Monday, June 25, 2007

A Few Days In Arkansas--Day One

My husband had five days off from work last week, and rather than waste the time doing something useful around here, we decided to take a trip. My husband originally wanted to go to Colorado, but I thought that was too far away, too expensive, etc.... Back in March he had mentioned wanting to go to Arkansas, so I talked him into that instead.

We have been to Arkansas before, and we did not do that much to prepare for the trip. We just took the business stuff out of the van, packed shovels and rakes and implements of destruction, and packed a bit of clothing and food before heading east. I wasn't entirely sure that we were going until the night before the trip. He wanted to leave the business stuff in the van so that we could go straight on with his business trip to Oklahoma. I talked him out of that too. Kind of wish I hadn't have done that now, but there's work to be done around here, and I'll eventually have to stop being a baby about it and get to it. Besides, there is still that whole flooding thing to worry about, which is a bit strange for late June, even here.

We ate lunch at a KFC just before we got out of Texas. That turned out to be a mistake, because there was this place that he wanted to go about thirty miles into Arkansas. Also, there's this odd thing that the fast food place you have at home has different specials than the ones a few counties over, and my attempts to save a few dollars by ordering the Wednesday chicken fried steak special only got me a funny look from the teenager at the cash register. This is Kentucky Fried Chicken, and we don't have chicken fried steak.

At least I wasn't so far from home that I had to explain what chicken fried steak was.

So we drove past the little historical place that the lady at the tourist info place told us about. We could always do that on the way home. Another half an hour past that and we got a motel room. It was small, and the bed was small, but it was the last room at that motel, and we'd already found out that another motel was full. Rather than lose that room while we went down the street to find out if the third motel was full, we took it. The little bitty room had a full kitchen instead of just a micro-fridge, which would have been nice if we were planning to be there for more than a day. I'll have to remember that if we ever make a similar trip.

We unpacked some of the food and dropped off our suitcases and headed for the diamond mine, about two miles from our motel.

Crater of Diamonds State Park is an open pit mine. For a 6.50 entrance fee, you can go in and look around, pick up rocks and keep any that you think are interesting. Some of the really small rocks turn out to be white, yellow, or brown diamonds. I didn't happen to find any, but they are out there. While we were in the sluice area some bells sounded, which means that someone has found a diamond. It was about one and a quarter carats, found by a woman in her eighties who wasn't even doing any digging. She just spotted one while she was watching the grandkids. Weird.

There are other things of interest in the park if you are into rocks. There's a lot of jasper, most of it a nice red color. I spotted some pretty good sized rocks right when we first walked into the mine area. I thought that I'd like to take a few of those home, but I couldn't carry them around with me all day, and I didn't want to head back to the car. We're allowed to come and go all day, but it was a long walk back to the parking lot, and I wasn't ready to do that so soon.

We'd brought shovels and buckets with us, but we rented a one set of screens. You can rent all kinds of equipment at the park, but you have to leave a deposit. The rent for the screen set was about three dollars, but we had to leave a twenty dollar deposit. Rent for a complete kit is ten or fifteen dollars, but the deposit is like sixty. And you can bring all kinds of equipment from home, as long as you don't bring anything with a motor or wheels into the mining area. Some people actually brought tents and such so that they could work in the shade.

We wore thrift shop clothes that we bought cheap just for this trip, and we both wore bright orange hats so that we could spot each other in the distance. I picked up a few rocks, got about half a bucket of dirt and headed for the sluice area. My husband also got a bucket of dirt and headed off in that direction, quickly leaving me behind. I kept thinking that he would turn around and notice that I was having a bit of trouble, but he didn't. It was a bit of a walk, not a really long walk, but difficult for me to handle on the uneven surface while carrying a bucket of dirt and rocks.

And I was also carrying the one set of screens. He didn't have any. So I thought by the time he got to the sluice area he would finally notice that I wasn't around and he'd come back to check on me.


He walked around, took a few pictures, and then just sat on the ground to wait for me.

I just was not making any progress. It's sort of a big plowed field, and I had first thought to just walk in a straight line to the sluice area, and that's what my husband did. But it was hard that way. I kept having to set the bucket down every few steps. What I should have done was walk along one of the rows back the way I came a bit until I came to a path that went around to the sluice area. It was a much longer distance that way, but it probably would have been a faster way to get there. But by the time I realized my mistake, I was pretty far from the path. And I still thought that my husband was going to come back and help me.

But he didn't do that, so I kept going the way I had been. I stopped every few feet to rest and I picked up the occasional interesting rock. When I finally get back on the path, my husband gets up and meets me half way. I am not happy when he gets there. And he totally doesn't get why.

We spend about an hour or maybe an hour and a half getting the dirt off a bunch of little rocks and don't find anything. We picked out a few little things just to be sure, but they later turned out to be jasper and maybe calcite and stuff like that. My husband found a black rock with a gold colored streak through it, and we picket up some jasper on the way out. Not the really big red ones, cause those were just too much work. In the future if I want some of those I'll have to get them and take them back to the car when I first get to the park. At the end of the day all you really want to be carrying is an almost empty bucket with a few little things you want to have identified.

So we got our arms stamped again so that we could get back into the park, took the rocks and buckets and shovels and rakes and implements of destruction back to the car, and then walked around a bit a took a few more pictures.

In the park, right next to the mining area, is a nice big swimming pool. There were probably more customers in the swimming pool than there were in the mine.

If I ever do this again in the summer time, I'm going to ask if it is possible to get an all day pass for both the mine and the swimming pool. Then I'd collect some rocks, take them back to the car, go back to the mine and sift through the dirt a bit to look for diamonds, shower, go for a swim, dry off, get dressed, go to lunch, come back, collect some more rocks, take the rocks back to the car, go back to the mine and look for diamonds, have another shower, have another swim, dry off, get some more rocks and/or look for diamonds, maybe have another shower and a swim, dry off, get some more rocks and/or look for diamonds, go back to the motel, have a bath, and then go to dinner or maybe just stay at the motel and order a pizza or something.

Anyway, with about a bucket full of rocks we went back to the motel and had a bath and watched some TV. We ate food that we'd brought with us and didn't leave the motel. I thought about having a swim in the motel's little pool, but there were already a lot of people in it. We were very tired and had no trouble getting a full night's sleep even though the bed was a lot smaller than what we're used to.


Babybull40 said...

Sounds like you had an alright time.. How come you had to supply your own equipment? Too bad you didn't find that Diamond instead of the older lady.. that would've been cool...
Last year We headed up to Northern Ontario.. Sudbury and it's a nice enough city.. lots to do there .. We went to Science North and it was pretty cool.. Also we went to check the mining..they have a tour of tunnels and how the mine for nickel.. and a bunch of other stuff and they have a gift store with some interesting things..

dmarks said...

Yes, it does sound like a pretty good time. I do not remember there being a swimming pool at "Crater of Diamonds". Never seen chicken-fried steak at KFC either.

Colorado is a great place for roadside rock shops: the best I've ever seen.

(BB40: a Sudbury vacation? Interesting idea!)

laughingattheslut said...

I didn't have to supply the rest of the equipment, but since I knew that I was going to a diamond mine and a quartz mine I packed my own equipment to save some money. The screens I had to rent because I didn't have the right kind at home, and I figured I'd rather pay the three dollars rent than buy some or try to make some. If I do this on a regular basis I will get my own screens.