So we’ve made reference to the Big Book O’ Plucky Fun, and this becomes important when we remind you that Rick, in a craze of work-avoidance and OCD, carefully printed out detailed maps to each and every stop, complete with annotated references to road side attractions, hotels, and the like. Since Rick likes to drive, Mary plays navigator, a job made even easier by Rick’s rather alarming ability to say “Now, we are taking the 60 to the 42 to the 171, and then the hotel/big concrete dinosaur/excellent barbeque is at 123 Nifty Place Dr.”
Bear this in mind as we leave Branson (and good riddance) at only a few minutes past Insane O’Clock, as scheduled, and agree that we have only to take Highway 76 to Highway 160 and then that straight to the little town of Doniphan, a journey that will take us through some more twisty roads (per the road map) but should ensure we get there in time for their small town parade and other Labor Day festivities. Simple, right? Easy, right? Just go east, and keep goin’ and goin’ until you are there, right?
Cue dramatic foreshadowing music.
Right. So we’re driving. And we’re driving some more. And we’re enjoying the tunes on the CDs. And we’re playing a fairly lackluster game of cows because it’s Insane o’clock and even the cows aren’t up this early.
Along the way we keep noticing signs for Highway 76 and Highway 65 crossing the road we are driving on all with placards that say things like “This way to Branson.”
“Wow, there are a lot of ways to get back to Branson,” we commented. “They are really making it easy to get to this place.”
Cue whatever music is played under the scenes of idiots thinking they know what they are doing despite the obvious evidence to the contrary.
We keep expecting a certain small town to be next on the highway and it isn’t. It’s some other small town.
Cue Benny Hill sketch music. Or Keystone Cops. Take your choice.
Finally, an hour and a half after we left Branson and we finally had to break down and admit that we couldn’t find the towns or roads or anything we were driving past on the maps we were using.
Rick decided to pull over and ask someone at a gas station. The very helpful woman was briefly terrified by the Big Book o’ Plucky Fun, but recovered well and when Rick insisted that they were “there” (envision finger pointing to map) and she smiled sadly and said “No, hon, you’re not even on this map any more.” A Missouri map was brought out and she showed Rick that in the 90 minutes they had been traveling, thinking they were about 80 miles east of Branson, we were, in fact, 26 miles NORTH of Branson.
“No, we aren’t,” said Mary when Rick returned to the car with the bad news.
Yes, yes… we had been in the car at a fairly constant 50-60 miles per hour for 90 minutes and we had somehow driven 26 miles. In the wrong direction. Somehow, we had managed to make a big loop right back to the 9th circle of hell that is the city of family entertainment.
No, we don’t know how this happened. We got caught in an episode of some sci-fi or “Twilight Zone” style TV show, where the hapless city folk try to leave the evil town only to find THEY CAN’T. In our defense, the people at the gas station couldn’t explain it either. They tried to show us on the map, but really, they had no idea.
Sheepish, we slunk back to the car, and considered our options. We would have had to drive back to Branson and start the day’s driving all over again—and this was our longest driving day, 330 miles or thereabouts—or we could go back to Branson and from there to our ultimate destination, Little Rock. It made more practical traveling sense to do the latter, and to make up for missing Doniphan we could go to the Clinton Library today, thus giving us more time in Memphis (where we realized we had more places we wanted to visit than originally planned, and not enough hours in which to do so) the next day.
So we hit that nice big interchange we had seen the signs for all together too many times on our futile morning drive, and soon were back in Arkansas. Did we mention it’s a really pretty state? We swear it’s not just because we understand how the roads work there.
We stopped at a yeasty-smelling bakery for a fat cinnamon roll and later paid homage to the cows with a stop at a family dairy where Mary bought some so-so cheese curds (not as squeaky as they could have been) and some excellent fresh chocolate milk in a glass. Cow was a bit lethargic at first (it was a long day) but turned thrilling as Mary racked up 101 before the expected cemetery took her off the board, and the final score ended up with our closest tally yet: 21-20, in favor of Rick, who was all ready to ask for a best out of seven until his win.
We pulled into Little Rock—well, there was more one more wrong turn, but let’s not talk about how we managed to miss the entire state capitol—and went right to the Clinton Presidential Library.
Now, we are unabashed Clinton-philes and so our hearts beat just a little bit faster just pulling into the parking lot. The very modern building stands between an old brick railway station and a railroad bridge that looks like a series of iron semi-circles, all situated on the banks of the river that passes through the center of town.
The library consists of comprehensive, multi-media displays of highlights from Clinton’s two terms, with barely a mention of certain blue-dress wearing lowlights (barely one sentence mentioning you know who and that just in passing), staffed by enthusiastic and helpful local volunteers. We walked away crushing on the former President even harder than ever. Next door in the former train station is the Clinton graduate school for public service, and currently displaying a series of New Orleans Katrina photos.
Turns out our excellent hotel, the Peabody, is just down the street (and visible from) the library, so we checked in before heading to the gift shop (which is located about halfway between hotel and library). We’re sharing the joint with a whole group of US submarine vets, who are a rowdy and rather hilarious bunch, quite willing to tell lusty tales of underwater adventure. One explained that any time they hit the gulf stream, they would go swimming naked in the middle of the ocean, albeit with a guy armed with a sharp shooter in the tower, watching for sharks.
Our rooms overlook the river, and have ridiculously comfortable beds, plus soap in the shape of ducks, the Peabody being famous for its twice-daily parade of our fine feathered friends (“….may be somebody’s mother…”) from the elevator to the fountain in the lobby and back again