Yes, we and PRNCZ (Bruce and Robin) made it to NAMGAR's GT-34 in Hot Springs, AR, without any major technical sessions. Hurrah! The MGAdventure began on Thursday evening, July 9, 2009 with the traditional champagne toast to a safe and interesting trip. The plan was to be up, packed and ready to go Friday morning at 6AM.
It was 63 degrees and overcast when we left home at 6:15AM Friday. Our destination was Bowling Green, MO. It was the worst day of the trip. Not only did the weather not cooperate, but the Illinois Department of Transportation chose the same roads we did, but for construction. We ran into so many detours that Diane was seriously worried about ever leaving the Chicagoland area. Shortly before crossing into Missouri we passed through Griggsville, IL, the Purple Martin Capital of the World. And, boy, were they out in force. We stopped to take a few photos of the martin houses and murals on the local buildings. We finally arrived in Bowling Green at 5PM (not bad time for taking the scenic route around the southwestern part of Chicagoland). After unpacking and consulting the front desk for eateries, we headed for Dos Primos Mexican Restaurant which turned out to be excellent.
Winston Churchill Memorial and Library
Saturday dawned warm and humid. By 10AM, when we arrived at Westminster College in Fulton, MO, we were looking for some serious shade. We found relief in a lovely English Garden while we waited for the Winston Churchill Memorial and Library in the United States to open. We explored "The Winston S. Churchill: A Life of Leadership Gallery" and the attached Christopher Wren designed Church of St. Mary the Virgin, Aldermanbury. The church was dismantled and moved from London, England, to Fulton and reassembled stone-by-stone on the Westminster campus. Why here, you ask? Because Churchill visited here with President Harry Truman in 1946 and gave his famous Iron Curtain speech. Also, Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev gave a speech here announcing the end of the Cold War and marking the fall of "The Iron Curtain." We all agreed this was a highlight of the trip and wished we'd had more time to spend here.
It was now 93 degrees so we decided a quick lunch in a cool place was necessary. While at the eatery, we were blessed ("go with God") by a chatty, local priest who once owned a Triumph. We also had a quick tech session for Bruce's alternator, but were soon back on the road. Our destination was Harrison, AR, and we still had to drive through the Branson area with its slow, stop-and-go traffic in the brutal heat and humidity.
Haggard Ford Swinging Bridge
Not far from Harrison we turned off the "Blue Highway" to find the Haggard Ford Swinging (suspension) Bridge. It has quite a history, being named for Mrs. Nancy Haggard, who lived near the Bear Creek crossing at the turn of the century. The bridge over the creek was completed in 1941; in 1961 a big flood washed away much of Harrison and rendered the bridge incapable of supporting vehicular traffic. A new concrete bridge was built adjacent to it. The original bridge began to deteriorate, became hazardous and was due for demolition. A Bridge Restoration Committee was formed to rebuild the decking and railing. The bridge has been nominated as an historic bridge due to its association with the WPA after WWII and its engineering design. Well worth the search and stop.
We were pretty hot, thirsty and tired when we arrived at our motel in Harrison — only to find out that we were in a dry county!!!!! Well, we settled for ice tea at the Catfish Wharf next door which had the most incredible tomato relish (just ask Steven) and hush puppies (just ask Bruce).
Sunday morning we woke to storms and rainbows. All the motorcycles at the motel were parked in the entry under the porte cochere. We decided to do the same so we could put up the hoods. We finally headed out at about 8AM. Luckily, our destination, Hot Springs, was about a half day's drive. It rained most of the morning, but the road (Route 7 Scenic Byway) was a true MG road, winding and hilly (really fun in the rain). We stopped for a photo op at the Grand Canyon of Arkansas, then stopped for brunch at the Cliff House Inn in the Ozark National Forest. We enjoyed watching the hummingbirds outside of our window while we dined. By the time we stopped for coffee at 11AM, the sun was out so the hoods came down. We also swung by the Nimrod Dam over the Fourche Lafave River to stretch our legs before arriving at the Arlington Resort Hotel & Spa in the heart of the historic Hot Springs National Park. The Hotel still looks like the postcard below: it's still majestic, but a little tired.
On The Back
Mouse Over to Read Back
After drinks in the Lobby Bar and greeting many friends, we had dinner in the Hotel with Dave and Rita Houser with whom we've been friends since GT-2 (what's that famous NAMGAR saying about cars getting you there and people bringing you back?) and are currently collaborating on MGA! magazine. Much to talk and drink about!
