Sunday, September 6, 2009

Allez Aux Arc

We are at the Aux Arc (pronounced "ozark," en Francais) Corps Of Engineers park and campground (map), just across the Arkansas River from Ozark, Arkansas and adjacent to the Corps-operated Ozark Lock and Dam. We've stayed here before -- that's our power steering fluid all over the ground in front of Odyssey in the photo, and I am happy to report that, almost exactly two years later, there is no trace of the stain remaining; I distinctly remember spending an hour or so with the kitty litter cleaning it all up. Oddly, on this visit, we've seen only one tow pass by on the river since we arrived.

Speaking of familiar places, after we left the Wal-Mart in Van Buren, Louise pointed out that we had stayed next door at the Lowe's there when we zipped through on I-40 back in January of 2006. I remember the stop (neither the Chili's nor Frank's Italian restaurant existed then), but I can't for the life of me recall why we chose the Lowe's over the Wal-Mart right next door. Historical satellite imagery (now available in Google Earth) shows the Wal-Mart to pre-date the Lowe's by a fair amount.

Friday morning brought us no closer to a real resolution on which way to head, but we realized that it was the beginning of Labor Day weekend (these holidays always seem to sneak up on us), and we had best find someplace to settle in while the tidal wave passed over us. We decided to remain more or less in NW Arkansas, and within striking distance of the Interstate, and so after one final check of the NHC forecast and the fire reports from California, we set out on what I though was a well-planned and Interstate-free route directly south on Arkansas 59 to Barling, then due east on Arkansas 22 to Paris (where I hoped to take a blog-titling photo of the bus for an "Odyssey in Paris" post here). From there it would be a short jaunt to the Ozark National Forest, with plenty of dispersed options, as well as a developed campground at Cove Lake if it was not already full for the holiday weekend, and even an easy scooter ride back for "dinner in Paris" as well.

Alas, it was not to be. After we crossed I-40 on 59, we started seeing giant yellow "No Trucks on 59 Through Van Buren" warning signs. The first few we ignored; often when we roll past such signs we both say out loud "we're not a truck." But as we got further along, the signs got more dire, with the addition of flashing amber lights, which we take as not a good sign. Eventually, just before the well-marked (but poorly paved) truck turn-around, we hit the sign that said "Weight Limit 12,000 lbs." Now, we're not bound by signs that apply to trucks, but a weight limit is a weight limit, and we weigh four times that amount. Reluctantly, we availed ourselves of the turn-around and headed back toward the Interstate.

The presumed work-around for my planned route would involve bypassing Van Buren on I-540, after first heading a few miles east on I-40. We'd then pick up 59 south of the city, and the total added to the route would only amount to a few miles. Nonetheless, once we were on I-40 and heading east, we decided to just continue on past Alma and pick up US-64 to Ozark, knowing that would give us this COE option, yet still keep open the possibility of continuing southeast on 309 to Paris if necessary, actually a shorter route than the original.

We did not hold out much hope there would be any space at this park. It's popular and well used, and it is on the reservation system. Like most COE parks, it is nicely developed, with three playgrounds, a boat ramp, a dozen or so river docks, restrooms, and 30- or 50-amp power and water at most of the sites, along with large gravel patios, nice tables and fire rings, and the ubiquitous trademark COE lantern-hanger "candy canes." So I was not surprised when we rolled up mid-day to be told that they were completely sold out.

The did allow as two (out of a total of four) unreservable "primitive" sites were still available, but "there's no way you'll get that rig in there." They were willing to let us try, however, and site #4 turned out to be plenty capacious enough to fit us, and with a rare open shot to the satellite as well. We did, however, first have to turn around in the nearby boat ramp parking lot, then back all the way to the site. We paid for three nights, at $9 each (half the 30-amp rate).

