We crossed the Mississippi and headed southwest across Missouri on I-44, which follows old Route 66. Our destination: Eureka Springs, Arkansas.
It’s a personal thing, and hardly earth-shaking, but Arkansas is the only one of the 50 states that I’ve never visited — until today.
Defining what “counts” when counting states is individual. Does it “count” if you’ve changed planes in a city but never gotten out of the terminal? I say no. My parents didn’t count a state unless and until they had a picture of the family lined up in front of the state capital — no Photoshop permitted. They were so fanatical about this that they re-visited both Alaska and Hawaii when those two states built new capital buildings.
I’m not that hardcore. All I require is a specific memory of a state for it to count. And I can rattle off specific memories of each of the states — well, truth be told, probably not Delaware. Let’s face it, it’s hard to FIND Delaware on the Delmarva peninsula. I can tell you about Chincoteague (Virginia). The western shore (MD). But wait! Rehoboth Beach! Got it! That’s Delaware! Plus, I’ve spent time waiting for Amtrak in the Wilmington station — that ought to count for something.
I’m not sure how Arkansas became my last state to visit. Frank and I took the Empire Builder from Chicago to Seattle in 2012, and that took care of the northern plains states. And we visited Fairbanks to see the Northern Lights in 2014. Suddenly, that left just Arkansas on the yet-to-be-visited list. So here we are, in Eureka Springs, which bills itself as a Victorian town, but which turns out to be western boom town meets San Francisco’s Lombard Street (the crookedest street in the world).
According to tradition, some arthritic Confederate veterans came here to drink the waters, their health improved, and the boom began. The problem was that the springs were in the side of a mountain, so the roads and architecture were, umm, challenging. Plus, the first town was built of wood, and promptly burned down. So did the second town.
The result is a Victorian architectural fantasy, with stairs and second stories carved out of the rock, and twisty roads hanging onto the hill.
And Frank, who usually books us into motels based on price, had a fabulous birthday surprise for me: We are staying at the 1886 Crescent Hotel, a historic hotel at the very top of the hill. It’s a Victorian wonder, renovated but not redone in such a way to dislodge the ghosts, of which apparently there are about a half-dozen. This is a selling point, apparently: The hotel has nightly tours … even though it’s hard to believe a self-respecting ghost would come out just to please the tourists.
Although that WOULD be a memory.