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Livin’ the Farm Life (well sorta) for the weekend.

The romance and spirit of adventure just happened to land on Patti’s Birthday weekend.  She wanted to do something … maybe rent a cabin … and spend the weekend with our good friends, Gwen and JC.  However, she specifically said “No Cooking”.  Well, since i’ve become a big fan of Ruth Pepler and she has been coaxing me to bring Patti to the Dogwood Hills Guest Farm … Perfect!  As good fortune would have it, Dogwood Hills had a cancellation in the three bedroom cottage … in addition, Ruth said Patti could have her wish … No Cooking. 

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Pictured above right to left, Ruth, Thomas and Grace Pepler, owners, operators, cooks, farm hands, construction workers … they do it all and at the same time make guests feel at home.  We loved sitting around the big kitchen counter top visiting, taste testing and then enjoying as fine a meal as one can get anywhere.

This is a “hands on” working farm … so, the four of us jumped right in and milked one of the cows.  

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One can easily tell by the look on this cow’s face, we were new at the art of milking.  Fortunately Grace took over … happier cow I’m sure!

There were plenty of other Farm type duties … animal and otherwise. 

Possibly most fun was what we called The running of the chickens!

There were lots of other farm animals but now I want to turn to meal time … exactly like one would expect on a farm … only in this case better than expected, more of it and true farm to table.  Wow!!

Elk meatballs and spaghetti, buffalo brisket that melts in your mouth and special desserts such as apple pie, rhubarb pie and Birthday cake for Patti.

And then, as if all that wasn’t enough, this morning, Grace treated us to the most amazing Crepes i’ve ever eaten.  Wow again!

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This is one of the most unique weekends we have ever shared with our friends … plus we now feel like we are family with the Peplers.  I will just wrap up with a collage of more photos … Thank you Ruth, Grace and Thomas … you are Arkansas Treasures.

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Truly a new adventure for me … 

I’ve been to the incredible Queen Wilhelmina State Park before.  I’ve been camping most of my life … attending a Ham radio festival is a first for me.  Wilhelmina State park and Lodge is located in the beautiful Ouachita Mountains of East Arkansas.  The Lodge is fabulous, the scenery hard to beat, the mountain temperature refreshing, the trails invigorating … and at over 2600′, a perfect spot for a Ham radio Festival.

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A couple of my backpacking friends are Ham radio wizards.  They can hammer out more dots and dashes and translate faster than I can type. I jumped at the chance to join them on a campout not knowing what to expect at the festival. To my pleasant surprise, it was fun, educational and an amazing experience to see the fellowship and seriousness with which one hundred or more Ham radio operators demonstrated their skills.

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As an Arkansas Parks and Tourism Commissioner I am always eager to celebrate the dedicated Parks and tourism staff.  Pictured here are a few of the host staff for the weekend.  They made everyone feel at home … you make all Arkansans proud.  Thank you!!!

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While at the dinner, Parks staff took the time to recognize 20 plus year volunteer … Bill Glassco.  I also need to mention his wife, Toby.  I was honored to be there and have my picture made with Bill.  Later in this post you will see even more about Bill and Toby.

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Wow … what a beautiful place to camp and enjoy the festival.

A few random shots above of our staff, the vendors, the hourly drawings…  My friend Phillip won something … he was excited but I have no idea what he won.

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At the end of the day a few of us gathered around the campfire where we played guitars, sang old songs and listened to Toby Glassco sing the song she had written about her love of Wilhelmina State Park and the Ouachita Mountains.

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As one can see, the views up here are spectacular.  It is also a great favorite of Motorcycle riders.

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Thanks again to our staff and to the volunteers that make Arkansas State Parks the best and most friendly in the nation.

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What a special weekend and serendipitous adventure.  I may not become a ham radio operator but I thoroughly enjoyed the experience … can’t wait until next year.

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People all along the eclipse path came together with creative ideas to celebrate this spectacular natural  event.  Above was in Dover, Tennessee

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Two days before the eclipse, I took this practice shot of the sun to get my camera settings.

We drove from Jonesboro, Arkansas the morning of the eclipse … our destination was to be on the center line of the total eclipse path.  As we drove, we stopped several times to get pictures at various stages of partial eclipse.

And then, with about seven minutes to go before the total eclipse, we pulled into the parking area of a convenience store just outside Clarksville,Tn and joined other “Eclipse Tailgating” families.  What we saw next, as pictured below, was possibly the most beautiful and awesome natural event I have ever seen.   Drum roll please ….. Total Eclipse 2017 

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To make the trip even more memorable and special, Eclipse Day 2017 was also our 52nd Wedding Anniversary … truly …    “A TOTAL ECLIPSE OF THE HEART.

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Following the eclipse, the sky, the light, the clouds also took the time to show off a little beauty as well.

Celebrating the 10th Anniversary of Arkansas Fashion School …

Yesterday, I had the privilege of attending the celebration of the 10th anniversary of the Arkansas Fashion School.  What a wonderful evening to congratulate graduating emerging designers and also recognize 40 years of business leadership and community service by Jamileh Kamran.

Along the Historic 40 year museum-like display I saw photos, news articles, designer dresses (even one worn by Hillary Clinton) reminding me of the determined, passionate spirit of this wonderful lady.  On a personal level, there was  a 1999 Proclamation I signed while I was Mayor declaring a certain day as JAMILEH KAMRAN DAY in the City of Little Rock.

As mentioned in the proclamation, Jamileh has dedicated her life giving back to her community, to her family and to her adopted Country.  She has given to numerous non-profits such as AIDS foundation, Cancer Society and now to the Arkansas Fashion School helping young emerging designers follow their dreams.

