas. I wasn't able to visit the scenic spots of Eureka Springs and Hot Springs because of limited or no public transit access. The only consolation I found was the food options at gas stations and truck stops around the state....frigging bonkers so much fried tastiness! Check the gallery:
While new bus station construction may still be a ways off in Arkansas, numerous new things have gone up in the corridor between Bentonville and Fayetteville:
Nice sturdy things. I question the isolated location of these things though. They could fall into disuse almost right away. Also highly questionable are the bland housing areas popping up. One could definitely question the need for the private property sign to keep people from using this abysmal man-made pond. Really really hope no one drowns in this thing:
Another new development I noticed in Arkansas was city bench advertising. Check out a few examples of me proving how well bench signs work:
More strangeness that I'm still not over is the typical American motel breakfast I had in Fort Smith. Again, not an issue specific to Arkansas. I've seen blatantly gross things in motel lobbies all across the US. I need to learn to just grab a banana and skip the hot stuff. I went with fake eggs on styrofoam over the 2-day-old loose gravy a fellow guest was suffering thru at the table behind me.
I passed by a lot of churches:
Other great novelties I found in Arkansas were in yoga studios:
Another thing I loved was the 1960's vintage pink tile bathroom at my motel in Harrison:
A place I hung out a lot in Harrison was Tallgrass coffee shop. I posted up there for a few hours on my last morning in Arkansas to catch up on my daily trip notes. I take a Field Notes brand waterproof pocket notebook along with me. Making note of the weather, conversations, landmarks etc each day helps my recall of all the trip drama.
My little notebooks are a part of the roughly 20 pounds of gear I take along. Here's me getting things organized in Little Rock: 4 shirts, 2 pairs of pants, 1 pair of shoes, camera, waterproof bag, swim trunks for hot yoga hell, etc.
Back to the cultural theme with this fascinating sign in downtown Little Rock on the history of the spelling of Arkansas:
Also feasted my eyes on this amazing 80's video after landing in Little Rock. I had heard whispers when in Fort Smith about troubled times in Little Rock's recent past. A quick Google search turned up this collection of wannabe gangsters showing off for the camera. I put on part one of the series to fall asleep to after getting to my Airbnb.
This is in no way what I saw in person. What definitely remains though is a poverty divide south of the interstate cutting thru the Little Rock. This is not uncommon in present day USA per the post Kerner Commission report just out.
And finally one last cultural relic from Fort Smith. The historic designated Indian Territory boundary mark noted on a sidewalk:
Arkansas had a lot to offer for me. It maintains much natural and unspoiled beauty. I loved visiting my old friend and making several new ones. While the yoga scene is not huge, the studios and teachers are of a high caliber. Public transportation is an issue which could provide future challenges as the population grows, especially in the thriving northwestern corner.
Again, the problems with bus service within and between communities are not unique to Arkansas. Issues with public transportation point to broader American concerns like the haves vs the have-nots... and even racism. Discrimination is highlighted in this article which notes that "nationally, the United States remains a country where many forms of transportation are effectively still segregated - whites and minorities ride different kinds of transportation, resulting in an unequal ability to reach jobs, education, and a better life."
Thank you kindly for reading! I hope my photos and observations spark something for you. I humbly travel along thru Texas in my next posts so check back soon.