Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Little Rock Arkansas, Don't Underestimate this Capitol City

We walked to North Little Rock on the Big Dam Bridge.
Fred and I enjoyed a stopover in Little Rock on our way to Memphis.  We chose Little Rock as a 2 night stopping point because it was about half way between Texarkana and Memphis. We didn't have high expectations but figured we could find something to do in the area.
We were very pleasantly surprised.   Little Rock is a vibrant city with a thriving waterfront business district.  In our short 1 day visit we saw a variety of restaurant cuisines, multi-use public places and evidence of an active art community.

Count Casmir Pulaski

Fred and I were looking for a way to spend some time outdoors so our first stop was the Murray Dam and it's "Big Dam Bridge".  The bridge is a pedestrian/bicycle span across the Arkansas River that joins the communities of Little Rock and North Little Rock. It is plenty wide for both forms of traffic to pass without incident or harsh words, unlike other multi-use public spaces where walkers and cyclists have to share.   I've walked the Brooklyn Bridge...It's not pretty if you step in the bike lane.
The bridge approach is by long sweeping ramps that make it easy to get to the top while enjoying  views of the river valley and surrounding hills. We identified Pinnacle Peak in the distance and enjoyed watching fishermen keeping their boats steady in the turbulent water. 

Big Dam bridge is in Pulaski County...note the banners.
We came upon references to Count Casmir Pulaski again.  The banners on the bridge have his image on them because Little Rock is in Pulaski County.   We could find no reference to the Polish soldiers having a specific connection to Arkansas.  There sure are a lot of places named for him.   We keep running into this Revolutionary War hero who saved the life of George Washington.   Fred was laughing because we recognized the picture of the bust of him before even seeing his name.  This guy is a Revolutionary War era Rock Star.

Pinnacle Peak from the big dam bridge.
The bridge walk was a great way to spend the morning.  The walk from the parking lot across the bridge and back was a 2 1/2 mile stroll.

Junction Bridge in downtown Little Rock with Verizon Arena and the USS Razorback on the North bank.
Our next stop was downtown to explore the River Market area of Little Rock.   The riverfront area is a large park with walking paths, play areas including one with musical instruments and a splash pad for children, an art instillation and the Junction Bridge Pedestrian Walkway.  Junction Bridge is a former Railroad bridge across the Arkansas River. It currently connects the city of Little Rock to North Little Rock and the Verizon Arena where basketball, hockey and arena football are played.  The North Little Rock Riverfront is also home to the USS Razorback a WW2 era submarine which is now a floating museum.

Renewal Ritual
Kingfisher and Infinity
My favorite part of the River Market was the Vogel Schwartz Sculpture Garden a 70 piece art exhibit that features small to medium sized pieces in a garden setting. Paved paths meander through terraced gardens  that seem like viewing room for the art pieces.  It was a joy to walk through them and to spend some time surrounded by beautiful things.

Nautilaus, a riverfront sculpture
Little Rock is a great place to visit. We could have stayed busy for several more days.  I would have liked to see Central High School and the National Parks exhibit there as well as the Old Mill a preserved movie set from Gone With the Wind. Next time we are climbing Pinnacle Peak too!

Ghost at the River, a tribute of the Trail of Tears.
To see more photos of our trip to Little Rock visit our Flickr Album.

Big Dam Bridge
7600 Rebsamen Park Rd 
Little Rock, AR

River Market District 
400 President Clinton Ave #200
Little Rock, AR 72201

Vogel Schwartz Sculpture Garden
at the River Market...located north of the Marriott and east toward the River Market on President Clinton Avenue

Friday, April 1, 2016

Texarkana: Right on the Line

Fred at the Courthouse with one foot in Arkansas and the other in Texas 
We are spending our last few days in Texas way up in the Northeast corner in Texarkana.   Here two states came together in a city where the dividing line runs right down the center of State Line Avenue.   We have crossed many State lines in our travels but have not found one like this where the border is carefully marked and you always know which side of town you are standing in.

Texarkana is a railroad town.   It was created in 1873 when 2 rail lines converged here.  Railroad officials and local land developers sold building lots in both states while preserving a 50 foot corridor on either side of the border. This border formed State Line Avenue.  We enjoyed driving up State Line Avenue in Arkansas and watching the state flag road pennants change back to those of Texas when we turned around to head south again.

We visited the City Courthouse and Post Office building. Half of it is in Texas and half in Arkansas.  The Beaux Arts style building is on the National Register of Historic Places. It is constructed of gray Arkansas limestone on a Texas pink granite base. 
There is a sign at the front of the building that provides a great photo op. You can stand with one foot in each state with the line clearly defined and labeled. Yes of course we did.

We met 2 Bi-state workers coming back to the courthouse after lunch   One of them was from Texas , he happily flashed us the hook em horns.  The other lived in Arkansas.   She insisted that Arkansas was superior in every way. They work together every day.

Texarkana's historic Union Station was also built on the line.  The Amtrak ticket office and the waiting room of the Renaissance Revival structure are in Arkansas but stopped trains straddle the line.   There are entrance and exit doors in both states. 
Caddo pottery at the Museum of Regional History
We enjoyed a short visit to the Museum of Regional History. There was a small music exhibit that featured songs by the great Scot Joplin, a Texarkana native. I enjoy Ragtime music and it was fun to listen to the old recordings.   Joplin's family were railroad workers in this Northeast corner of Texas.  The museum also has a large exhibit of pottery attributed to the Caddo tribe.

The Ace of Clubs House
Texarkana is  home to an interesting Victorian Era house. It is call the Ace of Clubs House and is built in the shape of the club from a deck of cards.   The House of Cards Museum was not open today when we were in town but we enjoyed looking at the outside of this once great edifice. Legend says that the house was built with the winnings of a poker game.

We rounded off our day of sightseeing with a  delicious cup of coffee at Taste and See, a local coffee shop that is also a confectioner.   It is a great combination and was the perfect place to rest our feet and sit a spell.   We were tempted by the array of handcrafted chocolates but decided to try the Gelato. Fred had Chocolate with Peanut Butter while I enjoyed the Espresso flavor.

Northeast Texas is a pleasant change. There are a lot of trees here. Tall pines, Flowering Dogwood and the occasional Live oak tower over the campground.   This forested environment feels like home. We both smiled to here crickets chirping last night and woodland songbirds this morning.  

We experienced some strong storms and rode out our first tornado warning in a leaking metal shelter that looked like an old shipping container bolted to a concrete pad.  It was interesting.  While listening to the local weather news for updates we heard this area referred to as Arklatexoma, meaning that corner where Arkansas, Louisiana, Texas and Oklahoma come together. I had to look it up. It's an awkward word but I guess it works for the forecasters.