As I write this today, I declare … JAMILEH KAMRAN, YOU ARE MY HERO!!

PS: It was great to be with Harry Thomason and Craig O’Neill.  Craig is another person who never tires of giving back and serving others.

One other mention … the tie I’m wearing was designed and made by Jamileh.

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Sunset is special regardless where it is observed.  However, atop the La Fonda Hotel in downtown Santa Fe, Patti and I have found one of our favorite places to sit, relax and immerse ourselves into God’s majestic art display.

Okay … now, what’s this MEOW WOLF noted in the title above?

Without a doubt, MEOW WOLF is one of the most quixotic yet serendipitous discoveries we have made.    Like most people, when we travel we return to familiar attractions such as downtown Santa Fe.  In addition we try to search out new and interesting things to do and see.  The name, MEOW WOLF in it’s self, was enough to get Patti’s attention but the fact that over 100 artists had worked together to create this unique place in an abandoned bowling alley sealed the deal for us to make this a priority stop.

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Stealing a quote from the web site:

Meow Wolf’s House of Eternal Return in Santa Fe, New Mexico is an explorable, immersive art installation filled with technology and fantastic environments to inspire visitors of all ages.  The wildly imaginative art space is a collaboration of over 100 local artists and is a unique combination of children’s museum, art gallery, jungle gym and fantasy novel.

I had to put the picture of Patti in this post … she had actually just opened the door of a refrigerator, walked inside and was heading down a corridor to places unknown … reminds me of the rabbit hole in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.  I’ll leave the giant fingers and mechanical hand to your imagination.

One could easily spend several hours in here and not even touch the surface … I imagine sensory overload would take over for most of us .  However, this is definitely a place to see, experience and talk about.  Incidentally, over 400,000 visitors in the first year make this one of the top visited attractions in Santa Fe.

Creede, Colorado and Antler’s Inn on the Rio Grande before heading back to Little Rock.

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It was another great trip and just like this squirrel, we look forward to more surprises just around the corner in this beautiful nation of ours.

Happy Trails!

Thanks to Sam Walton (Walmart), Alice Walton (Crystal Bridges) and now the Grandsons … this sleepy little town is truly the best example of what a successful city of the future looks like.  

After spending three days attending the Arkansas Parks and Tourism Commission meeting in Bentonville, I am pumped up.  This place is alive … it is exhilirating … it is energizing … it is the place I would choose to live if I were younger… It is the place to be … It is the future!

Patti and I went to the University of Arkansas years ago and would drive  to Bentonville to sit on the park bench in the square.  We were the only ones there … now this place is teeming with commerce, hotels, restaurants, brew pubs, bike shops and people from all over the world.

 

From the new Buckminister Fuller Fly’s Eye Dome to the soon to be opened inside/outside Dale Chihuly exhibit to a converted church (now that’s pretty funny) into a restaurant and bar called the Preacher’s Son, to a closed cheese factory to be an art and activity center … on and on and on … this place is changing for the good and for the future.  The quality of life amenities such as mountain bike and greenway trails and fun places to eat or have a craft beer, Bentonville is the place to live, be creative, be active, be educated, seek a fulfilling career or simply visit.

I made this comment after one presentation about even more plans in the works:

“I am proud of the things that have been happening in Little Rock over the past 25 years, but after spending three days in Northwest Arkansas, I am convinced that Bentonville is becoming THE CENTER OF THE UNIVERSE !!

I’m just happy that Bentonville is in our state of Arkansas …                                    

THE LAND OF OPPORTUNITY

 

 

On our way to Ohio for The American Trails International Symposium.

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First stop … Metropolis, Illinois … Home of Superman!

Wow … what a serendipitous find.  Actually we were only looking for lodging and a place to eat and had made reservations at the Harrah’s Hotel and Casino in Metropolis.  Only upon arrival did we realize we had landed in the home of Clark Kent, Lois Lane and Superman, the hero of Truth, Justice and the American way.

On to Dayton, Ohio with a detour of one night in Nicholasville, Kentucky.

Other than a flat tire, this small town in Kentucky was wonderful.  Even the tire issue was as pleasant as could be because of the very helpful and professional staff at the Walmart auto center.  Thank you guys.

This entire area is beautiful and historic … rolling hills of blue grass horse farms, narrow winding roads with Civil War era hand made rock fences and to make it even more special,  dinner in a great restaurant  sipping Small Batch Kentucky Bourbon, eating the best baby back ribs ever while watching the Kentucky Derby. Now, if that ain’t livin’, I don’t know what is!

BTW… Copper River Grill is A+

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Dayton, Ohio and the American Trails International Symposium

As an avid hiker/outdoorsman, this conference is right up my alley.  Dayton, was a great choice for the conference …   large convention center downtown, hundreds of miles of trails, river front activity center and the largest Airforce Museum in the nation drawing over one million visitors each year. Little Rock was the host city in 2009 and this year, I was honored to be chosen as a new Board Member of American Trails International.

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The real highlight for me was having some of the finest staff members of any State Parks and Tourism Department in the nation.  I am honored to serve with them as we promote Arkansas Tourism and Arkansas parks. 

Thank you team … you make us proud!

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On our return Patti and I stopped at one of our State Parks … Mammoth Springs

Located in the Northeast corner of Arkansas, this 60+ acre park is home to one of the largest springs in the Ozarks … averaging over 9,000,000 gallons of water per hour.  The day we visited, due to recent rain, the spring was producing almost 16 million gallons of water per hour.

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