Another Arkansas Vacation Recapped

Yes, it’s been quieter than normal on MfBJN again as I completed another vacation to Arkansas–the last one was six years ago? What have I been doing all this time? Well, aside from buying books and reading them sometimes? My goodness. Six years is a long time, but it doesn’t seem that long ago.

I digress.

We had originally planned to go to Florida (again), but flights for the whole family ran about $3,000, so we looked for a vacation spot that was a short drive away, and we settled on the Wyndham resort at Fairfield Bay, Arkansas.

So, last Friday, we loaded up the relatively small cargo bay of our main family vehicle and loaded the CD player with audio courses (The Lost Worlds of South America to start) and headed out.

Holy cats: The drive was pretty straight forward–down US 65 to Arkansas 16 and into the resort–but when the highway turned a corner in Harrison, Arkansas, suddenly, the lanes were Arkansas-sized: about 18″ or maybe 24″ wider than the vehicle, with no shoulders. Hilly, curvy, and, in Harrison, with a curb on the outside of the white lane stripe. So no listening to courses during the drive for me as I white-knuckled my way to Shirley, Arkansas.

Fairfield Bay is a Resort Community, not a town. A Resort Community mixes resort with a town. It has a number of rental units run by the resort as well as private residences where the permanent (or summernent) residents pay the resort monthly membership fees and get access to the resort amenities. It explains why the resort Web site says that the whole resort is 14,000 acres: that counts the resort units, their amenities, and everything else.

It’s situated on Greer’s Ferry Lake. Which one can guess is a man-made, dam-created lake (named after the town where Greer’s Ferry crossed the Little Red River).

When I looked at the map, I wondered about the scale, as different things noted looked to be far apart. In most cases, resorts are fairly compact, but as this is a resort community, things like the restaurants, the beach, the parks, and the lake really were miles apart. Separated by narrow, curvy roads.

Fairfield Bay boasts numerous ATV trails, and UTVs were pretty common on the resort roads. But the trails in the parks are only a mile or so long. Costs of renting boats on the lake were relatively high ($50 an hour for three kayaks and up from there). Also, it underlined that we are really not an outdoor family: our entertainment, regardless of what we think aspirationally when planning vacations, are not hikers nor lake people. Other resort amenities were akin to things we do at home: Pools, a bowling alley with video games, a gym, basketball hoops. And other towns were a distance away on those twisting, narrow roads, and they were also small towns. My beautiful wife wanted to drive down to Little Rock for a day, but that was an hour and a half away to the northern most reaches of the city, so I demurred.

So it was a bit of an underwhelming vacation.

Don’t get me wrong: I still got time to read during the day which to me is the height of luxury. But the boys were bored. Given that they are in their new summertime mode of playing video games until 2am and then sleeping until 11am, they limited our morning excursions.

But I did take care of some things on the Arkansas vacation checklist.

  • I bought an Arkansas hat.

    On Saturday, we made a trip to Heber Springs (simply “Heber” to the locals) because I saw that it has a book store, the Bookish Emporium of Arkansas. Okay, book store oversells it: It’s a wall of books and a separate cash register sublet from a hair salon. It did not have any brief local history books, but I did pick up a couple from a local author.

    However, Heber has a Walmart, so we stopped in to stock up, and I bought myself a straw hat.

    Now, I have a nice fedora, but I did not bring it as I thought I would be dressing more woods than dapper, and my existing straw hat is more a Panama hat (and a little tight) so I got myself something a little more casual, a little more country.


  • I did not build a fire.

    Our unit had a fireplace:

    I did not, however, light a fire. Both times we visited Arkansas for a vacation, the temperature has topped 100 degrees.

    Note that the fireplace had instructions saying to use only artificial logs, such as Duraflame logs, and the ashes in the fireplace and around it indicated that previous visitors had adhered to that. However, the fact that ashes remained in the fireplace and near it tattled on some lax housekeeping practices.

  • I did buy books.

    As I mentioned, we drove about an hour to Heber on Saturday to visit a book stall. Heber was only 15 miles as the crow flies from where we were staying, but we had to hop a couple of bridges over the lake and then follow its shoreline to buy the two books I got at the Bookish Emporium.

    But later in the week, we stopped by the Fairfield Bay library, which like many things in Fairfield Bay (including the newspaper, the Fairfield Bay News which is a couple of broadsheets folded together with coupons for tourists and local events) is run by volunteers, the retirees who live there. People staying at the resort can check out books, and I did find some local history books, but I did not check any out as I did not think I would be able to read it in my remaining time.

    More importantly, the library had books at $5 a bag (and $2 DVDs). So I bought a few, but we will get to that by and by.

  • I read during the day on a deck.
  • Although I am recently notorious for not sitting on my deck in the morning, on vacation, I like to sit on a deck and read. And I did so this trip as well.

    We were in a unit on the lowest floor, so the view was not that good–mostly trees close by–and I did not stay out there very late into the morning as the temperature and the bugs warmed, but I did manage to read three books and start another as well as a number of old magazines–National Reviews from 2020 as well as First Things and Ducks Magazine from 2022. As I look back on trips to Hot Springs and Wisconsin, I often only clock in 3 or 4 books on vacation and not a book a day, but it’s definitely better than I’ve been doing at home of late.

So it’s a vacation in the books. I should think about taking more than one a year as the place where I work has unlimited PTO, but I’ve only taken two weeks and a couple of days in the year I’ve worked there. Or perhaps I should not get used to it in case I don’t work there for a long time.

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