Yes, I missed posting here yesterday. I feel bad about that but not what you’d call “guilty.” I’ll explain.

After Deb and I finished our home-cooked Independence Day meal — bacon-wrapped stuffed jalapeños, brats and three-bean salad — we prepared to clean up the grill and galley, planning to head down to a local fireworks show later. About that time I started feeling crappy, and then worse. I excused myself, went horizontal and took a hour-long nap.

It didn’t help much. We missed the fireworks. I ended up in bed and stayed there ’til Scout and Dipstick woke me up at 6am.

I’m feeling better today, thanks.

We did have a great Independence Day, just the two of us. It began with coffee and my traditional reading of the Declaration of Independence. We relaxed under crystal-blue American skies and in temps hovering around 80 degrees all afternoon. And we enjoyed one helluva meal, including a small batch of the special brats we always serve to friends who gather with us at Second Chance Ranch on July 4th.

This morning I turned my attention from Mercy back to Ernie. It’s been two months since we awoke to dead house batteries and knew they’d need replacing. We’ve had shore power every night since then, and the cells have held up under those conditions, so we kept putting it off.

Now, being planted here to set up our toad gives us a window to handle the batteries as well.

I called a local tire-and-battery place, an independent shop. The guy on the other end of the line actually knew his stuff, understood what I was saying and — on a day when most places are closed, including all of his sources — rang his reps’ personal cell phones in an effort to find what we need.

You don’t get that for 15 bucks an hour, by the way. You get that with ownership. And you get that in The Ozarks.

It sounds like he’s found us four of the batteries we’re looking for. We’ll know for sure tomorrow. Plus they’ll come out to the campground and make the swap here on our site — sweet.

On a whim, this afternoon Deb and I set off on a road trip — not far, by our standards, but as we were wheeling down Arkansas Route 43 it seemed like we were entering another world. Deb took the wheel of Mercy, stirring the gearbox skillfully on this twisting and often steep passage toward the Buffalo River.

Our destination was the tiny town of Ponca, best known as home to a managed herd of Rocky Mountain Elk. Although we didn’t see any elk, not knowing that we needed to continue only a few miles farther south, the getaway still was a tonic for both of us.

We were treated to panoramic views to the east as we ascended out of Harrison. The road meandered through farmland up on the plateau before corkscrewing into the Boston Mountains and down to the Buffalo River.

After stopping briefly at the Boxley Valley Historic District, we guided Mercy down a gravel road to the Ponca Access on the Buffalo, where several families swam and splashed in the shallow water. Deb and I walked out onto dry shoals, looking downriver at the bluffs, gazing up at the green mountains all around us.

Honestly, we can’t get enough of the Buffalo National River. Every glimpse leaves us wanting more.

The drive back to town was as spectacular as the trip south. Just inside the city limits, Deb spied an old-school diner and we swung into a parking space. We were hungry after our trip and the food was perfect — I had the “Blackjack Burger” and a side of white beans, a combination our young waitress called “unusual.”

Dessert? A piping-hot blueberry “fried pie.” I grabbed a fresh-baked oatmeal-raisin cookie for later.

Incidentally, one entire wall of this diner is the “Sharing Wall.” It gives restaurant customers an opportunity to buy a meal (or meals) and post it on the wall. Anyone who’s down on their luck and needs a hot meal is welcome to pull a ticket from the wall and eat because of a patron’s generosity.

Every day, around every corner, this place gives us more reasons to love it here.

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

#WiseUp #LibertyOrDeath

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