Thursday, August 29, 2013

Road Trip: Arkansas

So the week before my comps, I decided I needed to get out of town.

Sitting around the apartment studying would not have been the best idea, because I tend to be a little high strung and stressed. So I went to my hometown, Cotter, in North Central Arkansas.

Cotter has about 1000 people, and I grew up and went to school there, so it's always going to be both my hometown and a place I can't go without seeing everyone I spent my formative years around.

I went to this high school (and middle and elementary school):

*That's Ralph, our Warrior mascot. Yeah, I know. He's awesome though and our school was incredibly conscientious of Native American rights and cultural appropriation. 

My mom went to Cotter too, but her school burned down right after she graduated. All that's left is the gym:

The city of Cotter was founded as a railroad town (although Native Americans lived in the area long before) in the late-19th century, with future president Herbert Hoover helping to survey the area. One of the most unique features of the town is the sharp bend in the White River, which sets a firm boundary for the (original) town and was a logical place for a stopping point on river journeys. 

The railroad came in the early-20th century, and a post office, school, hotels, and other businesses appeared. The population (just in the old town, which borders the river and really only includes everything in the picture on the right above) rose to over 600, and the town was named after William Cotter, a railroad official. (Yes, I got a lot of that from Wikipedia, but a lot of it we just kind of know.)

At this time, to cross the river, you still had to take a ferry (there are pictures of my grandmother on the ferry) but, in 1930, a toll bridge (with a long complicated history you can read about here), officially called the R.M. Ruthven bridge (after the judge who was kind of shady but got the bridge built), but really just the "Cotter Bridge," was built. After the bridge was paid for it became a free bridge, and one of the most iconic bridges in northern Arkansas. 

It's also called the Rainbow Bridge, and it has lights on all of the arches. The bridge was almost destroyed, but people freaked out and instead a new bridge was built just north of this one, at a less difficult part of the river and on a larger road that bypasses the old town. 

So it's an old town with a lot of history. My parents have lived there for a long time - my mom and her parents moved back to the area in 1966, and my grandfather bought 4 city lots and built a house.

*The old homestead. It's kind of weird shaped and that is not the color we thought the paint would be, but it's home. 
**Also 4 city lots is a huge piece of city property, and that hill makes it not fun to mow. 

So here's a tour through my hometown: 

*The bridge from the park underneath. There's a little pavilion and volleyball setup too. 

*On my morning run, I stopped to take a few pics. This is one of my favorites.

*The bridge from the north side. It's pretty imposing. Also the river was SUPER low. And a heron!

*A closer picture of the heron. 

*From the embankment to the east of the river - the other side is Marion County, and on our side the land just kind of rolls down to the river. They sit right on it and get flooded. 

*And see it does snow back home! via The Reporter Blog.

*The train tracks, going under the bridge to the railroad bridge. 

*We also have this awesome caboose. When I was in high school, you could still ride the train on the passenger line from Flippin (not kidding) to Cotter across the railroad bridge, all the way to Calico Rock. They stopped doing that, but the city now has these great rail cars and a little railroad memorial. 

*Railworker statue with the cabooses in the back. Interesting note - Petunia was terrified of the statue. Is it just this one, or is she afraid of all statues? Experiment time!

*North of the bridge, coming up on the railroad bridge. You can keep going, but apparently there's been a copperhead invasion. So no. 

*The nice walking trail under the bridge. I saw no snakes, thank god. 

*The Cotter Spring/Big Spring/Cold as Hell Swimming Hole I've Almost Drowned in More than Once. There used to be a big tree and you could swing out from that, but it got hit by lightening and died, so they put in the metal beam. The spring is always cold, and it's incredibly deep. It runs into the river, and people used to keep their food in cairns in it because it was so cold. So swimming in it is awesome...

*Old water pump that the walking trail goes under. 

*it's just weird and cool - the running trail goes right through there. 

*A road in Cotter. It's a little hilly. 

*I have no idea. 

*Recently, people have started buying the old businesses on main street and doing awesome things with them. This guy has a particularly good garden and old truck. 

*The parking lot I learned to ride a bike in. It was less grassy, but still had a ton of trees. It's no wonder I fell down a lot. Also the house next to it used to be a church but some people turned it into a house. Lots of cool architectural re-purposing happening.

