Today is notable for the occasion of Sandy's and my 30th wedding anniversary. We celebrated this milestone before we left on this trip—dinner with the Barkers and Hedlunds on Friday and dinner with Mindy on Saturday before we left town on Sunday. As anniversary gifts, I gave Sandy some jewelry (what else?) and she gave me the new recliner I mentioned earlier. I hope she's as pleased with her gift as I am with mine. We know we're getting older when people respond with, "Wow!" when we tell them how long we've been married. Or, perhaps it's an indication of the shorter duration of relationships these days. It wasn't very long ago that a couple would have to be married 50 years to get a "Wow!" In any case, we consider ourselves to be very fortunate to have found each other and to have been blessed with a great marriage. I believe God had His hand in bringing this about, as I believe He has someone in mind for each of us, if we will just be patient and sensitive to His leading. We know a lot of fine people, though, who have had a marriage breakup, so I'm thinking that even some of the spouses God favors are still humans and capable of being stupid and selfish. We just won't get everything 100 percent right this side of heaven, will we?
There are other common things about Sandy and me that aid in our compatibility. My parents, like Sandy's, grew up during the Depression and worked hard to overcome their humble agrarian beginnings. They were God-fearing, church-going, honest and humble people who cherished their families and taught their children the difference between right and wrong, spanking their behinds when they did the latter. They also modeled that essential element that seems to be missing from so many marriages today—selflessness. It seems fairly simple to me that if a spouse always conducts his or her activities according to what makes the other one happy, there won't be a lot of time left over to do things that are harmful to the relationship. In the case of the wife, she'll be so pleased and astonished that she'll let the husband get away with a lot of stuff he does that's not so selfless—and there's gonna be some of that because, well, boys will be boys. (Note to guys: As long as we're talking about this, just remember that the wife's good humor about our occasional self-indulgence is confined largely to such activities as the acquisition of guy toys or going golfing or fishing or things like that—and these in moderation. There's a good chance that if you have treated her right in your relationship, she herself will insist that you do these guy things, in which case you're home free! Please note that this does not include the acquisition of girlfriends. If this is your weakness, then all bets are off. My theory doesn't work for this; God takes a dim view of it, and I'll just pray for you.)
When we awoke at Shady Pines this morning, it became evident that I had had some serious lapses in my preparations for departure on this trip. Because Sandy does the lion's share of getting us ready for RV trips, it is usually my self-appointed task to load the food items aboard Homer before leaving. I had been determined to select a rather minimal amount from the supply in our house, because we have learned that this can get out of hand, as we mostly eat out when we travel. For us, it's better to buy a few food items at grocery stores as we go. This assumes, of course, that we do indeed supply the trailer with a few basics to get us going, especially refrigerated food that would go bad if left behind. It was here that I had a problem. For reasons that still aren't clear to me, I took cereal from the pantry, but no milk. I took lunchmeat, but no bread. I also failed to take any eggs, bacon or any other kind of breakfast-type food. The result was that our breakfast here in Texarkana consisted of Spam, cream cheese and grapefruit. How pathetic is that? Sandy was very sweet about it, I think because she felt sorry for me in my exasperated state. This was one of those terribly embarrassing moments when I realized that the old brain has lost a few million more cells and that I will soon be a drooling mess.
One of the hosts at Shady Pines was a delightful lady of about 65, who was a charming conversationalist with an inexhaustible supply of things to say. I had walked up to the office to get some ice and escaped 30 minutes later when she paused long enough during her monologue to take a breath. She felt compelled to give me a seemingly endless exposition about her trials and tribulations of getting the park's wireless internet system set up. The system did work well, but my eyes glazed over after about the first five minutes of the story. Fortunately for me, it is usually Sandy who gets drawn into this type of conversation, as she has an engaging personality that makes perfect strangers spontaneously begin talking to her. This happens all the time, and I suppose they see her as easy to talk to. She is, indeed, friendly, charming and animated around people, even those whom she doesn't know, and I guess their response should be expected. Sandy doesn't seem to mind, however, for she is seldom at a loss for words herself—a fact that she will readily admit. One of her favorite articles of clothing is a tee shirt she bought for herself on which is stenciled, "I'm talking and I can't shut up!" This is just part of the mystique of a woman, I guess. Thankfully, guys only have to be concerned with simpler things, like nuclear physics or interplanetary space travel.
Ah, I see I have digressed quite a bit. We reluctantly said goodbye to Shady Pines and went immediately to Bryce's Cafeteria, which was celebrating its 75th year of hardening customers' arteries. I have already written about Bryce's in last year's Branson excerpt from this rag, so there is no need to revisit it. It should be required, however, that all who travel I-30 should remove their hats and observe a moment of silence as they pass by the tall Bryce's sign. And yes, it was just as good as ever. The peach cobbler was such a work of art that I can only speak of it in hushed tones, not wishing to diminish the religious experience.
The relatively short pull to Hot Springs was uneventful, and we settled in at the Cloud Nine RV Park, where we had made a reservation. This place was way out in the country on top of a mountain, where there was plenty of quiet and solitude with nice views of the surrounding hills.
Cloud Nine RV Park
When we checked in, we were greeted by an older woman with a German accent who, when I asked her about it, informed me somewhat brusquely that the wi-fi was not working. About this time an older man who had preceded me in registering came back into the office and requested a pull-through space rather than the back-in parking spot that he had been assigned. The German woman immediately began to chide him for his poor driving skills, saying the assigned space was plenty wide, so what was his problem? I was dumbfounded by her demeanor, as was the old man, who was quite embarrassed. I began to look for a swastika somewhere on her clothing, but then I let it go and paid for two nights, thinking that my T-Mobile card, while slower than wi-fi, would do in a pinch for internet surfing and e-mail. But it was not to be; we were too far out in the country for T-Mobile's signal to reach. After setting up, we motored back into town and had dinner at the Fisherman's Wharf Restaurant on Lake Hamilton. We had cold boiled shrimp and herb-crusted tilapia, both of which were excellent, as was our window seat on the lake.
Fisherman's Wharf Restaurant on Lake Hamilton
Hot Springs from West Mountain
Then we drove up West Mountain, within the Hot Springs National Park, where we saw some great views of Hot Springs and the surrounding mountains. After motoring around a bit more, we decided to go to Wal-Mart and get some of the food essentials that I had overlooked on departure from home. I guess Sandy didn't want any more Spam for breakfast the next morning.