Thursday, June 28, 2007

A Few Days In Arkansas--Day Three and Day Four

Friday morning we ate stuff in our room for breakfast, and then we went and rode a Duck.

If you are not familiar with the Duck Tours vehicle, it is a cross between a boat and a school bus. It comfortably seats 32 people, if those people happen to be eight year olds and/or very skinny anorexics. The rest of us tend to be less comfortable. There is no air conditioner. It is an open-air vehicle. And most of them are about forty years old and very noisy.

My husband has fond childhood memories of going on Duck Tours in general, and riding a Duck in Hot Springs in particular. So this was actually something we planned to do. We got a flyer with the time schedule and left the motel early enough to get a space in the free parking garage and buy tickets for the first tour of the day.

We saw a sign that said Duck Tour discount tickets--$4.

I didn't believe them, but I went in anyway. So here's the deal. A regular ticket for a Duck Tour is twelve dollars, or you could buy a combo ticket for the wax museum and the Winery and the Duck Tour for fourteen dollars. Subtract the five dollars for the wax museum and five dollars for the Winery, and that makes the cost of the Duck Tour four dollars.

I didn't want to go to the Winery, and I doubt that I would have paid five dollars to go to the wax museum. But we were doing dumb tourist things, so we bought the combo ticket anyway.

The bus driver had all kinds of jokes and comments, but I couldn't hear most of it. I'm sure that it was all really funny stuff. The ladies at the back right next to the speakers were laughing all the time.

Immediately after the tour, our particular Duck vehicle had to be taken to the mechanic. Not to worry if you already bought a ticket. Hot Springs has a whole fleet of Ducks.

Next we went to the wax museum. There is a wax museum about a mile away from my home, which I have been to less than ten times, and more than half of those visits have been in October for the haunted house. So I don't think of wax museums as any big deal, and when traveling I usually don't go to them unless I have free tickets or combo tickets, or unless I'm with a group and the rest of the group wants to go. But I have been to a few, and this one was very small and just not that good in general. It was mostly stuff from the sixties with a few things added like the Clintons. A funny bit was of the British Royal family meeting the Nixons. Prince Charles looks like a teenager, and for all I know the two families met each other when Charles was that age. But then there's this figure that is supposed to be Princess Diana, except that it doesn't look anything like her, and she looks twice as old as Charles instead of the other way round. In fact, Diana looks older than anyone else in the group, except maybe Philip.

After the Wax Museum we walked around a bit and ended up in an old bathhouse that's become part of the Hot Springs National Park. Like the Alamo in San Antonio, this is always a surprise to me, that the park itself is right there in town with the bathhouses and other tourist stuff. I somehow expect that it's something that you have to drive out of town to see, not the thing that the town was built around.

We looked around a bit, and then we went to lunch at a Mexican place. Okay, it didn't say Mexican restaurant, it said Latino restaurant, but I think it's mostly the same. It seemed just different enough from the stuff around here to be interesting.

My husband made a comment about the bill. Well, that's what it costs to eat out without using coupons. And the food was really good.

Then we walked around the park a bit, and then we got the brilliant idea of walking up to the tower. It wasn't quite as bad as an earlier brilliant idea of climbing Stone Mountain in Georgia, but on the other hand I'm seven years older now, and I'd spent the two days before that digging for rocks. But, you get going and it doesn't seem so bad, and then you're like halfway there and it seems wrong to just give up and turn around. So, we kept going, but we stopped often to sit on many of the big rocks along the trail. Anyway, it was like 93 degrees that day, and it probably wasn't a great idea.

Then we got to the tower itself and paid like six dollars each to go up and look around. I asked if we were allowed to take drinks up, and the cashier said we were, so I bought a couple of sodas from a machine. And then there was a sign next to the elevator saying that no food or drink was allowed, but I'd already asked, so I took the sodas with us anyway.

So I'm trying to be nice and move to the back of the elevator so more people can get in. And then the elevator started up, and the it turns out to be one of those elevators with a glass wall, and I'm right next to the glass wall. No, no, no, no. I can't handle that, so then I'm moving back to the front of the elevator. And I still can't handle looking out at the view from the moving elevator.

