When we moved to Northwest Arkansas, we honestly knew very little about the region. We knew Fayetteville was a cool and vibrant university community, that NWA was home to Tyson Foods and Walmart, and that there was this awesome ELCA congregation in town I believed God was calling me to serve as pastor. That was about it.
During a full-throttled spring (new house, new baby, new congregation, etc.), we have begun to unearth the varied beauty of the region. Everything has been coming alive this spring (especially after the recent significant rains). We still consider ourselves newcomers, so we try, as much as possible, to get out and about and discover what's new and out there to see of God's creation.
Yesterday was such a day to initiate a whole summer of such excursions. It started out mundane enough, a classic Saturday morning with a bit of play in the play room and some kitchen cleaning. But then, the kids and I loaded up bicycle and Burley in order to preside at a Biker Blessing at GSLC. Motorcyclists came in from all over NWA and headed out for a ride after the blessing. We were blessed with donuts from Rick's Bakery, donated by Off the Press Printing. Rick's is an amazing bakery and cakery. Off the Press does our printing, and designed our new church logo. The owners ride bikes.
After the Biker Blessing, our family packed up for our own "ride," a trip to War Eagle Mill, the last fully functioning water-powered stone mill in Arkansas. We were amazed that we could visit it already this week, because it had flooded 48 inches above the first floor the week prior. The proprietors put in tons of elbow grease to get things up and open again this weekend, even if it will be a while yet before they can begin milling flour. Beautiful bridge and hiking trails, and great fishing there.
Apparently we hadn't paid attention to this next fact, that War Eagle Mill is in the middle of Hobbes State Park, the largest state park in Arkansas, 12,000 acres. We were on the look-out for a trail accessible for a stroller, and a three and five year old. We happened upon the Hobbes Visitor Center, newly constructed in 2009. Men were out front with telescopes helping visitors look at sun spots on the sun. Inside, the visitor center is a full blown nature and children's museum, with daily classes and programs. We stayed long enough to make pipe rockets.
By this time we were all hungry, so we drove back on 12 into Rogers (crossing the currently very muddy and red-brown Beaver Lake) and ate at Lucy's Diner. A totally nostalgic dining experience, and inexpensive. The kids had pancakes, I had chicken fried steak and A a club sandwich.
Finally we stopped at Andy's Custard. Here's where things came full circle, because Andy's special was a concrete mixer with Rick's Bakery red velvet cake mix-in. Yes, Rick's is so famous in the region that folks from Rogers know Rick's and drive down to Fayetteville to buy cake including, apparently and especially, red velvet.
Who says you can't eat a donut and ice cream on the same day?
All of this by way of proof that NWA is simply an oustanding place to live and travel--everything just described was no more than a 25 minute drive away from our home!
Come visit some time, and we'll take you on this loop. You'll fall in love with the place.