Day 9 (July 20th): SHREVEPORT, LA to HOT SPRINGS, AR
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Well, folks, it took several days, but I finally got the stove to work again properly on the first try! And just for the purpose of showing off, I only needed one match to light it...

I didn't leave very early, but I didn’t have terribly far to cover. Heading into Shreveport I had seen a “Whataburger” franchise, which I knew nothing about, but wondered what the quality might be like. I passed another one on my way out, but it was not lunchtime and at any rate I hadn’t fallen into a "lunch stop during the day” routine yet -- typically just some trail mix somewhere along the way.

I was excited to experiment with two new things on the bike; first, the heretofore unused backpack hydration system, filled with ice water and awaiting use, and second, the handlebar modification I made yesterday, which would hopefully allow me to lean back and make minor in-lane steering corrections merely by pulling on a length of cord. Believe, sometimes it is vitally important to be able to change your riding position, even if only for a few minutes…

…but it worked. I could put my feet up on the crash bars and lean right back onto the sleeping bag lashed to the seat behind me, newly tasked from within the trailer for just this purpose. The bad news, for both today and the future, was that my rear end was hurting way too soon into the trip, despite my use of an aftermarket air pad on the seat. We’ll have to monitor this one. Meanwhile, the water thing was excellent, and will be used each day for the remainder of the trip.

A stop for gas showed that I was now pulling 40 MPG from each tank, lower than the 42.5 I had estimated but better than the 36 or so when I got started. That’s how much of a difference (11%) the higher air pressures in the trailer tires had made. So although I was still down about 6.5% on mileage estimates, I was over 12% purely on cost because I had budgeted for $4.50 per gallon. Even after the brief $3.999 scare in Louisiana, I still haven’t paid $4…

Ther highway bridged a big, beautiful lake called Cross Lake just outside Shreveport, with homes on the shores, water-skiers doing their thing, and even a long freight train moving along the far edge. I was to take the Interstate only briefly and then change to Rte. 71 heading north. Shortly after getting on it I saw a guy and his motorcycle parked on the side of the road, speaking into a cell phone. I slowed to ax if he had a problem, and he sheepishly admitted he had run out of gas. Folks, in the motorcycling world, that happens. No problem, for I had some to give in the spare gas can. He took a few ounces, easily enough to get to a station down the road, and we chatted travel and so on. Coincidentally he was returning home to Shreveport from my own next destination, Hot Springs! ‘Twas too bad I had not the time to take up his offer of a tour of his base -- he being an Air Force weapons instructor -- but with any luck there’ll be a next time, as I enjoyed my brief time there.

Further on I noticed that the land had changed again; here we had cornfields and other farming, not to mention small, working oil pumps on people’s property here and there. It also seemed like the road was punching way above its weight class with respect to roadkill, and I saw my first --  but by no means my last -- erstwhile armadillo along its side. At some point there was also a glider soaring around up above.

A hop onto the next interstate took me past a sign for Hope, AR, “Birthplace of Bill Clinton”. Eventually exiting the interstate onto Rte. 7, I crossed DeGray Lake on an embankment high above the water on one side and the valley to the other. Rte. 7 continued across the incredibly scenic Lake Hamilton, with small islands on or jetties of land into the water, and wonderful-looking little waterside apartment/resort complexes going literally down to the shore. Like small neighborhoods directly on the lake! I was only a few minutes away from downtown Hot Springs.

The semi-cheesiness of the road into town was offset by the obvious history within its limits, much of it having, um, “sprung” from the natural thermal springs which first heat, and then easily force water up through the cracks and fissures in the Ouachita Valley rock before it can cool. It was noted that the town had undergone several restorations after particularly bad fires and/or floods, and the springs and the bathhouses were the building blocks of each resurrection. Let me tell you -- the water in the little streetside pools from those springs is HOT, and back in the day it was necessary to mix the spring water with cooled (also spring) water to avoid scalding. Many of the bathhouses had closed by the sixties, and it affected the fortunes of the town, but several of the better maintained ones were restored and now comprise “Bathhouse Row”, a strip of the main avenue, that is also a National Park (the remainder of which also happens to ring the entire town). Just a single one of these remains in business as a bathhouse, while some others operate more as museums. They are a very handsome sight right along the main drag, and worth a read about.

For some reason I didn’t have the address to the Park Hotel, but they knew where it was at the Welcome Center downtown (near the "Home of Bill Clinton" sign!) Finding it was no problem, as it was only a block off of the main street, and motorcycles were allowed to park right on the sidewalk in front! Now, although arguably I can understand the need for a $7.00 “energy charge” to be asked for at the front desk, I think it should show up on the reservations system on the web so I’d know about it in advance; then, to be charged the 13% occupancy tax on a quasi--bogus add-on like that starts to push it. That quibble aside, while the hotel was of older bloodlines, it was still highly detailed and stylish in its own quirky little way, with a small bar (closed Sundays) and Italian restaurant in the ornate lobby. It did not hurt that it seemed like Sinatra was playing over the music system every time I passed through, and for much lower cost than other places on the major thoroughfare just a block away, I thought the value was outstanding.

Before heading out I managed to set a new personal best with 104 pushups on my first set. Sure, I hadn’t been able to do any other exercises, nor any running, but at least those were still going strong. I learned from some other very nice motorcycle folks in the lobby that many of the downtown eateries were closed (the Sunday curse again), but I set out with no particular wants other than some sightseeing, a cold beer and a good burger.

I got plenty of sightseeing right there in the center of town; the bathhouses, some interesting signs, a lovely old office building, nice hotels, and even a few failed (or possibly failing?) hotels. The only disappointment was that nobody apparently sells bumper stickers any more, for after a strong start to that collection effort to jam onto the trailer, I had now struck out over the course of a few consecutive stops.

For dining purposes I eventually happened upon a place called the Brick House Café, inside of a unique little self-contained retail complex, and while I would have been satisfied with merely a broken-bat single for food, drink and atmosphere, this one was more like an RBI double, possibly going to third on the throw home. Tracy, the bartendress, explained why the catfish (a staple in Arkansas for all of the lakes) was better in the place now than it formerly was, and she was right on target, for the entire dish was yummy, as was the New Belgium wheat beer I was treated to a sample of. Even an older guy walking by got into the act when he recommended the sugar snap peas in response to my question to her about side dishes. And from being unable to resist prying for details when Amanda, another bar patron, mused about being hung over following a long night of (her own) bachelorette partying, it was then that I learned about root beer as the favored beverage to accompany the boudin back in Louisiana -- for she had grown up in Lafayette! A wonderful time was had by all, or at least by me, but I felt obligated to run out for one last beer at the German restaurant downstairs. Heritage and all that, y’know. There, I was happy to learn from Ben, the local ugly-silk-shirt-wearer -- his words, not mine, as I kind of  liked the thing -- that a nice scenic route to a future trip destination was in fact the one I had already selected!

An attempt at night-time photography on the walk back to the hotel met with only marginal success, but was worthwhile, and I turned in for the night, thankful that there was a 10PM closing time here on Sundays.

Comfort Is Yours

Thermal Pool in Hot Springs

View towards Bathhouse Row

Buckstaff Baths




E-Z Parking

Lamp Detail

Lobby 1

Lobby 2

Equines Only

What A Theme

Downtown Office Building

The Arlington Hotel.. Unknown Hotel.. Majestic Hotel -- CLOSED.. The Aristocrat