In The Footsteps of President Clinton

Trip Start Oct 07, 2006
Trip End Oct 12, 2006

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Flag of United States  , Arkansas
Thursday, October 19, 2006

In the Footsteps of Pres. Clinton
Little Rock

Located on the Arkansas River, the longest tributary of the Missouri-Mississippi system, Little Rock, AR has had a long history of inhabitation as far as 10,000 B.C.E. As part of the Louisiana Purchase of 1803, the land was explored by three different expeditions, including ones by Pike, Dunbar, and Hunter, who delineated as the Southern border with New Spain the Red River.

The history of Little Rock is preserved in some of its buildings. Little Rock Central High School remains a symbol of the September, 1957 integration battles. The visitor center, across the street from the school, is housed in a restored gas station and has exhibits about the 1957 crisis.

Little Rock was the home for 16 years to President Bill Clinton. Many of his haunts still thrive. You can satisfy your need for carbs at the local Mc Donalds or Doe's Eat Place. The Clinton's houses of worship, Immanuel Baptist Church and First United Methodist Church, are other places for visitation. The Clinton Presidential Center houses the largest archival collection of any president in U.S. history.

Two other buildings, which play an important role in the Clinton legacy are the Old State House and the present State Capital. The old State House dates back to 1836 and is the place where Clinton announced his bid for the presidency in 1991 and made his election night acceptance speech. The Old State House is a museum of Arkansas history, from prehistoric times to the present. Special emphasis is the role of Arkansas in the Mexican War of 1847. The exhibit gives a balanced approach to the confrontation: Mexico's young unstable government vs. the Manifest Destiny attitude for more land for the United States. Other exhibits include the gowns of thirty First Ladies of Arkansas, archaeological preservation under the auspices of Sam Dellinger portrayed as the Indiana Jones of Arkansas, and other temporary exhibits.

The Arkansas State Capital building is elegant in its simplicity. Modeled loosely after the U.S. Capital, it houses all branches of government, except the Judiciary, which moved to larger quarters. The Legislative branch meets every odd year and the governors serve only two four year terms. Even though the building contains an abundance of Vermont marble and Arkansas limestone, the decorations are classic in its style. Three rotundas dominate the building: the center one, one over the house and one over the senate chambers. Six 10 foot tall bronze doors provided the entrance to the capital before 9/11. They are polished daily.

Hot Springs

Off to Hot Springs, where President Clinton spent his formative years. Visit the high school where he attended. Stroll through the parks where he gathered with friends as a teenager. Not to miss, however, is the Hot Springs National Park and Bathhouse Row, restored bathhouses from the heyday of bathing in the Roaring 20s. Legend says that Al Capone and the other gang leaders would take in the mineral water baths of Hot Springs. While here, no one was allowed to "conduct business".

Today most of the facades have been restored. The National Park has completely restored the Fordyce Bathhouse, reputably the finest one on the row. With its stained glass windows, lounges, gymnasium and physical therapy equipment, it lives up to all expectations. You cannot go to Hot Springs without absorbing the ambiance of the bathhouses. Buckstaff Bathhouse still conducts business as usual. Not as lavish as Fordyce, Buckstaff is both affordable and therapeutic. For $51.00, including tax, (price subject to change), the patron receives a full mineral bath, a twenty minute plus full massage and a souvenir loofa mitt. The bath includes the following: 1/2 hour is a large tub with a temperature of 102 F. mineral soak with a whirlpool attachment, which looks like a large old fashioned mix master. The attendant then gives a body scrub with soap and the loofa. After a rinse, the patron goes to a sitz bath for five minutes. This works on the posterior and postrate for men. Next comes five minutes in the vapor room or machine. Here the water from the hot springs sprays in directly at 134 F. This opens the pores of the body. After the vapor room comes the body wrap. Up to four heated towels are used at the problem spots on the body and then wrapped up in a large sheet for ten minutes. Finally comes the five minute needle shower to rinse off the body and invigorate the soul. The ambiance is as in the 20s. Marble walls, old time plumbing fixtures and tubs where a 6'2" person can luxuriate, not like the modern bath tubs. The mineral baths would be soothing enough on most days.

I had lower back pains that day and opted for the massage. Ross, the masseuse worked on all of the knots in my body. When he finished with me, the pain was gone and I could walk like a normal human being (an oxymoron I was not able to see the women's bathing area, which was located on the second and third floors of the building. Perhaps the next time we go to Hot Springs, Maggie might decide to take the baths and tell us about the women's section.

On the opposite side of the street are numerous shops, restaurants and other places to spend your money. We had a very good lunch at Bubbalu's. Only order French Fries for one, because the portions are abundant. They also specialize in home made shakes and malts.

Having been rejuvenated by the baths, we went to Garvan Woodland Gardens, a 210 acre botanical wooded setting administered by the University of Arkansas. Located on Lake Hamilton, the gardens feature various walkways, bridges, and floral arrangements. The local model train club operates a three track railroad depicting different aspects of the Garvan family business: lumber, mining, and the main line to Hot Springs.

We also took in the Mid-America Science Museum, a hands-on experience for all ages. On permanent exhibit are the fantasy mechanicals from the movie Chitty, Chitty, Bang, Bang. The museum also features a 20 minute laser show, and simulator rides of a roller coaster or slot car race track. Tesla's lightening machine is fully functional, along with a hair-raising static electricity demonstration. On a temporary exhibit, until December, is the science of the circus. Walk the tightrope, see how to swallow swords, and learn other secrets of the Big Top.

This is our last stop before heading to San Antonio for the winter. As a bonus I got to see two of my first cousins, while in Hot Springs.
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