Tag Archives: hot springs

Trump Supporters Might Want to Avoid These Places

The Former Little Rock National Airport Now Boasts This Mural

But Wait! That’s Not All! Bill Clinton grew up in Hot Springs, where I just spent a long weekend. He’s popular around his home town (he wasn’t born there, but he lived there most of his childhood and youth.) This is not a political post, but I thought that, as a public service, I might warn off those who may wish to be so warned off. That is all.

Hot Springs was surprising in a lot of ways. We went there because we each want to visit all 50 states, and we both needed to drop in on Arkansas. I like the South, I have relatives there, including an uncle from South Alabama, so the “southern” aspects of the place didn’t surprise me. Here’s what Hot Springs, Arkansas is:

Along the side of a mountain above the town, extending right down into the town, are a large number of places where hot water spews out with absolutely no effort on anyone’s part. A lot of hot water. Only one of these vents is still uncapped; it is in town, in a park that is a part of Hot Springs National Park, which is what the Postal Service and bus lines call the entire area. It’s easy enough to get in or out of the National Park: you need only wait for the pedestrian “WALK” signal and cross the street. On the National Park side of the street is what is known as “Bathhouse Row,” which has, for almost two centuries, been the site of an ever less ramshackle collection of places where one can immerse oneself in those same hot waters for a modest, or not in some cases, fee. Of course, the National Park is a lot bigger than a row of bathhouses, and it includes hiking trails, an observation tower, and a lot of trees. Such a lot of trees, says the guy who lives in the Mojave desert.

Back before the Chicago mob decided to move into Las Vegas, they hung out in Hot Springs whenever the law made things a tad uncomfortable in Chicago. Benjamin Siegal, for instance, used to hang out in one or another of the illegal gambling halls along Center Avenue. The Ohio Club is still open, and the food is quite good, but unless you’ve bought a lottery scratch ticket, you can’t really do any gambling there. The illegal business screeched to a halt when the State Police busted an owner and discovered a stash of gambling devices which they had given to the Mayor for him to destroy. The governor took over and made sure that they were destroyed properly, too bad for his (dis)honor.

The movie at Park Headquarters and Museum dramatizes a drummer for a “Doctor Adams” prior to the bathhouse business being cleaned up by the Park Service. The drummer convinced a fellow passenger on the train that “Doctor Adams really knows his livers!” You go, Doctor Adams. Adams was busted later. Not sure my liver(s?) is any heathier, but we did take the waters a bit.

We went first to the Buckstaff Bathhouse, which still does the old-fashioned, Pre-WWII, traditional bathing experience. After 20 minutes in a tub, I spent some time in a sitz bath (good for the lower back,) in a steam cabinet (yes, there still are such things, but I barely fit into one,) a shower that hit me from every direction, and a bench with hot towels draped over me. I don’t know if it helped me get  healthy, but I surely got tired. The next day we went down the row to the Quapaw Bathhouse, which is modern, with pools of various temperatures, and we got massages. The massage was nice, but Quapaw charges a lot more than does Buckstaff.

We saw a listing of the mineral content of the water. It’s water. Even somebody from SoCal who is paranoid about tap water would drink it. Not sure it heals any better than anybody else’s water, but I did feel a part of something historic. That counts for something, I’m sure.

If you go, take a good appetite, as there are dozens of good restaurants in the actual hot springs area (near the bathhouses.) I was going to get some good stuff at Granny’s Kitchen, but when we got there we could see a fresh trench clear across the dining room. Guess our old neighborhood in Vegas isn’t the only place with drain issues. I’m afraid that the picture above is the only one I took, but the area is lovely. You’ll just have to  trust me on that.

