Friday, August 19th, 7:04pm CDT
So I’m sittin’ here at the dinette table in Ernie on a Friday evening, tired but smiling, scrolling through a pile of fresh images, trying to figure out how to tell the story of yesterday and today. Honestly, I don’t think I can pull it off.
I’m not sure if I’ll publish it tonight. It may spill into tomorrow.
Apparently I’m getting more relaxed about my self-imposed daily “deadline.” That’s a very good thing.
Deb and I got spontaneous yesterday afternoon, pointing the truck south on US 65 with a specific destination in mind. It was a route we hadn’t taken since last May, when we drove to Little Rock to fetch a cooling unit for the fridge. We were so focused on the mission that day that we didn’t give ourselves a chance to enjoy the drive.
That changed yesterday. South of Harrison, Route 65 is a four-laner for a while, necking down to two after Valley Springs for the trip through the Boston Mountains — not a difficult stretch by any means, but twisty enough to be entertaining. It crosses the Buffalo River, climbs out of the valley and continues to please as it passes through a handful of humble burgs.
Saturday, August 20th, 7:55am CDT
(And just as I predicted, last night I got sidetracked and didn’t finish this post. More about why later. Continuing now with the tale of Thursday…)
Around Clinton (not named for that Clinton) the road widens again and the speed limit goes to 60mph. It’s not a superhighway but it’s an extremely well designed road. It allowed me to sit back and take in the scenery — sweeping vistas, the summer landscape a vast green carpet spread out under postcard skies.
It’s also at that point that Route 65 leaves The Ozarks, technically. The farther south we drove the heavier the traffic became, too, signaling that we were approaching Conway, Little Rock and I-40.
We rolled through Damascus and Greenbrier, saw the sign for Pickles Gap and our target came into view — the somewhat-famous Pickles Gap Weapons Shack on the east side of the road.
A pair of low, unassuming buildings arranged end-to-end house the Pickles Gap Weapons Shack and the Pickles Gap Cycle Shack. The latter comprises a modest service department, a parts counter and a showroom displaying a dozen or so immaculate used bikes, mostly Harleys but also an Aprilia and a couple of gleaming MV Agusta machines.
Not what I would’ve expected, to say the least.
The adjacent gun shop is small, tidy and remarkably well stocked. Two guys were working the counter — knowledgeable and not at all pretentious, they were glad to engage Deb and me in friendly conversation for an hour.
We had a ball. We learned a few things. We bought t-shirts and Black Rifle Coffee.
And then we headed back toward our campground, 106 miles north, enjoying the scenery from the opposite angle — seriously, it’s like parkland, very little evident human intrusion, simply magnificent. Small towns like Choctaw and Bee Branch add flavor.
Coming into the whistle-stop of Leslie I spotted an Exxon selling gas at $3.299 — oh, take my money. It wasn’t the lowest price we’d seen (a Casey’s in Greenbrier had regular for $3.249), but the Exxon came at the right time.
Our go-to stations here in Harrison, by the way, are at $3.449 and $3.499, so Thursday’s fillup was a satisfying win. We ended our trip with Mexican back here in town.
We returned to The Mountain yesterday (Friday) to get together with an engineer from the local electric company. The purpose of the meeting was to discuss and negotiate the location of the power pole and transformer in front of the property.
The conversation went very well, as much education as it was planning. We’ll need to get our site work done and the slab poured first, then erect a temporary pole before any power can be run. The engineer did plant a flagged stake at the agreed-on spot for the permanent pole.
Deb and I spent some time in her cousin’s garage, helping him with his ’42 truck and putting the finishing touches on a project of our own — a simple sign bearing our house number. When it was done we tossed it into the bed of the Ranger, drove down to the homesite and ceremoniously planted our “flag.”
We drank to that, of course. It’s another step toward making The Mountain our Home.
Later at the campground, our Texan neighbors dropped by our site with news that after much searching, they’d fallen in love with a property near Mountain View and put an offer on it. We pulled out two more chairs, poured whiskey, lit cigars and celebrated with them.
Talking with them mid-morning today, I learned that the seller accepted their offer.
These are the best days. We wake up without plans and predictions, open to whatever unfolds over the hours, and make the most of our American Life.
Take care of yourselves, Patriots. Stay calm. Stay sharp. Stay free.