Primitive is something of a misnomer, as these four sites all have picnic tables and steel fire rings/grills, as well as paved driveways. The four sites share a concrete dock on the river, affording a nice view of the bridge just upstream, which is decoratively lit at night. Just next to the bridge, perhaps only 1,500' from here, is a decent Mexican restaurant, Mi Casita, which served us the largest portion of mixed fajitas (beef, chicken, shrimp, and chorizo) we've ever seen for less than $10, and our beer and margarita were just $2.50 each. The restaurant would be an easy walk, if not for the fact that there is a gate across the road with a "No Trespassing" sign just past it (although I think it is really a public street), and so we had to ride nearly three miles around the long way to get there (as shown on this map).

Now that we are nicely settled in with plenty of food and wine, we can sit back, relax, and watch the Amateur Hour that is Labor Day weekend at most any public campground. We're right next to the boat ramp, which is often entertaining enough, but we also have the class-C in #2 two sites over, traveling with the tent in site #1 beyond that, who have been running their generator more or less 24/7 since we arrived (even though quiet hours run 10p-6a), and blaring country music from some local station occasionally on a tinny radio. Their little yapper dog is also running around loose.

Our site shares a driveway with #3, and we luxuriously had it to ourselves when we arrived and all night Friday. Yesterday afternoon, a couple of fishermen with the world's oldest and most decrepit bass boat pulled in there and set up a giant tent; fishermen are usually quiet and sedate, so I thought no problem. As evening rolled in, though, so did another pickup truck with a pair of women in it, and these four partied well into the wee hours of the morning. I'm pretty certain they polished off two full cases of beer among the four of them, and they yakked loudly and carried on all night. At least I no longer felt any guilt that our air compressor would kick on a couple times in the middle of the night just 40' from their tent.

Around 2am or so, while I was still plugging away at getting my new computer up and running, I heard one of the women allow that she was very drunk, and wondering if she would get home safely, and then I heard her say "I wanna ride those scooters." Of course, "those" scooters would be ours, and I noticed she was eying them. Now, drunk folks have been known to lack judgment, and I would not have put it past her to hop on one of them just to try it for size, and they are actually rather easy to knock off their center stands and drop, so I doused all the lights (mostly, my computer screens) and kept an eye on them until they wandered back to their camp site and their attention turned to, umm, each other. No word on whether the ladies made it home safely, but both pickup trucks were gone this morning. The two fishermen came back just at checkout time, in yet a different pickup truck, loaded up their gear and tent, and took off. With any luck, the site will be vacant again tonight.

This couple days of downtime has been just what I needed to make progress on the computer project, and I am happy to report that I am posting this from my new laptop, although I am not quite finished getting everything in order. I am still getting used to the ~90%-sized keyboard (the one on the Gateway was luxuriously full-sized), and I've done a lot of backspace-retype here. Hopefully either the spell-checker or Louise will catch all my typos. Lots of folks have asked about the new computer, or computing on the road in general, and the detailed notes I am keeping about getting this machine set up may get turned into a dedicated blog post at some point.

We are paid up through mid-day tomorrow, at which point we'll either need to figure out where to head from here, or we'll move to a hookup space for a night to charge up our batteries and maybe even wash the coach.


  1. Highway 59 into Van Buren takes a sharp turn at the bottom of a steep hill. It could be trecherous in a large heavy vehicle.

    As I recall, the reason for the "no trucks" sign is that a truck was going too fast, didn't make the turn, and the accident resulted in several buildings burning. I don't know if anyone died as a result.

    Mike Goad
    on the road in Colorado -- heading from Estes Park to Ouray tomorrow.
    Haw Creek Out 'n About

  2. This is the reason for banning large vehicles on HWY 59 into Van Buren:,6192094

  3. @Anonymous: Pretty gruesome accident. Thanks for doing the research to find that 1985 newspaper article. While a cautious driver with warning of a big hill should be able to negotiate the grade safely, I understand why the town banned all large vehicles in the aftermath of such a tragedy.

  4. We were in your "neck of the woods" last week. We spent Thursday driving through southern Missouri and Thursday night in Eureka Springs, Friday morning at Pea Ridge National Military Park, lunch at Buffalo River National River area on our way to Conway, Arkansas. We enjoyed the beautiful views. I always wondered how to pronounce Aux Arc. Now I know!

    b hart


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