Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Arkansas Winery Tour & Aux Arc COE Camp

Hi all -- Dianne here.  We drove from Enid Lake, Mississippi all the way across Arkansas to the Aux Arc Corps of Engineers Campground in Ozark, Arkansas.   I'll upload the many, many photos we took and then Roger will describe our very enjoyable Arkansas visit and winery tour.

Roger here...  I'll start with the interesting trip across Arkansas.  As we approached Memphis, Tennessee (still in northern Mississippi) we were startled to see a sign that indicated that we would be entering Interstate 69.  Our home in Indiana is only a mile from I-69 and we knew (or thought we did) that its southern terminus ends in Indianapolis.  It was one of those "Twilight Zone" moments.  We soon discovered that there is indeed a portion of I-69, just a few miles long, in Mississippi.  Really weird.  I assume that if the I-69 extension from Indy to Texas becomes a reality that this section will already be in place and ready to be connected. 

 Traveling through Memphis was pretty miserable.  Lots of one-lane sections in the city where there should have been at least three lanes.  Very bumpy and very confusing -- actually a forced exit from the interstate at one point.

When we entered Arkansas we had a second "Twilight Zone" moment.   It looked EXACTLY like the farmland of our home state of Indiana - flat fields, deciduous trees, open space.  It remained that way until we exited Little Rock in the center of the state.  Almost immediately there were wooded hills, river valleys, and mountains. 

 We were approaching the Ozarks.  As we traveled through Conway, Arkansas, we spotted a car window that was painted with the following, "Conway - Home of Kris Allen - America's Idol".   Dianne and I both watch the show, but did not realize the connection until we saw the sign. 

 We had another celebrity moment in the small town of Ozark, Arkansas when we passed by the Sonic drive-in where Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie worked in the first season of their reality TV show, "The Simple Life".   During the show, they worked a short stint at the Sonic, put an off-color message on the marquee, went across the street to the grocery store in silly costumes during their work shift, and of course were fired.  Dianne did not want anyone to know that we watched the show and thought it was funny, and told me not to put it in the blog.  Oh well.   (Dianne here -- Most of that show [the original "Simple Life" is the only one I watched] took place in 

Altus, AR which was also very near our campground).   There, I've been "outed"  -- Please don't hold it against me!!

When we arrived at the Corps of Engineers Aux Arc Campground, we thought we would be on another lake, but in fact our very wooded site (no satellite here) was directly on the Arkansas River.  How mesmerizing it was to watch the river pass by from nearly every vantage point. 

 The serene atmosphere was completed by a view of Ozark, Arkansas on the other side of a very

 picturesque bridge. 

We were very curious about the name of the campground, Aux Arc, and equally interested in how to pronounce it.  It is obviously French, but I doubted that our friends from Arkansas pronounced it with a French accent.  After a little googling I discovered that the name came from the curving (arc) of the Arkansas River at the point of the town of Ozark.  The pronunciation of Aux Arc is actually OZARK - duh!

We stayed three nights (two full days) at Aux Arc.  We decided to see some of the countryside the first day, and relax by the river the second day.  Chris, our very friendly neighbor in the adjacent campsite from Russelville, Arkansas, visited us with a map of Arkansas that he had highlighted with recommended scenic drives.  He added good places to stop for lunch in the margins of the map.  What a nice guy!   (Dianne here --  So far, Arkansas wins the prize for friendliest people).

Day one...  Since we usually have a glass of wine before dinner, we opted to start the day with a visit to nearby Altus, the wine capital of Arkansas.  We had seen several signs advertising wineries and decided that it might be fun to visit.  We actually stopped at

 three wineries

 (all near each other) and bought a few bottles of wine at each one.  Chateau

 Aux Arc was a beautiful place - great wine shop and beautiful landscaping

 (flowers, pathways, boulders,

 etc.).  We really liked the wines there and bought three different vintages.  The second, an old (late 1800's) winery was in a complex of Swiss Alps-type buildings and called 

Wiederkehr - a couple more bottles and a cool shirt for Dianne, as well as a glass cutting board for the motorhome.  The third winery was called

 Post Familie - also very old, late 1800's.  Dianne has done a little investigating and found that the founders of the last two wineries had determined that the soil and climate of the Altus area was similar to the outstanding wine producing areas of Germany and Switzerland.   We also discovered that this area of Arkansas is considered the premier wine producing area of the South.  Who knew?

Part two of day one....  After all the wine sampling we were hungry.  We followed one of the highlighted roads on Chris's map to the postcard-like small town of 

Paris - one of those county-seat type towns centered around an interesting courthouse. 

 We dined at the


 restaurant, very appropriate considering the morning activities.  This was one of those non-fancy places with great food.  We both had pulled pork sandwiches on homemade bread.  Delicious!  After lunch we continued to follow Chris's highlighted map and went up, up, up 

through Mt. Magazine State 

Park to the top of Mt. Magazine 

 (the highest point in Arkansas).  There were many amazing views and lots of hiking trails that we did not take - too bad the dogs weren't with us.  I got a picture of one of the butterflies

 for which the area is famous.  

Part three of day one....  After we returned, Dianne suggested that I cook our supper (salmon)

 over a wood fire using the fire pit at our campsite.  She had seen our good neighbor, Chris, doing this the night before and decided it would be fun.  It was, and it was yummy.

Day two (relaxation day)...  It was a lazy day by the river.  We spent the day watching the water flow by and listening to a live country-western concert from a nearby pavilion as we sat by the motor home.  We talked again with neighbor, Chris, and his son, who is going to college to be a middle school teacher :-).   I took a picture of a barge going up the river.  Dianne intently tried to identify a new bird (actually listening

 to bird tapes by the river to see if she could match the bird's song).  (Dianne here --  after two days, I finally gave up trying to identify my elusive bird.  I took an audio recording of its song and e-mailed it to our bird expert, Brad, in case he can identify it.  Roger is VERY WORRIED about my bird obsession!!  

Mystery Bird Update:  Our friend, Brad, quickly identified my mystery bird as a Summer Tanager.  He also had this to say about Roger's fear of my bird obsession:  "Roger: The difference between an obsession and an expertise is in the value placed on that obsession/expertise by the observer. In my opinion the more obsessive one is about identifying a particular song, the longer that ID remains in the memory of the birder!!   THANKS, BRAD!!!!!!  I knew you'd understand!!

We saw a couple of scissor-tailed flycatchers with unbelievably long tail feathers.  Dianne, the pyrotechnic queen, built a fire

 from the wood that Chris gave to us before he and his family left.  

We ended the day talking about how we would definitely return to this part of Arkansas.  It is just one of those places that has a good feel to it.

Next up, two days of Walmarting, probably no pictures, as we travel to Sioux Falls.  We will keep you posted.


Anonymous said...

Are the whippets with you on this trip ? Be careful with the construction on I-29 in Iowa & South Dakota. I just drove it on Monday & a lot of 4 lane goes down to 2 lanes.

Travelwithwhippets said...

Hi -- We did not take the whippets with us on our sightseeing excursions to Altus and Paris, because we knew we'd want to eat out and sample wine and didn't want to leave them in the hot car. They stayed back in the motorhome in air-conditioned comfort, with the tv on for them!

We did experience the construction, and there were a few NARROW spots, but we had no bad delays. Some bumpy, bumpy stretches, though, so we're glad they're fixing them!