Arden and I spent a long weekend in Mountain View, Arkansas; population 2800. It's in the North-central part of Arkansas, about an 8 hour drive from Fort Worth, not counting stops.
Arden makes beaded jewelry and she attended the Arkansas Bead Cave Retreat at the Ozark Folk Center in Mountain View. (Don't ask about the "Cave" because I have no idea why they call it that.) The Folk Center is a beautiful setting just outside of the town with rustic buildings, cabin-like hotel rooms and plenty of space for me to wander around. They have a village on the grounds that has various shops and they put on demonstrations of the arts, crafts and music of the region. Just down the road is a genuine dulcimer shop, where they hand-make dulcimers. This is Ozark country at its best.
The countryside was gorgeous. As expected, Mountain View is surrounded by hills (not really mountains considering I lived in Colorado twice...) that are tree covered and the trees are changing colors. Needless to say, the hills were beautiful and driving anywhere was very pleasant.
There were a few things I want to comment on that were interesting, to say the least. First of all, we arrived at the Folk Center at about 7:30pm. We were tired and hungry after 9 hours on the road but Arden wanted to check in with her friends and reserve her table for the retreat. We then headed to the hotel office to get our room keys. We decided to go get some dinner before unloading everything from the van so we wouldn't have to go back out once we were done. It's a good thing we did that.
The staff at the hotel desk told us we needed to go to Tommy's Pizza, right off the square downtown. They said it was not only the best pizza in town but the best pizza we would ever eat. That's a pretty bold statement so we decided to see if it was true. We followed the directions we were given and ended up driving out of town without seeing it. So we turned around, drove more slowly and looked again. Still nothing. After passing the center of town again we turned around in a parking lot and asked one of the locals, who was standing outside her shop, if she could give us better directions. She told us it was actually not on the main road but on a side street and very easy to miss. We followed her directions and almost missed it again but Arden happened to see the sign through the trees. We turned around again and pulled into the parking lot only to discover Tommy's was closed. Their hours are from 3:30pm until they close due to lack of business. He had closed just about 10 minutes before we arrived. It was 8:10pm.
We asked about places that were open and were told that most of the restaurants in town close at 8. He suggested the fast food places so we drove up the main drag looking for something else. Luckily, we found Pizza Hut open and since we had decided on pizza in the first place, we settled on that. (Not that it's a bad thing - I like Pizza Hut. But we were promised the "best pizza you'll ever eat" and we weren't going to get it there.)
We ordered personal pizzas and we split a salad. As we were eating, another couple came into the restaurant and they were turned away. I asked one of the girls what time they close and she said "9pm." So apparently we had just made it in time.
We returned to the hotel, unloaded the van, figured out the heat pump (it was dropping rapidly into the 40s which was cold for us) and went to sleep around midnight. We slept late the next morning (since the retreat really didn't kick off until around noon) and just enjoyed being there. We had coffee and a leisurely morning then went out to find Arden's friends and get something to eat. Only one of her friends wanted to go and we went to a great Mexican restaurant right on the town square. The building was as old as the town and had so much potential, with a huge outdoor patio in the front that seated at least 60. The open ceilings inside looked up to a huge skylight and a large mural was painted on one of the walls. The food was actually good as well but I wanted to speak to the manager about ways to improve the overall appearance and ambiance of the place....
I dropped Arden and her friend Betty off at their building and it was time for me to explore a little. First off, I had to make some copies of some instructions for the class Arden was teaching on Sunday so I headed to the hotel office because in the information guide in the room it said they would make copies for 10 cents apiece. The woman at the desk, who was at least 40, wasn't sure if they could make 30 copies for me so she asked the woman behind her, who said "Sure we can. They're 10 cents apiece." The woman at the desk got a calculator out and began punching numbers. When she was done she said "30 copies at 10 cents apiece - that's $3.00."
Now, I'm trying to be nice and not be judgmental but really - a calculator to multiply 30x10? I realize math may not be her strong suit but still... it took me by surprise.