But once we got off at the top floor, that wasn't so bad. And you can look down at the little bitty cars and the little bitty people. And we looked way down there at the bathhouses where we started walking. And over to the side you can see an amusement park, which surprised my husband for some reason, even though you can't go anywhere without tripping over an advertisement for the place.

My husband took a bunch of pictures, and then we went one floor down. You can still see a lot from there, but that part isn't open air, and I felt like sitting down in an air-conditioned room for a bit. In this room there is all this stuff about the history of Hot Springs and stuff about famous people who lived there.

In the wax museum we had seen a figure of Carrie Nation, but I really didn't know who that was. So there was stuff about her in the tower. She went around preaching against alcohol and smashing stills and such. My kind of gal. But apparently like most people she came here to get away from it all and lead a quiet life, so she didn't do so much of that after she got to Hot Springs. That, and she was having trouble finding other people in the area to help with the cause.

I felt mostly recovered from the half mile walk, so we went back down the elevator. I bought a souvenir T-shirt for eight dollars. I wasn't planning to buy a lot of stuff like that, but I had to buy at least one shirt because I realized I didn't have anything left to wear. I'd been so worried about packing things appropriate for digging in the dirt that I forgot to pack much in the way of regular clothes. I was wearing the one normal shirt I remembered to pack, and now that was covered in sweat and I didn't want to wear that same shirt again that evening. So I bought a T-shirt and a magnet, and we headed back down to the bathhouse area.

I thought I had recovered from the walk up, and the walk down shouldn't be so bad. But we took a wrong turn somewhere so that the trail was at a steeper angle and there were no big rocks to stop and rest on. It wasn't a really bad angle, but I was afraid that I was going to slip on the gravel. My legs were shaking most of the way down, and I was very glad when that part of the walk was over.

My husband's latest obsession is learning little magic tricks, so I thought that he might like to go and watch a magic show. But I suggested to him that we might not want to buy the tickets right then. The show was at 8pm, and we should probably not buy the tickets until later. We should wait til after dinner and see if we feel up to it. The suggestion seemed to totally baffle him. Never mind. We went and bought the tickets.

The tickets were fourteen dollars each, and we also needed to have some money left over for dinner and anything we might want to do on the way home Saturday. So we did not have a mineral bath or any spa treatments. I didn't expect that we would. Just twenty minute soak would have cost like thirty dollars, and a twenty minute rub another thirty, so just the forty minute deal for the two of us would have been a hundred and twenty dollars. So I didn't expect that, and it wasn't anything that we had planned to do, but it would have been nice. Spa treatments are kind of the point of going to Hot Springs, and we never get any.

Okay, now that we've bought the magic show tickets, I pretty much have to call it quits for the day. It's not everyday that I walk around tourist places and/or walk half a mile uphill. I've got to have a nap or something if I'm going to stay out past ten o'clock.

On the way back to the room we stop at the Winery, since we still have that left on the combo tickets. I thought that they might have something cool for him to take pictures of, but not really. It was a store with a couple of rooms that were their "museum" in the back. And I don't drink alcohol, so no wine tasting for me. But they did have stuff like jelly and hot sauce for sale, so I probably would have bought some of that stuff if they'd had samples out. I'm afraid I don't get that. They open dozens of bottles of wine all day, but they can't open a couple of jars of jelly? They opened one bottle of hot sauce, but no one could be bothered to let me try any of it. Whatever. There's plenty of other places to buy hot sauce.

Okay, so it's back to the room. I had a bath and a bit of a nap and then read a little bit. I was still tired, but I felt better. We decided that we needed to leave at about 6 if we were going to find a place to eat before the show. Just before 6 my husband starts saying how tired he is. Well, he's the one who insisted that we buy the tickets ahead of time. I suppose we could go and ask about getting our money back or selling the tickets to someone else, or we could just forget it and be out twenty eight dollars if you feel that bad. No, it's not that bad. Anyway, we'll probably feel better after we eat.