*A house we used to live in, across from the bike riding lot. It was haunted, but I had the coolest carousel themed room.

*The City Hall/Fire Department/Police Station. Where my mommy works!

*This has been here forever. I just noticed it. Now it's an antique store. So. Many. Puns. 

*Pretty flowers, going back down the hill. 

*Weird little side yard I've always loved - it's down a few feet and between the house with the cool truck and the lawyer's office. 

*Via This appears to be some sort of festival - I'm actually pretty sure I'm there somewhere, since it looks about the right time for me to have been home. But anyway, this is main street. You can see how much the bluff goes up on the other side of the river after the floodplain. 

*yeah, that's how thin the topsoil is. Nothing grows. 

My mom and I went one night to see some of her friends play a little concert near the spring, at the gazebo. 

*It was a gorgeous, and kind of chilly, night. 

*There were way more people there - we just sat towards the front. 

*And took silly selfies.

*And "normal" selfies.

*So this is probably the lowest point on our side of the bridge. To the right of this picture is the river with a plain on the other side. To the left is the hill that goes through town. Directly in front is the giant bluff. Absolutely breathtaking. 

Cotter is a beautiful town to visit (or live in) if you like fishing, or lakes or rivers, or just a nice, pretty, small town. When I was growing up, I couldn't wait to leave, and I don't want to live there again right now, but it's a stunning city. And there are some great businesses that have come in recently, with the new owners of the White Sands Motel, which they renamed the Cotter Trout Lodge and my friend from high school Nathan's pizza place/convenience store, Warrior Station.

While I was in Arkansas we also went to Fayetteville (Woo Pig!), where I lived for a couple of years, to get grapes. We always go to Ranalli's for Concord Grapes (Tontitown is a whole nother story - it's awesome) and then to Noodles (mmmmmmmm) for Italian food. 


*My brother and I also found time to dress up as hipsters at the mall. He's awesome, and my and his girlfriend Lisa went with us. They refrained from histperfying. 

*I ate my food too fast to take a pic. But the restaurant is amazing. 

We also went to Silver Dollar City for a day. If you don't know what that is, it's in Branson, Missouri (which is sort of like the Christian Vegas mixed with Outlet Malls - we lived in Hollister, right outside of it, for a minute, and my mom graduated from College of the Ozarks, so we go up pretty often) and it's basically a hillbilly/pioneer themed theme park. They have a huge cavern, Marvel Cave:


*via And yes I rode this. It. Was. AWESOME.

And a lot of cool shops and amazing food: 

*It's not overwhelmingly large, but it is hilly. And crowded. And the coolest. via

*I usually go the corn dog route, but yum. via

*Lots of cool shops. We also always do candles - you can dip your own to do colors - and I have to eat a chocolate cinnamon roll or my life isn't complete. 

*And it's just pretty.

*It's kind of hokey, but we do always have a blast and it's a really nice family trip. Also it was very hot and sweaty and that's why everyone has huge hair and looks kind of icky. This was, at least, before I got absolutely drenched on a ride.

After SDC, we went to Branson Landing (we had had steak n' shake for lunch, and many corn dogs and funnel cakes - it was time to walk) and found some great deals on clothes, and just took in how pretty the area is: 

*ariel view looking west towards SDC, which is on the other side of town. It's hilly. That's the White River, like what runs through Cotter, and this used to just be warehouses. It's amazing how they've incorporated the new stuff into the old main street. via

*Just a neat shopping center. via

Then we went to Cracker Barrel for dinner, which is never a bad thing. 

At the end of the week, though, it was time for me to come back, take my comps, and get back into the swing of things at school. 

Petunia was ready - my parents' dogs wear her out (but she secretly loves it): 

*She's a useless road trip companion. She does this the instant we get in the car.

*At least it's a gorgeous drive back to Memphis, at least until you get to the flat part of Arkansas, which is not pretty. I hate when people have only seen that part and think that's all it is. 

*I had an amazing trip home...but it was nice to be "home" in Memphis again!

Hope everyone enjoyed their last couple of weeks of summer - and if anyone ever wants to roadtrip to one of the prettiest parts of the country, let me know, I've got connections!