The word was out that the best place for breakfast was The Pancake House across the street from the Hotel. So Monday morning we gathered up Bruce and Robin and headed over. After breakfast we located an Auto Zone for a quart of oil, and a car wash for, well, a car wash. When we got back to the Hotel, we registered, checked out Lou Marchant's race car in the Lobby and then the vendor set-up. In the afternoon we walked the Promenade behind Bathhouse Row and visited the many bathhouses.
Fordyce Bathhouse Gym
The Fordyce Bathhouse has been restored and reopened as the park visitor center and museum. The gymnasium there reminded Steven of the gym at the high school he attended in 1961 (put cursor over the image to see the gym). Water is still available at faucets around the park. The locals show up with gallon jugs to fill. But be careful; it's hot! Duh! We ate a late lunch at Rolondo's (another GT favorite) and then attended tothe formal GT Welcome. Afterwards, we changed clothes (into our costumes) and wandered over to the Gangster Museum of America for a personal tour, with wine and cheese - and entertainment. After a stop at the Arlington Lobby Bar and then the Hospitality Room, it was time to retire.
Moll, Al & Gangster Steven
On Tuesday morning after breakfast at The Pancake House (again), we drove up to West Mountain View for the view - what else? Then we drove to Wright's Rock Shop to buy the official Arkansas souvenir: a piece of quartz. Robin talked Bruce into driving to a quartz mine that we saw north of town to hunt down their piece of quartz. Our next stop was the Anthony Chapel in the Garvan Woodland Gardens. The Chapel is spectacular, soaring 57 feet above the forest floor with floor to ceiling windows and views of Lake Hamilton. We both agreed it would be a beautiful site for a wedding.
We had a quick lunch at Rolondo's (again). Steven attended the Upholstery Tech Session and the Chapter Contacts' Meeting; Diane joined him at the First Timer's Meeting where we participated in the ice breaker quiz. Diane wore her NAMGAR T-shirt from GT-2. Then we walked over to Angel's in the Park Italian Restaurant at The Park Hotel for dinner (another GT favorite). What a charming place - both the Hotel and the restaurant. Our waitress, Debbie, was originally from the U.P. of Michigan and worked at the Dollarville Bar near Newberry. When Steven was converting the manual telephone office in Newberry to rotary dial (do you remember those phones?), he used to visit the Dollarville Bar for the local entertainment, nudge-nudge, wink-wink: stories were exchanged. After dinner we walked back to the Arlington in time to watch the showing of Inside the Octagon II.
Wednesday morning we had breakfast at the Hotel with another "old" GT friend, Gil DuPre. We were not able to pinpoint at which GT we met, but agreed that it was a long time ago (again, that NAMGAR adage about cars and people).
GT-34 Car Show
The car show was across the street in the National Park. We were given diapers for underneath the cars. We were unsure what they were for, given the average age of the attendees: then someone mentioned oil leaks. There were about 100 cars: we tried hard to look at each one and talk to the owners. We ran into Pete Alberda from Michigan and Koen Struijk from the Netherlands — great to see them there.
After the car show we drove to Dryden Pottery so Diane could add a pot to her collection. Then Steven took a nap, while Diane checked out the shops and admired the architecture in Hot Springs. In the evening we drove to the Belle of Hot Springs Riverboat on Lake Hamilton for a dinner cruise. We sat with Bruce & Robin and Ken & Kathy Nelson and solved all of the current health care problems. Oh, we also had a nice dinner and cold beverages! Time passed way too quickly.
Thursday morning began with the Staff breakfast at the Arlington. While everyone else participated in the rallye, we drove to the Tower for a tour and then took our own two hour driving tour of the area with a stop at Burger King for refreshments - did we mention that it was hot and humid?
In the afternoon we attended Lou Marchant's racing session and then adjourned to prepare for the banquet. While we were having a cocktail in the Arlington Lobby, the sky truly opened up and delivered Niagara Falls to the steps of the Arlington — whoa! Luckily, most of the MGs were parked under roof.