There are a lot of restaurants and such right there, and if we don't find anything to our liking that isn't too expensive, we can just go to Subway. But we find a lot of stuff we like. I'm not that hungry, so we end up at a bar that serves Mexican food, and I just have guacamole salad while he has this huge plate of empanadas and all the side dishes. He eats maybe half of it, but it still takes me longer to eat my little salad. Anyway, dinner was nice, just maybe not as nice as lunch.

So then we go over to the old movie theater where the magic show is. And I thought maybe the show was new, and that if it was a success they would fix up the place. But no, the guy had been there for like twelve years or so. He talked about how travel is nice once in a while, but actually living out of a suitcase was tough. I can totally relate. Anyway, he said he stopped here for a bath and ended up staying.

My husband took lots of pictures and seemed to be having a good time. Later, he was writing about the show and he didn't seem as happy with it. Oh, well.

Saturday morning we went back to the bathhouse area for one last look around. And we bought a couple of plastic jugs and got some mineral water. The water is free, if you remember to bring your own containers you can take as much as you want. If you forget to bring a container, someone will sell you something. I had saved about a dozen empty soda bottles, but I forgot and left them at home. We just bought plain plastic gallon jugs for seventy-five cents. The museum sells these glass things with red labels for five bucks. I'm sure that there are a lot of different containers for sale. But the water is free, and you can even park for free for fifteen minutes if that's all you came for. Then we bought a couple of donuts and headed out of town.

So we drove back to the historical place that we skipped on Wednesday. I didn't realize that there was anything to do there besides the restaurant, but apparently there is an eight dollar tour. But all the buildings are closed from 12 to 1pm so that the people that work in them can go to lunch. So we didn't take the tour, because it was almost twelve when we got finished with our lunch, and we didn't want to wait around for another hour. A guy in historical clothes came and invited us to some sort of ball game at 2pm, but we didn't stay for that either.

My husband really liked his lunch, but I wasn't so impressed with it. I had a small ham plate, and it was really small. Not that I'm complaining, it was all that I wanted, but it is just weird to have your whole lunch served on a little dessert plate. My husband ordered the regular chicken friend steak plate and was very happy with it. So I guess it's just one of those places for people who really like chicken fried steak. And, if you really, really like chicken fried steak, there's an all you can eat plate.

Soon after we got back into Texas, my husband had to stop and buy a Red Bull. He said that it was probably a good thing that we didn't go to Colorado instead, since this little five hour drive was getting to him and there's no way he could have driven thirteen hours instead.


Babybull40 said...

Wow.. You were busy.. That wax museum sounds kinda lame.. I've only ever been to the one in Niagar Falls Ontario and it was pretty good.. At least the figures looked like the person they were representing...

dmarks said...

I can't say I have ever been to a wax museum.

Hot Springs sounds like it is one of those "major tourist trap towns": I know of a few others: Wisconsin Dells, Niagara Falls, and Gatlinburg TN. They often all of the same sorts of repeating things: Xanadu House of the Future, wax museums, Duck rides, lots of waterparks.

rebecca said...

Ouch! I'm always a little regretful whenever us locals don't get a chance to offer some input before our visitors spend their hard earned vacation money and precious time here in Hot Springs.

Recently geographer Warren Bland named Hot Springs, Ark. the No. 1 place in America to retire.

I gotta admit, Hot Springs is a pretty cool place to live, even for those of us who aren't yet retired.

Rebecca McCormick,
Travel writer, Hot Springs Village Voice
and Gannett News Service

David in DC said...

Laughing --- You get the most interesting spam.

Unless you already know Rebecca, in which case, to quote the late Emily Litella, "Never mind"

The Diva's Thoughts said...

I would love to ride one of those duck tour bus thingys. I never have.

Philip. said...

We don't have Duck yours here in England.

Last time I tried to ride a duck I squashed the poor little thing :-)

Dame Honoria Glossop said...

I just found your blog and I love it!I want to ride a Duck, and do all those touristy things!

laughingattheslut said...

Welcome new reader, and thank you very much.

Unfortunately, the blog is not just full of tourist stuff. There is some travel, but most of that was done about seven years ago and I don't write much about it now. I suppose I will get around to that eventually, but now I mostly find things to complain about.