Saturday, September 16, 2023

2021-06-17: Summer Road Trip to Buy Our "New-to-Us" Home and Geocaching Through Texas, Arkansas and Missouri

Hello Friends! Well some of our regular readers may recall that the primary reason that we are able to go on so many geocaching roadtrip adventures is because we work in construction. We travel from project to project across the country and had to find short term rentals in each town to live in while there working. My wife has been traveling and working with me for about two years now, though this last solar project we just completed near Fort Stockton, Texas she didn't work on it.

When we arrived in the nearby small town of McCamey at the beginning, the choices for rental accommodations were old rundown houses from the 1940's. My wife took one look and decided she'd stay with her daughter in Killeen, TX for the duration. Now that it has completed, I have three weeks before starting at the next location in North Texas. So what to do but go on a roadtrip to Indiana where I found our "new to us" home to buy! Finally after a year of looking... a wish comes true!

My last day on the project was a Tuesday. I had packed up everything in the Jeep that morning and I made the 5-hour drive to Killeen after work that evening. On Wednesday, Candy and I packed as much as we could into our little 2-door Jeep for us as well as her teenage grand-daughter who rode along with us on this roadtrip adventure.

So we left Central Texas and our first stop wasn't until Texarkana, Arkansas or is it Texas? Or Arkansas? Actually it IS in both! The courthouse sits right on the state line. Now that's a divided court and was a virtual geocache, now archived (GC829D).

After 450 miles of driving, we stopped at a hotel in South Hot Springs, Arkansas for the night. Waking up Thursday morning and checking out, we grabbed a quick geocache (GC1KGXN) right there in the parking lot before hitting the road.

But not before taking a quick drive into the historical Hot Springs National Park and Bathhouse Row. Hot Springs, Arkansas, gets its name from the naturally 143 °F thermal spring waters found here. Flowing out of the ground at almost one million gallons of water each day. Native Americans called this area “the Valley of the Vapors,” and it was said to have been a neutral territory where all tribes could enjoy its healing waters in peace. Spanish and French settlers claimed the area in the mid-1500s. In fact, famous explorer Hernando de Soto was the first European to visit Hot Springs in 1541.

While it is true that President Grant designated Yellowstone as the first "National Park" in 1872, it can also be said that Hot Springs, Arkansas was technically the first national park when President Andrew Jackson designated Hot Springs a "Federal Reservation" in 1832 for public use. Hot Springs didn't officially become a National Park until 1921.

Bathhouse Row has evolved over the years from it's rustic beginnings to the modern spas of today. In the 1830's, Hot Springs earliest facilities were make shift shelters perches over individual springs. Later elaborate Victorian bathhouses flourished along the avenue. But those wooden structures were susceptible to rot and devastating fires. The present mix of Spanish Mission to neoclassical architecture date from 1911 to 1939, the Golden Age of bathing.

Medicinal bathing peaked in 1946 and many of the traditional bathhouses have closed or converted into the modern spas. Traditional bathing remains at the Buckstaff Bathhouse. The National Park Service has landscaped many of the exercise paths that were considered essential to good health. Like earlier visitors, you can still stroll the brick Grand Promenade behind Bathhouse Row or hike mountain trails throughout the National Park.

Walking among the shops there on the row, I spotted an iconic Zoltar fortune teller machine made famous from the 1988 movie "Big" starring Tom Hanks. Hmmm, what should I wish for?

Also spotted this restored antique Harley-Davidson motorcycle. Not sure about those white tires though!

And then there's this statue standing outside of Diablos Tacos and Mezcal restaurant. Still too early for lunch so just took a photo.

While walking down Bathhouse Row, we did find three geocaches and completed an Adventure Lab. Along with what I've already shared with you, they also highlighted Hot Springs history with Babe Ruth and baseball (GC2ZDMJ), the cemetery (GC3JFJ9, GC92RGD), and Al Capone and organized crime in the 1930's.

Time to get back on the highway heading north. Since I've already gotten the geocached counties along the way from previous trips, I tried to make up some time and skipped a lot of the geocaches I had picked out. Got back to I-30 into Little Rock to US-67 towards the northwest.

