June 6, 2014
For the first trip of our 2014 summer break, Wendy and I spent a long weekend at Sugar Ridge Resort on Beaver Lake in Arkansas. We usually stay at hotels on our adventures, but she had loved sharing a cabin up on Mount Nebo at the tail end of our 2014 spring break, so I booked us a romantic cabin overlooking the lake for this short vacation.
Wednesday’s child is full of woe, so on that day Princess lit up her CHECK ENGINE light. I was at the local AutoZone bright and early on Thursday so they could hook in their reader to tell me it was a faulty coolant thermostat. I dropped the car off with Danny Tolbert for repair and on Friday morning we left for Arkansas in Wendy’s Xanadu.
Our first stop was a quick lunch at the Full Moon Cafe on Cherry Street in Tulsa before heading down 412 to Arkansas. We stopped for dessert at the Applebee’s in Rogers so that I could see in person the mural which the restaurant owner had commissioned for its back wall; it blends together several of my photos of the area along with a few from other photographers. Below is the mural in digital form:
It was fun to see in person this first known use of my photos at a restaurant. I get regular requests and occasional payments to use my photos in websites, magazines, brochures, and textbooks. The Applebee’s mural and a CD cover are the most unusual requests thus far. I was amused to see the restaurant had thanked “Greg Meador” for the use of his photos. That seemed oddly appropriate since I use “Greg” as a pseudonym when I’m making restaurant reservations: “Granger” is too unusual a first name for folks to easily process it. Does Granger Smith have this problem too?
Our route to Beaver Lake took us by Pea Ridge battlefield, where I hiked in November 2012. Wendy was interested in seeing it in person, so we paid the $10 fee and drove around the loop to see the battlefield cannons. Wendy posed by the Angel Aloft monument, which was the first of two rather blocky statues we’d see this day.
We wound our way down to the north shore of Beaver Lake to our cabin at Sugar Ridge Resort. We were not disappointed: the view was gorgeous and we loved the big deck with its porch swing, Adirondack chairs, and bird/raccoon feeder. Later we’d find that the big indoor jacuzzi was the best we’ve used in our travels, and Wendy enjoyed using the fully equipped kitchen when we weren’t going out to eat.
But I had no intention of having Wendy working in the kitchen after our day’s journey and instead drove us 20 minutes east to Eureka Springs for dinner at Myrtie Mae’s. I then drove her over to the East Mountain Overlook to see the Crescent Hotel in the gloaming across the valley. She’d never been inside, so after a drive up Magnetic Mountain we went across the valley to the 1886 hotel to view the lobby and its cozy fireplace. I told her about the notorious Norman Baker, who ran a deadly “cancer clinic” at the hotel for a few years, and how back in high school my friend Jeff and I snuck into one of the penthouses to look around. Wendy and I climbed one of the great tilted creaking stairwells up to the observation deck for a sunset view of the Christ of the Ozarks statue across the valley on Magnetic Mountain.
I’ve been up Magnetic Drive dozens of times throughout my lifetime to view that weird statue and related projects, which are rather camp. I particularly enjoyed one visit years ago to the statue when the tapes of hymns by Tennessee Ernie Ford and Kate Smith were malfunctioning; the resultant warbling from the loudspeakers providing a thoroughly amusing sonic background for “our milk carton with arms“. But I was startled on this trip to discover that the statue and later projects were all by an infamous extreme-right-wing anti-Semite. Imagine his apoplectic reaction to how Eureka Springs has become the “Gay Capitol [sic] of the Ozarks“. [Ahem: in this context it would be capital, darling, not capitol.] In fact, we drove right past the town’s resort for gay men when we headed up Magnetic Drive toward the statue.
Wendy’s favorite stop was our night visit to the Grotto Spring, where we savored the cool air in the spooky grotto, thoughtfully lit by candles cared for by the city gardener, Don E. Allen. He maintains the beautiful grounds of many of the springs around town.
We returned to Sugar Ridge to sit out on the deck, where we enjoyed a visit from a raccoon, who climbed up and ensconced himself on the deck railing to raid our bird feeder. On Saturday I would take Wendy to walk at Blue Spring, tromp about Eureka Springs, and drive across the bridge to nostalgia at Beaver, Arkansas.