After a week of basking in the luxury of near full hookups the time came to enjoy the sights and sounds of a Wal-Mart Supercenter. Our target was Van Buren, AR, the mid-point of a pull from Cossatot Reefs to Natural Falls State Park in West Siloam Springs, Oklahoma. Why go to Siloam Springs? I got two reasons: it’s still snowing in northern New Mexico and Colorado, and Kat’s gonna jump out of a plane in Siloam Springs. More about that later.
If you like public radio you’ve probably heard Lynne Rosetto Kasper’s Splendid Table. Lynne always checks in with Jane and Michael Stern who write the blog, Road Food. Their niche, as the marketing boys say, is driving all over the USA and eating at hole-in-the-wall diners. Their reviews are prone to exaggeration, but can be relied upon to guide you to authentic regional cafes and take-out joints. We visit their five-star places (five means “Worth a trip from anywhere!”) at every opportunity, but those have not appeared on our path that often. But there is one in Fort Smith, which is only ten miles short of Van Buren’s Wally Market. We arrived about 2:30 after a light breakfast and no lunch, hungry as skinny bears after a long cold winter. The Sterns loved Ed Walker’s French Dip Sandwich and onion rings, not to mention the fact that this is the onliest place in Arkansas where the carhops may legally bring a longneck Bud or Beck’s to your vehicle. That has something to do with the end of Prohibition and the delight of local voters and their government until the Baptists cracked down. Ed’s was “grandfathered in”.
The waitress thought splitting one French Dip would not be enough food; after all it comes on a six inch Hoagie bun. Being famished, we agreed and ordered two with rings. It was so much chow our dinner was pie and Chardonnay. The sandwiches were wonderful fresh, and recovered perfectly well from a night in the ‘frige after a light microwaving. New Orleans roast beef po-boys are close to a foot long, and I usually want all of mine. The difference is in how high Ed’s kitchen stacks the beef – a solid inch of protein, or more. I’ll quibble a bit and whine that medium rare is the only way to serve either French Dips or roast beef, but the au jus rendered well done quite palatable. We got out for $21 which seemed quite the deal for two days’ lunch. Next time you’re in Fort Smith, check out Ed Walker’s.
Natural Falls is one of the nicer public parks we have visited. The sounds are mostly bird calls, the pads are concrete, and our spigot doesn’t leak. It’s $18 a night if you’re 65 with no out-of-state penalty. Kat found the hiking trail challenging, but managed it with boots and Swiss Army hiking poles. This morning I awakened to a new sound, something you might hear if you cleaned the exterior of your Airstream with a feather duster. Then came a light scratching, and a few soft squawks. Some crazy bird was defending his nesting territory from a same-species intruder. They fought to exhaustion, and then the real bird flew off to pant and find another spot. Maybe the next rig in #38 won’t be so reflective. Maybe our fighting boy will then restake his claim, and start a family.
Good luck, brother!