All the way up, all the way down

This is Day 427 of 15 Days to Flatten the Curve. Deb and I are well.

With that spiffy Colorado now at our disposal, today we chose to roll south down scenic Arkansas Route 7. Because we didn’t get started ’til noon, however, we missed a window of dry weather. Wet pavement and flat light made the road challenging for a couple of flatlanders driving a rented pickup truck.

Mile after mile of blind corners with posted advisories as low as 15mph, including a couple of hairpins, combined with ridiculously steep grades, sorely tested my curve nerves — Arkansas 7 barely allows time for giggles or expletives. I mean, I’ve ridden motorcycles all over America, looking for roads just like this, and for sheer entertainment value the state of Arkansas takes a back seat to no one.

We were still panting when we reached the Cliff House Inn, a funky old restaurant perched on the rim of what’s known as “the Grand Canyon of Arkansas.” A wide and breathtaking valley falls away from the Cliff House like a dream scene, especially mesmerizing on a day when the green ridges are cloaked in shifting mists.

The Inn’s small dining room offers not only unobstructed views but exceptional cuisine. Seriously, it’s one of those who-woulda-thunk-it places most of us would pass right by without a thought.

I had the “Razorback Burger” — eight ounces of Angus beef, mayo, sautéed onions, Provolone, smoked pork and BBQ sauce on a King’s Hawaiian roll — and a side of cole slaw with cilantro (which works, actually). For dessert I had homemade blackberry cobbler with vanilla ice cream.

And sweet tea, of course. It truly was a memorable meal.

Since I’d driven up to the restaurant, Deb took the wheel for the trip down. We passed back through the town of Jasper, which looks for all the world like it was frozen in the ’50s or ’60s, again crossing the Little Buffalo, Harp Creek and Mill Creek. North of Marble Falls we stopped to tour Mystic Caverns — my first-ever visit to such a place.

As I expected, the cave was a subterranean forest of natural mineral formations — stalagmites, stalactites and the like — but it was much more than that. What really struck us was the history of the place.

For 13 years, Prohibition drove the production and consumption of alcohol underground. In the case of what’s now known as Mystic Caverns, that was literally true — the cave became a “speakeasy,” complete with a bandstand, a dance floor, a distillery and a “loft” where its law-flouting patrons could sleep it off.

Mystic Caverns still bears scars from that era. Some of the walls and ceilings are stained dark from smoke. Formations are broken in places. But it’s all part of the story, and to me it made the visit more interesting, more rewarding.

What we got today was a double-dose of The Unexpected. That sort of thing can’t be planned, of course, but I think it’s worth chasing — and we will.

Take care of yourselves, Patriots. Stay calm. Stay sharp. Stay free.

#WiseUp #LibertyOrDeath

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