Another reason to love backroads: sometimes they're just really... fun. I've never used an emoticon in my life, but that needs a little smiley :)
The border of Arkansas and Missouri is one of those abrubt ones, where you instantly know you're in another state. Arkansas was beautiful, and the roads I had been driving through the Ozarks were nice and windy. When I crossed over, though... woo! No road has ever made me laugh or yell so much. Rolling hills, dips, curves... It felt like the Big Dipper in Santa Cruz! A little slower, though; I'm not that crazy. Tach took it quite well, I think he had a good time, but I couldn't help wishing quietly that I had a Maserati, or a Ducatti, or something Italian anyway. Still... wow. Good, good roads.
Has an interstate ever made you laugh? In joy, I mean, not a sarcastic snort at a billboard. And that's the last I'll say about it.
Arkansas was fun, and not scary at all. Hot Springs was a great little town, with rows of old bathhouses from the glory resort days. One of them is still in use, and another has been renovated by the parks system, and you can wander through. That, actually, was a little spooky. It has the look of an old sanitarium, complete with strange mechanical devices, including big metal steam boxes where only your head sticks through. There were sculptures and stained glass windows, but without people, they didn't warm the place up much.
I filled up my water bottles from the city fountain, so I could take some restorative with me, and headed up to Eureka Springs. This is the home of New Holy Land (closed on Wednesdays, but really, I wasn't sure I wanted to sit through that anyway), Christ of the Ozarks (huge, white Jesus on a mountain - what else can I say), and Tiny Town.
Tiny Town is run by the son of the man that built it, and he starts you off with a nice little speech, cute little jokes, and directions to a little Willie Nelson, Dolly Parton, and Mr. T. Then you are left on your own to tour the largest automated town, pressing buttons at will. My favorite was the button that made a little cowboy with an Indian's arrow in him writhe. I pushed that one a few times.
You go through the wild west, see mines, Mt. Rushmore, bears and elk migrating, Rock City's suspension bridge, Pennsylvania farms, several railroads, an Arkansas small town, complete with school, bank, firehouse, and homes, and much, much more. Plans are underway to make the hot air balloon go up and down, but the plane already circles the airport. Most everything is hand carved, including Willie and Dolly, and if you look very close, you can sometimes see the tin cans used for materials. You've gotta look very close, though.
On to Missouri... shoot, what have I done in Missouri? Really have to start taking notes. I'm in Hannibal, right now, boyhood home of Samuel Clemens, and home to the Mark Twain Caves. Amazingly, I think I've had enough of cave tours. I didn't think that could happen, but I may have seen enough stalag-things on this trip to last my life. I saw Ha Ha Tonka State Park, beautiful. Caves, sinkholes, and ruins; the perfect park.
How could I forget? Precious Moments Chapel. I was really hoping to find a crucifix, but it was not to be. Although they have the largest Precious Moments store in the world, they were strangely light on figures from the end of Christ's life. There was a slew of Christmas figures and ornaments, but the closest you could get to Easter was a cheery little boy sitting on a rock outside a cave, with the words "He is Risen!" underneath.
I suppose it makes sense. The company was started by a man in pain, after losing his oldest son. These are figures to inspire and cheer up. A sad little doe-eyed boy with stigmata would probably not be the ticket.
I'm afraid this wasn't as interesting as I had hoped for. It was a little spooky in its cheeriness and cuteness, and the blindness to the darker sides of life was interesting. There was even something strange and stifled about the outdoors; it was hot and quiet, with a single bird singing on the manicured lawns. The "Fountain of Angels" show was kind of a joke. Go see the Bellagio in Vegas, much more impressive. Of course that could be because I prefer Sinatra to saccharine gospel, so maybe I'm being unfair.
The strangest thing was when the gospel singer came out to intro the lights show, and sing a few gospel tunes, in a fabulous baritone. I couldn't help but think that he was evidence of PM going a bit too far to keep everything small and cute; he was a dwarf. I know I'm being completely un-PC, and anywhere I else I wouldn't even have noted it, but this is Precious Moments. He matched.
On to... I don't know, Michigan? Sounds good to me.
Believe it or not, there is a method to my madness. Memphis to Flint may seem a bit extreme, but... well, it made sense at the time.