Saturday, May 15, 2021

Arkansas Notes: Another Tiny House

     Sometimes things are so obvious that you almost forget to say them. But Caren Jeskey is a rock. As you know, the heretofore Austin bureau chief is driving up from Texas to return to Chicago. But she paused while on the road to file this report, keeping her Lou Gehrig iron woman streak of never missing a post for more than a year now. A feat of consistency, endurance, professionalism and responsibility that I do not thank her enough for, despite how much I, and I know you, enjoy and appreciate it. So put your hands together, and let's applaud her those last hard miles home. Thanks Caren.

     Winslow Arkansas, population 398 in 2019. Why did I choose this as my second Airbnb stop heading to Chicago? Well, it boasted a beautiful view of a large pond nestled in the trees, a boat to paddle around, and endless hiking trails. A cabin in the mountainous woods with a wraparound porch. I was looking for outdoor adventure and it seemed the perfect spot. The host offered me a discount because I teach yoga. 
     The day I headed out to Arkansas, packing up the car heading out of Cooper Texas took about 3 hours longer than I realized it would. Thank you Dad for packing up the car so many millions of time throughout my youth. I had no idea it was quite so arduous. I got out of Cooper 90 minutes after check out time. I left it extra clean and even washed the sheets. 
     I could not help but stop a hundred times on my way to Winslow, even knowing it would be better to get settled in during the light of day. I sang “This Land Is Your Land” and “Take Me Home, Country Roads” aloud to myself between long moments of silence along the way. I played Crosby Stills Nash & Young, Tom Petty (my guy, who I got to see in Dallas soon before his passing), Fleetwood Mac. I listened to the radio, and learned a lot about the healing powers of Water. Sometimes I found excellent classic rock and jammed out to the Steve Miller Band.
     I passed through the Pat Mayse Lake in Texas and then up to Hugo, Oklahoma where very apparently pot is legal. I did not get any since 1) I don’t generally imbibe and 2) not sure how Arkansas would feel about it.
     I found myself in the West Fork of the White River in Brentwood, Arkansas. Well well well. I’d just moved from the Brentwood neighborhood of Austin. What a small world. It was nice. I snaked along windy roads with signs that read “25 mph. 1,000 drops.” No matter how hard pickup trucks tailgated me, I honored the suggestions of how not to die.
     Shortly after dark I arrived at what I thought would be my digs for the week. I wound up a bumpy gravel road that became so narrow and twisty I was sure it could not be right; but thanks to GoogleMaps it was. I pulled Cosmica (my trusty steed, a dark blue Honda Civic) into the small driveway to my stone cottage home. I walked in and was overwhelmed with the strong odor of mold, mildew and perhaps cat piss. I was dismayed. I had some screen time with a group of friends and tried to play it up. I showed them around my dank quarters and they did not say much.
     I let them know it was time for me to rest, and said goodnight. I brushed my teeth, washed my face (the sink was very slow to drain), and climbed into the bed of the master bedroom with attached bath. As I lay there, in the dark woods of Arkansas, I told myself I could breathe just fine. But I could not. The odors were overwhelming. I tried to open the heavy screen on the door to the deck but it slammed down. I opened what windows I could. Usually with bad odors you get used to them. Not tonight. The acridity burned my nasal passages. I’d seen some wet kibble on the rug when I arrived; perhaps a raccoon had gotten in?
     After tossing and turning between small gasps of breath I finally decided to retire to the front bedroom. Perhaps that would be better. Alas, not so much.  
I slept fitfully to a cacophony of unwelcome sounds. The bedroom door responded to wind gusts from the opened windows, creaking open and slamming shut a few times before I finally got up to prop it open. Aluminum roofing rattled in the wind just above my bed. A storm was brewing and there were a few guttural claps of thunder that I’m sure came from Beelzebub laughing at me.
     The hosts were lovely. They refunded my money and I found a tiny house in Farmington to retreat to. It’s proved to be a little piece of paradise. Cows and horses grazing in the fields, a big fluffy dog and gorgeous gray cat catching snuggles with me by the outdoor fire pit. I like it here.
     Farmington is about 17 minutes outside of Fayetteville where I sit now to write this post. Three men are sitting at the table next to me at Cheers, a restaurant built in a now defunct downtown post office. The grounds are gorgeously manicured. When I ask the guys what’s special about this particular valley, Pete S. (originally from St. Louis and transplanted here in 2009) says “it’s the Wicker Park of Arkansas.” Say no more, Pete. I am on my way.


  1. I’m going to see if can use the Yoga discount next time I book a place. I know nothing about Yoga but I can print a certificate.
    It will look just like the ones the vaccination fakers use.

