It's Not Nice to Be Fooled with by Mother Nature

Friday, December 28, 2012 Road Junkies 0 Comments

Westward Ho, Days 54 & 55:  Fort Smith, AR, to Vicksburg, MS

And then there are those days where most of what you see is what's in front of the windshield...  We woke up in Fort Smith Thursday with the intention of driving to Little Rock to visit the Arkansas Capitol building and a national historic site devoted to the 1957 desegregation crisis at Little Rock's Central High School.  We had hotel reservations in Little Rock for Thursday and Friday nights.

However, with the foot of snowfall that hit central Arkansas on Christmas day and all the reports we had heard about power outages, we decided to check with the Little Rock hotel before starting that way.  Sure enough, we connected with a recording indicating that their phone system was out.  A lengthy call with Marriott later, we learned that the hotel had power but no phone, internet, or cable, and we weren't sure what else might be lost in the storm.

Meanwhile, we were trying to hook up with cousins Ann and Eddie, who live in the Oklahoma City area, but were vacationing in Hot Springs.  We learned from them that the same foot that had stomped Little Rock had also kicked Hot Springs.  The condo where they had been staying was without power, and they had moved to temporary quarters to wait out the repair.

Now what?  We decided to cancel our Little Rock accommodations and found a place in Conway, just north of Little Rock, still hoping to hook up with Ann and Eddie in or near Hot Springs.  As we drove east, however, the weather forecast changed, introducing a new little twist.  From Hot Springs and Little Rock north (including Conway), more wintry precipitation was forecast, primarily freezing rain, which would lay a nice coat of ice on the roads.

Arkan-snow
Cancelling our reservations in Conway, we decided to continue further southwest on I-30 and made new reservations to spend the night in a tiny town called Caddo Valley.  Driving east on I-40 from Fort Smith, we saw deeper snow as we neared Little Rock and more trees brought down by the weight of the snow.

Poor pines just can't take the weight.
When we reached the hotel in Caddo Valley, we were reminded of a lesson we thought we had learned before:  Listen to the reviews.  In spite of the Trip Advisor reviews on hotels in the town, we had booked the newer hotel rather than the one with the better reviews.  It should have come as no surprise to us—and really didn't—that the reviews were correct.  The desk clerks were extremely rude and totally uninterested in any concerns we may have had, including a family staying in the room above us who were apparently staging their own gymnastics meet, and an overpowering deodorizing spray that housekeeping used in the room that made both of us sneeze uncontrollably. 

Of course, at this point, the other few hotels in the town had been filled with the locals who had lost power, so we were stuck with the choice of staying in Caddo Valley or trying to find something an hour or more away.  But should we go north or south?  And we were still hoping to meet Ann and Eddie and their kids the next day.  We decided to stick it out at the Dismal Inn.  When we scraped up dinner from the groceries and leftovers we had in the car (not too many restaurant choices locally), we found a very fitting message in a fortune cookie Ken had from P.F. Chang's.

We both had a good laugh and closed out the day texting with Ann about the possibilities of meeting the next day.  Unfortunately, we forgot to include Mother Nature in the loop.  (Who even knew her number so we could text her?)  So she threw a monkey wrench into our plans on Friday.  Icy rain was fallling, power had not been restored in Hot Springs, and, with good reason, the cousins were headed home to Oklahoma City.  Since we had just stumbled into them in Kansas a few weeks ago, we all decided it was best to go our separate ways today and see each other at a more propitious time.

As we continued south on Friday toward Louisiana, the amount of snow along the roadside dwindled, with light rain falling throughout the day.  When we entered Louisiana, we began searching for a place to plant our Louisiana letterbox.  Passing the D'Arbonne National Wildlife Refuge near Farmerville, we thought it might provide a shelter for our letterbox.  Driving into the area, however, we discovered that it doesn't even provide a refuge to wildlife.

Deer carcasses in so-called National Wildlife Refuge
Just a few hundred yards from the ranger station, we came across a couple of animals who certainly were not provided the safety or protection that the name "refuge" promises.  Any English language dictionary defines 'refuge' as a place of shelter or protection against danger.  So why are American taxpayers funding so-called wildlife 'refuges' to permit hunters to come in and kill the animals.  Wouldn't National Shooting Ranges be a more honest name for these deceptive areas? 

Disgusted, we left the so called 'protected' area immediately, hoping to never be subjected to such 'protection' and continued south to Monroe.  Though we found a nice lunch in the city at a local Greek and Lebanese restaurant, we did not find a place for our letterbox.  So we continued east toward Mississippi in the fog.

Foggy day in Louisiana
Thinking it might be a suitable spot for a letterbox, we headed north at Delhi, LA, to Poverty Point State Historic Park.  We found it to be a fascinating spot, with an amazing history dating back thousands of years, but as an active archaeological dig site, it seemed particularly unsuited for a letterbox.

Spearpoints, or 'arrowheads' as they are familiarly known, found at Poverty Point
Back to I-20, we continued east toward Mississippi, about to run out of Louisiana, and with the clock ticking.  Just three more days, and we need to plant boxes in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama.  The jury is still out.  We drove across the Mississippi River into Vicksburg with the Louisiana letterbox still in our hands.  Backtracking west tops our agenda for tomorrow.  And two more states to go.