Sunday, September 30, 2007

Armadillocon on up

As for Armadillocon 2007, it was a nice relaxacon for the most part. I did sell a few things, always a pleasant thing, although poor Scott the artshow director had to drop everything and run home to Houston due to a very rude burglar. I ate a number of carrots and drank a fair amount of pop, esp. diet Dr. Pepper, of course. And gallons of coffee. Had some of the con suite's biscuits at breakfast and chili pie/hotdogs later, with assorted bits of cheeses and veggies, making my contribution at the end of the con to the hospitality suite's kitty. Not bad since it's very nice, handy, and I don't tend to eat much when traveling anyway. In fact I didn't feel too good later on and stopped eating. I mean, I didn't feel bad, except with the thought of eating. Rather odd. Must've been magic carrots. Anyway I don't think I made it to any panels I wasn't on, or at least not more than one or two at best. For some reason I rarely do when 'working' a con. Too much else to do, or what I am interested in is on at the same time I'm doing stuff, lol! Sleeping was great...although we didn't find another roommate, it was quite a luxury to have a whole bed to myself at a convention!

Sunday we checked out of the art show and the hotel and anything else we could wrangle out of, and I followed Nancy C. to Waco. With her graces I'd leave the art in her possession while I ran up north, giving me some breathing and sleeping space in the car. So far so good with the car...considering two decades with the Ford van, I didn't know what to expect with the Toyota. Toyotas are supposed to be good, but I'd only had the chance to change the oil once since I got the I was traveling without having to gas up in every other town, and running A/C and playing CDs...what amazing luxuries, and all, so far, without scary clunking noises.

First we stopped at a Half-Price Books in Austin to sell some of the books Nancy C. still had, I think from her brother's estate. Very big place, impressive arrangement and selection, though no cats or coffee that I could see (common bookstore elements down here).

Then onto the highway, and with just one quick stop between Austin and Waco, we got to Nancy C.'s place...actually I lost Nancy (heavy highway traffic) but I'd been there once before and have a pretty remarkable map-recall, so I found the house ok. We unpacked; she found room in her garage for my portfolio case and 3 or 4 boxes, and then we went in for a bit. She and her son took me out to a buffet, but although the smells and sights were fabulous, I just had zilch appetite and had to apologize and sip water. The idea of actually eating didn't sit well, though I had no particular symptoms but a bit of belly pain. Certainly not like I could use a little fasting...anyway so we chatted, I colored stuff, and we watched a little TV before settling in. I slept on a comfy sofa, though did have a little freizure in the middle of the night. Haven't done that in a long while--no doubt due to a wonky thyroid, now and then I'll have sudden freezing spells...body temperature plummets and it takes an hour or two to get over it. It was plenty warm later, of course.

I really couldn't decide what route to take, and finally decided not to decide, just to let the winds of fate blow me around, so to speak, as long as I headed in the right direction of course. So I gassed up along the highway and headed northeast, blasting CDs all the way in my air-conditioned bullet.

Stopped at Mary of Puddin' Hill. That's in Greenville, way up past Dallas (I just white-knuckled it through the traffic in Dallas, no stops) on I-35E. It's a nice little stop, a chocolate & fruitcake (using walnuts or pecans rather than flour) factory, basically, but with a fun gift shop and other touristy things. I sampled a few tiny things and drooled over some of the desserts they had available, but I still couldn't quite stomach the idea of filling my stomach, so I passed up on any goodies. They would have needed consuming in this heat, so I didn't want to chance it. But I did splurge on a blinky-light bat pin. Thought it just the thing for a Dark Shadows convention, and at any rate a fun thing to wear at the library around Halloween, for the kidlets. I considered taking a few pictures but it was pretty hot and I didn't see anything I hadn't taken pictures of already in previous trips. So the bat and I went on our merry way to Texarkana.

I think I blew past Texarkana before I realized it. Which is unusual since I generally need gasoline or something else by then and so am pretty aware of the off-ramps, though I never can seem to remember which one has what for sure. So I kept going, and stopped at the border Welcome rest stop on the Arkie side, stretched and got some water and a map, & took a snapshot.

Since it was still relatively early in the day, I decided that I'd go up Hi-7. On most trips I will come back down to Texas that way, but rarely do I go north on the highway, being too late in the day. It is a scenic route, and the asphalt equivalent of a rollercoaster ride, going through the Oachitas and Ozarks, up and down and with hairpin turns and switchbacks and sudden slows through small towns and variable speeds and lunatic tailgaters and you-name-it. But it is far more interesting than flooring it through the bypass near Little Rock.

What's the point of a driving trip if you don't explore?

