The sparkling blue water of Lake Eufaula was inviting as we crossed the bridge eastbound at Highway 9 Landing, in the background the sun was well above the rolling foothills of the Kiamichi Mountains. We aren’t noted for our early departures. I glanced at Patty and said “We’re leaving THIS to find something scenic to look at”. She nodded agreement and we continued east on the all too familiar #9.
We didn’t really have a firm plan, just get out on the road for a few days and look at the eastern Oklahoma and western Arkansas countryside, maybe get lucky and see some pretty fall foliage. Our first morning would include driving the always scenic Talimena Drive and lunch at, a little place we found a couple or three years ago, the Branding Iron in Mena, Arkansas.
Except for a slight delay due to a wrong turn (my bad) in Red Oak we were on schedule as if there was one? A note about Red Oak; the population is just over 500. I think they each have a railroad car, I have never seen that many empty cars outside a major rail terminal. The wrong turn made that observation possible.
The colors on the Talimena weren’t what we had hoped for, too much green and brown and not enough red, yellow and orange; but it was a beautiful day and the traffic was light. We were in no hurry and were pulling over at most of the little turnouts for a better look.
At one of those turnouts we saw a very unusual sight for the Talimena, in fact an unusual sight for that part of eastern Oklahoma. A loooong stretch limo was negotiating the tight turns of the Talimena. A couple turns later the limo was stopped for a better look.
Naturally we stopped for a better look at who in the heck is up here in a limo. I’m not sure who we were expecting to see but we were not expecting these guys. First out was a couple men in gray pants and beards, then a couple ladies in long dresses and little white bonnets. They just kept getting out, kind of looked like one of those clown car deals. We visited with them, Patty is a little more social than I am, and there were sixteen of them; mom and dad, their children and spouses. They were Amish from Chouteau, Oklahoma, just enjoying a family outing. We visited a bit exchanged our “have a good trips” and we were all on our way to the next scenic turnout.
A short distance down the road we rounded one of those tight curves and much to our surprise our lane of traffic was full of limo and people; they had a flat. Flats aren’t a big deal if the driver has the equipment and knows how to change a tire. They didn’t have a lug wrench and the driver didn’t have a clue; he was not Amish, I think he was Pakistani or somewhere on that side of the world. Not only did he not have a clue he didn’t seem the least bit concerned.
We stopped and a couple from Texas stopped, our lug wrenches wouldn’t fit, this thing had custom wheels, we needed a ¾ socket and a long breaker bar. Five motorcycles roll up, I know those Harley guys always have tools. They had a socket that fit but didn’t have anything to get enough leverage to loosen the lugs.
Let’s pause and paint a mental picture. A bunch of bikers trying to help a bunch of Amish fix their limo with me and another redneck thrown in the mix. The Amish ladies were patiently sitting on the grassy shoulder of the road. Bikers tried but couldn’t help, they headed to Mena. A little yellow sports car stopped, he had some tools but not what we needed, and he went toward Talihina with a promise to send help. All the while the driver is doing nothing to help, his phone didn’t have service, mine did, I insisted he use it and call his company, and he said their response was, they would look into it.
The new game plan was, the guy from Texas would go to Heavener, the closest town, find a wrench and come back. I couldn’t help and was going to leave but Patty’s heart is bigger than mine, we aren’t going anywhere until the limo is back on the road. We twiddle our thumbs and hope the guy from Texas really is coming back because that is the plan at the moment.
I’m going to pause again and talk about the Amish just a bit. During the entire ordeal not a single one of them ever exhibited any sign of aggravation or frustration, the men gave each other some good natured kidding and the women sat on the shoulder and visited.
Finally, a break. A pickup with a crossbed toolbox stopped. It was an older couple from down around New Orleans. I think he was carrying enough tools to open a repair shop. So now we have a Cajun, the Amish and one redneck on the problem. They were using the Cajun’s little compressor to top off the spare when Patty and I decided to see what was around the next bend.
We made it to the Branding Iron in time to order their lunch special. I think it was 2:45 the special ends at 3:00.
We spent that night at a neat little resort place (Shangri La) on Lake Ouachita just outside Mt. Ida. I think it was built in the 50s or 60s and they have seen no reason to change anything. I registered on one of those little cards like they used in the 60s. She didn’t want my phone number, ID or any form of payment when we checked in. We enjoyed the quiet evening, had breakfast paid our bill and hit the road.
We spent most of the day in Hot Springs, we even did a few touristy things there. If you are ever in Hot Springs and need to gain a few pounds I know just the place. Fat Bottomed Girls Cupcake Shoppe, it is up at the north end of Central Ave. I don’t remember the second best cupcake I ever had but I will remember this one. I had a salty caramel and Patty had some kind of a pumpkin deal.
If you have one of those cupcakes and don’t need the extra pounds I know just the place to neutralize those calories. Garvan Woodland Gardens is a 210 acre Botanical garden on the shore of Lake Hamilton. It is a beautiful place, we probably walked at least three miles while we were there and yes if I am in Hot Springs I will go back.
The next day was mostly a windshield day. We did Arkansas’ Scenic 7 route from Hot Springs to Harrison. Scenic 7 is appropriate for that drive it is a very scenic route. We took US 62 westbound from Harrison and planned to act like tourists again in Eureka Springs, however it was raining so we just drove around and watched the real tourists.
We stayed on that 62 westbound and found our way back to the Sooner state, and took some roads less traveled back to Longtown. The most color we saw was on US 59 between Westville and Stilwell.
The only thing that could have made the run any better is more red, yellow and orange and not so much green and brown.
It has been a while since I’ve pounded the old keyboard, I got a little carried away and let this one get a little long.
Good Night and God Bless.