It was about that time that I realized I had spent all of my cash the night before and didn't have $3 in my pocket. I had to go into town to get cash so I asked if there was a place in town I could get copies made. She said there was (same lady) and picked up the phone book. She said she didn't remember the name of it and began thumbing through the white pages to find it. Granted, the phone book for Mountain View isn't very big - it's a 5x8 book that's about half an inch thick. But if you can't remember the name of something looking through the white pages can take forever.
She again asked the woman at the desk about it and that woman said "Yes - there's a place out on East Main Street that makes copies." The woman I was speaking to put the phone book down and went to get a map. I picked up the phone book, opened it to the yellow pages and looked up "Copies". There is was - the name, address and phone number of the store. Imagine.
I found the store on the map and thanked the woman for her assistance, then drove into town. I stupidly passed the first couple of banks I saw, thinking there would be one on my side of the road. I subsequently passed two others that were out of business. As I neared the area where the store was I stopped at a Shell station thinking I could get some cash at the ATM. Except there was no ATM. I asked if there were any in the immediate area and the girl behind the counter said "If you go into town there are banks everywhere." I asked if there were any banks or ATMs in the direction I was going. She said "Not until you get to the next town."
I thought about turning around to find a bank but decided at that point I would just pay with a card. I found the store and they made me 30 copies - for only $4.71. It would have been better just to get the cash in town and go back to the Folk Center. Who knew?
The food in the Folk Center was dangerous. They served everything buffet style and it was all excellent. I believe I gained 9 pounds over the weekend, literally. Each meal offered several choices and each choice was great. To maintain their class schedules, they would adjust the meal times accordingly and it seemed the time between meals kept getting shorter and shorter. On Saturday we finished breakfast at 9am and lunch began at 11:45. How's a guy supposed to not gain weight when you're eating a buffet that often?? (Arden mentioned something about not putting so much on my plate but it didn't really make sense...)
On Saturday morning we felt adventurous and walked up to the restaurant for breakfast, pulling Arden's bag of supplies (on wheels) behind us. It's about half a mile and all up hill, literally, probably about a 100 foot elevation. We're in decent shape but we stopped a couple of times to catch our breath.
On Saturday evening the girls have a tradition of a large pajama party in their beading room. Everyone is supposed to wear some type of sleeping attire (PG rated) and bring what they want to eat and drink. They sit around having fun and getting a bit crazy. Arden wanted me to go along. So at 7:45pm we went to the beading room for the party. And yes, being a good sport and wanting Arden to be happy I was wearing pajamas and a robe. When I walked into the room all the women began clapping and cheering. (Did I mention I was the only man at this retreat? I may have left that out...)
So here I am sitting at a table with Arden, helping her count out beads for some kits that she's making, surrounded by about 40 middle-aged, pajama clad women who were away from home and drinking wine. Needless to say, it wasn't boring. One woman walked over to me, leaned down and said "You're a very brave man." Some women at one of the other tables said to Arden "Please let your husband come over and see us." It was an interesting evening and Arden was happy that I was there. I, on the other hand, could have spent the evening watching the leaves change but a man's gotta do what a man's gotta do.
Sunday morning we ate breakfast again (eggs, 2 types of sausage, bacon, biscuits and sausage gravy, potatoes, fruit...) then Arden had a class to teach. I went back to the room and packed everything in the van then went into town again for a little while. There is a disc golf course in town and disc golf just happens to be something I enjoy doing. For those unfamiliar, you play it like regular golf but you use specially designed discs (like Frisbees) and instead of a green and a cup you throw it toward a basket. It's great exercise, peaceful and usually free. I played every day while Arden was in classes. Then I went back to the restaurant for lunch.
Sunday lunch was a huge spread. Rather than one buffet table they had three. One was nothing but salads, the main one had ribs, chicken and all the vegetables, and the third held 4 different types of dessert. As I said earlier - how's a guy supposed to not gain weight when you're eating a buffet three times a day??
After lunch we headed back home - not really wanting to. Next year we plan to get there a day earlier and stay an extra day so we have time to explore the countryside together. (Arden was busy with classes and/or putting things together for her own class so we didn't get to spend any time together just enjoying the area.) The other women made it a point to let me know they wanted me to come back. And there is actually one other man who usually comes. He makes jewelry with wire. But he couldn't make it this year. I look forward to his being there next year - particularly for the party...