I veered off IH-30 (or whatever it is) and got on the path to Hot Springs. I stopped for a stretch and some photos at DeGray Lake/dam. Kinda late in the day by then, but not so much that the light had gone yet. I'd like to play around Caddo, but that is pretty much a resort area and doesn't seem open to casual quick stopping. I almost stopped to take a picture of the Hamilton many Hamiltons on large lakes are there on the planet, anyway?

Edge of DeGray dam area to the left & access road area...

Rocks. Ok, I like rocks. Perhaps I have a core mineral deficiency.

Looking more towards the actual lake, framed by pine. Lotta pine there. Always know I'm somewhere else when there's a lot of pine around and it isn't a city park...there's a Texas reaction to such look around and say...TREEEEEEES! Man, it's green!

I drove on and stopped at the mall in Hot Springs. It didn't offer as much as I'd imagined in all my times of passing it, but it was a nice rest stop, and I did wind up with a couple of additions to my onyx collection. One cool curio shop in the place with all sorts of Asian & African goodies and weirdities, even including a table full of hermit crabs and painted shells for them. I think I bought a little Indian Ganesha and an animal or two (haven't unpacked yet!). Then walked around the mall a while and decided I still didn't feel like eating, though I was thirsty. I chose to go on and drove up to a Kroger's to get gas. I happened to have a Kroger's card from my last expedition (no Kroger's in San Antonio) so I could get cheap gas. But my credit card was refused! Startled since I knew it was plenty good and I'd just bought the onyxes with it, I kept trying it but no go. So, very embarrassed, I used another card and finished up, then went over to a lot and called the company. After 5-10 minutes of cell phone time waiting on getting connected to the right department, they said it was an error and forget about it. I'd contacted them before the trip to tell them I was going north and not to be surprised by the consequent charges, but an automatic security stop went on the card anyway, and then they saw the note and fixed it 10 minutes later. It was indeed ok after that (wasn't accepted in one place on the way home, but apparently that stop just didn't take that card but didn't post the fact anywhere, since the card was good elsewhere after that).

Always over-pack in the money department!

Drove on into downtown Hot Springs and found free public parking, so I figured I might as well run around. Nothing was open at this point, but the main drag by the springs promenade/bath houses was available for exercise and gawking. It was hot and steamy (well, hot springs, go figure) and a walk was nice (even if my feet are in perpetual torment). I walked around several little public spots and closed gift shops, crossed the street over to the bath houses and climbed up the hill to the Promenade (where the fine ladies and gents used to stroll to show off their fineness) and around to the Springs. Thought I'd attempt a bit of night photography. Neat trick when you have no clue how and can't see. But I tried.

Hot Springs falls in the dark...

Stately old building across from the Hot Springs National Park (where the little falls and I were)...says "Art in the Park" and "The Fudge Factory" on the street level shops...

One of the bath houses along the main road. Many are in the process of being remodelled/renewed to their former glories, so there is a lot of construction in the park.

You can feel the heat of the springs and even fill up with the water, if you have something to contain it. Once we were here in the winter and I made cocoa with a packet of instant cocoa and an empty thermos. The water really is quite hot. I debated over some tea this round, but I was too tired to bother. And I wanted something icy, not steaming...

Tried to get some of the details of the bath houses and other buildings, but it was too dark to do that without a tripod or something. A lot can be done with a photo manipulation program, but blurring is forever (oh I suppose even blurring can be fixed with a few years of work, but it'd be easier to go back and get a clearer picture!).

(I don't do windows, except maybe on the computer)

This is a "Duck Tour" (amphibious vehicle) bus, next to a mural-decorated wall. Loses a good deal in the nocturnal translation, but it was interesting to look at.

Especially all together, with all those verticals...

Finally, before I got back into my car, I was amused by the statue in front of the free parking lot. At a certain artsy angle it just meshed. And now I need to get off the computer before my mind is totally meshed up, too.


Wayne's Mom said...

Sounds as if you enjoyed your fling through Hot Springs. I really do like the last photo, although I'm told the parking garage now has meters in it.

Recently geographer Warren Bland named Hot Springs, Ark. the No. 1 place in America to retire.

I gotta admit, Hot Springs is a pretty cool place to live, even for those of us who aren't yet retired.

To see short video clips from Hot Springs, check out SpaVlogger.

Rebecca McCormick,
Travel writer, Hot Springs Village Voice

Grinning Tiger said...

Well, unless they put parking meters in during September '07 (pretty quick!), that garage was indeed Free, and the giant FREE PARKING was part of that photo. Of course at that time of night I don't think it would have mattered a whole lot where I parked...