Rotorua Thermal Parks

We woke up to rain the next morning.  Grey and drizzly, it was not going to be a good day for much mountain biking.  We decide to explore Rotura’s Geothermal landscape.  The whole town of Rotorua is like Yellowstone in the US, decorated with cracks and holes steaming with heat from the Earth’s core.  Mist rises up all across the valley, filling the air with humidity and the slightly rotten smell of sulfur.  We set a course to explore a Geothermal park. Whenever we aren’t sure what to do next, our strategy is to drive.  So, after the geothermal park we hop in the car and start driving.  We take the road around a large lake, and end up parked next to a fruit stand.  Nectarines, plums, apricots, watermelons, and corn.  We stock up as best we can, then hike up a road lined lined with hydrangeas growing wild.  Rumor has it, at the top of this road is the largest waterfall one can safely kayak over.   I don’t know who keeps these measurements, but as we get closer we hear the sound of a referee whistle, cheering and screaming.  Kayaks and large rafts of tourists float slowly down the river, then toss themselves over the falls. “Whoa, whoa, whoa….Ahhhaaaahghhgh!”  A moment of silence occurs when the white water foam floods over the top of the raft and they sink below the surface.  Soon, the raft pops up and the team erupts with cheers until the process is repeated over the next fall.   “That looks like fun!” Andrew says. I know he wants to take his own turn, but when we check out the prices, it is outside the plan.  So, we pout a little bit, then move on. One of the biggest challenges here in New Zealand is deciding what is in the plan and what is out of the plan at least with regard to budget.  We are always tempted to say: “We are here now!  This is a once in a lifetime opportunity.  We need to do everything that comes our way.”  Andrew’s motto on this whole trip has been “If it obviously isn’t going to kill me, then I am going to try it.”  This plan has worked in the relatively small and undeveloped islands of the South Pacific, and we have stayed mostly on target.  Here in New Zealand, though, it is the adventurer’s wonder-world.  They have every adventure option you can think of: sailing, mountain biking, scuba diving, white water rafting, surfing, zip-lining, mountain climbing/backpacking, and caving.  New Zealand is also the place that bungee jumping was invented, they have heli-mountain biking (i.e. ride a helicopter up and mountain bike down), you can roll down the side of a grassy meadow mountain inside of a giant inflated ball.  You can trek through hobbit town (where they filmed Lord of the Rings) for the low low price of $58, add dinner and you are at $125 per person, I don’t know how much it is to sleep there — I didn’t ask.  And I’m sure there is more than this that I haven’t found yet.  For each of these activities, New Zealand is world class.  The rapids here look as good or better than any I have ever seen in the US.  They also seem to have delicious food and beautiful wine country.  If we do everything New Zealand has to offer, we will outrun even our expanded NZ budget by thousands and thousands of dollars.  We feel very picked on. But of course very few of us in the world get to do everything we want to do.  We all have financial, time or physical limitations.  We are lucky if we are allowed options.  We are not in New Zealand to do everything; we are on a New Zealand mountain biking road trip.  We have to remember we are lucky even just to do that. Spoiled.  Brats. We soothe our disappointment in some geothermal pools for the night.  We drive over to our campsite connected to Waikite Valley Hot Pools and check in.  The campsite is a parking lot with a view looking out into a New Zealand meadow, creased by a hot river that steams as it flows along.  For the price of our campsite, we are welcomed into the geothermal pools for free.  We don our swimming gear and walk our way through a really pretty pathway built from parking lot to pools.  We slip into the “garden pool” and let the warm water and the view soak in.   We walk the trail to the natural spring where the boiling water that fills the pools originates.  The air is filled with the sound of gurgling water boiling up from the depths of the earth, then rolling down the river over shallow rocks and trickling over waterfalls into the pools.  It cools of as it flows, mixing with cold water to be pleasant.  The steam here does not stink of sulfur.  The humidity supports the growth of some rare ferns that only grow in geothermal areas of the world.  It’s all very pretty. We move around to each of the pools, trying out the varying temperatures like Goldilocks tries out the Bear’s oatmeal.  This one is too hot, this one is too cold, and this one is “juuuusst right.”   I settle into the “Zen Po

Source: Rotorua Thermal Parks