When we get to the town of Walnut Ridge, I make a right turn onto US-412 eastbound. It didn't take long before I thought it was a big mistake. CONSTRUCTION TRAFFIC!! My next target cache was still over 40 miles. While waiting for the lane to open back up to proceed, I thought I'd check the nearby geocaches. What do I see but a new geocache hidden on my birthday (June 11), published on the 13th, and STILL yet to be found four days later! I guess it was just waiting for us to pass by! I knew exactly what it was just from name "Dollar Skirt" (GC9CMGQ). Found and stamped the blank log sheet! WOHOO a First-to-Find! Thanks for construction traffic!

Then we crossed over into Dunklin County, Missouri and made a quick roadside geocaching stop for the county (GC3ABN5). Next door in Pemiscot County we found a very large geocache with a LOT of favorite points (GC1REX7) to complete the "heal" of Missouri.

Also in the town of Hayti was this restored one-room schoolhouse. The Hayti school building was built in 1874 and was used until 1895. There was a geocache there too but we couldn't find it, as well as several previous geocachers too. It has since been archived.

Jumping onto I-55 northbound a few miles into New Madrid County, we soon exit into the town of New Madrid, Missouri. There were three geocaches on my to-do list in town to be found. The first one was at the Byrne-Howard Cemetery (GC2M4Q4). The cemetery was established in 1833 with the burial of Morgan Byrne. He was joined by his wife Jane just two years later. This small cemetery has acquired 29 permanent residents between 1933 and 1947.

We also stopped by the Hunter-Dawson State Historical Site (GC47ZVN). William and Amanda Hunter owned a successful dry goods business in New Madrid as well as a floating store selling goods up and down the Mississippi River. They built their antebellum mansion with Georgian, Greek Revival and Italianate features popular during the period. The mansion took nearly a year to build and was completed in May of 1860. Unfortunately William died in 1859 before the house was completed.

In 1874 Ella, the Hunter's youngest daughter, married William Dawson. Upon Amanda's death in 1876 Ella and William moved into the mansion. Dawson served three terms in the Missouri State Legislature. In 1884 he was elected to the US House of Representatives. In addition, he served on the planning committee of the 1898 World's Fair in Chicago.

The home did suffer damage during the Great Flood of 1937. (There is a spot in the house where you can see the water mark on the wall.) Descendants of the Hunter family occupied the home until 1958. In 1966 it was purchased by the city of New Madrid. A year later the city donated the site to the state to use as a state historic site. The home now stands as a testimony to the grand lifestyle of the successful businessman prior to the Civil War.

Speaking of the Civil War, while the Union troops occupied New Madrid, the Confederates controlled passage of the Mississippi River just around the bend upstream on a large island in the middle of the river. This prevented supplies from reaching New Madrid or any Union troops further south. In March of 1862, Colonel Josiah Bissell, commanding the "Engineer Regiment of the West," surveyed land north and east of New Madrid. Bissell found swamps and bottomland inundated with early spring floodwaters and suggested to Brigadier General John Pope cutting a canal from north of the island going west into New Madrid allowing steamboats and other ships to bypass the Confederate forces. Pictured below is a submergible saw used to cut down trees below the waterline allowing boats to maneuver through the thick swamps.

Island #10 in the Mississippi River

Backing up a bit for earlier history, New Madrid was the first American town in Missouri. Founded in 1789 by George Morgan, Princeton graduate and Indian trader, on the site of Francois and Joseph Le Sieur's trading settlement. Named for Madrid, Spain, the town was to be an American colony. Morgan was promised 15 million acres by the Spanish ambassador, eager to stop U.S. expansion with large land grants. In 1800, Spain traded the territory back to France in the Third Treaty of San Ildefonso. After trying to regain control of Saint-Domingue (the present Haiti), where a slave rebellion was underway, Napoleon gave up on his North American colonies, agreeing to sell this territory to the United States in 1803 as part of the Louisiana Purchase.

And finally, the New Madrid Earthquake (GC1DRVR), made up of a series of monstrous and lessor shocks, which began December 16, 1811, and continued for over a year. One of the great earthquakes of the world because of severity and length it caused little loss of life in a thinly settled region. Some of the shocks were felt as far of 1100 miles.

So that's it for today. Tomorrow we see a little more of Missouri before getting into Illinois and Indiana.

To follow along on our travels and keep up with my latest blogs, you may do so here of course by clicking the "Follow" button to the right. And there's also my main website at AwayWeGo.US for the complete index of my traveling adventures going back to 2005. But also by using one or more of your favorite of these social media platforms: FacebookMeWeGabRedditTwitterGETTRInstagram, and TruthSocial. These all link directly to my profiles. Again, please feel free to comment and / or share.

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