We arrived in Hot Springs, set up camp, zoomed downtown, walked around for about an hour, and then it started raining. It hasn’t really stopped since. I was awoken last night around 3 by the strange lack of rain banging on the metal roof, but otherwise it’s been pretty depressing weather-wise. We’ve made the most of our stay here, and except for a glaring lack of hiking, we’ve gotten some good stuff done.
Camping Lessons Learned
Sigh. As part of our setting up camp, we opened up the main awning for the first time, so that we’d have some rain protection going in and out of the trailer. We watched a youtube video to make sure we unlocked and unrolled and braced it the right way, admired our work, and patted ourselves on the back for a job well done. While we were out, the rain started, and when we got home our beautiful awning was lopsided and sagging. One of the metal bars broke! This is a brand new Airstream, and the awning is broken. BOO. We’re under warranty, but now have to figure out where near our planned route we can get to a dealer to get it looked at, how to get the part ordered to a different dealer, and then get to that dealer to get the thing installed. What are the lessons learned here? First is that we should have angled the awning, setting the side farther from the door a hole lower so the water could run off and not pool and get heavy. Likely more lessons learned will come after dealing with Airstream HQ and the warranty stuff and the bouncing from dealer to dealer. Maybe another lesson learned is: a situation usually is not as bad as it may at first seem. Disassembling the broken part was a pain, but at least we are able to travel with the awning in its current state.
We’re at the Hot Springs National Park KOA, about 8 minutes from the historic area and 12 minutes from Kroger. It’s quiet, woodsy, has good wifi and laundry facilities. We did our first load of laundry this morning, exciting. The cable offerings do not include ESPN (that seems to be the norm for campgrounds) and the rain is making our DirecTV satellite unhappy, so we’re really wishing the cable had ESPN for the ACC Tournament. Wifi is good enough to stream music, but that could be because there are so few people staying here currently.
Before the rain started, we walked down Central Ave, admiring the historic bathhouses which are part of Hot Springs National Park. The architecture is gorgeous; I particularly liked the Buckstaff, and I was also fascinated by the creepy, crumbling Majestic Hotel and Bath House Resort and Spa lurking at the end of the main drag.
On day two, with the rain still hammering down, we gave up our dreams of going for a hike in the Ouachita National Forest and went to the gym. Hot Springs Health & Fitness, about a 15 minute drive from the KOA, offers a $15 day pass, and has cardio equipment, weights, classes, and free towel service. The facility could use some TLC, but overall it was what we needed.
Our next indoor activity: a massage at a bathhouse spa. The Buckstaff doesn’t have regular spa services by appointment, so we tried Quapaw Baths and Spa. The massage was nice, and afterward we visited the baths, and we’re glad we did it because of the history… but it reminded me of the kind of sketchy hot tub full of random people at a gym or hotel. The locker rooms weren’t the cleanest, either. But a good experience overall.
Eating and Drinking
After the rain began and ended our walk down Bathhouse Row, we put Bugsy in the dry car and had beer flights at Superior Bathhouse, the only brewery in Hot Springs. It’s actually in the old Superior Bathhouse building, along with an ice cream counter. The employees were enthusiastic and quick, the beer was varied and good, and we had some delicious black eyed pea hummus.
We had to check out the oldest bar in Arkansas, the Ohio Club, across the street from the brewery. It’s dark, with old gambling paraphernalia on the walls, and a gorgeous, gigantic mahogany frame around the bar. We tried a couple local-ish beers: J had an IPA from Lost Forty Brewing in Little Rock, and I had one from Saddlebock Brewery in Springdale, AR. J had a burger, said it was good. I enjoyed his fries.
After our experience at the baths, we planned to hit Kollective Coffee + Tea to do some trip planning, but the rain made running down the street with a bag of computers not a great idea. Too bad, it looked cool.
On our way out of the historic district, we stopped to fill up all the water containers we could find at one of the several public hot mineral water “jug fountains.” The water comes directly from the hot springs and doesn’t need to be treated. It’s colorless, odorless, flavorless, delicious, and might have magical healing properties.
We planned to hit the grocery store and then go home, but we drove by Taqueria La Bodeguita and stopped for a taco, which became three tacos for J and a veggie torta for me, and then some guacamole to go. Fast, friendly, authentic, it was a happy accidental find!
Read about our quickie second visit to Hot Springs here!