Steven Receives Special Award
Then it was banquet time, and we shared our table with Cecelia and her mother and aunts and Bruce & Robin. Our table was designated MaBel (did someone know that we worked for the Bell System, fondly referred to as Ma Bell?). We found out that the Chapman MGA was known as MaBel, the name derived from her car number, MBL 867. MaBel is thought to be the oldest intact MGA in the world, having been built between May 25 and July 8, 1955. MaBel was driven in the 1956 Mille Miglia, the thousand mile rallye in Italy, by Nancy Mitchell. In 2009, a restored MaBel was driven by her grandson, Bruce Chapman. We had a lovely meal with good company.
In late June Steven had been informed that he received the APEX Award for Publishing Excellence for the Nov/Dec 2008 issue of MGA! magazine. At the banquet, NAMGAR also presented Steven with an award, honoring him for this achievement. He was truly humbled. It was announced that GT-35 next year would be held in Lake Delavan, WI, about an hour away from our home. No distance trophy in sight for us!!! But Diane knows where all the Frank Lloyd Wright places are in the vicinity, so send her an email if you're interested.
Too soon it was Friday morning and time to pack up, say good-bye and start for home. We were on the road by 6:30AM, stopping in Mt. Ida for breakfast. Our destination was Bartlesville, OK. Yes, it was a small detour from a direct route home. Bartlesville is the home of Price Tower, Frank Lloyd Wright's only realized skyscraper (19 floors). And, we all know by now that Diane is a confirmed "Frank Freak." We made good time and arrived at our motel at 3PM. We had a nice dinner at the Sterling Grille and called it an early evening.
Tom Mix Museum
Saturday morning we started out at 8AM to find a place for breakfast. Two hours later we found the Midway Cafe (you know, the one with all the motorcycles). We're not complaining about the driving around since it was a glorious, blue-sky day, and Diane had her cuppa joe with her.
After breakfast, we drove a little bit north to Dewey to visit the Tom Mix Museum. This stop was more for Bruce. Who was Tom Mix? Think of him as the Lone Ranger of the generation before ours. As part of the museum tour we watched the movie "My Pal, the King" with Tom Mix and a very young Mickey Rooney. We wandered around a few antique shops in town, had some ice cream and then drove back to Bartlesville for our 2PM, Price Tower, guided tour.
The Price Tower is now called the Price Tower Arts Center. It is part museum, part inn and part arts center. Frank built the Tower in 1956 for Harold C. Price of the H.C. Price Pipeline Company. As Frank said, it is "the tree that escaped the crowded forest." It is beautifully restored (we know about those things). We were restricted in taking photographs, bummer. While on the tour we met a very nice couple, Jimmie, Gregory, and Jimmie's chihuahua, Trixie. Jimmie and Gregory were staying at the Inn and invited us to see their room. We decided to meet them in the bar/restaurant, Copper, for a drink and dinner. Well, not only did we have a drink and dinner, but Diane walked all over the restaurant's two floors and balconies, taking pictures. Jimmie and Gregory's room was really cool. More pictures. Jimmie and Gregory were married on a beach in Hawaii in October. Nice, nice couple and lots of fun at the Inn! Another highlight. Afterwards we headed to the movies to see "Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince."
Bruce, Robin, Steve & Diane
Sunday morning we witnessed a beautiful sunrise and headed to the Midway Cafe (again) for breakfast. Our destination that day was Hannibal, MO. To get there we drove as much on historic Route 66 as we could. Robin had done a report on Route 66 in high school and was eager to see it. So we did, including a newly opened Route 66 Visitor Center on a portion of the old route that is now a limited access highway. In Afton, OK we stopped at the Afton Route 66 Gas Station for pictures. Since it was early Sunday morning, the museum was not open.
Steven, Diane & PRNCZ at Tower Entrance
Right on the Oklahoma Missouri state border PRNCZ took a rock to the windshield which grew to about 8 inches. Well, a winter project! After stops for coffee, ice cream and gas, we arrived at our motel at 6PM. Dinner was next door at Logue's Restaurant and champagne was served in Bruce and Robin's room afterwards to celebrate the trip.
Afton, OK, Rte 66 Gas Station & Museum
Monday morning was another beautiful sunrise, and we were on the road by 6AM. It was a great day for motoring: "...blue skies, sunshine, what a day to take a ride in the A!..." Soon we were in El Paso, IL, gassing up for the last stretch home. Bruce and Robin headed further east while we headed north, arriving home at 4:30PM. Another fun MGAdventure under our belts!
Thank you to the Texas MGAers for their southern hospitality! And see everyone in Lake Delavan next year.