    1. Turns out she wanted me to teach her yoga! Give it a try. 🙂

  2. Thanks for the pleasant diversions from an increasingly crazy world, even though this one hit some sore spots. Bad lodgings on road trips are inevitable. At least you were compensated unlike the Indiana establishment that didn't see a forced room change due to water leaking from the ceiling as deserving of even a discount. On a 1971 drive from Chicago to San Diego along the metamorphosing Route 66, the only toll road west of the Tri-State was the Will Rogers Turnpike in Oklahoma. It was also the worst piece of road I encountered on that trip. That Oklahoma would have legal pot is surprising, your concerns about Arkansas show good sense. It's is scary that so much of America is more afraid of marijuana than guns. For the Road music I highly recommend Running on Empty by Jackson Browne and Commander Cody and his Lost Planet Airmen. Keep driving safe.

    1. Actually, that IS surprising. Oklahoma has legal weed and Ohio does not. You'd think it would be the exact opposite, but Ahia is rapidly becoming North Missitucky or East Indiana. All we have, in a state of almost twelve million people, are a few scattered medical cannabis dispensaries, with large green crosses on their outside walls. There's one near me. Yesterday, there was one car in the parking lot. Probably owned by the person behind the counter. So little traffic (pun intended). I never see anybody going in there.

      People here still buy from dealers, or make the trek up to the weed stores in Michigan. We are changing, and for the worse. Ohio is rapidly going backwards. Trump won this state twice, by eight points each time. Our biggest cities are shrinking blue islands in a rising red sea.

      You shouldn't have spent even one night in that hellhole, Caren. Mold and mildew are no jokes. If you are sensitive or allergic, then can really mess you up. Cat pee doesn't help, either. Glad you found a better place. But why a week at each stop? Why not ease on down the road and head right back to Chicago? Life on the road can become so expensive, and quite fatiguing.

      Of course, I imagine that once you've resettled in Chicago, you won't be taking any road trips for some time, so you probably want to get the most out of this one. They can be either heaven or hell, or both. Our last big one was five years ago, down to Florida, to see my 95-year-old aunt for the last time. I have not been out of Cleveland in fifteen months. I'd kill to be able to take a long car trip right now, and crank up the road music. But even after the shots, I don't think it's quite the time yet. Maybe by late summer or early fall. East, west, doesn't really matter at this point.

    2. I took a quick stop in Yellville to read this, and now I have some good road music. Thanks!

    3. Grizz- I wanted to see the country a bit, and since I am working only wanted to drive on weekends. Saturdays specifically so I can enjoy Sundays off. It was late and I was tired and in the middle of nowhere, pretty much, so that’s why I stuck it out but I agree. Air quality is very important. My place in Chicago is available 5/23 so it’s all lining up! I could have stayed with friends but I have a careful of all my stuff, so having my own digs was necessary. And I got good deals too! 🙂 And now for some Traffic! 🚙 🎶

    4. What brought you there? My wife and I spent some time in Yellville in August of 2000. My wife's former neighbor moved there, after living in Kansas City for many years. His wife, who was from NYC, had an art gallery in Yellville. That town was infamous for its "Turkey Drop"--the birds were tossed out of a helicopter and if you caught one, it was yours. Some had gift certificates and other prizes. Many of them were killed on impact. Yellville was the inspiration for the iconic 1978 "WKRP in Cincinnati" turkey drop episode.

      Yellville also had a great down-home eatery called the Front Porch, but it has since closed. We had a pretty rough time. Hottest August in the state's history-- it hit 111 degrees in Little Rock. I burned my feet on our host's driveway. It was so hot that I slept on the only cool spot I could find...the concrete floor of the garage. After Yellville, we hit Graceland, during Elvis Week. If you've never been there, it's worth the trip. And Memphis is a hip and funky place.

    5. (carful of stuff that is)

  3. As Will Rogers said: The people of Oklahoma will vote dry, as long as they can stagger to the polls to do so.
    Oklahoma may have legal pot, but you still have to buy beer, wine & liquor in state run stores, all of which look alike.
    They were built in 1967-68, when Oklahomans finally staggered to the polls to legalize booze.

    1. I also learned that thc is only allowed with an Rx.

  4. You bet Neil. It’s been great for me, for many reasons. 5 more hours to go today, and it’s rainy & hilly so I’ll take it slow.

  5. Well done as Austin bureau chief. Safe adventure back to Chicago enjoying your fine music selection. When you get here the "Welcome Back!" signs at reopened establishments will have extra meaning.


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